The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien (Harper Collins 1991) pp.227-231
Bilbo’s verses, chanted in the Hall of Fire in Rivendell, the house of Elrond have gone remarkably well. Remarkably well because Elrond is the son of Eärendi, the hero about whom Bilbo has sung. A number of commentators have remarked upon the ambiguous reception that the Elves give to Bilbo’s efforts and the way in which they seem to dismiss mortals comparing them to sheep. They ignore the fact that Eärendil was himself a mortal, a mortal who married an elven princess, Elwing the daughter of Dior and grandchild of Beren and Lúthien, and great-grandchild of Thingol and Melian of Doriath. They ignore the fact that the history of mortals and elves are so closely woven together and that Aragorn, like Elrond, is a descendant of Eärendil and Elwing.
Aragorn himself clearly feels this tension, chiding Bilbo for treading upon a subject that is well above his head but he makes one suggestion concerning Bilbo’s verses and that is that he should put in “a green stone”, seeming “to think it important”.
And it is important. For this stone is the Elessar, the Elfstone. In the history of Galadriel and Celeborn, recorded in the Unfinished Tales we read this:
“There was in Gondolin a jewel smith named Enerdhil, the greatest of that craft among the Noldor after the death of Fëanor. Enerdhil loved all green things that grew, and his greatest joy was to see the sunlight through the leaves of trees. And it came into his heart to make a jewel within which the clear light of the sun should be imprisoned, but the jewel should be green as leaves.”
This stone was given by Enerdhil to Idril, the daughter of Turgon, king of Gondolin and she in her turn gave it to her son, Eärendil. And even in these few words we discern a lineage for the Elessar that is entirely different to that of the Silmarils of Fëanor or, for that matter of the Ring of Power. For from the moment of its making the story of the Elessar is one of gift. Enerdhil gives it to Idril and gives it without condition. He does not seek to possess the one who receives his gift. By contrast the story of the Silmarils is one of theft and power. Morgoth steals the jewels from Fëanor and when Beren and Lúthien take one of the jewels from Morgoth’s crown the heirs of Fëanor never cease from their efforts to regain it no matter what the cost, either to themselves or others.
Thus the Elessar is always a sign of hope. “It is said,” so we read in Unfinished Tales, “that those who looked through this stone saw things that were withered or burned healed again or as they were in the grace of their youth, and that the hands of all who held it brought to all that they touched healing from hurt.” And so it passes from Idril to Eärendil, her son, who takes it with him into the west in his quest to seek aid for Middle-earth from the Valar. At last, and Tolkien spoke of two ways in which this might have happened, it passes to Galadriel, either through Gandalf who brought the stone with him from Valinor or through Celebrimbor, the maker of rings who was deceived by Sauron into giving him the means by which the Ring of Power was forged at the Cracks of Doom. Whichever tale you choose the Elfstone remains a gift and so at last Aragorn comes to Lothlórien with the Fellowship fleeing from Moria and Galadriel gives the stone to him as they part.
“She lifted from her lap a great stone of a clear green, set in a silver brooch that was wrought in the likeness of an eagle with outspread wings; and as she held it up the gem flashed like the sun shining through the leaves of spring.”
We do not read of the influence of the stone upon Aragorn in the rest of the story. We know that Galadriel had given the stone to Celebrian, her daughter and that through her it passed to Arwen. Did Aragorn know that Arwen had possessed the stone, the very stone that Eärendil had once worn? Was it this connection that caused him to insist that Bilbo included the Elfstone in his verses? Was Aragorn, in his own way, reminding the son of Eärendil that he too was intimately linked to this story? Aragorn will be crowned the King Elessar and he will bring healing to Middle-earth just as the prayer of Eärendil did so at the end of the First Age. At this point of the story on the eve of the Council of Elrond all there is is hope but it is enough.
6 thoughts on ““Aragorn Insisted on My Putting in a Green Stone.” The Importance of Hope in The Lord of the Rings.”
THANK YOU for explaining the green stone! I am not sure why I had not figured that out yet, but I am relieved to understand that part now.
Nicole, thank you for leaving a comment. It is always good to know that what I have written has been some use to someone. I don’t know about you but the reason why it took me a long time to figure it out is because the story of the green stone is pretty well hidden inside The Lord of the Rings. I have been reading it for over 50 years now and I had never given it any attention until I wanted to write about it. It took me a much longer time to research than usual. Normally I write about something that has touched my heart and imagination as with Frodo and the music in the Hall of Fire. Now all the details of the story around Frodo’s remark about it all seeming to fit somehow are grabbing hold of me.
Oh My Gosh, I so appreciate the deeper view into this story. I have just been reading the fall of Gondolin. Thank you for bringing to light your additional views that show connections I just never saw. What a world Mr Tolkien created
Thank you so much for your kind comment. I went on quite a voyage of discovery on this one myself! And that was after 50 years of reading The Lord of the Rings. I agree with you completely when you say, “What a world Mr Tolkien created”.
Thank you for this write-up, Stephen!
I particularly like how you emphasise the importance of giving something to somebody. One’s intentions are vital in the further fate of an item in question and play such a huge role. Thank you for the insight!
The contrast between Fëanor and Enerdhil is stark. And then there is the tragic history of the Ring of Power and its relationship to deeds of violence until Gandalf persuades Bilbo to give up the Ring and let it pass on to Frodo. And, of course, even there there is the implied threat of violence. How relieved Gandalf must have been that Bilbo gave up the Ring freely. Even the possibility of the alternative and its consequences does not bear thinking of.