A Great Sorceress Lives In These Woods

by Varda

'We thought you had died out' said the Elves of Lothl?rien to the hobbits when the Company took refuge in their forest. Hardly polite, but the Galadrhim have long been separated even from their own kind and are a far cry from the courtly, hospitable Elves of Rivendell. They make even Legolas jumpy and almost have to be dragged off Gimli. Orcs make inroads into Lothl?rien at night and although the great bows of the Galadhrim ensure few leave, fulsome comparisons with Beren are scarce and courtesies perfunctory this close to the front line.

Like Rivendell, Lothl?rien is created and sustained by the power of its ruler, Galadriel's ring, Nenya, the Ring of Adamant. But all these Rings are subject to the One Ring, and if Sauron gets it back, they will be laid bare to him. If Frodo succeeds, and the One Ring is destroyed, all that they have built with the others will fade and fail. Lothl?rien will fade and time will sweep it and its people away. Frodo's coming is, Galadriel tells him, the footstep of Doom to them. But if Sauron can be destroyed all the Elves are willing to endure this chance.

Or are they....?

Galadriel invites the Ringbearer to look into her mirror. She reads him coolly as the appalling images mount up in his mind. But when, overcome by the horror of his vision he offers her the Ring she is taken aback. 'you are revenged for my testing of your heart..' she gasps. But now it is Frodo's turn to test Galadriel. He offers her what she has often yearned to have; 'I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired this thing...' She has imagined herself possessing it, dreamed of the power it would bring.

This is a real test. Galadriel is really tempted. The quest stands indeed on a knife edge. Sent on its way safely by the Elves of Rivendell the Ring is now nearly waylaid by the Elves of L?rien. But Galadriel's meditations on the Ring have been as deep and subtle as those of Sauron, whom she regards as a personal adversary, and in the end she is rescued by her desire to thwart him. She says with irony to Frodo that she cannot allow Sauron the triumph of inducing her to rob her guest. She chooses oblivion, for herself and her people. Frodo was her last chance to defer the end, but the price was too high.

Why does Frodo offer Galadriel the ring? It would not be any service to Frodo to imagine that he took on this burden then went on his way without ever a second thought. He had too long to journey to his doom not to falter at some stage, and he falters in L?rien. He has lost Gandalf, whom he loved and who was his support and adviser. He is beginning to find the burden heavy. As Tolkien remarks in a note in an early manuscript, it would be 'rather a dirty trick to just hand it on'. But if an honourable and safe way could be found to give it up.... In 'A Man For All Seasons' Sir Thomas More, imprisoned in the Tower, says to his daughter that if even they opened the door just the tiniest crack he would be through it and back home to Chelsea. And if Frodo could find a way to pass it on with safety and honour he would be through that crack too. Galadriel, with her great wisdom and power seems equal to the task, a safe pair of hands to pass it on to.

In some part of Frodo's mind too there lurks, despite the fine words of Elves and Wizards, a nagging feeling that this is not really the job for a hobbit, that the 'Great Ones' should shoulder the task. Sam certainly thinks so. Frodo offers the ring to Galadriel with the words 'It is too great a matter for me'.

But by the end of their meeting that is not Galadriel's opinion; she treats Frodo like an equal. Even without Gandalf to guide him, Frodo does all right. He even tries to sneak a tip from Galadriel, one ringbearer to another; why does the ring not allow him to read people's minds? Galadriel's answer is that of a drill sergeant to a conscript; you haven't got the training, lad.

There is a metaphysical symnetry in Frodo offering the Great Ring to a bearer of one of the lesser rings, as he offered it to Gandalf as well. The Good have to be shown rejecting the chance to use power to win, even for the cause of good. For, as Galadriel says to the irrepressible Sam when he urges her to take the Ring, it would not be a good cause for very long.

When Galadriel lays eyes on the Fellowship she might have thought this is the hope of the world, a ragged band of desperate adventurers, only one Elf in the lot and one Man of Westernesse, all but one mortal with all their failings, fallible and foolish and riven with feuds. But she knows this is the future, with the Elves gone from a world grown flat and grey without them. As Aragorn foresees, even the long-lived races will live shorter lives and wisdom and vision will be lost. Galadriel's bittersweet valediction to the Fellowship is an elegy for her own world.

Lothlorien? None now live who remember it.

Just my musings on this passage of Tolkien, no offence to anyone, apologies to all Elves..