Galadriel also gives to Frodo the "Phial of Galadriel" [or Star-Glass] which contains Light from the Star of Earendil, the most beloved Evening/Morning Star of the elves.
Earendil was Half-Elven [i.e. mixed parents - Elven and Man] from the First Age of Middle-earth and he was the one who, acting on behalf of both races, Elves and Men, [the Elves carry elements of an unfallen race and Men are easier to corrupt] was allowed to sail into the West to beg the forgiveness and help of the Angelic Powers in the destructive war against the first Dark Lord, Morgoth.
So in a way Earendil is a very salvific figure, much like Jesus who in Divine and Human form stands in Heaven beseeching the Father to forgive in his name.
Earendil took with him one of the Silmarils, the Holy Jewels of the Elves that were made in the Undying Lands [Blessed Realm] at the beginning of Middle-earth. These Jewels held the Light of the Two Trees in the Blessed Realm before they were defiled and killed by Morgoth. Morgoth stole the Jewels and fled to Middle-earth. The Elves then forsook the Blessed Realm, passed into exile and pursued Morgoth to reclaim the Silmarils; and what ensued was a long and bitter war of the Elves against Morgoth.
Earendil, bearing the Silmaril on his brow, was then set to sail in the vault of heaven by the Valar [Angelic Powers] as a sign of hope to all those who still laboured in the fight against evil in Middle-earth. It is the Light of this Silmaril that is captured in the Phial that Galadriel gives to Frodo. It is the light of the Phial that has a specific power in defeating Shelob the Spider, and allowing Frodo and Sam to pass the Watchers in Cirith Ungol.
Galadriel passes on to Frodo, Light from the Star of Earendil; and this Silmaril possesses Light from the Two Trees that gave Light to the Blessed Realm - i.e. Galadriel gives to Frodo a special Light or Grace from the Blessed Realm to help him defeat evil.
This role of Galadriel being an instrument of providing hope, favour and victory in the struggle against evil is also similar to that of Mary in the Pilgrimage of Faith of the Church and it's faithful here on earth. She is often referred to as the Guiding Star and the imagery of the Church being a boat on a voyage in dangerous seas, with Mary helping in bringing the boat home to safe shores is very traditional, spiritual and theological.
To further illustrate this point is a prayer-like request Sam makes to Galadriel in Mordor;
"If only the Lady could see or hear us, I'd say to her: 'Your Ladyship, all we want is light and water: just clean water and plain daylight, better than jewels, begging your pardon.'" [LotR p.897]
Later this request is fulfilled and Sam exclaims,
"If ever I see the Lady again I will tell her! Light and now water!" [LotR p.899]
Another interesting parallel is that of the Elven Cloaks that Galadriel also gifts to the entire Fellowship. In 495 A.D. England, Mary appeared in an apparition to Saint Simon Stock on Mt Carmel and gave to him a 'scapular' made by her and her angels. The scapular is basically a cloth that is worn [around the neck] as a sign of consecration to Our Lord or Our Lady. There are many different types of scapulars in existence throughout the Church, but this one is the most well known and particular as it was woven and given by Mary herself. She said to St Simon Stock,
"Take, beloved son, this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant ". [read more here].
Mary instructed St Simon that whoever wore the scapular and lived a holy life would be protected from the devil. [This has happened before in the history of Christianity; the Chrism oil for anointing the Kings in France was reported to have come from directly the Blessed Virgin Mary and carry a special anointing].
Tolkien most certainly would have known of this Apparition to St Simon Stock. Of the Elven Cloaks, the Elves of Lorien exclaim;
"You are indeed high in the favour of the Lady. For she herself and her maidens wove this stuff." [LotR p.361]
And of the cloaks Sam later says, "...it was made by the Lady." [LotR p.897]
The Elves who give them exclaim, "...you will find them a great aide in keeping out of the sight of unfriendly eyes." [LotR p.361 ]
These quotes provide a very similar link to Mary making the Scapular and it providing a special grace. The Elven Cloaks gave a special power of protection to the Fellowship on more than one occasion in the Lord of the Rings;
• when the Fellowship are on the Great River and the Orcs fired arrows at them;
"It was dark, but not too dark for the night eyes of Orcs, and in the star glimmer they must have offered their cunning foes some mark, unless it was the grey cloaks of Lorien and the grey timber of the elf-wrought boats that defeated the archers of Mordor." [LotR p.377]
• when the hobbits Merry and Pippin are escaping the Uruk-Hai who captured them;
"...but its rider did not see them, lying covered in their Elven-cloaks, too crushed for the moment, and too afraid to move." [LotR p.447]
• when the Three Hunters are pursuing the captured Merry and Pippin;
"Over the wide solitude they passed and their Elven-cloaks faded against the background of the grey-green fields; even in the cool sunlight of midday few but elvish eyes would have marked them, until they were close at hand." [LotR p.417]
• when Eomer speaks to Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas;
"And strange too is your raiment. Have you sprung from the grass? How did you escape our sight? Are you Elvish folk? " [LotR p.422].
• when Frodo and Sam are hiding from Gollum;
"It's hard for even friendly eyes to see these Elven-cloaks." [LotR p.599]
• when Frodo, Sam and Gollum are in the dead Marshes;
"Not even an eagle poised against the sun would have marked the hobbits sitting there, under the weight of doom, silent, not moving, shrouded in their grey cloaks." [LotR p.630]
Galadriel carries one of the Three Elven Rings; "Nenya - the Ring of Adamant", [or Ring of Water].
Adamant is an old Greek word for diamond, one of the hardest and resistant and purest substances known to man; and also ties in with the fact that the Ring Nenya is wrought of Mithril, the hardest and most precious substance existing in Middle-earth. Her ring is described as;
"...bearing a single stone flickering like a frosty star." [LotR p. 1005]
Diamonds are often referred to as cold or frosty because they diffuse light so well and remain cool.
The ring Nenya mirrors Galadriel's role as she epitomizes the resistance of the Elves against evil. She is extremely pure and is a reflection of good. Mary is sometimes referred to as the Jewel of the Father and is the most pure example of an open heart to God who reflects and transmits His light. She is also the complete reflection of the victory of God over the devil where she crushes the head of the Serpent [see Elbereth below].
Elbereth is "Queen of the Blessed Realm" and is one of the immortal angelic beings existing before the making of Middle-earth. She dwelt in the Blessed Realm. She is one of the Valar; and the Elves having great reverence for her, sung many hymns and songs in her honour. [Letters p.206, footnote]
In the Lord of the Rings there are three or four specific references to Elbereth. The name itself in Elvish means Star Lady, Lady of the Stars or Queen of the Stars. This is due to the fact that in the creation of Middle-earth she helped in the casting of the Stars in the night sky. [arda]
What is interesting is that she doesn't create the Stars but uses the due from one of the Two Trees that gave Light to the Blessed Realm.
Her other names are: Gilthoniel which means The Kindler, and Varda which means Sublime or the Exalted. [LotR Index p.1117]
The first major mention of Elbereth in the Lord of the Rings is when Frodo, Pippin and Sam encounter the High Elves leaving Middle-earth on the outskirts of the Shire. They hear the Elves singing a song to Elbereth, which runs as follows:
Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear! O Queen beyond the Western Seas! O Light to us that wander here Amid the world of woven trees Gilthoniel! O Elbereth! Clear are thy eyes and bright thy breath Snow-white! Snow-white! We sing to thee In a far land beyond the sea O stars that in the Sunless Year With shining hand by her were sown, In windy fields now bright and clear We see your silver blossom blown!
O Elbereth! Gilthoniel! We still remember, we who dwell In this far land beneath the trees Thy Starlight on the Western Seas
Frodo mentions, "These are High Elves! They spoke the name of Elbereth." For those familiar with Catholic hymns, this song to Elbereth is extremely evocative of and similar to many songs in honour of Mary. One in particular;
Hail Queen of Heaven, the ocean star, Guide of the wanderer here below: Thrown on life's surge, we claim thy care -save us from peril and from woe. Mother of Christ, star of the sea, Pray for the wanderer, pray for me. Sojourners in this vale of tears, To thee, Blest advocate, we cry; Pity our sorrows, calm our fears, And soothe with hope our misery.
Refuge in grief, star of the sea, Pray for the mourner, pray for me.
Once again, the theme of a guiding star is evident and the similarity of devotion and reverence is clear. Another hymn to Mary is quoted below.
Gentle woman, quiet light, Morning star, so strong and bright;
Gentle Mother, peaceful dove, Teach us wisdom, teach us love.
At another juncture, this time in Rivendell in the Hall of Fire, Sam over hears a song sung in Elvish to Elbereth which translates roughly as:
O Elbereth Star-kindler! Glittering white shines down, sparkling like jewels, from the glorious firmament of the star-host!
To remote lands, gazing afar, from the tree-woven lands of Middle-earth, Everwhite, to thee I will chant on this side of ocean, here on this side of the Great Ocean!
[ Aerlinn in Edhil o Imladris' - Holy Song [hymn] of the Elves of Rivendell ]
Once again the similarities are striking and another Catholic hymn is certainly interesting to look at:
Hail holy Queen, Mother of Mercy Our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry poor banished children of Eve To thee do we send up sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus; O clement, o loving, O sweet Virgin Mary Pray for us, O holy Mother of God that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ
And from the Hail Mary prayer;
Holy Mary, Mother of God Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
In the Biblical parabolic story of creation, God promises Man a Saviour the moment he falls. Satan is defeated by Jesus. But also Mary has defeated Satan, by cooperating with God's grace. For this reason Satan hates Mary. She is human, and is a woman, but defeats Satan in her own life because she has been accorded a special grace; that of the enmity between her and the Devil; and therefore plays a co-participating role if the Order of Salvation.
In Catholic imagery, statues of Mary are often shown with the snake [Satan] crushed under her foot at the base of the statue. There are many instances in the history of the Church, where during prayers of deliverance, the Rosary [a contemplative prayer to Jesus through Mary] has been prayed to help in the casting out of spirits; and the demons have reacted violently screaming 'No not that!'.
At the beginning of the Silmarillion, Tolkien outlines how Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, feared Elbereth above all the other Valar;
"Too great is her beauty to be declared in the words of Men or Elves; for the light of Iluvatar lives still in her face. In light is her power and her joy... for Melkor [Morgoth] she knew from before the making of the Music and rejected him, and he hated her, and feared her more than all others whom Eru made..." [Sil p.16]
In the Lord of the Rings when Frodo is attacked by the RingWraith[s] on Weathertop, he tries to stab him and hears himself crying out the name;
"O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!" [LotR p.191]
Aragorn later comments that Frodo's sword wouldn't have done him much harm but; "...more deadly to him was the name of Elbereth." [LotR p. 193]
This Good vs Evil order in the Lord of the Rings where the Wraiths feared the name of Elbereth ties in with the theme of Grace in Marian spirituality and the hatred of the devil towards Mary.
As the Fellowship paddles the Great River; Legolas sighs, "Elbereth Gilthoniel! "just before he looses his bow and fells the Winged steed of the RingWraith. [LotR p.378]
In similar reference is the password Sam uses when Frodo is captured in the Tower of Cirith Ungol:
"...and don't let it down till you hear me call the password. Elbereth I'll call. What the Elves say. No orc would say that." [LotR p.891 ]
One beautiful passage demonstrating the power in the names of Elbereth and Galadriel is when Sam is about to be attacked by Shelob.
"Even as Sam himself crouched looking at her, seeing his death in her eyes, a thought came to him, as if some remote voice had spoken, and he fumbled in his breast with his left hand, and found what he sought: cold and hard and solid it seemed to his touch in a phantom world of horror, the Phial of Galadriel.
"Galadriel!" he said faintly, and then he heard voices far off but clear: the crying of the Elves as they walked under the stars in the beloved shadows of the Shire, and the music of the Elves as it came through his sleep in the Hall of Fire in the house of Elrond.
"Gilthoniel A Elbereth!"
And then his tongue was loosed and his voice cried in a language which he did not know...
"A Elbereth Gilthoniel o menel palan-diriel, le nallon si di'nguruthos! A tiro nin, Fanuilos! "
"O Elbereth Starkindler! from heaven gazing-afar, to thee I cry now in the shadow of death! O look towards me, Everwhite! "
And with that he staggered to his feet and was Samwise the hobbit, Hamfast's son, again.
As if his indomitable spirit had set its potency in motion, the glass blazed forth suddenly like a white torch in his hand. It flamed like a star that leaping from the firmament sears the dark air with intolerable light. No such terror out of heaven had ever burned into Shelob's face before " [LotR p.712]
Sam's invocation [a description Tolkien himself used in referring to it] is very reminiscent of Marian prayers - 'I cry to thee now in the shadow of death! O look towards me'. Certainly the way in which he finds himself speaking the words is similar to speaking in tongues, and also that of receiving a Grace from above. The light that blazes forth from the Phial after the invocation is in line with the Order of Grace, as if Elbereth herself helps Sam in displaying the Light from the Blessed Realm [as captured in the Phial].
An important note on Elbereth is her blessing of the Silmarils in Valinor [the Blessed Realm] so that any unclean flesh that touched them would burn [arda]. The Phial displayed the Light from the Silmaril and it burns into Shelob's eyes.
Another example of this is when Frodo and Sam are escaping the Tower of Cirith Ungol. At the Gates of the Tower are two Watchers that hold the power of entry or exit; Sam uses the Phial of Galadriel and the Name of Elbereth to break the power and pass the hidden barrier.
He cries out, "O Elbereth Gilthoniel."
"For why he did not know, his thought sprang suddenly back to the Elves in the Shire, and the song that drove away the Black Riders in the trees." [LotR p.894]
The character of Eowyn also reflects part of the already stated Catholic Marian tradition and belief of the victory of Mary, by the Grace of God, over the devil.
Eowyn kills the Witch-King - with the help of Merry.
But Eowyn fulfils a prophecy in Middle-earth that the Witch-King [chief of the evil Ring-Wraiths] would not die by the hand of man. And it is interesting to note that in the text of the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien draws attention to this fact. [LotR Appendix 3]. Tolkien writes;
"Hinder me? Thou foul. No living man may hinder me " "But no living man am I. You look upon a woman " "The winger creature screamed at her, but the Ringwraith made no answer, and was silent, as if in sudden doubt."
Once again, Tolkien seems to use similar imagery from Catholic tradition.
On J.R.R. and Edith Tolkien's tombstone, an inscription reads;
Edith Mary Tolkien, Luthien, 1889-1971. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Beren, 1892-1973.
Tolkien considered his love and relationship with Edith akin to the love story of Beren and Luthien. Though not specifically in the Lord of the Rings, Luthien is mentioned a couple of times and foreshadows Arwen and her fate.
The love story of Beren and Luthien is one of 'light and darkness and human love' [Celebration p.23] and is one of the most prominent stories in the Silmarillion.
Beren was a mortal man and Luthien was the daughter of Melian and Thingol, an Elven King from the First Age. Upon escaping the enemies and wilds of the north, Beren stumbles into the Hidden Kingdom of Doriath where he espies the 'most beautiful child of Iluvatar' [the Silmarillion], Luthien, dancing among the trees of the forest. Enchanted, he falls in love with her and eventually, she with him.
Thingol, her father, unimpressed by the mortal suitor for his immortal Elven daughter, sets an impossible task before Beren so as to be rid of him. He requests that Beren bring him one of the Silmarils [hallowed Jewels of the Elves] from the crown by Morgoth [the first Dark Lord].
Beren agrees and sets out on this suicide mission but is followed by Luthien. Soon he is ensnared by werewolves and is held captive by Sauron [a servant of Morgoth at the time] but she rescues him with the help of Huan, the hound [wolf] of the Valar.
"Through Luthien's powers, they passed the gates of Angband, and the great wolf Carcharoth that guarded them. Coming before the Dark Throne itself, she wove a spell that put Morgoth and his court into a deep sleep, and Beren cut a Silmaril from the Iron Crown. Returning to the gates, they found that Carcharoth barred their escape. Beren held up the hallowed Jewel to protect them, but the monstrous wolf bit off his hand, and with it consumed the Silmaril. But the Silmarils were blessed by Varda herself, so that any unclean flesh that touched them would be withered and burnt. The wolf's innards were consumed with that burning, and it ran howling into the south."
"Luthien healed Beren and they came at last back to her father's halls at Menegroth. There they heard tidings that the maddened wolf had entered Thingol's realm, and Beren set out with the King to the Hunting of the Wolf. After nightfall they returned; the wolf was slain and the Silmaril recovered, but Beren was wounded mortally. So he passed away, and soon after Luthien too wasted of grief."
"Their spirits were gathered in the Halls of Mandos in the Uttermost West of the World, and there Luthien sang a song of such extraordinary power and beauty that it moved even the implacable heart of Mandos himself. So she was granted a unique fate, to become mortal and return to Middle-earth with Beren, where they dwelt for a time in happiness on the green island of Tol Galen in the River Adurant." [arda]
"Luthien obtains a brief respite" says Tolkien [Letters p.193]. She petitions with love and receives a special grace.
Luthien is very symbolic of the role of Mary [and also that of Divine Grace] in this story. She follows Beren into darkness to help him on his quest and retrieve him. Her singing protects Beren from Morgoth and lulls him into a slumber. She goes before the Archangels of Middle-earth to petition them for a special grace in favour of Beren as he is returned from death by her prayer to them. She is the 'most beautiful child of Iluvatar' much like that of Mary being the most sublime creation of the Father.
She is a precursor to Arwen, with her free-choice in choosing mortality to be with Beren, her love. She sacrifices all for him and trusts in the Creator in the unknown step of doing this.
After Aragorn becomes King, the Reverence of God is returned in the Numenorean Kingdom [Gondor]. Tolkien mentions this in one of his letters: The "lineal priest Kings of whom Luthien was the Blessed foremother" are restored and the worship of God would be renewed in Gondor. [Letters p.206-207]
This is because, from her comes the Numenorean people, from whom will emerge the True King of Men and Renewer [Envinyatar]. Luthien makes a great sacrifice so she is linked to the priestly and kingly roles in Numenor. Tolkien describes how the Kingship and Priestly role are one and same in Numenorean understanding.
She is the 'Blessed foremother' of the line of Numenorean Priests/Kings that offer worship to Eru, the One God. The Marian reflection here is striking.
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