The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien (Harper Collins 1991) pp.365-367
Last week we thought about the gift that Galadriel gave to Aragorn at her parting from the Fellowship. To Boromir she gives a belt of gold. To Merry and Pippin belts of silver with clasps wrought “like a golden flower”. They will put these clasps to good use later in the story when they are captives of the Uruk-hai of Isengard. And to Legolas she gives a bow “such as the Galadhrim used, longer and stouter than the bows of Mirkwood”. Legolas will put his gift to good use in the adventures that lie ahead for him.
To Sam she gives a very particular gift and one that is very close to her own heart.
“‘For you little gardener and lover of trees,’ she said to Sam, ‘I have only a small gift.’ She put into his hand a little box of plain grey wood, unadorned save for a silver rune upon the lid.’Here is set G for Galadriel,’ she said; ‘but it may also stand for garden in your tongue. In this box there is earth from my orchard, and such blessing as Galadriel has still to bestow is upon it. It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril; but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you. Though you should find all barren and laid waste, there will be few gardens in Middle-earth that will bloom like your garden, if you sprinkle this earth there.'”
Galadriel may speak of her gift to Sam as small and in doing so she is kind to him, not wishing to overwhelm him, but in many ways the gift she gives is hardly less significant than the one she gave to Aragorn. If for Aragorn the green stone was a symbol of his kingly destiny, for Sam her small gift is a symbol of all that she has sought to preserve in Middle-earth. It is “a glimpse far off of Lórien”.
We saw when Sam was in Cerin Amroth how he saw in “sunlight and bright day” something more elvish than he had ever heard tell of, and how this had surprised him, thinking that Elves were for the “moon and stars”. Indeed, so moved was Sam by all that he saw and felt that he described his experience as being “inside a song”. Haldir responded by saying that Sam could feel the power of the Lady of the Galadhrim. Galadriel is a woman of the morning, of spring and summer, and in the beauty of Lothlórien she has made a land that expresses all that she is. Later in the story, at the wedding of Aragorn and Arwen, Éomer and Gimli will partake of chivalric dispute over whether Galadriel is the most beautiful woman in Middle-earth or not. Éomer will choose Arwen Evenstar over Galadriel and Gimli will say that Éomer has chosen the beauty of the evening over that of the morning.
Galadriel has seen something of her own spirit in Sam and that Sam, too, is a man of the morning. This is why he will be so important to Frodo in the journey to Mount Doom. Even after the Ring has gone to the Fire and it seems that it is the end of all things Sam will choose the possibility of hope by taking Frodo to a place away from the lava flows. And when Saruman lays waste to the Shire in revenge for his own fall it will be Sam who will use Galadriel’s gift, not only to make his own garden like Lothlórien, but to make the whole Shire a “glimpse far off of Lórien”. The effects of Galadriel’s blessing will perhaps surpass her own imagination. If her heart is now filled with thoughts of fading and ending, Sam’s heart is always filled with thoughts of making. He sees hope and healing beyond the wasteland.
6 thoughts on ““There Will Be Few Gardens in Middle-earth That Will Bloom Like Your Garden”. Galadriel’s Gift to Sam Gamgee.”
It’s fun to see how artists decide to portray Galadriel’s box, given what it’s about to go through. I always pictured it about the size of a cigarette case.
You are probably right, Jo. And if it was that size then Sam’s judicious use of its contents is even more impressive.
Galadriel’s “small gift” recognises Sam’s smallness or humility. It also promises a consequence far greater than could be imagined. This put me in mind of the parable of the mustard seed. “It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Sam would surely have approved.
Many thanks for this, Chris. As I wrote in my response to the comment that the Chivalric Catholic left on this post I feel that what happens in the blessing of Sam’s work in the Shire is a beautiful example of grace perfecting nature. The Parable of the Mustard Seed expresses that spiritual reality beautifully. And I am sure that Sam does delight in the coming of the birds of the air to his planting of seeds. Whole ecosystems renewing the wasteland that Saruman tried to leave behind him.
Excellent points. I was interested in the parallel between Sam and Galadriel.
Many thanks! I am so pleased that you were interested in this parallel. It was a new discovery for me as I re-read the passage. My feeling is that in her sadness that she has to leave Lothlórien Galadriel sees that Sam can be the keeper of its memory in Middle-earth. I think that Sam exceeds her expectations. She imagined a beautiful garden to preserve the memory. Sam makes the whole of the Shire into that memory with the mallorn tree in the party field as its heart. And surely there is a sense in which grace perfects nature in Sam’s work. He does what he can with the little he has been given and grace multiplies its effect.