LotRFI Pt. 10–Glorfindel, Gildor, and the Elves Pre-Rivendell

In my discussions of Aragorn, Bombadil, and Maggot I have established that my general approach to new characters during my first reading of LotR was skepticism and mistrust. The only new characters that this mistrust did not touch were the elves. This is a little ironic, given that I read H shortly before starting LotR. It would make sense, given the background of the Elf King of Mirkwood, that I would mistrust the elves, especially those wandering in the woods. It seems, however, that the impression left by Elrond had more of an influence on me as a reader of LotR.

Image copyright Alan Lee

I was very quick to trust the elves. Once the Black Rider fled from Gildor Inglorion and his company, I essentially trusted elves from then on. I do not remember a single instance when I questioned this trust throughout LotR. Even when the Fellowship confronted elves in Lothlórien, I felt the tension between two factions on the same side but did not assume that the Galadhrim were evil. To rewrite the Frodo line from the meeting with Strider, I deemed that elves seemed fair and felt fairer. Even if this perspective is unique to me or is not entirely based on the published text, it has proved very significant in my understanding of Middle-earth. From the beginning of my experience, the elves were truly Good People. The evil loose in Middle-earth could not tarnish their spirits. They were the bright light in dark places, even among the trees of the Shire.

My interpretation of the elves owes a lot to the fact that Gildor’s people are aware of Bilbo’s farewell from the Shire, they call Bilbo a “good master” and they laugh in their dealings with the hobbits (FR, I, III, 80-1). The familiarity and kindness of the elves, along with their opposition to the Rider make them likable. I found myself, like the hobbits, cheered by their presence.

This feeling of wholesomeness extends to Glorfindel, although he meets the company under more dire conditions. While the group is struggling to get to Rivendell when they meet the elf, Glorfindel acts as a catalyst for action. He spurs Frodo on across the Ford and he helps the others confront the Riders. More significantly than this, however, is that Frodo glimpses Glorfindel “as he is upon the other side” (FR, II, I, 223). This cements the association between the elves and the ethereal, making explicit the goodness of the Good People.

The other-worldly view of Glorfindel not only reasserted the allegiance of the elves, but it prepared me to experience Rivendell as a place removed from the world. We will talk about Rivendell more in the next post, but for now I just wanted to link Glorfindel’s ability to be both in the world and yet detached from it as foreshadowing one of the essential qualities of Rivendell and Lothlórien.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The next post will be on Rivendell, then I should probably take a break from the plot-based approach to cover some of the characters who will be in the Fellowship.

What Do You Think?

What was your impression of the elves before you arrived at Rivendell (in LotR)?

4 thoughts on “LotRFI Pt. 10–Glorfindel, Gildor, and the Elves Pre-Rivendell

  1. Elves. I did find them pure. But Legolas’ Dad is one messed up dude. So I’m now balanced between good and not as good as I thought earlier. But they are never bad. One spoiled apple doesn’t make all the other apples rotten. (Even though he may be the king of all the apples)

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  2. I always liked the elves. Even in TH, I never saw them as bad. They’re Good People, as the narrator states!

    And of course it is noteworthy that our final interaction with elves in TH is the Woodlands King’s wonderful exchange of words with Bilbo. We’re set up for success when it comes to liking elves. But they’re a bit beyond my likes and dislikes, if your take my meaning.

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  3. I agree that Tolkien sets up the Elves as good, long before we meet them, and so it’s easy to trust them–especially as Frodo and Bilbo do. Having recently reread LotR, however, I suddenly noticed how the meeting with Gildor could have been rather creepy. The Hobbits are running from unknown dangers and suddenly fall in with a group of strangers. Gildor is a little reticent and does not want to give Frodo advice, even though Gildor must know Frodo is facing a grave situation he’s not equipped to handle by himself. And yet the whole time there is a sense of saftey around the Elves.

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