Galadriel was born into the glory of the Two Trees, in Valinor. she was born when the Noldor were at the height of their power and knowledge, sitting at the feet of the Valar. She was descended from both the Noldor and the Vanyar through the blood of her grandmother Indris. She was also descended from the Telari through her mother, the daughter of Olwe, high king of the Telari.
The Vanyar elves were the favored of the Valar, who sang Arda into existence at the direction of Eru Iluvatar, the creator of all things. The Vanyar responded first to the summoning of the huntsman Orome. Orome, alone of the Valar to seek combat with the creatures of Melkor in the dark times. Orome, who brought a message from the Valar who hoped to shield the firstborn of Eru Iluvatar from the perils of the world that Melkor had secretly seeded into his song of Arda.
The world lived in darkness when the firstborn came into being. Melkor had destroyed the works that the other Valar had sang into the world as part of their songs, including the towers of light used by the Valar to illuminate their work. All the works that Melkor could not destroy, he perverted.
The only light in Arda when the firstborn awoke came from the stars that Varda set alight before time began. Varda understood Melkor’s intentions before all the other Valar, and contrived to put her creations beyond his reach so that the world would not live in complete darkness after he destroyed the sources of light that were within his reach. Melkor hated the light, and especially hated the stars of Varda that spied down upon him.
Varda alone provided revelation to the elves in their time of birth. This is why all elves revere her, even the dark elves, the Sindar, who never set foot on Valinor where Varda dwells, or saw the light of the two trees. The light that lives on in the Eldar and can be seen by the keen-eyed and those that are near to death. This is what separates the Sindar from the Eldar, the living light of the two trees that resides in the bodies of the Eldar.
The Noldor followed the Vanyar to Valinor. The Noldor were the most powerful of all of the elves, and spent their eons of time in Valinor learning all that the Valar would teach them of the making of things. After the Noldor followed the hosts of the Telari elves. The Telari loved the night and the stars and did not want to go to Valinor, even though they would be safe from the creatures of Melkor there. They stopped short of entering Valinor and lived on the edge of the light, on an island in the great outer sea of Arda.
King Olwe’s daughter Eärwen was the mother of Galadriel. Her father was Finarfin, son of Finwe, high king of the Noldor. She carried the blood of all three of the tribes of the Eldar, and was born in the presence of the Two Trees, whose living light was captured by Feanor in his greatest creation, the Silmarils. This was in the first age. This was the beginning that Galadriel knew.
When Melkor became Morgoth, stealing the Silmarils, killing Finwe and escaping from the other Valar, renouncing kinship with those who kept him captive in Valinor, the stage was set for the tragedy that was told in the Silmarillion. The Noldor left Valinor in pursuit of Morgoth, even though they knew that they had no hope of defeating him, whose power was equal to that of the Valar in the beginning. But they refused to sit idle at the feet of the creators of the world, who appeared to do nothing to right the wrongs that Morgoth enacted upon their creations.
What the Noldor did not understand was that the song had been sung already. The Valar could do only what they had woven into the song of the world before time began. They had agreed to be constrained by the limits of time when they entered into the world of Arda and made it what it was. But they were not powerless, as they soon demonstrated.
It was then that the sun and the moon were created and set in the sky, and Galadriel was there on the beach in Beleriand to witness the first dawning of the moon and then the sun, along with the rest of the Noldor that had pursued Morgoth. She stayed with her brother, Finrod Felagund, as he established one of the longest lasting and largest kingdoms that vied with Morgoth for control of Beleriand. But her desires led her away from the Noldor and their hopeless pursuit of vengeance. She stayed for a time with her Sindarin kin in the realm of King Thingol. But staying safely hidden from the threats of Morgoth’s creatures was what chafed on her in Valinor. So she left Menegroth and passed beyond the girdle of Melian in search of places that were not safe. Challenges that were not hopeless.
At the Telerin port of Alqualondë before the betrayal and the leaving of Valinor, Galadriel met Celeborn, who would become her husband. Her companion and fellow traveller through the ages of Middle Earth. Together they passed beyond the Ered Luin, and so were not present when Finrod fell into darkness. Did not die in the sacking of Nargothrond or Menegroth. Could not be drowned with the rest of the inhabitants of Beleriand when it was destroyed at the ending of the first age. Destroyed in the War of Wrath that saw Morgoth defeated by the Valar and thrust, bound, into the outer darkness.
She and Celeborn lived on through the long millenia of the Second age. She gave birth to a daughter who became the wife of Elrond half-elven, who in turn gave birth to Arwen Undomiel. They witnessed the pinnacle of Noldorian achievements in the harnessing of power within the great rings by Celebrimbor, a grandson of Feanor. Celebrimbor who was betrayed by Sauron when he created the One Ring to rule over all the others, and thereby gain control of Elves, Dwarves and Men. A feat that was denied to his former master, Morgoth. Sauron,who we met first as a mere lackey in service to Morgoth, beaten in battle by the hound Huan who, with Luthien Tinuviel, rescued Beren from Sauron’s dungeons.
Sauron who had been defeated by a dog of the first age, was in turn defeated by the Numenoreans when they came against him in their quests for empire in the latter part of the second age. Galadriel witnessed all of this from her kingdom in Lorien.
Likewise she witnessed the beginning of the third age, when the world was changed, curved, so that Valinor would always be beyond the reach of mere mortals. Changed when the king of Numenor, the descendants of Elrond’s half-elven brother, grew so bold that they challenged the Valar for dominance of Valinor. Sauron had bided his time, worked his magics, had been made a counselor of the king of Numenor. Had put the idea of invading Valinor into the head of the king, hoping to be rid of the Numenoreans so that he could continue his own personal conquest of Middle Earth.
…Only to be caught up in the change that Eru Iluvatar inflicted on the world, his physical form destroyed in the drowning of Numenor. Forced to flee back to Mordor as a mist, where he had to lay quietly reconstructing himself before he could take up the one ring once again. This too, Galadriel saw.
She saw it, because she was the keeper of one of the three Elven rings.
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,The Lord of the Rings
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
..and so she knew when Sauron had returned. As did the holders of all of the other rings of power. They waged war on Sauron when it was known that he had survived the destruction of Numenor, many thousands of bright elves slain in the course of war. Galadriel witnessed all of this. The fall of Gil-Galad. The betrayal of Isildur. The loss of the one ring to time.
She knew it would re-emerge one day. That story is told in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and I won’t duplicate it here. I’m telling this story simply to say that when Frodo sees Arwen glow with the light of the Two Trees in Fellowship of the Ring, I knew immediately that Peter Jackson really didn’t understand the story he was telling. When I watched The Two Towers, I knew that Peter Jackson was no J.R.R. Tolkien. But that is also another tale for another day. I will say only this. Arwen is Galadriel’s granddaughter, Mr. Jackson. A mere wisp of a girl compared to her. She does not glow the way that Galadriel glows, having been in the presence of the two trees. Galadriel who knew true power, in the form of Melkor and the Valar. You should have paid more attention to the lore, sir.
…And I also tell this story to observe that of course Galadriel left Middle Earth after the destruction of the one ring and the banishment of Sauron, the retiring of the last of the Ainur back to Valinor. The Ainur being present in Middle Earth in the form of the great wizards. She left because there was no real power left in Middle Earth now that wasn’t transitory. Mortal. Impermanent. The immortal that is surrounded by the mortal can either retire into obscurity, or rise to power at the expense of mortal men. We saw what she thought of that kind of power.
The Wife said, on reading this “So you finally got to finish that argument, ten years later.” Yes. Yes I have. That’s what happens when you become a writer.