Time to bid “Farewell to Lórien,” in Fellowship II.8. Spoilers and comments after the jump.
(Also, as I noted in comments to the last post, I’m now planning to do movie re-watch posts after each volume of the book. I haven’t yet decided between theatrical and extended editions. Do not suggest that I watch both unless you’re willing to wait a really long time between posts, or possibly to babysit.)
Celeborn and Galadriel summon the Company and ask about their plans. On hearing that they don’t know whether they’re all going to Minas Tirith, Celeborn offers them boats so that they don’t have to pick a river bank yet. The Company debates this question, but comes to no decision. Boromir seems to question the wisdom of destroying the Ring, but Frodo is the only one who notices.
The next morning, Elves bring the Company lembas and cloaks. Haldir returns to guide them to the river, where they find three boats (with ropes!) and are met by Celeborn and Galadriel. After a parting feast, Celeborn describes the lay of the land downriver, and Galadriel gives the Company gifts: for Aragorn, a sheath for Andúril, and an Elfstone from Arwen; for Boromir, a gold belt; for Merry and Pippin, silver belts; for Legolas, a bow and arrows; for Sam, a box of blessed earth for his garden; for Gimli, three strands of her hair (at his request, after she bids him speak); and for Frodo, a phial of water from her fountain with the light of Eärendil’s star.
The Company leaves Lórien to Galadriel singing of profound loss. Grieving, they float down a dreary and cold river.
This chapter is full of the world as a place of irreparable loss. There’s Galadriel’s two songs; her injunction upon bringing the cup of farewell, “And let not your heart be sad, though night must follow noon, and already our evening draweth nigh”; the statement that Frodo never returns; and Gimli and Legolas’s conversation about whether it is better to have loved and lost, in which Legolas says it “is the way of it: to find and lose,” for “all that walk the world in these after-days.” (Oh, there’s an implicit comment in the Elves’ boat being swan-shaped.) Not much of a respite, after all.
We’re told that “(t)o that fair land Frodo never came again.” This difference in construction from the comment that Aragorn “came there never again as living man” could support legionseagle’s theory that Aragorn was ultimately buried at Cerin Amroth. Regardless, the pervasive mood of loss makes this comment seem to me less of an attempt to heighten suspense and more of just one more example. And at least we know why Frodo didn’t go back: he was in a hurry to see Bilbo, and then he left.
As for Galadriel’s songs:
The first is the one about singing of leaves, wind, and ships. I thought at first that the golden leaves across the Sea were of one of the Trees whose light was captured in the Silmarils, but that can’t be the case since the song speaks of the Tree as still standing. As for the question of whether the song references her exile in the lines “What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?”, I don’t think so: the rest of the verse is about the passage of time and the decay of the world—Winter coming, leaves falling, “Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore”—and so I think the doubt about a ship is not “because I’m not allowed” but “because it might be too late.”
Her second song is again about what lies over the Sea. It’s always puzzled me for two reasons: first, it’s translated into prose not verse, and second I don’t understand its closing lines: “Now lost, lost to those from the East is Valimar! Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar. Maybe even thou shalt find it. Farewell!” —What is “it”? Not Valimar (and by extension the entire land of Valinor) by a natural reading, but nothing else in the song seems to be up to the weight of “even . . . find it.”
* * *
One of the things I’m noticing on this re-read is the way that the book doesn’t go into the characters’ heads at places where I would expect it to. I don’t know if this is a matter of literary conventions differing over time, or Tolkien’s own style. But last time we were left to infer Frodo’s motivations for offering Galadriel the Ring, and now we are left wholly in the dark as to his thoughts on whether to go directly to Mordor or to go to Minas Tirith first.
Aragorn, whose thoughts we do get, wonders “what help could he or any of the Company give to Frodo, save to walk blindly with him into the darkness?” I’m not very good at the counterfactual game, but I bet a bunch of you have considered just that, and I’d love to hear it.
* * *
Is it weird that lembas is the first thing that I really had an “okay, that has to be magic” reaction to? But seriously, one very thin cake sustaining a tall warrior over a day of work? (Here I delete discussion of calories and nutrients, because all that matters is the end result: it’s magic.)
The exchange over the cloaks—“Are these magic cloaks?” “They are Elvish”—is another example of what DBratman pointed out last post about how Elves don’t categorize the world the way humans & hobbits do.
When the Company arrives at the boats, Sam picks up a rope and asks, “What are these?” The Elf who answers must think he’s an idiot, to answer “Ropes”; good for Sam to respond, “You don’t need to tell me that!” Because, seriously.
It’s very nice that Aragorn gets his big green stone and all, but if I were Galadriel, wielder of one of the Three, who helped lead the Noldor over the ice to Middle-earth and has fought the long defeat for three Ages of the world, I would like to think that there is more praise to be said of me than “I produced a child who produced a grandchild.” Even from the man in love with said grandchild.
* * *
“All” their eyes were filled with tears? Even Boromir’s? Somehow I doubt it.
I like Legolas’s comment to Gimli that because his heartbreak was the result of his own choice to do the right thing, his memories “shall remain ever clear and unstained in your heart.” It’s a pet peeve of mine, the privileging of romantic attachment over morality and ethics, and so I think Legolas has much the better view.
And we end floating on the cold dark ominously-quiet river, in a kind of limbo as we wait for the plot to gear back up.
* * *
Early, in response to the problem of what side of the river to ultimately choose, Galadriel tells the Company, “Maybe the paths that you each shall tread are already laid before your feet, though you do not see them.” If this is supposed to be comforting . . . well, either the Elves think differently, or I do.
Celeborn’s preview of the lands ahead includes a mention of “the Noman-lands” near the Dead Marshes. This strikes me as a rare clunker of a name.
Finally, my new vocabulary word for this chapter is “hythe,” which is apparently an archaic spelling of “hithe,” a landing-place.