Another week, another chapter in the Lord of the Rings re-read, namely Fellowship II.6, “Lothlórien.” Before the usual spoilers and comments, a note for those of you who like e-books: LotR, The Hobbit, and The Children of Hurin are now available, so check your preferred retailer. Nb.: it’s far cheaper to buy LotR as one volume/file than as three individual volumes.
(This would be the third edition of LotR I’ve purchased new; it’s absolutely worth it to me because I find it so much easier to flag things on my PDA. Unfortunately, though the e-book is of the 50th anniversary edition, which opens with two Notes about the text’s revisions and corrections . . . it has munged some of the accented words in the introductory Notes, Foreword, and Prologue, truncating some (Éowyn, Théoden, Dúnadan) and misspelling others (“Barad-dûen”). However, the text of the chapter we’re discussing this week, at least, looks okay, as do the few other chapters I’ve spot-checked.)
The Company departs from the dale outside of Moria. On the way, Gimli, Frodo, and Sam look into the Mirrormere, Kheled-zâram. They head for Lothlórien, pausing to rest and treat Frodo and Sam’s wounds (revealing Frodo’s mithril-coat). When they arrive at Lothlórien, Boromir briefly resists entering on the ground that he has heard it is a perilous land. They cross the stream Nimrodel; Legolas tells them the story of its doomed maiden namesake and her equally-doomed lover Amroth.
They decide to sleep in the trees for safety, but discovered that one of the trees is already occupied by Elves of Lothlórien. These eventually agree to admit the entire Company on the condition that Gimli is blindfolded. The hobbits sleep on one of the tree platforms, and Frodo is woken by Orcs. Though they pass by, something else starts climbing the tree; it flees when Haldir, one of the Elves, returns.
The Company crosses the Silverlode River into the Naith of Lórien, where Gimli is displeased to discover that he is to be blindfolded; Aragorn resolves the tense situation by directing that all members of the Company be blindfolded. That evening, they meet another company of Elves who report that the Orcs had been almost entirely destroyed; a strange creature was seen escaping south down the Silverlode; and the Lady of the Galadhrim has directed that all of the Company be permitted to walk free. Haldir takes Frodo and Sam to a high tree platform on the hill of Cerin Amroth and shows them the surrounding land.
There is a lot of water in this chapter. And, except for the story of Nimrodel and Amroth, it’s all benign or even healing water, to wit:
(Kheled-zâram, by the way, is one of my favorite things in the series, perhaps because it’s one of the rare things I have a very vivid mental image of.)
- The torrent “like a white lace” that flows beside the Dimrill Stair—a delicate non-threatening description of a series of small fast waterfalls.
- The calm beautiful mystery of Kheled-zâram, which draws Frodo “in spite of hurt and weariness.”
- The spring from which the Silverlode arises, “a deep well of water, clear as crystal.”
- The unnamed stream that joins the Silverlode at the dell where they rest and treat Sam and Frodo’s wounds.
- And the stream Nimrodel, which is said “to be healing to the weary,” whose sound Legolas hopes “may bring us sleep and forgetfulness of grief,” and whose touch makes Frodo feel “that the stain of travel and all weariness was washed from his limbs.”
- “(T)he sound of the shaken rings (of Frodo’s mail-coat) was like the tinkle of rain in a pool.”
- Upon Cerin Amroth, Frodo hears “far off great seas upon beaches that had long ago been washed away,” part of the timeless quality of the land.
I’d never before consciously recognized how all this water supports the healing respite given to the characters: not underground, not built, and of course, not fire.
* * *
I wonder what Boromir has heard to make him so wary? But it’s very characteristic of him, isn’t it, to want “A plain road, though it led through a hedge of swords”; concrete, straightforward, within his area of expertise. And you know, there are definitely days I sympathize.
And on the flip side, I wonder what the Elves of Lothlórien had heard of hobbits, many long years ago?
So: running across a single rope as if it were a road, better or worse than running on top of snow? I vote for better, in the sense of marginally plausible, but I still want to smack Haldir for being all, “Follow me!” He can’t possibly be so sheltered as to not know that it’s an unusual ability.
The blindfolding standoff: I’m on Gimli’s side, here, because it is not cool to tell him that he’ll be forced to wear a blindfold only after he’s crossed the rivers and won’t be allowed to go back. Plus I liked that he saw the absurdity inherent in Aragorn’s solution that they all be blindfolded.
(And Haldir gives us an explicit statement that “in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those will still oppose them,” for all that he feels that they’re in a prisoner’s dilemma-type situation.)
Finally, while I like the respite after Moria, I find this chapter somewhat repetitive in its descriptions: we’re told twice that no shadow or stain lays on Lórien, and three times that the land has a timeless quality.
* * *
Aragorn on Cerin Amroth:
I don’t believe that remembering your lover will make you look like you’re wearing white clothes instead of travel garments. Sorry.
Look, a mention of Arwen! . . . in untranslated Elvish without explanation.
I think when I was a kid, I was faked out by the conclusion of this chapter, which says that Aragorn “came there never again as living man,” because I thought it meant he was going to die before the end of the quest. Now, I just wonder why he doesn’t ever go back.
* * *
I do wish Tolkien hadn’t given Aragorn a childhood name meaning “hope,” and then had his mother make a deathbed pun on it, because now every damn time he says the word I get distracted.
Gimli’s eloquence surprised me when he was remembering Gandalf’s remark on Kheled-zâram: “Now long shall I journey ere I have joy again. It is I that must hasten away, and he that must remain.” (Or, possibly, I’m conditioned to think of “archaic” as “eloquent.”)
Also, why I did have the idea that Dwarves didn’t like heights? Was I mixing them up with hobbits? At any rate, I was also surprised when he was the first to suggest sleeping in trees for safety.
The road from the Gates “fad(es) to a winding track between heather and whin.” Since I went to the trouble of looking it up, “whin” here means “gorse,” evergreen shrubs.
I don’t think I’d caught before that Galadriel probably knows everyone in the Company, not because new messages came from Rivendell, but because she saw it in the Mirror.
Finally, there’s Gollum, but I just don’t have anything to say about him yet.
* * *
On the whole, a needed respite but not a chapter that really inspires me, as you probably can tell.