This post contains spoilers for both the book and film versions of The Lord of the Rings.
At this point in my re-read of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship has made it to “the heart of Elvendom on earth,” Lothlórien, the literal meaning of which is “Dreamflower.” Also called Lórien, or “Dream Land” for short, it is the enchanted woodland realm of the Elven Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel, known as the Golden Wood due to its mallorn-trees, of which Legolas says that “in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold. Not till the spring and the new green opens do they fall, and then the boughs are laden with yellow flowers; and the floor of the wood is golden, and golden is the roof, and its pillars are of silver, for the bark of the trees is smooth and grey.”
As I read those words in the chapter of the same title as this post, I was prompted to notice only just then that all the trees here are already bare, save for the few evergreens that dot the hillside and the nearby mountains, and all the land is covered with dead leaves, as with a patterned carpet of brown and beige. I haven’t been out much lately, so I hadn’t marked the change, which now seems to have happened practically overnight. Anyway, according to Appendix B, “The Tale of Years”, the company reach the arboreal city of Caras Galadhon at evening on January the 17th, guided by a contingent of the Elves of Lothlórien led by Haldir, who will certainly not be appearing at the Battle of the Hornburg, thank you very much.
As you may recall from my previous post about an earlier chapter of the book, I was somewhat surprised to discover (or rather, re-discover) that the Fellowship had spent two whole months chillaxing in Rivendell before setting out on their most urgent quest, on none other than what we modern folk reckon as Christmas Day. Well, this time the company only stays amongst the Elves for a single month, but it’s still another charming example of what the author, as an expert in what he called “fairy stories”, understood the passage of time to be like for mortals who chanced to enter into the beautiful yet perilous realms of the fey. It seems to me that the barest sentence from the chapter that follows, “The Mirror of Galadriel”, illustrates this best: “They remained some days in Lothlórien, so far as they could tell or remember.”
Interestingly, the evening in which Frodo and Sam actually peer into the scrying device known as the Mirror of Galadriel, a simple basin filled with water–as Elvish magic always seems to us perfectly natural, for so it is to them–happens to fall on February the 14th, which is Valentine’s Day. It is also the day that Gandalf returns to life, albeit unbeknownst to the rest of the Fellowship. Is the author’s choice of this date significant? One can only guess. But, tenuous though it may be, there is one other connection of that romantic holiday with Lothlórien, for it was there, upon the hill of Cerin Amroth, that Aragorn and Arwen were betrothed, as we are told in Appendix A: “Then for a season they wandered together in the glades of Lothlórien, until it was time for him to depart. And on the evening of Midsummer, Aragorn Arathorn’s son, and Arwen daughter of Elrond went to the fair hill, Cerin Amroth, in the midst of the land, and they walked about unshod on the undying grass with elanor and niphredil about their feet. And there upon that hill they looked east to the Shadow and west to the Twilight, and they plighted their troth and were glad.”
This is hinted at when the Fellowship first enters Lothlórien, as Aragorn stands atop the hill once more after so many years, and in a heartfelt reverie breathes the words, Arwen vanimelda, namárië! before turning toward Frodo to say: “‘here my heart dwells ever, unless there be a light beyond the dark roads that we still must tread, you and I,” whereupon we are told that, “taking Frodo’s hand in his, he left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as a living man.” On February the 16th, he and the rest of the Fellowship will depart from Lothlórien, and many years later it will be upon that very hill that in sorrow Arwen at last gives up her Elvish immortality in order to follow her mortal husband unto death.
This tragically romantic tale of Aragorn and Arwen of course echoes the tale of Beren and Lúthien, which Aragorn himself relates to the Hobbits earlier on in the book, and for which “Tolkien found the inspiration… in his love for his wife (Edith) and after her death had ‘Lúthien’ engraved on her tombstone, and later ‘Beren’ on his own” [ibid.].
“There at last when the mallorn-leaves were falling, but spring had not yet come, she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after, and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea.”J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings