The Company resumes their journey, but without Gandalf to lead them, doubt and conflict begins to show among the party.
Before we leave Lórien, though, I wanted to comment on some linguistical things. One thing that’s interesting is the word Galadhrim – Legolas says that it means “tree people” in his language, but galad also means “light” in the high-Elven tongue. Tolkien really enjoys his multilingual wordplay. The other notable word is Lórien itself – it means “dream”. That’s basically what the land of Lórien is, a dream where time is lost, the past, present, and future weaving together; ultimately it’s just you and your own heart, until the dream turns to waking and fades away. But that’s not necessarily a good or helpful thing for everyone.
‘They all resolved to go forward,’ said Galadriel looking in their eyes.
‘As for me,’ said Boromir, ‘my way home lies onward and not back.’
‘That is true,’ said Celeborn, ‘but is all this Company going with you to Minas Tirith?’
‘We have not decided our course,’ said Aragorn. ‘Beyond Lothlórien I do not know what Gandalf intended to do. Indeed I do not think even he had any clear purpose.’
Aragorn is torn now that he’s the de facto leader of the Company. Initially, he’d intended to go to Minas Tirith with Boromir, presumably leaving Frodo and the Ring with Gandalf. Now, he feels a duty both to Gondor and to Frodo, but he knows the Ring should probably take the straightest course to Mordor.
Boromir, on the other hand, has only grown bolder in his intent to divert (or even subvert) the Quest for the sake of his own country.
‘I shall go to Minas Tirith, alone if need be, for it is my duty,’ said Boromir; and after that he was silent for a while, sitting with his eyes fixed on Frodo, as if he was trying to read the Halfling’s thoughts. At length he spoke again, softly, as if he was debating with himself. ‘If you wish only to destroy the Ring,’ he said, ‘then there is little use in war and weapons; and the Men of Minas Tirith cannot help. But if you wish to destroy the armed might of the Dark Lord, then it is folly to go without force into his domain; and folly to throw away.’ He paused suddenly, as if he had become aware that he was speaking his thoughts aloud. ‘It would be folly to throw lives away, I mean,’ he ended. ‘It is a choice between defending a strong place and walking openly into the arms of death. At least, that is how I see it.’
This sets off warning bells for Frodo, but no one else seems to mark it (Aragorn being consumed by his own doubts). Boromir obviously thinks the Ring should come to Minas Tirith, and probably be used in its defense. They all saw their heart’s desire, and although “Make Gondor Great Again” is not an inherently evil desire, Boromir is the only one who refused to give up that desire (at least for the moment) for the sake of the Quest.
Anyhow, Galadriel and Celeborn give them all sorts of gifts of a practical nature (like Elvish cloaks and good portable food), but particularly boats, which allows them to postpone their choice of ways a little longer: On one side of the river Anduin is the way to Mordor, while the other will take them to Minas Tirith. With the boats, they can wait until they reach a waterfall before they have to leave the river, and that’s definitely a plus for Aragorn, at least.
‘What are these?’ asked Sam, handling one that lay upon the greensward.
‘Ropes indeed!’ answered an Elf from the boats. ‘Never travel far without a rope! And one that is long and strong and light. Such are these. They may be a help in many needs.’
‘You don’t need to tell me that!’ said Sam. ‘I came without any, and I’ve been worried ever since. But I was wondering what these were made of, knowing a bit about rope-making: it’s in the family, as you might say.’
Sam is adorable. That is all.
Galadriel meets them just as they’re heading out on the River, and they all have a picnic with more parting gifts.
I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew:
Of wind I sang, a wind there came and in the branches blew.
Beyond the Sun, beyond the Moon, the foam was on the Sea,
And by the strands of Ilmarin there grew a golden Tree.
Beneath the stars of Ever-eve in Eldamar it shone,
In Eldamar beside the walls of Elven Tirion.
There long the golden leaves have grown upon the branching years,
While here beyond the Sundering Seas now fall the Elven-tears.
O Lórien! The Winter comes, the bare and leafless Day;
The leaves are falling in the stream, the River flows away.
O Lórien! Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore
And in a fading crown have twined the golden elanor.
But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,
What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?
I think Tolkien succeeds most with poetry like this with an edge of melancholy – and as much as I admire him for trying, I just can’t get into his Elvish language poetry. Maybe I’d appreciate it more if he had ever been able to complete the history of the language as he wanted, but it’s just kind of meaningless to me to learn a language that no one uses, especially when there are so many real languages out there that are dying for want of use.
Celeborn offers some advice about the road ahead, and mentions that they should avoid getting “entangled” in Fangorn Forest.
‘Indeed, we have heard of Fangorn in Minas Tirith,’ said Boromir. ‘But what I have heard seems to me for the most part old wives’ tales, such as we tell to our children. All that lies north of Rohan is now to us so far away that fancy can wander freely there. Of old Fangorn lay upon the borders of our realm; but it is now many lives of men since any of us visited it, to prove or disprove the legends that have come down from distant years.’
[…] ‘Then I need say no more,’ said Celeborn. ‘But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.’
This is an interesting idea that will pay off later in the series, but I’m not quite sure about the general applicability of it. Maybe it’s just my modern American sensibilities, but I feel like more often than not this gives rise to “othering” and mythologizing peoples and lands outside our own experience (like Boromir’s initial reaction towards Lórien).
Anyway, Galadriel hands out gifts to everyone (again, mostly practical) – finely crafted belts and sheaths and such, plus a bow for Legolas.
And Aragorn answered: ‘Lady, you know all my desire, and have long held in keeping the only treasure that I seek. Yet it is not yours to give me, even if you would; and only through darkness shall I come to it.’
She also gives Aragorn a gift from Arwen (who is her granddaughter, BTW): An “Elfstone” brooch. And then she gives Sam a little box with dirt from her garden and it is perfect. It’s a symbol of the hope that he’ll get back home (even through “the long road”) and still have more life to live.
Then for some reason she couldn’t think of anything to offer Gimli, so she straight up tells him to say what he wants.
‘There is nothing, Lady Galadriel,’ said Gimli, 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.’
Her kind words and gesture of trust and understanding when they first met won Gimli’s heart, and he’s got a bit of a crush (expressed as “chivalrous love”, which is only due to a fair lady). I’m still not sure how I feel about this sort of thing, though, especially considering its actual history, but let’s not get into that. Also, for some reason this whole experience has brought Legolas and Gimli to some sort of understanding (and bromance).
‘And you, Ring-bearer,’ she said, turning to Frodo. ‘I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this.’ She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand. ‘In this phial,’ she said, ‘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!’
Frodo took the phial, and for a moment as it shone between them, he saw her again standing like a queen, great and beautiful, but no longer terrible. He bowed, but found no words to say.
Because she relinquished the Ring, Galadriel chose to give up what power she had for the sake of the world and its future. That’s one thing you never really get in the movies – here, you get a real sense of loss, of the passing of a magical age. But you also get a sense that that passing is inevitable, that you could only postpone it for so long, and sooner or later it, too, would fall into decay.
Crying farewell, the Elves of Lórien with long grey poles thrust them out into the flowing stream, and the rippling waters bore them slowly away. The travellers sat still without moving or speaking. On the green bank near to the very point of the Tongue the Lady Galadriel stood alone and silent. As they passed her they turned and their eyes watched her slowly floating away from them. For so it seemed to them: Lórien was slipping backward, like a bright ship masted with enchanted trees, sailing on to forgotten shores, while they sat helpless upon the margin of the grey and leafless world.
Until next time…