Galadriel

The most underrated of all the characters in Tolkien’s created universe.

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,
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.

The Lord of the Rings

..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.

Galadriel, the Great and Terrible.

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.

A Major Improvement

The Children of Hurin (2007)

I picked up The Silmarillion after reading The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings on a suggestion from a fellow reader that I was sweet on during my senior year in high school. The other works of J.R.R. Tolkien that I read had been a wonder to experience, but I wanted desperately to know more of the Elves, and to dig into the rich history of Middle Earth that was hinted at in them. The Silmarillion satisfied that curiosity, but left me wondering what the notes that Christopher Tolkien had used to create the compilation that was The Silmarillion had looked like before he had tried to arrange them into a cohesive narrative after his father’s death in 1973. I can only imagine the size of that herculean task, given the scattering of notes that every writer generates over the course of their lifetime.

Many people have complained over the years about the heavy slog that The Silmarillion was for them to read. That was not my experience of the book, but I could tell that The Silmarillion was not the direct works of J.R.R. Tolkien, or rather that the work it represented was not as refined as his later published works had been. I don’t place blame on Christopher Tolkien for this lack of refinement. He had nothing but notes to work from, a loose framework of tales written over several decades, as J.R.R. Tolkien pursued his passion for telling fantastic tales of Elves, Dwarves and Men. Tales that publishers of the time refused to publish for fear that the works simply would not sell.

I wonder what would have happened to his best-loved works, had his earlier passions not be frustrated by recalcitrant publishers? Would we even have the stories of Hobbits, the creation of Hobbiton as a location in Middle Earth, if Tolkien had been satisfied to see his earlier labors rewarded? We’ll never know.

I have wanted to get my hands on the twelve volume set of The History of Middle Earth, what was promised to be the definitive collection of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, published serially from the years 1983 to 1996, since I first heard rumor of its existence. I was desperately trying to stay in the business of architecture by that time, trying to raise two children to boot, and I had little time for reading for fun during those years. But I kept my eye out on the rare occasion that I made it into libraries and bookstores, hoping that I might run across them so that I could at least touch them on a shelf somewhere. I never have had the chance to find all twelve of them at a bargain price, and when I looked on Amazon.com today there are several sets of books listed that promise to be the definitive collection of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, some of them even calling themselves The History of Middle Earth, but aren’t the originally published twelve separate books. All of them requiring more cash than I’m willing to spend just to set them on a shelf in my library.

The back and forth eye motion of reading text on a printed page has gotten difficult, sometimes even producing minor bouts of vertigo when I have tried to push myself to read for any lengthy amount of time. I doubt that I could ever bring myself to go through all twelve volumes of the set all on my own, if I had to read them directly. The last few times I tried reading anything on the printed page I became fatigued so quickly that I had to resort to buying the works on audiobook just to be able to finish them.

When The Wife and I ran across the Children of Hurin on Audible recently, read by Christopher Lee, we both agreed that we needed to get it. She loves Christopher Lee having grown up watching him play Dracula in all the old Hammer films. His narration of Children of Hurin was beautiful to listen to. I couldn’t have asked for a better voice to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s words to life. The story itself is a major improvement on the rough draft of the story that is preserved in The Silmarillion. There is more depth to the work in this form, the story of Turin Turambar and his sister made all the more tragic by the voice of Christopher Lee. It is a credit to both of the authors who have worked on these stories over the course of their lives that this version flows so well from beginning to end. I can’t recommend it highly enough to any Tolkien fan.

TÚRIN TURAMBAR DAGNIR GLAURUNGA

Tolkien Villains

I can drive the entire family out of the room just trying to establish exactly why Galadriel is the most fascinating character in the entirety Lord of the Rings, or the blood ties between Aragorn and Elrond, and how their family line includes a demigod.

The five villains as Tickld sets them out are as follows,

  1. Morgoth, the first Dark Lord
  2. Ungoliant
  3. Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs
  4. Glaurung, Father of Dragons
  5. Ancalagon the Black

If I trot out this list of baddies I’m betting they’ll run screaming.


Yes, they did.

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The Hobbit is Seventy-Five

Published on September 21st, 1937, The Hobbit was born into critical acclaim. It was nominated for a Carnegie Medal, and won a prize for best juvenile fiction from the New York Herald Tribune. Here’s the dust cover for that first edition, apparently based on a design by Tolkien himself.

Smithsonian

I’ve loved everything J.R.R. Tolkien has written that I’ve read so far. The movies, on the other hand… The movies have been definitively a mixed bag. I need to write reviews for all of them one of these days.

The middle movie of the trilogy that Jackson made for The Hobbit, just like his version of The Two Towers, has been the weakest. I’m hoping the trilogy wraps up well. One of these days I’d love to re-edit the films to take out all the Jackson excesses. Too bad I’ll never be able to show them to anyone. Officially.

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Editor’s note 2019. I still have yet to see the third in the trilogy of movies made for The Hobbit. I may or may not ever take the time to watch it.

Ideally There Would be no Idealists or Why That Guy Isn’t a Guy.

Learn to read emoticons. Or perhaps, take someone literally when they include them. Learn that just because you find something fucking hysterical, other people will not; and some will find it mildly amusing to riff off the ridiculous with some ridiculous of their own.

Learn that “pedant” is not an insult but a way of life. Learn to embrace it.

…H.G. Wells, Sir Arthur Canon Doyle, Jules Verne; the creators of the modern heroic image. I’d be more inclined to target Siegel & Shuster though, since Superman is what women expect of their men. NO. I will not explain the context.

I was simply attempting to communicate a complex idea using humor; that the problem of comparing a visual communication medium, like film, with a textual communication medium, like a book, is an essentially flawed comparison. the characters established in the visual medium are largely external, based on appearances controlled by a crew of people working behind the scenes making sure that you see what they want you to see, and interpret it the way they want you to interpret it.

Whereas a book, or a text message, is interpreted entirely within the brain of the reader. Consequently the characters you perceive in a novel (like Lord of the Rings to pick a novel at random) are almost entirely created by the reader, shaped by the reader’s perceptions and expectations. The characters belong to the reader in a much more personal way, and those characters mean more to the reader than the movie image means to the viewer.

Consequently, contrasting movie characters (like a Disney hero, as another completely random example) with literary characters (like Aragorn, also a random choice) the individual will likely identify more readily with the literary character, even when the example given to represent that character is one captured in a film interpretation (this is why producers buy movie rights for books. Just FYI) because the character has more depth for the reader, has more meaning established in the reading public.

Someone who understands just how unfair the comparison is might find it amusing to point out that the depth of understanding given to the literary character (as exampled by observing minor facts about the characters actual established history) lends an unfair advantage in favoritism compared to a cartoon fairytale crafted to be briefly viewed on a movie screen.

…that someone would be wrong in thinking that others would find that amusing. Apparently.

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Editor’s note. She said that Aragorn was an ideal man, the kind of guy that every girl was looking for, unlike the Disney fairy princesses. She thought she was being funny. I thought I was being funny. I pointed out that Aragorn wasn’t a man. Aragorn was half-elven, descended from a line of kings that were older than the hills of the Middle Earth that he walked. Consequently he wasn’t anymore attainable as a male icon than the ink on paper princes of Disney’s fairy tales. She probably should set her sights a little lower still if she wanted to keep a boyfriend.

She knew she was funny, and she knew I wasn’t funny. Consequently she blocked me. There. Now you know the rest of the story.

Elfquest

I’ve been a comic book junkie for as long as I can remember. If I had a nickel for each time I heard “this isn’t a library” while reading comic books at the local grocers, I’d be a rich man (if I’d taken better care of the comic books I did buy, I’d also be a rich man) back in my youth I would lay down right under the rack and read as many of the books as I could before they would kick me out.

The Marvel stories were my favorites, with the occasional venture into DC and Batman (I never will understand the attraction of reading stories about an invulnerable flying alien. The Wife is a Superman fan, so I can’t be too critical of the guy. Don’t blame me if I root for Luthor) I could never get enough of X-Men, Fantastic 4, Iron Man, etcetera. Stan Lee presents was pretty much all I had to see, and I was off.

I kicked the addiction when I was about thirty, newly married and with a child on the way, but not before discovering the specialty comics shop, and the wider assortment of stories that could be found there. Stories like Elfquest.

Marvel published what came to be known as The Grand Quest story arc a few years before I stopped collecting, and I picked up the original bound collections for that series as one of the last comic purchases I ever made.

I was almost instantly hooked. Beautiful flowing artwork, engaging characters, an original storyline, what wasn’t to like about it? Maybe it was the Tolkien fan in me, or maybe I just have always had a weakness for elves; whatever it was, my attraction to the stories has outlasted all of my other comic book habits, including the X-Men.

The Daughter stole the collections from me for awhile, and she bugged me for years to get Kings of the Broken Wheel (which I finally did get) only to discover there was even more story that I hadn’t even heard of.

Consequently I was overjoyed to hear from Richard Pini recently, that all of the past issues of Elfquest will be made available online over the course of the next year.

Welcome to the Complete Elfquest Online project. There’s over 6000 pages coming throughout 2008, so if you’re new to the Elfquest universe, or if you want a refresher course on the overall story timeline, go here first. Then check out a comprehensive guide to all the different Elfquest print publications. (A number of the collected print volumes are still available too.)

Check back every Friday, or better yet, join the Elfquest forum and Yahoo’s Elfquest news group for news and announcements.

Original Quest #1-5 has been posted today, as well as a whole host of other storylines I’ve never heard of.

So I can direct the Son to the website when he wants to take down the now rare original bound and colored collections to read them. Which is good. Children are hard on books. They don’t understand the treasures hidden within are quite perishable. I may have to buy hard copies of some of the newer Elfquest stories just so I can have them on hand when the web is down.

Tolkien’s War on Science

This time around, I could see where Feanor was coming from, and that he was roundly screwed on all sides by Morgoth and by the Valar. Even though I realized it before, and just didn’t want to face it years ago, it was obvious that JRRT really did not think well of scientists and technologists.

Science Blogs: Dr. Joan Bushwell, “The Tolkienian War on Science” (Wayback Machine link)

Strangely, I saw this attitude while reading Tolkien’s (JRRT) work, but I never made note of it or gave it much credit. Magic is the language of fantasy work, and magic is how all of the creations of Middle Earth are framed. Magic is the technology of fantasy writing. My disagreements concerning global warming, the bugaboo of the left, I will set aside since she gives the Bush administration a few well deserved jabs during the process of revealing her thoughts on the subject. Her insights do put the entire series of stories in a different light than the one that I read them in. Food for thought.

My advice to Feanor: next time, get yourself a phalanx of good patent attorneys. Morgoth will wither in fear at the prospect of litigation.

Joan Bushwell