Gazing into GHG’s Palantir: ‘Farewell to Lórien’

The Grey Havens Group Palantir has seen and heard much, but it is unpredictable and often fell. As the mists clear, the withered leaves of past conversations are revealed in barest shreds…

“Farewell to Lórien” is a highly poetic, emotional, and atmospheric chapter. Throughout, there is an undercurrent of sadness, melancholy and foreshadowing. Just as the chapter marks the end of the Fellowship’s stay in Lórien, it also continues the inexorable march of the elves towards doom. As such it is a very heavy chapter, setting the tone for many such impossible decisions and partings to come.

The boats given to the company are emblematic of elvish advice, neither saying yes or no. They are helpful and do aid the quest, but they push off the inevitable choice of direction. For now, in their grief at parting, this is perhaps a good thing. It is also darkly humorous that in this action Celeborn is able to pass all responsibility or blame for the outcome of their quest to the Fellowship.

In this chapter, in particular, and increasingly as the journey continues, Boromir is quite the arrogant boor. When all others contemplate their future path in silence, recognizing the ultimate choice truly lies with Frodo and Aragorn, Boromir refuses to shut up, but presses his agenda relentlessly. Though this has largely been his goal from the beginning of the quest, the use of the word “suddenly” in the midst of his argument is critical. This is a key word Tolkien uses almost exclusively to indicate the influence of the Ring. Therefore, it is likely some (or much) of his vehemence is not wholly his own.

Why is Boromir so susceptible to the power of the Ring? In part because he continues to see it as a tool and a weapon, and always has. As a soldier, he understands orders, and so accepted the need to destroy the Ring. However, as time has passed, that resolve, if ever there was, is slipping away. Based on his family, and his profession, it is likely Boromir has grown to weigh his own self-worth by his valor in arms and victories in the battlefield. He has always been under his father’s thumb, feeling the need to impress, whereas Faramir, as the second son, is able to escape and gain perspective in other pursuits. The Ring is a means to an end, a way to ultimate respect.

Elrond, compared to Galadriel, who almost constantly discusses the fading of the elves, appears indifferent or even defeatist. There is not as evident a desire in Imladris to preserve and maintain time. Being of the Wise, and half-elven, and lord of one of the last havens of the Noldor, such resignation begins to make sense. Their coming to Middle-earth has led to nothing but sorrow; and Imladris is little more than a memory clinging to the glories of ages long past. And so the coming age of Men, and the final voyage to the West, would come as relief. In Lothlórien, the times of the past and the place have been preserved whole and entire. Though a pocket, outside while in the world, it maintains the bliss of a bygone age. One is memory and lore, the other joy in the present.

The hiatus in Lórien is proof of the dangers in meeting friendly allies along the road. It becomes a safe haven, from which the questors may hide from the concerns of their task. Though here they require emotional healing after the loss of Gandalf, it is an implicit danger which all come to understand after leaving.

Upon leaving Caras Galadhon, the company now faces the West. Whereas entry into the city symbolically places one’s back to the Valar, leaving it and facing West acknowledges the need to move on, to accept the challenges of life and the quest no matter the outcome. This is a debatable piece of applicability, but leads to many insights.

In the gift-giving, in a reversal of the initial welcome, Frodo is included in among the rest of the Fellowship seated before Galadriel and Celeborn. This may be read in many ways, but appears to indicate that the test is past. Galadriel has made her decision; there will be no more temptation and therefore no explicit danger in the Ring.

Much time was spent discussing the genealogy of Galadriel and her history. She is Fëanor’s neice, the daughter of his half-brother Finarfin. It is said the light of the Two Trees of Valinor shown in her golden hair. Whether out of greed for use in his jewels, or lust of beauty, Fëanor desired her, and requested a lock of her hair. She refused. This is the history which makes Gimli’s request so striking and potentially dangerous. Her past experience leads Galadriel to question Gimli closely to determine the nature of his request.

Like the phial given to Frodo, this gift binds the current quest to the First Age, particularly to the life and adventures of Eärendil. The lock of hair bears the light of the Two Trees, just as the phial captures the light of the last Silmaril in the waters of Galadriel’s mirror. This is truly the last war of the War of the Jewels, as Sam realizes at the stairs of Cirith Ungol.

The point is driven home by Galadriel’s song of farewell, which evokes a sense of great age and sorrow. Looking closely at the translated text, it is evident that this song is likely one from the first age, sung in farewell and even sorrow, as the eldar sent ships west in search of Valinor. The key hint lies in the description of “Varda…[uplifting] her hands…and all paths are drowned in deep shadow…” which beautifully portrays the mists of confusion placed in bulwark around the Blessed Realm. At the same time, the song rings of hope, and may even be the words of Elwing singing as Eärendil leaves the shores of Middle-earth. The hopes of the two singers, Galadriel and Elwing, are much the same. The desire is for hope beyond hope and a salvation which seems beyond all grasp.

In a humorous aside, Galadriel’s miraculous appearance at the point to sing her farewell was questioned. While the Fellowship travels by water, under a swift current, she is somehow able to walk, or teleport to the meeting of the two streams, a seeming impossibility.

… until the hour of our next meeting.