Galadriel’s first words in The Lord of the Rings position her firmly within the tradition of Tolkienian women. When the Fellowship reaches Lothlórien, and it becomes clear to the Lord and Lady that Gandalf is not with them, Celeborn is concerned. Was there a change of plans? he wonders. Or perhaps he misunderstood Elrond’s message? Galadriel, and not one of the Company, responds. “‘Nay, there was no change of counsel,” she informs her husband, speaking in a voice unusually deep. “Gandalf the Grey set out with the Company, but he did not pass the borders of this land. Now tell us where he is; for I much desired to speak with him again. But I cannot see him from afar, unless he comes within the fences of Lothlórien: a grey mist is about him, and the ways of his feet and of his mind are hidden from me” (LotR 335).
Galadriel, we can infer here, is something of a seer. She can watch the progress of the world from afar, though at least Gandalf is a mind that is closed to her. This is, of course, all the clearer when she uses the intensity of her gaze alone to interrogate and test the resolve of each member of the Fellowship. And again, we witness her seer-like qualities in a very traditional sense when she invites Frodo and Sam to look in her Mirror and see what Sam innocently calls “Elf-magic.”
What stands out to me about Galadriel’s characterization in The Lord of the Rings is that she is, first and foremost, discerning. Yes, she’s powerful, mysterious, ancient, and sorrowful; but her reactions to the people and events of the world around her are always wise and measured.