The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien (Harper Collins 1991) pp.324-325
Gandalf has only just fallen into the abyss beneath the Bridge of Khazad-dûm and Aragorn is anxious that the Company should put as much distance as it possibly can between itself and the Gates of Moria. He knows that as soon as night falls orcs will commence their pursuit and all the lives of the remaining members of the Fellowship will be in great danger.
But despite both grief and danger there is one member who cannot leave this place without looking and that person is Gimli the dwarf. Even though, ever since Gandalf read aloud from the Book of Mazarbul in the chamber that held it and which contained the tomb of Balin, Gimli has known that Balin himself was slain by orcs at this spot he must still pause upon his journey and look.
Gimli goes to look into the Mirrormere, the waters of Kheled-zâram about which we thought some weeks ago. It is the most sacred place in all the world of the dwarves, the place where Durin at his awakening looked, and saw his own reflection crowned by stars.
"He stooped and looked in Mirrormere, And saw a crown of stars appear, As gems upon a silver thread, Above the shadow of his head."
Gimli must look at this also and when he does so he looks upon the sacred mystery of his own people, star-crowned amidst the endless depths of space, a reflection in a flawless mirror, but only an image and not a reality. That reality, as the dwarves believe, lies ahead in some future time. And the language that they use to speak of this time is the awakening of Durin from sleep. Perhaps Balin went to look in the waters hoping to see his own reflection held by the crown of stars, wondering whether he might be Durin reawakened. The death that he suffered by an orc arrow there brutally put an end to such dreams if such dreams he had.
"But still the sunken stars appear In dark and windless Mirrormere; There lies his crown in water deep, Till Durin wakes again from sleep."
Later Galadriel will understand why Gimli had to look upon the “ancient home” of his people and in expressing her understanding she will awaken love and devotion in his heart. Surely a love and devotion that he is feeling after, seeking for in his heart, as he goes to look in the waters but does not find until he sees it in the smile of one that he had thought an enemy.
But why did Gimli choose Frodo to be his companion in his search? We note that Gimli is not alone in making this choice. On the hill of Cerin Amroth, “the heart of Elvendom on earth” where Aragorn’s “heart dwells ever” he takes Frodo’s hand in his as he walks away from his own sacred place in order to continue the journey. It is as if both Gimli and then Aragorn wish to draw the Ringbearer into their stories, their sacred stories, thus linking the story that he must live and breathe with their own. Neither Gimli nor Aragorn seek to forge a friendship with Frodo. For Gimli that bond belongs to his friendship with Legolas while for Aragorn it belongs to some degree to Legolas and Gimli as they journey across the plains of Rohan in search of Merry and Pippin and then through many trials until the great battle before the gates of Minas Tirith, but is kept most truly for Arwen and for her alone. No, it is not friendship that they seek but an almost unconscious entwining of their stories, their deepest longings, with Frodo and the burden that has been laid upon him.
There is a sense in which Frodo is a figure who is becoming almost other worldly. A certain kind of holiness, of separateness, is being ascribed to him. Is it, for example, entirely a random choice on Tolkien’s part to have Pippin ask Sam what he saw in Mirrormere and not his old friend from rambles in the Shire? Perhaps there is a sense that what Frodo sees in this holy place belongs to him alone. It is Sam who must tell the others but Sam too has been rendered silent by the vision, by the mystery of this place.
6 thoughts on ““I Would Not Have You Go Without Seeing Kheled-zâram.” Gimli Takes Frodo to The Mirrormere.”
I really love your idea about Gimli’s and Aragorn’s wish to entwine Frodo into their own very personal and sacred parts of their lives. Interestingly, seeing such places for the last time is a very intimate, sad experience, yet they choose to share it with Frodo. Really beautiful moment!
For the first time I found that the question that I was asking was why Gimli chose Frodo to share this moment. Of course, later on it was Legolas who he wanted to see the Caves of Aglarond, but that was a private delight. Kheled-zâram is sacred to his people. It seemed to me that it was the Ringbearer who needed to see it and not just Frodo the hobbit.
Thank you, Stephen; that thought would never have crossed my mind without your first putting the idea there. It is astounding that such subtleties can still be mined from Tolkien’s work.
Thank you so much. Of course, everything that I write is very much a personal perspective but I am glad that it resonated with you.
Thank you for your reflections Stephen. I have always loved that moment when Gimli invites Frodo to look upon Kheled-zâram with him. You have given me another perspective to consider, one which I like and find very fitting. When readings that scene with Gimli and Frodo, I also felt Gimli sensed Frodo’s loss and loneliness, and wanted to offer some solace but also to share his own sense of loss with the one who knew most keenly what that felt like. The otherworldliness you mention is a great point too, it both draws people to Frodo and creates a distance (out of respect) between them.
So many thanks for these thoughts. This reading of LOTR in order to write the blog has been a very different experience for me. At one time I took the pages between the gate of Moria and the entry into Lothlorien as Aragorn did; hurrying on for fear of orcs coming swiftly on behind. I gave scant attention to Gimli and the most sacred place of his people and almost none at all to Frodo until the company halt to attend to his wounds. My reading of the text now is to somehow try to enter the world of the story through an imaginative participation in it. I am so glad that people like you feel that it rings true.