The Lord of the Rings – Book 2, Chapter 8: “Farewell to Lórien”

Whatever lies ahead from here, the majority of the Fellowship knows that the river Anduin is their better option in the short term.  For Aragorn, it means a few days more to contemplate what Gandalf may have had in mind for the company.  Before, he had intended to accompany Boromir to Minas Tirith to take the throne and put up a strong front against Mordor.  With Gandalf fallen, he sees it his duty to see Frodo to the end of his quest.  For all concerned, it means floating in relative ease and making better progress than trudging along with heavy packs.

Boromir’s verbal contemplations betray him.  Though he doesn’t complete the thought, he believes that the proper course is to take the Ring and an army into Mordor and use the weapon of the Enemy against him.

The Elves outfit the company with food, clothes, and provisions for the journey ahead.  At the river, Celeborn and Galadriel meet the company aboard a ship designed after a large swan.  Galadriel is singing her “Song of Eldamar.”  Based on all we know of Galadriel at this point, such a song would alone make a magnificent parting gift.  But as it happens, the Lady bestows further advice and gifts to each of the Fellowship, gifts that will have a part to play in the story from here.

Aragorn is given a sheath for his sword that it may not be broken nor stained in battle (as befitting a legendary sword) and a silver broach that holds a clear green stone, the Elfstone of the house of Elendil.  Boromir receives a belt of gold.  Legolas is given a bow strung with Elf-hair and a quiver of arrows.  Merry and Pippin receive silver belts with golden clasps.  Sam is given something that will neither keep him on the road nor aid in his defense.  Galadriel gives him a box of earth from her gardens.  When he returns to his barren home, his garden will bloom like none other.  When she asks Gimli what he wants, he asks for a single strand of her hair, greater to him than any treasure he can name.  She gives him three as well as a blessing that his hands will flow with gold, though it will hold no dominion over him.  Finally, to Frodo, she bequeaths a small crystal vial in which is caught the light of Eärendil’s star, set amid the waters of her fountain.  It will be a light for him in dark places and make the night brighter.  Not just pretty words.

The boats speed southward as Galadriel sings their parting with another song, this time in Quenya (Elvish).  Gimli’s expressions of love and reverence regarding Galadriel are nothing short of poetic.  I sometimes think that of all of the Fellowship, it is Gimli who suffers most by the time it’s over.

Ok, Middle-Earth fans… it’s time to put on your uber-geek hat.

Let’s talk a bit about “Galadriel’s Song of Eldamar.”  According to the lore, Eldamar was the land of the Elves in Aman, the Blessed Realm.  Essentially, this is the continent to the west of Middle-Earth, across the great ocean Belegaer, that contains Valinor, home of the Valar.  This is where Galadriel and her people hail from, before coming to Lothlórien.  So the song is essentially a heartfelt expression of home.  Interesting choice as the Fellowship heads out for what is most definitely not home.  The lyrics to her song speak of the winter of this land, and how she’s spent far too long in this barren world.  It’s not really possible to compare what she’s lost to what those in the Fellowship will lose before they see home, but perhaps it is a fair comparison considering the heaven that Valinor is meant to be.

“Galadriel’s Song of Eldamar” has been covered by a great many performers over the years, and that number grows all the time.  It seems to be one of the most popular ballads to translate.  For my money, The Tolkien Ensemble’s version is still the best, featuring Danish messo-soprano Signe Asmussen early in her now-storied opera career.  She’s always selected the music she performs to suit her vocal range and interpretation.  That she picked this piece early on speaks volumes.  To my mind, hers is the closest mere mortals will ever get to experiencing the voice of Galadriel.

The second song Is cleverly known in The Tolkien Ensemble’s library as “Galadriel’s Song of Eldamar (II),” again performed by Signe Asmussen.  It is officially called “Namárië,” also called “Galadriel’s Lament,” “Altariello nainië Lóriendessë” (Quenya for “Galadriel’s lament in Lórien”), and sometimes “Song of the Elves Beyond the Sea.”  It is the longest Quenya text in The Lord of the Rings.

The English translation of it, for those who wish to know, is as follows:

Ah! like gold fall the leaves in the wind,
 long years numberless as the wings of trees!
 The years have passed like swift draughts
 of the sweet mead in lofty halls beyond the West,
 beneath the blue vaults of Varda
 wherein the stars tremble in the song of her voice, holy and queenly.

 Who now shall refill the cup for me?

 For now the Kindler, Varda, the Queen of the Stars,
 from Mount Everwhite has uplifted her hands like clouds,
 and all paths are drowned deep in shadow;
 and out of a grey country darkness lies on the foaming waves between us,
 and mist covers the jewels of Calacirya for ever.
 Now lost, lost to those from the East is Valimar!

 Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar.
 Maybe even thou shalt find it. Farewell!

Those last two lines just seem so appropriate as we part from Galadriel.

Just because I can… while I do encourage you to click the above link to hear it beautifully and masterfully sung, I also offer you these links to Professor Tolkien’s own performances.

You can hear him recite the poem in Quenya here, or…

You can hear him SING it here.