LotRFI Pt.19–Galadriel’s Mirror

Finally, we come to Galadriel’s mirror and the surrounding scenes. Again, I must admit to a ‘misreading’ of an important scene in LotR. Since I did not trust Galadriel, my interpretation of her speech at the well was closer to Jackson’s than to mainstream Tolkien criticism. I did not like his over-production of the scene because I thought it was a cheap way to build suspense, but I did feel uncertainty in this scene while reading it. (I also started to grow exasperated with Frodo’s tendency to throw the Ring at any strong character nearby.) It was not until I understood the Arwen story from the appendices and started to read Galadriel’s history from S, that I understood the true nature of the interaction.

Image copyright Greg and Tim Hildebrandt

Beyond this observation, there is an element in these scenes that molded the way I interpreted ‘magic’ in Tolkien’s secondary world. The characterization of ‘magic’ throughout the Fellowship’s stay in Lothlórien left a profound impact on me the first time I read Tolkien’s work. It made so much sense to me that magical creatures would not interpret their own actions as magical, but as part of their life. It was a logical perspective, but one I had not considered before. The further characterization of ‘magic’ by Galadriel, wherein she expresses confusion about how it is applied to good and evil intentions was revelatory for me:

‘This is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same words for the deceits of the Enemy’ (FR, II, vii, 362).

This rational approach to magic was so verisimilitudinous with the way that people who understand a concept dispel the mystery of those who do not that I was completely sold on the existence of ‘magic’ in Tolkien’s world.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I want to talk about the breaking of the Fellowship, then move in to the second volume!

What Do You Think?

What do you think of Tolkien’s characterization of magic?
Did you follow the Arwen subplot on your first reading?
​Did I miss something? Let me know!

3 thoughts on “LotRFI Pt.19–Galadriel’s Mirror

  1. I find Tolkien’s descriptions of magic vague–but for some reason it doesn’t trouble me like it would with other books. I always had a general sense that maybe “magic” was something acquired through study. Gandalf seems to possess magic (even if he doesn’t use it very often) and he seems to study. The machinations of the enemy are perhaps magic because they are learned and not natural. Whereas the Elves’ magic is maybe not magic in Galadriel’s mind because they are simply drawing on nature or using properties that seem to be inherent in things around them already. It’s almost like they have a sort of natural aptitude for sensing magic and then drawing on it, rather than poring over books and bending things to become magic. It’s a very subtle distinction, one that perhaps would matter mostly to Elves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Luke, I may be overly generalizing, but when I think of magic in Tolkien’s work, I think of an object that channels the magic, such as a Wizard’s staff, a ring, or a palantir.

    The elves to me, appear ‘magical’ to Hobbits or men, because each of the races have traits that are unique to their own. Being unique, it appears to the other races as being magical, but it is not actual magic.

    Regarding Frodo and the Ring, I think there are two related things at play. Frodo is humble and is not able to comprehend how someone like himself, not a warrior, learned in history, understanding of politics, etc., could bear the Ring better than a person who was such as Aragorn, Gandalf or Galadriel.

    At the same time he understands the gravity of the situation better than many others and is willing to hand over the responsibility to one he feels is more worthy than he himself.

    Finally, he is able to differentiate who to offer the Ring to. Boromir would very much have been all the warrior to Frodo as Aragorn (with the exception of their history on the way to Rivendell), but he saw in Boromir the desire to possess the Ring and like all power it is corruptive to most.

    Just a few thoughts, thanks for the post and enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

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