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The Mirror of Galadriel 6: "Do not touch the water!"
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FarFromHome
Valinor


Mar 20 2008, 8:04am

Post #26 of 37 (137 views)
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A couple more thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The visions, dreams, prophecies, foretelling, and foreshadowing in LotR, which are truly pervasive and appear throughout the book, constantly hint at the existence of Providence and Higher Powers



Even if visions, dreams and prophecies do have power to truly predict the future, how do we know they are sent by the Higher Powers? The Catholic Church, for example, does not condone soothsaying. There are certainly stories about saints being called by a dream to perform some deed, but in general, I'd say that soothsaying in history and legend tends to be associated with unholy people (like the witches in Macbeth), and certainly that there tends to be an underlying sense of danger about it.

Which brings me to my second point.


In Reply To
In Middle-earth, all prophecies are true.



Galadriel warns Frodo and Sam about what they will see in the Mirror, making it clear that there is danger involved in knowing the future (which fits fairly well with the traditional view of soothsaying, and with the idea that Galadriel is powerful and dangerous in her own right, as befits a Faerie Queen). Yet, as you point out, none of those dangers come to pass. The dreams and portents turn out true. It reminds me of Frodo's early thought that the servants of the Enemy would "look fairer and feel fouler." Yes, in the real world, evil is hard to recognise, and predictions of the future are as likely to mislead as to help. But after the initial warning about the complexity of the world, the story fails to provide any such complexity. Servants of the Enemy look and feel foul, and all prophecies are true. I assume this is one of the things that leads critics to accuse LotR of being "black and white".

Personally, I think it's a valid storytelling device, based on the fact that the story is told by the protagonists, as they remember it. So they remember the prophecies that come true, or reinterpret them in light of events, and forget the others, as happens in our world. They even remember little, casual remarks if they happen to come true - like Frodo's "prediction" that Sam will become a wizard or a warrior. But if you posit an "omniscient narrator", how do you answer this charge of simplifying a complex world? Is it enough just to say "it's fantasy"?


...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 20 2008, 12:47pm

Post #27 of 37 (121 views)
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We don't know who sends them. [In reply to] Can't Post

We don't even know if anyone sends them. But the fact that they turn out to be true indicates that their is a Plan, and possibly a Planner.

Soothsaying is very different from prophecying, which is done by God's prophets. Soothsaying is done not at God's will, but at Satan's, at least in traditional Christian theology. But the powers of prophets and godless magic users can bear a surface resemblance.

Tolkien walks a fine line with an enchantress like Galadriel, and there are some in LotR who condemn her. But I think we get enough hints to conclude that she is not in league with evil, even though she wields magic. On the other hand in The Silmarillion she is a rebel who refused amnesty, and even in LotR she expresses doubts about whether she will be allowed to sail west. Her actions in LotR help to redeem her. I don't think any of this really fits in with orthodox Catholic theology, but there are folk traditions of elves falling somewhere between angels and demons, neither wholly good nor wholly evil. Tolkien's High Elves in LotR (as opposed to The Sil or The Hobbit), seem close to angelic.

The dangers Galadriel warns about do not come to pass because Sam and Frodo stick to their purpose despite what they see. But both Sam and Frodo are tempted by their visions to give up their mission.

It is the Ring which looks fair and feels foul, but also, to some extent, Boromir and Saruman and Denethor. Remember that we see these through the clear eyes of the heroes, but it is clear that others see them differently. I'm not sure what that has to do with prophecies, though.

Perhaps you are saying that Tolkien's world seems simplistic when all prophecies prove true, but I find it amazing that he manages to incorporate so many true prophecies without in any way spoiling the tension or giving away the ending. Just think of Gandalf's prophecy that Gollum would play a part in the unmaking of the Ring. Who, based on that prophecy, could anticipate the role Gollum would play? I find that complex and brilliant.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 20 2008, 6:50pm

Post #28 of 37 (122 views)
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The context of Tolkien's Times [In reply to] Can't Post

Reading the posts here, I see now a context that I did not pick up before. In the days when Tolkien wrote these books, a shy, scholarly man had become pope--a man who had entered holy orders at a young age and lived a life ever since carefully sheltered from all temptation. He attained his office with a reputation for learning and great virtue, but he had no backbone behind it, having little occasion to risk becoming anything else except for virtuous and learned. So, when Hitler came into power, he caved in. What resistance he offered he did only in secret and only feebly, when the times called for a public voice and a riveting martyr. According to Catholic beliefs, he did have the guidance of the Holy Spirit that was supposed to go with his position, yet he did not have the moral strength in his own character to act upon it. Catholics at that time felt a keen shame in his public inaction, and were only slightly mollified to learn that he did save a number of Jewish children on the sly--it did not seem enough for the stature given to him.

The context here is that the Fellowship (and ultimately Galadriel herself) must face temptation while still far from Mordor, if they are to build up any backbone for the trials to come. Hothouse flowers, carefully protected and cultivated, cannot stand up to the cold blast of true evil. Frodo must look Sauron in the eye and resolve to oppose him anyway, no matter how fearsome. Sam must decide that the quest is more important than everything he had ever learned to value in his life. And Galadriel must face her darkest desires and refuse them. Tolkien had witnessed the worthlessness of untested virtue, and knew that sooner or later he had to make sure that his heroes were innocent, yet no longer naive.

As for prophecy and soothsaying, Biblically, one of the tests of a prophet is that his prophecies must always be right. A good overall batting average doesn't cut it. He might misinterpret his prophecies, but they must be right in substance regardless of how misunderstood. Prophecy comes unbidden, from a higher power. Soothsaying one seeks out on one's own initiative. Even there, however, lies some ambiguity. Is a meteorologist a soothsayer, for reading portents in the winds and clouds, and predicting storms or sunny days? What if Galadriel's mirror, to elvish thinking, operates on the same level?

One can posit that the difference between elvish "magic" and that of Sauron is a difference between cooperating with natural forces versus the imposition of will--one could compare it to the difference between operating a sailboat and a motor-boat. The sailboat captain can sail anywhere, even upstream, by carefully repositioning his sails and rudder to catch the existing winds and currents just right. He must know the ways of air and water intimately to do this, and he achieves a peaceable result, in silence and purity. Whereas the motor-boat captain just throws on his engine and lets her rip. He only notices currents of air and water if they especially push against his will, and then he just amps up the power. With loud noise, spewing pollution, he gets where he wants to go while knowing far less about the forces of nature which he overpowers.

The power of the elves rests in interconnection with all things and in cooperation, and is more shamanic in nature, whereas the power of the enemy springs from naked will, and is more sorcerous in nature.

So Galadriel's mirror lies somewhere between soothsaying and prophecy. She does seek out a clue as to what will come to be, yet she does not force the mirror to show her anything except what she or the viewer is meant to see by a higher power. In effect she invites the revelations to flow as they will, while putting forth a "sail" to catch them. Perhaps in some way, since the light of Earendil falls upon the water, the vessel is a mirror indeed, mirroring the view of Earendil high above Middle Earth, viewing everything at once, in his journeys just outside our dimple of time.

My website http://www.dreamdeer.grailmedia.com offers fanfic, and message-boards regarding intentional community or faerie exploration.


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 20 2008, 7:46pm

Post #29 of 37 (120 views)
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Nice thoughts! [In reply to] Can't Post

I like your comparison of Elven Magic to the work of a human meterologist or sailor. However Galadriel does more than just read the signs or work with the wind. With her Ring she has actively slowed the effect of time on Lothlorien, and seems to control that piece of land like a Goddess, even controlling the weather that Bombadil said no one on two legs should master.

I agree that Galadriel's magic is more natural than Sauron's. But not completely. Lothlorien is cultivated, not wild. And although Lothlorien shows us what Middle-earth was supposed to be, before Morgoth's taint, it does not represent what Middle-earth now is.

Galadriel's long use of her Ring (and Elrond's as well) was, I judge, a mistake, no matter how benevolent the intent, for Galadriel knew that the One Ring was out there still, and that if the One Ring were ever found it would put Lothlorien in peril. Furthermore Galadriel initially acted out of pride, preferring to rule in Middle-earth rather than submit to the Valar and live under their rule. I think Galadriel now realizes her mistake, and may have realized it long ago, but now she cannot give up her Ring without putting her people in peril.

Galadriel's redemption requires her to let go of the One Ring, and also of her own Ring, and of her own Goddess-like power in Middle-earth. She accepts that everything she has created in the Third Age will be lost -- indeed, she actively aids that destruction -- and then, by sailing west, submits at last to the judgment and rule of the Valar.

Among the elves, Cirdan made the best use of his Ring by relinquishing it to Gandalf. And Gandalf used it not to create an artificial refuge out of sync with the rest of Middle-earth but to spread the wealth, so to speak, giving comfort to free peoples everywhere as he roamed. Lothlorien is not a bad place at all -- on the contrary, it is a piece of Paradise -- but it does not belong in Middle-earth, and it is built on unstable foundations.


sador
Half-elven

Mar 20 2008, 11:40pm

Post #30 of 37 (175 views)
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The Closing of an Era [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Galadriel's redemption requires her to let go of the One Ring, and also of her own Ring, and of her own Goddess-like power in Middle-earth. She accepts that everything she has created in the Third Age will be lost -- indeed, she actively aids that destruction


That was essentially what I had in mind, when I wrote about the Mirror as being shattered next chapter.

In a way, this sums up the temptations of the Three Elf-Ring bearers. Gandalf was offered it in the Shire, when he knew refusing it exposes the Hobbits he loves to the worst possible dangers; Elrond had it in his power for a few days in Rivendell, at first gambling on his healing-skills (otherwise Frodo might have died with the Ring on him), and anyway by not taking it losing his daughter; and now Galadriel, who has already toyed with the idea of asking Frodo for the Ring, and is about to stand to judgement before the Valar as a rebel.
And so, the Farewell to Lorien next chapter, is a farewell to Elvendom on this earth.

"For many long years I have pondered" - Galadriel


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 22 2009, 8:06am

Post #31 of 37 (71 views)
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Sam sees himself on an “endless winding stair”. [In reply to] Can't Post

Presumably this is Cirith Ungol, but note (esp. Beren IV!) how it makes for a further comparison with Gandalf.

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 22 2009, 8:07am

Post #32 of 37 (64 views)
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Similarly, Aragorn breathes on lembas leaves. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 22 2009, 8:07am

Post #33 of 37 (66 views)
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What would others have seen in the Mirror? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 22 2009, 8:08am

Post #34 of 37 (75 views)
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Book-Frodo becomes Film-Aragorn at Moria-gate. [In reply to] Can't Post

Or so I gather, based on your description of the film scene:

Quote
Aragorn warns Merry and Pippin not to disturb the water outside the gate of Moria…



In the source passage, Boromir throws a stone in the pool, and then we read:

Quote
‘Why did you do that, Boromir?’ said Frodo. ‘I hate this place, too, and I am afraid. I don’t know of what: not of wolves, or the dark behind the doors, but of something else. I am afraid of the pool. Don’t disturb it!’



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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 22 2009, 8:09am

Post #35 of 37 (63 views)
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Nice thought about Gollum. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 22 2009, 9:32pm

Post #36 of 37 (65 views)
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It depends. [In reply to] Can't Post

RE: your question, "What would others have seen in the Mirror?" It depends. If Galadriel had not breathed on it, first, I theorize that they would only see a reflection of the stars above. Once she activated it, even a hobbit can see visions within it. Sort of like entering one's own computer with a password and then letting someone else use it while it's on.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 22 2009, 10:16pm

Post #37 of 37 (256 views)
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The mirror functions much like Galadriel's staring contest. [In reply to] Can't Post

In both cases, Frodo and Sam are tested -- Sam with his desire to return to the Shire and Rosie, and his fear that something bad is happening there, and Frodo with his fear of -- and perverse attraction to -- the Eye of Sauron. I would think the others would be tested as well, Boromir perhaps with the vision he describes to Frodo, leading armies with the aid of the Ring. We don't hear much about how the others were tested, though. Galadriel herself might see the very vision she shows the hobbits, of a Dark Queen.

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