The Purpose of the Third

by Gentle-giant

Quotes 'borrowed' from the extended edition of the movie ... The Fellowship of the Ring ... appear in green italics ....

quotes 'borrowed' from the book ... The Fellowship of the Ring ... Book Two ... Chapter 7 ... 'Farewell to Lórien' ... appear in blue italics ....


The Purpose of the Third

(A Retelling ... of Two Desires Named)


All at last was made ready.

The Company took their places in the boats as before. Crying farewell, the Elves of Lorien with long grey poles thrust them out into the flowing stream, and the rippling waters bore them slowly away.

And as the Company made their way in the boats, they passed by the Lady Galadriel at the point of the Tongue, and yet it seemed that they made no progress. Rather, it was the land of Lórien that was sailing away while they sat helpless on the brink ....

Soon thereafter, the entered the Great River, its current carrying them to the south, and as the Lady became smaller still – yet again signalling farewell with raised arms – the pure air of the place carried the words of her singing voice; a sound purer still than the air which carried it in their direction. Among the Company, few there were able to understand the words ... for they were of an ancient, Elven tongue. And, while the music seemed strangely sweet within the Dwarf's ears, it also carried the bitterness of great loss to both his mind and his heart ....

After sweeping around a great bend and entering into a place where the banks rose high to either side the light of Lórien was hidden.

Within the three boats the eight remained silent, and some time passed during which their vision remained somewhat obscured and their ears heard nothing more than the rippling of water as it glided past them. And it was only then that Legolas heard something more.

'Gimli?' asked the Elf with some concern, for he had suddenly noted that Gimli wept openly.

'Yes ... well, Legolas,' started the Dwarf doing his utmost to conceal the wavering tone in his voice. 'Let not my long silence ... offend you in any way.' He paused briefly, and then repeatedly cleared his throat in a rather coarse manner. 'It's ... not you,' he continued at last. 'It's only .... '

Another lengthy pause took place, and upon sensing it was not about to end any time soon, Legolas urged him on. 'We've shared much already,' he said nearly whispering. 'If something burdens you now, won't you offer a portion of this load to me as well?'

'Aye,' he replied simply.

Legolas, noticing that they had fallen further behind the boats before their own, urged it forward at a faster rate. Gimli continued.

'I have taken my worst wound at this parting, for I have looked my last upon that which is fairest. Henceforth I will call nothing fair unless it be her gift to me.'

Legolas smiled slightly, looked to Gimli's shoulders, and then spoke. 'She presented you with a gift as well?'

'You were there, Legolas; sitting in the grass with the others ... while the Lady Galadriel – and Celeborn as well! – sat before us all in those chairs. How could your eyes not see? How could your ears not hear, Legolas, when she called to me? And then, in front of all those ... Elves; how she commanded me to speak my desire. I must have seemed quite the fool!'

'Oh, I doubt that.' Legolas looked over one shoulder, briefly, to take in more than the view of the river's banks slipping away to the north. Then he turned toward the bow of the boat once more and returned his gaze to the back of his companion's head. 'Or, at the very least, Gimli ... I doubt you were the only one.'

'How do you mean that?' asked the Dwarf curiously while turning his head slightly.

'I mean no more than this. At the time the Lady called to you, I was already quite ... distracted; perhaps even making a fool of myself! So blatantly must I have been admiring every detail of the Lady's gift to me. So, you see? I've no idea what you received ... and so I ask you. What was her gift?'

The Dwarf remained silent ...


Gimli had already recalled his own most cherished moments leading up to their departure countless times; lest they vanish from his heart and mind as surely as the light of Lórien – so quickly! – had disappeared from view. And it was during this silence that he recalled them yet again ....

'And what gift would a Dwarf ask of the Elves?' said Galadriel turning to Gimli.

'Nothing. Except to look upon the Lady of the Galadhrim one last time for she is more fair than all the jewels beneath the earth.'

Upon saying that, he had bowed and turned as graciously as he could to walk off, for never before had he imagined that the danger of light and joy, whether real or imagined, might surpass his own fear of true and expected dangers; yet unknown sources of torment in the dark which might be forced upon the Fellowship during the Quest.

'Yet surely, Gimli son of Glóin, you desire something that I could give?'

Gimli thought silently for a moment.

'Actually, uh ... there was one thing. No, no, no. I couldn't. It's quite impossible. Stupid to ask.'

The Lady continued.

'Name it, I bid you! You shall not be the only guest without a gift!'

With those words, a strong desire to please Gimli had become evident within Galadriel's voice – so apparent was the sincerity with which she had spoken! – and its allure embraced his heart; enticing just enough courage to come to the fore.

And so Gimli responded while bowing low and stammering. 'Nothing, unless it might be – unless it is permitted to ask, nay, to name a single strand of your hair, which surpasses the gold of the earth as the stars surpass the gems of the mine. I do not ask for such a gift. But you commanded me to name my desire.'

'But tell me, what would you do with such a gift?'

'Treasure it, Lady .... And if ever I return to the smithies of my home, it shall be set in imperishable crystal to be an heirloom of my house .... '

Having heard those words, the Lady graciously unbraided one of her long tresses ... cut off three golden hairs, and laid them in Gimli's hand, thus fulfilling his request – though commanded it may have been! – while offering him these words.

'I say to you, Gimli son of Glóin, that your hands shall flow with gold, and yet over you gold shall have no dominion.'

Try as he might, Gimli could scarcely recall that, moments later – after calling the Ring-bearer to her and presenting him with a gift – the Lady had arisen from her chair and Celeborn had led them back to the hythe. A yellow moon lay on the green land of the Tongue, and the water glittered with silver.

And it was then that one of the Lady's maidens – the same one who had handed the cup to Galadriel that she might offer white mead to each of the Company – neared the place where Gimli stood; calling to him in a whisper.

'My Lady wills it, Master Dwarf; to speak with you once more. Please ... this way.'

Taken aback by this unexpected visit – these unexpected words – he nervously followed the maiden.

'What more will she have of me, then?' he asked himself repeatedly while following the maiden.

But nervousness had become more akin to wonder as they neared Galadriel's ship; so greatly did he admire and appreciate seeing, first-hand and up close, the result of unparalleled love for all things alive and natural; the love of countless craftsmen that had shaped so much wood into the likeness of a swan ... embellished the beak in burnished gold ... accented the white feathers with fine strands of silver ... created a form seemingly ready to take flight; the elven-skills that had ultimately blessed this sailing vessel with so much grace and beauty!

Before realizing what had transpired, Gimli found himself standing on the deck of the vessel, and then the maiden invited him to take a steep, narrow stairway which led downward and directly into a cabin at its stern; a stateroom which, although small, appeared to be most adequate and well appointed ... worthy of the Lady who stood awaiting him there.

'My Lady,' he said calmly, despite the nervousness that had filled his very soul yet again.

'Time is short, Gimli, son of Glóin,' she said, approaching him from in front of the wide window at the stern of the cabin. 'The others of your Company make ready to sail as we speak. So, tell me. Do you understand why you now possess not one, but three strands of my hair?'

'No, my Lady ... unless, perhaps your intent was ... to convey that the generosity of the Elves ... thrice surpasses the greed of the Dwarves.'

Gimli grimaced at his own words, but the Galadriel's light laughter and smile placed him at ease once again.

'You and I are neither greedy nor generous, Master Dwarf. I feel that well of you, and believe that well of myself. So, no; rather ... this is a symbolic matter. Tell me, Gimli. Do you recall what you said after I asked what you would do with such a gift?'

'Of course, my Lady! I said I would treasure it ... And if ever I return to the smithies of my home, it shall be .... '

She lifted one hand to silence him, and he fulfilled the unspoken request.

'One's mind always recalls most clearly those words that came from one's heart, Gimli. But I fear your worthy plan will not come to pass ... unless I finish now what I set into motion earlier. Please, come closer. And show me the strands.'

He reached into the tiny pocket at his breast – short, thick fingers fumbling amidst the fabric of his attire – and pulled the already tangled hairs into view. He blushed upon noting their condition, but she politely ignored both his embarrassment and their state.

'The first strand ... represents you, Gimli.' She gently took one from him and, from one end, held it up before her. 'But one hair alone, more than being nearly invisible, is weak and frail; vulnerable. Now to the second ... which represents me.' She reached forward, took the second strand from him and held it as the first; between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand. 'How alike they are. And ... how alike we are!' He nodded. 'That's because, despite our numerous differences, our similarities are greater in number ... greater in importance.' Gimli nodded again. 'But two such strands, if not properly cared for, would become easily entangled ... at conflict with one another at the slightest hint of adversity. Therefore ... we need the third.'

'And ... so now ...' stammered the Dwarf. 'Yes! The ... third strand .... '

'Yes, Gimli,' she interjected, confident that he understood her meaning. 'Its purpose is merely this; to make the two as one! For to become unified – to become truly one in purpose or intent – two such strands, any two strands ... require a third strand; something ... to bind them.

'Now, Gimli, hold the three together for me ... just a short distance from the end.' He obliged her, but then Galadriel found it necessary to instruct him further. 'Meaning no disrespect, Master Dwarf, but ... would you raise your arm just a bit higher?'

'Oh! Yes ... of course!' he whispered coarsely, lifting his arm until his hand was directly before her eyes. He glanced toward her face and noted – with some pleasure! – that he was not the only one blushing at the moment.

Gimli watched with amazement as Galadriel's graceful hands and slender fingers set about the task of braiding the three strands into a single entity; forming each braid so its width was roughly equal to the width of her smallest fingernail ... and then wrapping the left-most strand of the three about the lower end of each braid three times before moving on to the next. No fewer than thirty times she repeated the process. And then, after tying a simple knot first at the lower end of the golden thread and then at the other end – just above that point where he continued holding it much more firmly than necessary – she finished her work and backed away from Gimli.

'Oh!' he exclaimed quietly, repeatedly, while struggling to appreciate the intricate detail within the simple pattern; a thread so fine that it remained barely visible to his eyes ... three strands no longer at risk of becoming entangled, but lovingly intertwined. He wondered: how many hours his own fingers might have labored – how many strands he might have broken! – to accomplish what she had done in less than five minutes. 'Oh!' he gasped yet again.

So engrossed did he become while studying it, that he did not notice the Lady had turned, had stepped away from him, and had pulled an item from a simple shelf. It was only after she returned to him that he turned his attention to her once more ... and so it seemed to Gimli that the crystal phial she held had mysteriously appeared within her hand before his very eyes.

'Gently now, place that which you hold in this.' She pulled the stop from the slender phial and he struggled to do as she had said in as graceful a manner as possible. 'I dare not suggest, Gimli, that the imperishible crystal which your smithies might create are of lesser quality than that crafted by the Elves. Yet, perhaps this will help ensure its safe arrival upon your return to your house.'

'Yes, my Lady,' he replied while working the thread into the crystal container. Then, upon completing the task, she stopped it for him and asked if it might fit in his breast pocket. He fumbled yet again with the material -- muttering something about tightness about his chest while doing so -- but managed to work it inside soon enough.

'And now ... one last item to be discussed,' she said as he looked up to her again. 'As you so eloquently said to me before, I seek permission of you; to name my desire .... '

'My Lady?' he asked amidst a slight gasp.

'Many there are who know already of the desire you earlier named. And those who do not know ... please; feel free to tell them what I placed in your hand. But, regarding all that transpired here, the desire I name is this. A promise; that you will keep all memory of the time you spent with me here safe within yourself ... and secret from all others .... '

'My Lady!' he exclaimed softly while bowing slightly. 'Never could I cast aside a desire so sweetly named.'

'And now ... you must leave.'

Then, without affording him the opportunity to reply to her face, she turned from him and approached the window of the cabin. Her head dropped slightly, and she looked out upon the silver water ... as though it were no longer close at hand, but far below; seeing the waters as a bird might behold them ... as might a swan that had taken flight ....

'Gimli son of ... Glóin,' she said while lifting an opened hand that he might see. 'Namárië.'

Seconds passed, and the maiden appeared at the top of the narrow stairway.

'This way. Please.'

Gimli followed the maiden in silence as she led him back to the boats and his Company and, much to his surprise, it seemed that no one had noted his absence in the slightest. Rather, they had remained contentedly busy loading the last of their provisions while he'd been away, and Legolas invited him to board only seconds after his return.

'Indeed! All, at last,' thought Gimli. 'Yes. All ... has been made ready.'

The Company took their places in the boats as before. Crying farewell ....


'So, you see? I've no idea what you received ... and so I ask you. What was her gift?'

The Dwarf remained silent ... for fewer than five seconds. Then he spoke to the Elf.

'I asked her for one hair from her golden head ... '

And then, with tears starting to well in his eyes, Gimli [color=darkblue][i]put his hand to his breast[/i][/color] and answered Legolas' question.

'She gave me three .... '