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!