The Two Towers by J.R.R Tolkien (Harper Collins 1991, 2007) pp. 652-657
Back at Eastertide I wrote about the mighty battle upon Celebdil between Gandalf and the Balrog of Moria when it appeared to any who might look upward “that the mountain was crowned with storm”. If any would like to read what I wrote then please click on Gandalf the White in the tags below. At the battles end Gandalf threw his enemy down “and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin”.
Alan Lee’s magnificent depiction of the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog of Moria.
Gandalf died then and returned to the invisible realm for a time but was “sent back” to finish his work upon earth. It was upon the peak of Celebdil that Gwaihir the Windlord, mighty servant of Manwë in Middle-earth found him and carried him to Lothlórien for healing. And it was from Lothlórien that he came to Fangorn to be reunited with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli.
Gandalf brought messages from the Lady Galadriel for the three companions. Were there messages for the other members of the Fellowship? We never find out. Only three are ever revealed. Did Galadriel see the breaking of the Fellowship from afar in a way that Gandalf did not? Here I ask my readers to follow me as I imagine what may have happened. I have no authority in the text for what I am about to write but I think that this might be true to the character of Galadriel as she is portrayed in The Lord of the Rings.
We go back to the giving of gifts as the Fellowship departed from Lothlórien on their journey down the Anduin. There we remember that her attention was given largely to Frodo and Sam and then to Aragorn. Simple, though still beautiful, gifts were given to Boromir, Merry, Pippin and Legolas and then last of all she turned to Gimli.
“And what gift would a Dwarf ask of the Elves?”
Gimli asks a strand of Galadriel’s hair to treasure.
At first Gimli declares himself satisfied merely to have looked upon the Lady of the Galadhrim and to have heard “her gentle words”, following here the conventions of courtly love in a way that both surprises and delights Galadriel. Later we will see these same conventions from the Middle Ages in the wooing of Éowyn by Faramir when he tells her that even were she “the blissful Queen of Gondor” he would love her. But then Gimli does ask a gift from Galadriel’s hand and it is for a single strand of her hair “which surpasses the gold of the earth as the stars surpass the gems of the mine”.
None of the portrayals of Dwarves in all Tolkien’s works are able to prepare us for this moment; most certainly not the portrayal of Thorin and his companions in The Hobbit when Thorin’s avarice almost leads to a battle which would have been catastrophic not just for the characters in that story but the whole history of Middle-earth. Gimli’s encounter with Galadriel has awakened something within his soul that has lain dormant, possibly all his life long. He learns that it is possible to love without needing to possess. Galadriel recognises this when she tells him that his hands “shall flow with gold” but that over him ” gold shall have no dominion”.
So great was Galadriel’s surprise and delight that she ponders her meeting with this Dwarf thereafter, a meeting that begins to heal the long animosity between Elves and Dwarves that stretches back to the wars of the First Age in Beleriand. And here I imagine that as she ponders she thinks of Gimli and Legolas together and their growing friendship. She knows that Frodo and Sam are beyond her aid now except for the gift she gave to Frodo. Merry and Pippin she is content to allow to journey on although she would be delighted by all the good that they share and cause in their adventures. And Boromir causes anxiety within her heart. Did she know that Aragorn would be with Legolas and Gimli? Not perhaps in the precise way in which Gandalf finds them in Fangorn but she both guesses that they would become sundered from Boromir and that the Hobbits might journey on together. Certainly in her message to Aragorn she makes it clear that she foresees for him a very particular journey and very particular companions.
So for Gimli there is given the very simple message that she thinks of him and that is enough. Gimli is ready for the next part of the story as he swings his axe in delight.