The Lord of the Rings – Book 2, Chapter 6: “Lothlórien”

The company moves on, coming to Durin’s Stone. They look into the blue waters of Mirrormere, then proceed to Lothlórien, heartland of the Elves. Boromir and Aragorn carry Sam and Frodo, who are injured. The company rests for a while and when Sam’s wound is examined Aragorn realizes that it will heal fast. But when he examines Frodo, he finds his hidden mithril coat. Even Gimli is astonished by how fine the workmanship is on this, having never seen its like.

In the forest of Lothlórien, the travelers decide to rest. The Elves of the forest welcome them, and for safety’s sake, they want to blindfold Gimli (since Elves do not like Dwarves). The company climbs up two trees and spends the night there. Late at night a company of Orcs passes by, signaling exactly how close to Mirkwood and Dol Guldur they truly are.

The next day Aragorn decides that since Gimli must be blindfolded, they will all proceed with blindfolds. Later in the day a message comes from the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim (Tree-People), welcoming them all, so that no one needs blindfolds. The forest is exquisite, and the company admires it. They are told that a strange creature is roaming the forest, but since it has not been seen, they do not know if it is good or evil. The company has seen the heart of Elvendom and felt the wonderful power of the Lady of the Galadhrim.

This chapter comes across as somewhat dreamlike to me, and that’s part and parcel with the realm the company is entering.  Lothlórien means “dream flower” in Sindarin.  Where Rivendell is a reminder of all of the ancient wonder that has been in Middle-Earth, Lothlórien is a place where the ancient still lives in magnificent splendor.  Going back to The Hobbit, we are given to understand that Mirkwood was Tolkien’s way of expressing the outlying boundaries of the world of Faerie.  Lothlórien is the heart and soul of the Faerie realm, and based on the past lessons we the readers would do well to recall that this realm is as deadly as it is beautiful, perhaps more so.  As the Fellowship is coming into this from a place of grief and exhaustion having just lost Gandalf, the effect on them has to be beyond description.  Even so, Tolkien knows it’s the writer’s job to describe it anyway.  Say what you will, mythmaking is one of the Professor’s hallmarks.

To that end, we are given “The Song of Nimrodel” to chew on in our quest to understand the lore of Middle-Earth.  The first question, of course, is “who is Nimrodel?”  I asked that, and I’m just going to be blunt right here: Elven genealogy is a nightmare web to unravel.  It makes the Celtic Knot look like a straight line.  It’s the sort of thing that we will encounter in this journey through the Unfinished Tales and such before we reach The Silmarillion.  It’s from the Unfinished Tales that Nimrodel is expanded upon beyond what we learn in this song, found in Part Two: The Second Age, IV: “The History of Galadriel and Celeborn, and of Amroth King of Lórien”

Legolas sings the song on the banks of the river Nimrodel, stating that it is typically sung in the woodland tongue, though some in Rivendell sing it as well.  He also states he can go no further than his stopping point, implying the song does not end there.

He’s right.  According to the lore, Nimrodel is possibly alive and well even now.  She lived in Lothlórien before the Sindar and Noldor came, believing the newcomers would only bring strife to her golden wood.  She lived near the river that bears her name, separate from them, refusing to speak any but her native language.  The only good thing she found was the King of the Sinda, Amroth, but she refused to marry him.  The unease of the land grew around her.  Around the time of the Balrog’s awakening in TA (Third Age) 1980 at Khazad-dûm (for reference, the quest of the Ring begins in TA 3018), she fled to Fangorn Forest and found she could not enter.  Amroth chased after her and promised her peace.  The two set sail with a company of Silvan Elves to the Undying Lands, traveling together until they were separated at the White Mountains.  Amroth waited for Nimrodel aboard his ship.  A storm broke and swept the ship out of port.  Amroth jumped overboard, hoping to swim to shore, but the currents swept him out and drowned him.

Nimrodel settled for a time at the river Gilrain, which reminded her of home, and fell into a deep sleep.  When she finally awoke, she continued on but found no ship and no Amroth.  Where she went from there is anyone’s guess, her story now lost to time.

So in addition to giving us some star-crossed romance that always adds resonance to a good mythology, what this song sets up for us is the notion that the Galadhrim are older than the elves of either races from Mirkwood or from Rivendell.  Think of them as the main tree, with the Sindar and the Quenya being the branches.  With this in mind, we’re given some concept of the age, beauty, majesty, and power of Galadriel and Celeborn, those who rule at Lothlórien.  In short, they are the stuff of legend, and we’ll properly meet them in the next chapter.

If you’d like to hear The Tolkien Ensemble’s rendition of “The Song of Nimrodel,” you can find that here.

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