In the seventh chapter of the second book of The Fellowship of the Ring, I cannot even begin to summarize the amount of mind fucks that have just happened. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.
CHAPTER SEVEN: THE MIRROR OF GALADRIEL
I’m just at a loss. Just….what is happening? How is this real? WHAT IS AIR? In just a single chapter, this whole book has changed, and Tolkien introduces a character who is instantly the most fascinating one in the entire novel. JUST WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH ALL OF THIS HELP ME SEND HELP
Firstly, though, I must comment on how easy it is to pick out tropes or narrative devices that this book clearly started, at least in terms of fantasy. I think there’s a lot that Tolkien drew from classical Roman and Greek mythology in this book, but I could probably spend a couple million words talking about that. DON’T PRESS ME. It’s clear, though, that Tolkien set a standard by which others robbed, stole, lovingly referenced to, and toppled in their own ways. And let me just state equivocally that I’m not knocking people for ripping this off: it’s a beautiful thing! I love seeing tropes twisted and modified. I love seeing them used explicitly. I love inversions. I will sometimes spend half a day on TVTropes and it will just fill me with endless joy? YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH I LOVE THAT SITE.
I can see the Mirror of Erised and the Pensieve in the the Mirror of Galadriel. I can see so much of Star Wars just from this chapter. Obviously, George R.R. Martin is quite familiar with Tolkien, though I’d argue his works are a total subversion of nearly everything I’ve read so far. I can tell that this is the BLUEPRINT for so much to come. This is genuinely exciting to me! It feels like this huge piece of the puzzle (and arguably one I should have read a long time ago) just fell into place.
But that’s not the only appeal of “The Mirror of Galadriel,” and I don’t want it to seem like I’m attached to this solely because of the influence it has had on popular literature and all things geeky. Tolkien’s a fascinating writer, and while I wouldn’t go so far to say that this is the best prose I’ve ever read, I’m just bewildered (in a good way) just how powerful his storytelling his. I feel the same way about J.K. Rowling; while I did like her writing (especially the last four books), I was more impressed by the story she told. Here, I can put aside issues I might have with length and density because the events that occur in chapter seven are so important to me. Of course, I do want to talk about those problems, but they certainly don’t ruin anything here at all.
The setup of the city of Galadhrim led me to expect grandeur. If Cerin Amroth was so ridiculously over-the-top and gorgeous, then the city itself had to be more impressive. I was absolutely blown away by what Tolkien has created here. Obviously, I’ve discussed many of the smaller details regarding world-building that help me feel immersed in the world of Middle-earth, but I’m just gonna be real simple here: THIS SHIT IS SO COOL. Middle-earth has always seemed to be this simple, earthy, and green place, stretching endlessly from one field to a mountain range to a forest, with these tiny villages and towns linking them. And then we get Galadhrim, and it’s this gigantic, overwhelming, and detailed city that’s larger than anything else we’ve come across. By Gandalf’s beard, they have to walk around the city walls to get inside, and it takes FOREVER. Hours! HOURS AND HOURS.
On top of that, this is a society in and of itself, a micro community inside Middle-earth with its own laws, its own customs, and its own citizenship. Most important, though, is the fact that this city has the closest example of royalty that we see anywhere in the book: Celeborn and Galadriel. Well, we don’t meet them right away, since the Company is led up the LONGEST STAIRWAY IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD up to the talan where the house of the two live.
Very tall they were, and the Lady no less tall than the Lord; and they were grave and beautiful. They were clad wholly in white; and the hair of the Lady was of deep gold, and the hair of the Lord Celeborn was of silver long and bright; but no sign of age was upon them, unless it were in the depths of their eyes; for these were keen as lances in the starlight, and yet profound, the wells of deep memory.
oh my god it was hidden right there and I didn’t see it HOLY SHIT. Okay, wait, I’ll get to that in a bit, but let’s just talk about a few other things first, like Lord Celeborn’s greeting to Gimli:
‘But today we have broken our long law. May it be a sign that though the world is now dark better days are at hand, and that friendship shall be renewed between our peoples.’ Gimli bowed low.
THIS IS SO WONDERFUL. Prejudices are being broken, alliances are formed anew, and I just want to hug everyone. How long does this beautiful moment last? A SINGLE GODDAMN PARAGRAPH. Because the first thing Celeborn and Galadriel bring up? The fact that Gandalf is missing. HAWKWARD. It’s not like I’d forgotten it; the sadness over his death is all over the pages of this. But for these Elves, this is downright evil to them, and Celeborn says as much to the Company. However, the dude is quick to judge, blaming the Dwarves for Gandalf’s death. LIKE REALLY, DUDE, SURELY IT’S THE BALROG’S FAULT SINCE THAT ACTUALLY KILLED GANDALF. It’s here that the brilliant and sympathetic Galadriel pretty much schools her Lord and I am kind of instantly in love with her? Look, I don’t understand the dynamic that exists in the society of the Elves, so I don’t want to pretend that I also know the gender dynamics. But there are very few women in this universe at all. No seriously, there’s Arwen, Camilla, and now Galadriel. How the hell is this even possible? How do any of these species procreate? Shouldn’t there be women around by default? Given this gross oversight, the fact that Galadriel is the one to refute her Lord’s statement and welcome Gimli with open arms….oh, I like you. I like you a lot, Galadriel.
I mean, come on!
She looked upon Gimli, who sat glowering and sad, and she smiled. And the Dwarf, hearing the names given in his own ancient tongue, looked up and met her eyes; and it seemed to him that he looked suddenly into the heart of an enemy and saw there love and understanding. Wonder came into his face, and then he smiled in answer.
HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS. Oh my god, be my friend, Galadriel.
Immediately after this, Galadriel becomes more and more fascinating, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a character getting so much development and depth in such a rapid period of time. She goes from being this empathetic, touching Lady to talking with great authority about Gandalf and the White Council. Yet even despite this (and this is a constant theme in this chapter), she refuses to give counsel. It’s actually something in Middle-earth I’ve noticed from various people. If we think back to the Council of Elrond, Boromir specifically traveled solely for counsel. Like, seriously, he traveled over a hundred days just to get some dude’s opinion. Here, Galadriel outright refuses to give the Company any advice at all.
Instead, she stares into their souls.
I actually had to read this three times to understand it because the following scene addresses it so much. As it’s described in the book, she gazes at each person (separately, I think?) and it’s as if she’s reading their minds, so much so that Sam himself feels embarrassed after it happens. Sam says:
‘If you want to know, I felt as if I hadn’t got nothing on, and I didn’t like it. She seemed to be looking inside me and asking me what I would do if she gave me the chance of flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole with – with a bit of garden of my own.’
In fact, nearly every character describes the same sensation. Galadriel spoke gravely about the mission to destroy the Ring, then seemingly looked into each person to read their true thoughts and intentions. Would they choose the perilous road ahead, or the thing they most wanted in life? THIS IS SO STRANGE WHAT IS HAPPENING. There was one thing that Aragorn said, though, that made me double-take the text:
‘There is in her and in this land no evil, unless a man bring it hither himself.’
That seemed to be a strange thing to say. I get that Aragorn is quite fond of this place, but there’s no evil in the entirety of Galadhril? None at all? No one can be evil? Surely there’s one evil elf around, right? Just like there could possibly be one good orc, right?
The Company spends days in Lothlórien recuperating and resting. Even given the slightly disturbing events of that first day, it’s rather nice, I must admit. But Tolkien does not ignore the black cloud that hangs over this book: Gandalf is dead. I find it very realistic that the group takes so long to properly grieve. Given that they escaped from the horror of the orcs and the Balrog and had to immediately get as far away from Moria as possible, they never really could stop to properly mourn the loss of that great wizard. (I still can’t believe this happened in the first “book,” y’all. WHAT IS COMING AFTER THIS IF THAT HAPPENS SO EARLY.)
I wasn’t surprised that the characters mourn through song, but there was something incredibly heartbreaking about the song that Frodo makes up on the spot about his mentor and friend. Every word of that poem felt meticulously crafted, but he was just letting his heart guide him to talk about the “old man in a battered hat.” Is it weird that I already miss his sassy wizardry? Damn it. 🙁
Sam and Frodo find themselves discussing Gandalf, magic, and the Elves a few nights later. It’s also got this weird tinge of sadness to it. In this case, Sam expresses something I’d not thought of because I was so enamored with this city: things seem too perfect around. He states this by commenting that he thinks that there’s some magic at work there to keep things this way. Well, he is excited about the idea, expressing a desire to see Elf-magic himself, but he brought up a good point. I was distracted by the spectacle of it all, and aside from the “evil” comment, I’d never engaged the idea of magic there at all.
Lady Galadriel comes upon them as they are having this conversation, and this is when everything just becomes so confusing, then amazing, then my brain breaks a thousand times in a row. The Mirror of Galadriel. First of all, SHE HAS A PROPHETIC MIRROR NAMED AFTER HER. That is kind of amazing just as a fact on its own! Also, I don’t think it’s technically prophetic necessarily, as it can show desires (SEEEEEEEE IT’S THE MIRROR OF ERISED DO YOU SEE), “things unbidden,” weird shit, and things one might not want to see, true or not. Actually, the more I think about it, it can show virtually anything in any context, which means it has no real guidelines or rubric, and that’s kind of distracting. I mean, you could never really know what you’re going to get when you look! It could be a nightmare that will never come true no matter what decisions you make in life, or it could be a fixed point in time in the future that is unchangeable. Or it could show you what Galadriel wants for lunch tomorrow. LOOK I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE GUIDELINES ARE.
Anyway, Sam gives the Mirror a good ol’ look because…I don’t know? She doesn’t really sell this idea to me and I most certainly wouldn’t look if she told me this:
‘For it shows things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell. Do you wish to look?’
UM HELL NO. You can keep your demonic nightmare tool away from me! It definitely doesn’t help that Sam sees so many images that make no sense to me. They could come true and I should probably make note of what they are, as I bet Tolkien will totally fulfill every image we’ve seen. The main thing that Sam takes away from his glimpse in the Mirror is that “evil” things are happening in the Shire, so much so that he immediately states that he needs to leave back home. Was this a test orchestrated by Galadriel? Ultimately, Sam decides to stick with Frodo, so it makes me think she did this on purpose.
More on that in a second, because y’all, we need to talk about Frodo’s vision. We need to talk about it right this fucking second because this is just…..just, seriously, send help. There’s a lot he sees that just blows me away (Sauron? The Sea? A SHIP WITH BLACK SAILS? The smoke????), but we all need to discuss this now and forever:
In the black abyss there appeared a single Eye that slowly grew, until it filled nearly all the Mirror. So terrible was it that Frodo stood rooted, unable to cry out or to withdraw his gaze. The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS???? OH MY GOD WHAT IS GOING ON????
Then the Eye began to rove, searching this way and that; and Frodo knew with certainty and horror that among the many things that it sought he himself was one. But he also knew that it could not see him – not yet, not unless he willed it. The Ring that hung upon its chain about his neck grew heavy, heavier than a great stone, and his head was dragged downwards. The Mirror seemed to be growing hot and curls of steam were rising from the water. He was slipping forward.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT HAVE I JUST READ? WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO???? Oh, this book just catapulted itself to awesome in just two paragraphs. WHAT IS THIS DISEMBODIED EYE? WHAT THE FUCK DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH THE RING?
OH, BUT IS TOLKIEN DONE WITH ME? NO. NO, HE IS NOT. HE IS NOT DONE MAKING MY BRAIN MUSH.
Its rays glanced upon a ring about her finger; it glittered like polished gold overlaid with silver light, and a white stone in it twinkled as if the Even-star had come down to rest upon her hand. Frodo gazed at the ring with awe; for suddenly it seemed to him that he understood.
YOU ARE KIDDING ME!!!! THIS IS NOT HAPPENING.
‘Yes,’ she said, divining his thought, ‘it is not permitted to speak of it, and Elrond could not do so. But it cannot be hidden from the Ring-bearer, and one who has seen the Eye. Verily it is in the land of Lórien upon the finger of Galadriel that one of the Three remains. This is Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, and I am its keeper.’
I CAN’T. I CAN’T. I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING. THIS SIMULTANEOUS EXPLAINS SO MUCH AND YET ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ALL. My brain cannot deal with how real shit is getting AND THIS IS STILL THE FIRST BOOK. How does she have one of the Three Rings???
‘Do you not see now wherefore your coming is to us at the footstep of Doom? For if you fail, then we are laid bare to the Enemy. Yet if you succeed, then our power is diminished, and Lothlórien will fade, and the tides of Time will sweep it away. We must depart into the West, or dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten.’
DO I UNDERSTAND THIS CORRECTLY? THE RING OF ADAMANT GIVES GALADRIEL THE POWER THAT MAKES LOTHLÓRIEN SO FANTASTIC? OHMYGOD OH THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. HOW. HOW. HOW?!?!?!?!?!
Do you realize how this changes Frodo’s entire journey? Wait, why am I asking this like none of you have read this? OF COURSE YOU KNOW THIS. But….I just don’t know how to cope with this MONSTER of a reveal. I know it complicates the character of Galadriel immensely, casting this new context over everything she’s said and done. If she has one of the Three, then she really could look into the hearts of the Company as they thought! OH MY GOD WHAT THE.
Well, first of all, I love that Frodo is all LOL SO YOU WANT THE RING YOU CAN HAVE IT. Well-played, Frodo, but I think Galadriel’s already in deep as it is. She ponders owning the Ring and the power it brings, desiring to do good with it instead of evil, but deep down, she knows that’s not possible.
‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.’
I am already so full of feels for this character? I think she has more character depth than anyone else in the whole series and I just met her. She’s magical, she has powers no one else does, she uses them for good (sort of????), and she possesses this ability to empathize and desire for power at the same time. She’s one giant complicated ball of morals and THIS IS WHAT I WANT FROM MY CHARACTERS, OKAY?
There’s one last detail in chapter seven that needs to be stated. As the two head back, Frodo is curious as to how Galadriel is able to do such amazing feats with the Ring of Adamant, while Frodo is only able to disappear. Galadriel reveals that the Ring itself gives powers based on who possesses it, and he could certainly do what he wished with it if he were more powerful and could control his “will to the domination of others.” But that only leads to evil, since the Ring belongs to the Dark Lord. (It’s here that she outright confirms that the Eye belongs to the Dark Lord, but I’m still interested in the logistics of this, though.”
I mean, I’m pretty sure this is foreshadowing of some sort, and I think we’ll see Frodo put on the Ring at least once more before the end of the novel. We still have a lot of ground to cover, and it’s been quite some time since he’s worn it. God, I am just so excited for the future, though. THIS BOOK. THIS BOOK.