“Farewell! Maybe Thou Shalt Find Valimar.” Galadriel’s Beautiful Farewell to The Fellowship of the Ring.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien (Harper Collins 1991) pp. 367-369

Farewell! Namárië! This is the last word spoken by Galadriel as the three boats that hold the members of the Fellowship float down the Silverlode to its confluence with the Anduin and so away from the earthly paradise of Lothlórien, into the empty lands beyond and all the adventures that lie before each one of them; adventures that lie before their feet but which they cannot know except as they take each step of the way.

I have always imagined this scene as depicted in the still from Peter Jackson’s film that I have included above, but Anna Kulisz gives me an entirely new perspective as I stand with Galadriel bidding farewell to the Fellowship and farewell too, though I cannot know it yet, to Lothlórien.

Galadriel’s farewell is a song that she sings to them in “the ancient tongue of the Elves beyond the sea”, in Quenya, a language spoken both by the Noldor of whom Galadriel is a Queen and by the Vanyar. It is the language that Gildor and his party speak in the Shire when they meet Frodo, Sam and Pippin at the beginning of their journey and it is a language of which Frodo has little knowledge. But, as T.S Eliot wrote on the subject of language, communication goes deeper than understanding, and in a documentary on Eliot’s poem, The Wasteland, the comment is made that it is the music of Eliot’s language that communicates before any understanding of the text. Perhaps it is to this that Tolkien refers when he speaks of “the way of Elvish words” that they remain “graven” in Frodo’s memory.

Throughout the years of her long sojourn that “have passed like swift draughts of the sweet mead in lofty halls beyond the West” Galadriel has spoken with her husband and with her people in Sindarin, the language of the Elves who never made the journey to Valinor, but now she pours out her heart in the language of her own people. For Galadriel has long nurtured a divided heart in which, as we read of her in Unfinished Tales “there dwelt in her the noble and generous spirit of the Vanyar, and a reverence for the Valar that she could not forget.” But there has also lain within her the part that she played in the rebellion of Fëanor and the Noldor, when although she opposed Fëanor in the kinslaying of Alqualondë nevertheless she still went with her people to Middle-earth against the command of the Valar and at the end of the First Age refused the pardon that the Valar extended to all who had been a part of the rebellion of Fëanor but had fought against Morgoth. As Tolkien says of her in Unfinished Tales “she had dreams of far lands and dominions that might be her own to order as she would without tutelage”. It was these dreams that began to take shape in her heart in the form of a thought as to what she might do if ever the Ring of Power might fall within her reach.

It was this thought, born of her ancient dreams, but dreams perhaps and even thoughts that had lain dormant through her long practice of the rejection of evil, a practice aided by Nenya the Ring of Adamant, that suddenly returned to her with almost overwhelming force when Frodo offered her the Ring at the episode of her mirror. But Tolkien tells us, when the moment of testing came “her wisdom was full grown and she rejected it, and passing the last test departed from Middle-earth for ever”.

That was to be her final destiny but at this moment, the moment of her singing her farewell song to the Fellowship, she has no knowledge of the pardon that she will receive and so all that they (and we also) can hear is her heartbreaking lament and her longing.

“Now lost, lost to those from the East is Valimar! Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar. Maybe even thou shalt find it. Farewell!”

I have not been able to find an ascription to the artist who created this image of Valimar in the Undying Lands.

Was it to Frodo most of all of that company to whom she sang those words? It is Frodo, amongst all of them, that the longing for healing and of peace is strongest, a longing revealed in his dreams in the House of Tom Bombadil and a longing revealed, perhaps also, in the graving of Galadriel’s song upon his memory. These words stay within his heart upon every step of his journey to Mordor and maybe they become, against even his conscious thought, a lode star beyond the “end of all things” in the Cracks of Doom in Orodruin that will carry him, along with the faithful and loving service of Sam, both to that terrible moment and beyond it also. Maybe Frodo will find it.

8 thoughts on ““Farewell! Maybe Thou Shalt Find Valimar.” Galadriel’s Beautiful Farewell to The Fellowship of the Ring.

  1. A beautifully brilliant point about the music of language Stephen!

    I find it interesting that even in Tolkien’s most noble characters he still shows the reader that they are not impervious to temptation. Maybe there is a deeper point in the fact that Galadriel has to gain a certain level of wisdom for her to be able to reject these temptations? I know Tolkien was not a fan of allegory but it feels very similar to the notion of original sin; but then of course, our dear Sam proves the exception! Maybe that is because all he truly desires is the safety of his friends and to return home?

    • In a discussion board long ago, someone said “go big or go home”. The reply came, “why would anyone go big when going home is an option?” Never associated that with Sam, but it fits.

    • Hi Dom, good to hear from you. I was with a class of 11 year olds this week in which as part of the lesson they were given Psalm 103 to read in a serious grown up translation. The class were divided into groups of 4 and one of each group were nominated to read the psalm to the others. I listened to one boy read with real power. I don’t think that he understood all the words, and the others in his group most certainly didn’t, but he had his fellows captivated and they were hanging on his every word as they listened to the music of what he read. A great actor performing Shakespeare has a similar effect.
      I am going to have to think about original sin in Tolkien! I have a volume written by a respected theologian on Tolkien and G.K Chesterton as theologians. I must return to it to give your reflection more thought. I did write something a few years ago on that moment when Sam is briefly tempted to take the Ring for himself but quickly berates himself for having ideas above his station. The voice of his father, the Gaffer, sounds stronger within him than the voice of the Ring!

      • A very powerful Psalm indeed! That is amazing though! It was a big discussion at uni on the power of the written word vs the spoken, I know for myself, as a child hearing my father read of Bilbo’s journey to the lonely mountain seemed to impact me more than the voice’s and images I came up with when I read it subsequently, even if I understood it more on later readings. Maybe the tone and flow of rhythm in words is something that impacts us more on subconscious level than anything else. I always thought it interesting the the bible and other religious texts were written in verse as opposed to standard prose. Maybe this was something that Tolkien knew and filtered through into his own writing?

        I came across a brilliant dissertation on Tolkien and allegory at Uni, I would be more than happy to send it over at some point.

      • Your father sounds like a great reader! What a gift to any child. I will be in Oxford tomorrow and took the opportunity to reserve a copy of a book by the theoretical physicist, Tom McLeish, currently Professor of Natural Philosophy at York University, entitled The Poetry and Music of Science. I recently listened to a lecture he gave on YouTube and I rather think that his book will fit in with our conversation here and your fascinating comments.
        I am intrigued by the dissertation you mention. There are some widely known comments on Tolkien and allegory that do the rounds and so I am intrigued to know what the writer of the dissertation you mention might say. Please do share it. My email address is stephenwinter991@gmail.com

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