Chapter VIII: Farewell to Lorien
Alas, it’s time for the fellowship to leave Lothlorien. They may have had a nice vacation from the rest of the world, but the rest of the world didn’t get the memo to slow down and smell the elanor. The only question is, who is going where? Aragorn had planned to go to Gondor along with Boromir, but that was before Gandalf fell in Moria. Now he doesn’t know if he should go to Gondor, or if he should go to Mordor with Frodo. We know from past chapters that the rest of the hobbits plan to stay with Frodo, and no one seems to bother with Gimli and Legolas’s opinions on the matter. And Boromir… Oh, Boromir. He’s going home to Gondor, but he’s got his eye on Frodo. There seems to be a debate going on within, and Frodo suspects that the Ring is on his mind. No one else sees it, so he keeps it to himself.
The day they’re set to depart, Galadriel and Celeborn invite them all to a farewell feast on the banks of the Anduin, the great river that will take them south for many leagues. They receive some gifts first, though: three boats, Elvish cloaks with leaf-shaped broaches, and lembas, the Elvish waybread that the company will rely on later. Sam also picks up a length of Elvish rope and wishes that he’d spoken up about it sooner, for the Elves would have taught him how to make it. But it’s too late now.
They have lunch on the grass under the trees. Frodo doesn’t eat much. He’s too busy listening to Galadriel’s singing to focus on something like food. Though she seemed tall and perilous before, all that has left her now. She’s different, “Already she seemed to him, as by men of later days Elves still at times are seen: present and yet remote, a living vision of that which already been left far behind by the flowing streams of time.” Galadriel has, in a way, become part of a world that is gone and is no longer so much a part of the world as it will be.
Galadriel offers them each a cup of mead in farewell and then presents them with gifts. To Aragorn, she gives a jeweled sheath for his sword and tells him that the blade that rests in this sheath will never break, even in defeat. She also gives him a long-awaited gift from Arwen (who is Galadriel’s granddaughter) of a green jewel set in a silver setting shaped like an eagle. He also gets a new name: Elessar the Elfstone. Aragron gets All the Things. Boromir, Merry, and Pippin get nice new belts. I mean, they have to keep their pants up somehow… Legolas gets an awesome new longbow and a quiver of arrows. Sam gets a little box filled with earth from Galadriel’s orchard and marked with her blessing. It won’t help him on his road, but she says if he manages to make his way home at the end of this, he’ll have the finest garden in all the Shire.
Gimli wants nothing at all from Galadriel. She has to command him to name something, for he won’t be the only one leaving without a gift, so Gimli finally asks for a single strand of her hair. Galadriel declares that this is a bold and yet courteous request, and asks what he’ll do with it. “‘Treasure it, Lady,’ he answered, ‘in memory of your words to me at our first meeting. And if ever I return to the smithies of my home, it shall be set in imperishable crystal to be an heirloom of my house, and a pledge of good will between the Mountain and the Wood until the end of days.'” Galadriel gives him three strands of her hair and declares that Gimli’s hands will flow with gold, but gold will have no power over him.
Frodo’s gift is last of all. It’s a phial filled with light reflected from her mirror, and it will shine brighter the darker it gets. Why is this light special? Well, the light is that of Eärendil’s star, and Eärendil’s star is one of the Silmarils Fëanor crafted early in the First Age. The Silmarils were filled with the light of the two trees Laurelin and Telperion, which lit the world before there was a sun or moon. Those trees were lit by the Valar with what is essentially the light from the creation of the world. So the light in Galadriel’s phial is a few degrees removed from the light that began at Creation. Pretty neat, huh?
But the time to leave has come at last. With a final song, Galadriel bids them farewell and the fellowship sets out upon the river, and all too soon they go around a bend and Lothlorien disappears behind them. None of them will ever go there again.
Gimli mourns their departure the most. Until then, he didn’t understand the peril of beautiful things. He imagined himself brave enough to face dungeons and darkness, but encountering Galadriel and having to say good-bye so soon has caused him the worst wound.
Legolas replies, “…I count you blessed, Gimli son of Glóin: for your loss you suffer of your own free will, and you might have chosen otherwise. But you have not forsaken your companions, and the least reward that you shall have is that the memory of Lothlorien shall remain ever clear and unstained in your heart, and shall neither fade nor grow stale.”
It’s a nice sentiment, but Gimli’s not having it, “Memory is not what the heart desires.”
And now the beautiful land of Lothlorien is behind them. They have passed from a beautiful, golden land filled with music and light and gone into a gray land filled with shadows and silence.
Chapter IX: The Great River
The fellowship rows down the river for several days. Nothing much seems to be happening on the banks, and they don’t see any enemies like orcs. They pass through a varying countryside and occasionally catch glimpses of lands much farther away than the riverbank. Aragorn points out the country of Rohan to them and explains that this region is empty of people because, though the Anduin is wide, orcs can shoot arrows across the whole thing. The fellowship isn’t talking much. They’re too wrapped up in their own thoughts, but Merry and Pippin aren’t having a great time in their boat, because Boromir is a) in their boat and B) agitated about something and keeps giving Frodo weird looks.
One night, Sam tells Frodo about something weird he saw: a log with eyes! The log part is fine, but Frodo tells him to leave the eyes out of it. Of course, Sam doesn’t; he saw eyes, he knows he did, and Frodo tells him they need to keep a lookout. He thinks Gollum has been following them for a long time now. Later on, they spot the mysterious figure again, and Aragorn confirms it. Gollum has been following them since Moria. Aragorn had hoped to lose him on the river, but Gollum’s too clever for that. It’s dangerous to have him there; he could attack Frodo by himself or set the enemy on them. But he’s too clever to be caught and they can’t take the time to try.
They travel on and nearly end up passing through a series of rapids at night. It’s dangerous to do by day, and death to do so in the dark. As they make for the shore, they come under attack from orcs who can see them perfectly well. Frodo takes an arrow to the back, but his mithril shirt keeps him safe. They finally make it to the safety of the western shore when something terrible passes overhead and strikes fear into their hearts. It comes closer, and they can see that it’s some sort of horrible winged creature. The orcs are thrilled to see it. Legolas fires an arrow from his new bow and hits the creature. With a horrid screech, it falls and they are safe for the rest of the night.
They travel on. The next night, Sam notices that the phase of the moon is all wrong. He keeps track of these things, and it doesn’t match with his reckoning of days in Lothlorien. Frodo speculates that time didn’t flow for them while they were in Lothlorien and that they re-entered the proper flow of time when they left. But Legolas says that’s not the case. “‘Nay, time does not tarry ever,’ he said; ‘but change and growth is not in all things and places alike. For the Elves the world moves, and it moves both very swift and very slow. Swift, because they themselves change little, and all else fleets by; it is a grief to them. Slow, because they do not count the running years, not for themselves. The passing seasons are but ripples ever repeated in the long long stream.”
Later, they debate their course. Boromir once again argues for them to come with him to Gondor and his home in Minas Tirith. Aragorn is intent on his path, though, and Boromir relents. After waiting out some fog and having to carry their boats along the shore past more rapids, they finally get back onto the river and pass through the Argonath, two enormous statues on either side of the river that stand as a monument to the last Kings of Gondor. They are gigantic and awe-inspiring, and remind the company of the greatness that has been lost to time. Frodo is a little frightened of the figures, but Aragorn is thrilled to see them. These are the faces of his ancestors whose kingdom he is heir to.
They pass the Argonath and come into a long lake. Three peaks loom over the far end of the lake, and beyond that they can hear the roar of the great waterfall of Rauros. The peaks are Tol Brandir, which is within the lake at the top of the falls, and the others are Amon Lhaw and Amon Hen, the Hills of Hearing and Sight. In ancient days, the kings would keep a watch set upon those hills, but that was a long, long time ago. The land is empty now, and the fellowship must make a decision about where to go next.
Next Week: Boromir’s inner conflict come to the surface, and Frodo decides that he might need a little space. From everyone. In “The Breaking of the Fellowship”