Galdriel was born in Valinor before the beginning of the First Age of Middle-earth. She was of a royal line being the granddaughter of Finwë, King of the Noldor, on her father’s side and granddaughter of Olwë, a king of the Teleri on her mother’s side. She was considered to be the most beautiful of her people with long, golden hair that shone with a light resembling that of the two sacred trees of Valinor. According to “History of Galadriel and Celeborn” in Unfinished Tales, the light of her hair was so remarkable, it inspired Fëanor to try to capture the light of the two trees in the Silmarils.
Galadriel was very tall for a female elf, taller even than most male elves, and was ‘a match for both the loremasters and the athletes of the Eldar’ (Unfinished Tales). She was also fiercely independent and ambitious, two traits that eventually led her to become restless and dissatisfied with the opportunities Valinor had to offer. She longed for adventure and the possibility of ruling a realm of her own. So, when Fëanor launched a rebellion against the Valar, and decided to lead some of the Noldor to Middle-earth, Galadriel chose to go with them.
Shortly after reaching Middle-earth, Galadriel settled in Doriath where she was welcomed by king Thingol due to her partial Teleri bloodline. There she met, fell in love with, and married, Thingol’s great-nephew, Celeborn. Sometime before the end of the First Age, they left Doriath together and traveled east over the Blue Mountains. After the fall of Morgoth, out of pride, duty, or for love of Celeborn, she refused the pardon of the Valar and opted to remain in Middle-earth.
Around the year 700 of the Second Age, Galadriel and Celeborn established the realm of Eregion, close to the western gates of Moria. Tolkien writes in Unfinished Tales that Galadriel had a natural sympathy for the Dwarves’ passionate love of the crafts of hand, and recognized the potential of establishing trade with them. Thus, the settlement in Eregion thrived. During that time, relations between the Elves and Dwarves were better than they had been since early in the First Age.
It was in Eregion, during the time of Galadriel and Celeborn, that the rings of power were forged and where Sauron, disguised as the fair Annatar, learned the craft of ring-making. Galadriel became the keeper of the elven ring, Nenya, the Ring of Water. Nenya was made of mithril and was set with one white stone and was therefore also referred to as the ring of adamant.
After Sauron forged the One Ring, he attacked Eregion and most of its inhabitants fled or were killed. The doors of Moria were shut and thus began another period of alienation between the Elves and Dwarves of Middle-earth. Galadriel hid her ring, and she and Celeborn eventually re-settled in Lorien where she passively used the power of her ring to protect that land from the ravages of time and from the attentions of the Enemy.
In response to the threat of the shadow growing in southern Mirkwood, Galadriel first summoned the White Council together in the year 2463 of the Third Age. It can be presumed, therefore, that she was involved in the decision to drive Sauron from Dol Guldur and in the subsequent attempted attack. When the Council failed to capture or destroy Sauron, Galadriel and Celeborn redoubled their watchfulness in Lorien. During the War of the Ring, they gave shelter to the traveling Fellowship, and her gift of the phial to Frodo was instrumental in Frodo and Sam’s escape from Shelob. She also nursed Gandalf back to health after his encounter with the Balrog. After the war, it was Galadriel and her people who finally destroyed the fortress of Dol Guldur.
Analysis: According to Christopher Tolkien’s commentary in Unfinished Tales, “There is no part of the history of Middle-earth more full of problems than the story of Galadriel and Celeborn, and it must be admitted that there are severe inconsistencies ‘embedded in the tradition’.” Therefore, very little that can be considered ‘canon’ exists. The lion’s share of the background above was taken from The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, and Tolkien’s earlier accounts were largely followed due to limited space.
The character of Galadriel does not appear in the book The Hobbit. However, from Peter Jackson’s comments about including the backstory of Dol Guldur and the White Council, and that Cate Blanchette is one of the actors that may reprise their role, it is likely that Galadriel will appear in one or both of the Hobbit movies.
Galadriel was either subject to the Valar’s ban forbidding the Noldoran exiles from returning to Valinor, or she thought she was, having refused the pardon granted at the end of the First Age. Therefore, as she expressed in her lament as the Fellowship left Lorien, it was her wish that Frodo, as a special gift, be allowed to go to Tol Erëssëa, an island within sight of Valinor. Ultimately, due to her efforts to defeat Sauron, her unselfish wish for Frodo and her refusal of the One Ring when Frodo offered it, the ban was lifted and she was allowed to return to Valinor.
- “For the Lord of the Galadhrim is accounted the wisest of the Elves of Middle-earth, and a giver of gifts beyond the power of kings. He has dwelt in the West before the days of dawn, and I have dwelt with him years uncounted; for ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin I passed over the Mountains, and together through the ages of the world we have fought the long defeat.” (to the Fellowship)
- “I it was who first summoned the White Council. And if my designs had not gone amiss, it would have been governed by Galdalf the Grey, and then, mayhap things would have gone otherwise.” (to the Fellowship)
- “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 Lorien upon the finger of Galadriel that one of the Three remains. This is Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, and I am its keeper.” (to Frodo)
- “I pass the test. I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.” (to Frodo, after rejecting his offer to give her the One Ring)
- “In this phial is caught the light of Eärendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out. Remember Galadriel and her Mirror!” (to Frodo)