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Galadriel, political animal of Middle-earth

December 22, 2012 at 11:50 am by Demosthenes  - 

Pages: 1 2

Founder of common causes

Galadriel does more than simply establish realms that stand alone against Sauron like sandcastles in the surf. Tolkien observes that Galadriel realised only “a union of all the peoples who were in their way and in their measure opposed” to Sauron could defeat him.

In this way in founding Eregion (and presumably, later Lórien), “she looked upon the Dwarves [of Khazad-dûm] also with the eye of a commander, seeing in them the finest warriors to pit against the Orcs.”

The White Council is another of these unions of peoples. Although the scale is far more intimate, the purpose is the same. In The Lord of the Rings, Galadriel explains that it was she who created the (second) Council.

“I it was who first summoned the White Council. And if my designs had not gone amiss, it would have been governed by Gandalf the Grey, and then mayhap things would have gone otherwise.” (Lord of the Rings, The Mirror of Galadriel)

Tolkien reveals to us a Galadriel who is unafraid to accumulate and wield political influence. She assiduously assembles power blocs of forces sympathetic to her long-term goals.

Eregion also proves that she’s pragmatic about it, and unafraid to start all over when it doesn’t work out. She is, as she states in The Lord of the Rings, engaged in fighting “the long defeat”: falling back, regrouping, trying again.

Deft diplomat

An essential part of her politicking is her deftness as a diplomat. When Celeborn, alarmed at the news of the Balrog, blames the dwarves for rousing it from slumber, she smoothly intervenes and defuses the incident, placating both Celeborn and Gimli.

In fact, with a handful of words she turns Gimli into a firm ally and admirer:

“Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dûm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone.”

There’s a significant sequence in the Silmarillion where she matches wits with Melian the Maia under difficult circumstances. Melian wonders at the timely return of the Noldor back to Middle-earth, and doubts that they were sent by the Valar.

‘There is some woe that lies upon you and your kin. That I can see in you, but all else is hidden from me… Why will you not tell me more?’

‘For that woe is past,’ said Galadriel; ‘and I would take what joy is here left, untroubled by memory. And maybe there is woe enough yet to come, though still hope may seem bright.’ (The Silmarillion, Of the Noldor in Beleriand)

Tester of hearts and minds

Finally, there’s the scene where she tempts the Fellowship, offering each a choice between fear of what lay ahead, and some thing they greatly desired. It’s an fascinating contrast against Elrond, who chooses to lay no oath or bond on the Fellowship when they leave Rivendell. And note: the magical element is less important than the reasoning behind, and the import of, her actions.

‘”But this I will say to you: your Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while all the Company is true.”

And with that word she held them with her eyes, and in silence looked searchingly at each of them in turn.’ (Lord of the Rings, The Mirror of Galadriel)

In testing their resolve it almost seems that she is confirming for herself Elrond’s choices. And from another perspective, by challenging their commitment, she is also working to stiffen their commitment to the cause — akin to the process of tempering steel to give it greater strength.

It is also, like the White Council scene, a calculated act. Galadriel says that none of Gandalf’s deeds were needless. The same applies to her: she does nothing without cause.

For two whole ages of Middle-earth — some 6,000 years — ruling is Galadriel’s purpose. And politicking — the art of coaxing people to do what you think is best — is an essential part of that. It’s a purpose that she is not willing to give up even for the promise of Valinor:

“It was not until two long ages more had passed, when at last all that she had desired in her youth came to her hand, the Ring of Power and the dominion of Middle-earth which she had dreamed, that her wisdom was full grown and she rejected it, and passing the last test departed from Middle-earth for ever.” (Unfinished Tales, The History of Galadriel and Celeborn)

People have a tendency to idealise Galadriel. Yet, really, she is as driven as Fëanor. It’s something to keep in mind while admiring the pretty dress.

Demosthenes has been an incredibly nerdy staff member at since 2001. The views in this article are his own, and do not necessarily represent those of other TORn staff.

Posted in Cate Blanchett, Characters, Green Books, Hobbit Book, Hobbit Movie, Other Tolkien books, Silmarillion, The Hobbit, Tolkien on December 22, 2012 by