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Glorfindel

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Glorfindel
Noldo
Venlian - Glorfindel Before the Storm.jpg
"Glorfindel Before the Storm" by Venlian
Biographical Information
PronunciationS, [ɡlorˈfindel]
Other namesLaurefindelë (Q)
TitlesLord of the House of the Golden Flower
LocationAman, Gondolin, Rivendell
LanguageQuenya, Sindarin, Westron
Birthduring Years of the Trees
Aman
DeathF.A. 510
Gondolin (then re-embodied); sent back to Middle-earth in c. S.A. 1600
Family
HouseHouse of the Golden Flower
Physical Description
GenderMale
HeightTall
Hair colorLong golden
SteedAsfaloth
GalleryImages of Glorfindel
"Glorfindel was tall and straight; his hair was of shining gold, his face fair and young and fearless and full of joy; his eyes were bright and keen, and his voice like music; on his brow sat wisdom, and in his hand was strength."
The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings"

Glorfindel was one of the mightiest Elves of Middle-earth. During the First Age, he was the lord of the House of the Golden Flower of Gondolin, and died fighting a Balrog. After his re-embodiment, he was allowed to come back to Middle-earth in the Second Age, acting as an emissary of the Valar, on a similar mission to the Istari who were to come several thousand years later.

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Early History

Glorfindel was born in Valinor sometime during the Years of the Trees. During the Exile of the Noldor, he was of the host of Turgon. Glorfindel himself was reluctant; only for his allegiance and kinship with Turgon did he go, and had no part in the Kinslaying of Alqualondë.[1]:380

[edit] Gondolin

After the Return of the Noldor to Middle-earth, Glorfindel's history is obscure. As a great follower of Turgon he was appointed chief of the House of the Golden Flower, one of the noble houses of Gondolin. He was dearly loved by all the Gondolindrim.

Glorfindel and Ecthelion by Jenny Dolfen

He followed Turgon who surprisingly came to fight in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. When the war turned against the alliance, Turgon's and Fingon's forces retreated to the Pass of Sirion and Glorfindel with Ecthelion guarded their flanks.[2]

In the year F.A. 510, Morgoth attacked the city, and of the deeds of the chieftains of Gondolin during the siege little is told in the Quenta Silmarillion, but the own text explains that much more is told in The Fall of Gondolin. However, he managed to escape the Fall of Gondolin with the Exiles, and after crossing Tumladen they reached the Cirith Thoronath, a narrow pass between the mountains. There the survivors were attacked by an ambush of Orcs] led by a Balrog. The Eagles came to help them, but Glorfindel fought the Balrog alone upon the pinnacle of a rock. Both died after falling in the abyss, and their duel is sung by many songs. Thorondor rescued Glorfindel's body, and a cairn was raised, which remained there, covered by grass and yellow flowers, until the world changed.[3]

[edit] Re-embodiment and Return

Glorfindel's spirit passed to the Halls of Waiting, where he waited with the spirits of the other Noldor who had died during their war against Morgoth. But because of Glorfindel's noble actions in life, his reluctance at the Exile, and his furthering of the purposes of the Valar by saving Tuor and Idril, Manwë allowed his re-embodied after only a short time. Being already an Elda of great corporal and spiritual stature, in his new incarnated life his spiritual power was enhanced by his self-sacrifice. He lived in Valinor for many years in company of Eldar and Maiar, and these spirits considered him an equal, as he was an incarnate. At some point, he became a follower of Olórin, a Maia with special concern for Middle-earth.[1]:380-381

Eventually, Manwë sent him across the sea to Middle-earth during the Second Age. He possibly came as early as S.A. 1200, but more likely in S.A. 1600,[1]:381-382 at the same time as the Blue Wizards.[4] If he arrived in S.A. 1600, he arrived just after the One Ring had been forged, Barad-dûr built, and Celebrimbor dead or soon to be so. While the Blue Wizards were sent to the east, Glorfindel's mission was to aid Gil-galad and Elrond in the struggle against Sauron.[1]:382 He may have played a prominent behind-the-scenes role in the war in Eriador and the other struggles of the Second Age and Third Age. His part, though great, was mostly overlooked by the histories, because his immense, angelic power was not usually displayed openly.

[edit] Third Age

Glorfindel by Ulla Thynell

Over time, as the few remaining great Elves of Middle-earth took ship to Aman or fell one by one, only Galadriel, Celeborn, Elrond, and Círdan were left of the Wise. Glorfindel took a more active role, leading the Elven forces in the Battle of Fornost. Upon the humiliation of Eärnur before the Witch-king, Glorfindel bade him not pursue, and prophesied that the wraith would not fall by the hand of man.[5] Not much can be said about his deeds and role in the events and struggles of the Westlands before the War of the Ring.

During the War, he was one of the elves dispatched from Rivendell by Elrond to search for the Ring-bearer. Elrond had chosen him partially because Glorfindel did not fear the Ringwraiths, as he had great presence in both the Seen and Unseen worlds. While on his perilous mission the Ringwraiths avoided him; he met five of them, and they fled at his presence. It was Glorfindel indeed who accomplished his mission and found the Ringbearer, Frodo Baggins, and his friend Aragorn with him. Glorfindel put Frodo on his horse, Asfaloth, and upon the approach of the Ringwraiths ordered him to go on. The white horse bore Frodo to safety across the Ford of Bruinen, but Frodo, in a rash act of attempted heroism, turned around at the other side and defied the Nine. Glorfindel, expecting the flood that protected Rivendell to come down and smite the riders, revealed his power to the Riders, and drove them (willingly or not) into the River, where they were swept away by the ensuing waters.[6]

After this adventure, he helped bear Frodo to Rivendell, where the wounded Ringbearer was tended to. Glorfindel attended the Council of Elrond, playing an active role in the conversation, speaking prophetically of Tom Bombadil and other matters with authority. Glorfindel stood beside Elrond and Gandalf as the backbone of the Council, laying out clearly their options. At first Glorfindel suggested that the Ring would be safe in the depths of the Sea, but the far-sighted Gandalf noted the change of landscapes, and the unforeseen possibilities that could bring the Ring forth once more in a hundred or even a thousand years in the future. He was briefly considered as a member of the Fellowship of the Ring, but as his friend Gandalf said, Glorfindel's power would be of little use against the might of Mordor, on a mission of secrecy.[7]

During the War of the Ring nothing is said of Glorfindel. Whatever his role, he survived and joined Elrond's company to the Wedding of Elessar.[8] After that no more is said of him. Like Olórin, his task in Middle-earth was done, and the age of the Elves was over. He probably passed West, perhaps with the bearers of the Three Rings and the One Ring. Or he may have remained for a time in Middle-earth to oversee the cleanup after the war.

[edit] Other versions of the legendarium

[edit] The Book of Lost Tales

The most detailed text about the deeds of Glorfindel during the Fall of Gondolin is the chapter "The Fall of Gondolin", in The Book of Lost Tales Part Two. There he is described as the chief of the House of the Golden Flower, who bare a rayed sun upon their shields. He wore a mantle embroidered in threads of gold, decorated with celandine "as a field in spring", while his arms were damascened with "cunning gold".[9]:173

Glorfindel witnessed the coming of Tuor and later the Fall of Gondolin. During the ensuing battle in the streets, Glorfindel chose (or was ordered) to hold the Great Market from the advancing Orcs. He attempted to flank them, taking the enemy by surprise, but was himself ambushed and surrounded. Cut off, the House of the Golden Flower fought on fiercely for hours, until a fire-breathing dragon came and levelled their ranks. Glorfindel, with some of the strongest of his followers, cut his way out, but the survivors of that battle were very few. Even then they were pursued and might have all been killed, but the House of the Harp arrived in time, after rebelling from their treacherous leader Salgant, ambushing their pursuers. The Golden Flower arrived at the Square of the King, one of the last of the Houses to be driven in.[9]:182

As many of the lords had fallen, Ecthelion was wounded, Galdor was engaged, and Egalmoth had not yet arrived, Glorfindel joined Tuor in leading the defence of the King's Square. When Egalmoth arrived, bringing with him many women and children, he took over Glorfindel's job in going from place to place, strengthening the defences. Glorfindel presumably threw himself once more into the thick of the fight. But even he could not prevent a dragon from coming down from the Alley of Roses, breaking through their lines. The dragon was accompanied by orcs and balrogs, among them Gothmog. Even Tuor was thrown down, but Ecthelion sacrificed himself to kill Gothmog and buy the Gondothlim a little more time.[9]:183-184 After King Turgon ordered the survivors to follow Tuor, they fled southward, and Glorfindel held the rear manfully, losing many more of his House in the process.[9]:186

Glorfindel and the Balrog above Gondolin by Ted Nasmith

After they had escaped Gondolin via Idril's secret way, and passed through the Cristhorn, Glorfindel again held the rear with the largest number of the unwounded. It was at that time that a Balrog and a contingent of Orcs ambushed their company.[9]:192-193 There Glorfindel saved the lives of the Exiles of Gondolin when he defied the Balrog:

Then Glorfindel leapt forward upon him and his golden armour gleamed strangely in the moon, and he hewed at that demon that it leapt again upon a great boulder and Glorfindel after. Now there was a deadly combat upon that high rock above the folk; and these, pressed behind and hindered ahead, were grown so close that well nigh all could see, yet was it over ere Glorfindel's men could leap to his side. The ardour of Glorfindel drave that Balrog from point to point, and his mail fended him from its whip and claw. Now had he beaten a heavy swinge upon its iron helm, now hewn off the creature's whip-arm at the elbow. Then sprang the Balrog in the torment of his pain and fear full at Glorfindel, who stabbed like a dart of a snake; but he found only a shoulder, and was grappled, and they swayed to a fall upon the crag-top. Then Glorfindel's left hand sought a dirk, and this he thrust up that it pierced the Balrog's belly nigh his own face (for that demon was double his stature); and it shrieked, and fell backwards from the rock, and falling clutched Glorfindel's yellow locks beneath his cap, and those twain fell into the abyss.

The Noldoli still mourn the death of Glorfindel, and every time the Eldar see a poweful fighting between good and evil, they still say: "Alas! 'Tis Glorfindel and the Balrog". After the body of Glorfindel was recovered by Thorndor, Tuor allowed the folk of the Golden Flower to rise a cairn for him, there near the dangerous Thorn Sir. Despite being a unkindly pace, yellow flowers growed upon the mound, and the place was always protected by Thorndor.[9]:194

[edit] Aredhel's escort

While composing the chapter about Maeglin, Tolkien considered Glorfindel, Ecthelion and Egalmoth as the escort of Aredhel when she left the Hidden City in his way to visit Fingon.[10]:318 However, in the published Silmarillion, Christopher Tolkien didn't mention any of the escorts of Aredhel, based on a note in which his father discuss about the motives of Celegorm and Curufin of not sending any message to Gondolin about Aredhel. Tolkien decided that it was necessary not to name the most eminent and bravest chieftains as Aredhel's escort, as they would have seek for her beyond the Bridge of Esgalduin.[10]:328

[edit] Return to Middle-earth

Tolkien first suggested that Glorfindel returned to Middle-earth about T.A. 1000, with Gandalf.[1]:377 But he later realised that Glorfindel only could come before the end of the Second Age and the Drowning of Númenor, as with the Changing of the World Aman was removed from the Circles of the World and no living embodied creature could return from there. This was directly decreed by Ilúvatar to favour the Dominion of Men. It seems improbably that Manwë could have obtained a special permission and devised a way of transportation, as it would give Glorfindel an excessive importance.[1]:381-382

As told above, Glorfindel might have come as early as S.A. 1200 and the years following, or as late as S.A. 1600. Although Tolkien declared the second possible, he favoured the last as the most probable.

[edit] The History of the Lord of the Rings

In a hasty note about the Council of Elrond, Tolkien suggested that Glorfindel could tell of his ancestry in Gondolin, but this idea was never developed.[11]

Glorfindel was originally planned to be part of the Fellowship of the Ring, in a way taking the place of Legolas.[12]

[edit] Etymology

Glorfindel by Anna Lee

With the development of the Elvish languages, the name Glorfindel had different etymologies, ultimately meaning the same.

The early Gnomish conception meant "Goldtress" or "Goldlocks". At this stage of the legendarium, Tolkien considered many other variants, like Glorfinn or Glorfing.[13] The Qenya cognate was Laurefindl.[14]

At the Noldorin stage, the name was composed of the words glaur ("gold") + findel/finnel ("braided hair"),[15] but it is not properly glossed.

In the final Sindarin conception, Glorfindel meant "Golden-hair", from glaur ("gold") + findel ("head of hair").[16]:17 It was supposedly derived from the Quenya form Laurefindelë.[16]:119

[edit] Controversy

Some have questioned whether Glorfindel of Gondolin and Glorfindel of Rivendell were the same. While writing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien did not simply borrow a name from his earlier legendarium, something he was known to do, as he pondered the idea that Glorfindel told of his lineage in Gondolin.[11] Among the Last Writings published posthumously in The Peoples of Middle-earth, there are two short essays, Glorfindel I and Glorfindel II. These were written later in life by Tolkien, and directly addressed whether the two Glorfindels were the same person. Both essays clearly indicated that they were the same person, and included a detailed discussion of 're-embodiment' in Tolkien's mythology.

...At any rate what at first sight may seem the simplest solution must be abandoned: sc. that we have merely a reduplication of names, and that Glorfindel of Gondolin and Glorfindel of Rivendell were different persons. This repetition of so striking a name, though possible, would not be credible... Also it may be found that acceptance of the identity of Glorfindel of old and of the Third Age will actually explain what is said of him and improve the story...
[...]
...After his purging of any guilt that he had incurred in the rebellion, he was released from Mandos, and Manwë restored him...
[...]
We may then best suppose that Glorfindel returned during the Second Age, before the ‘shadow’ fell on Númenor...
Last Writings, Glorfindel II, pp. 380-382

[edit] Portrayal in adaptations

Glorfindel in adaptations

Glorfindel is rarely portrayed like in the book. His role in The Lord of the Rings is too small to be introduced and forgotten - he basically does little else beyond providing fast transport to Rivendell. In the more popular works, his role has been filled by another Elf.

1978: The Lord of the Rings (1978 film):

In this adaptation, the role of Glorfindel was taken by Legolas. In a simplification of that character, and as a reason for his coming, he is portrayed as an Elf of Rivendell rather than Mirkwood.

1981: The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series):

Glorfindel appears in his original role at the Last Bridge, voiced by John Webb. Because the part of Gildor Inglorion was cut, the heavily wounded Frodo says the Quenya greeting Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo to him, and Glorfindel replies with Gildor's answer. Glorfindel keeps his two Sindarin lines, A na vedui, Dúnadan! and Noro lim, noro lim, Asfaloth!, though he says them with a heavy English accent. Glorfindel's role at the Council of Elrond is omitted. His name is pronounced correctly in the adaptation, but in the credits, his name is pronounced "Glorfindle".

1988: J.R.R. Tolkien's War in Middle Earth:

Glorfindel is a powerful playable character once the Ring passes the Last Bridge, who leads the Fellowship to Rivendell.

2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

To limit the already large number of one-appearance characters, Glorfindel has been omitted in this adaptation as well. Peter Jackson decided to have Arwen meet the travellers and then ride on Asfaloth.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

Glorfindel appears on the Last Bridge. He has several Sindarin lines: A na vedui, Dúnadan, like in the book, and Mae govannen, mellon (which Frodo accurately translates as "Well met, friend"). He comes to the aid of the hobbits at the request of Elrond, who had received news from a group of Elves travelling near the Shire - even though there is no mention of that group earlier in the gameplay. Glorfindel does so in a monotonous voice, and his speech continues without pause. He also uses the lines Noro lim, Asfaloth, though he does not say them to his horse: he says them to Frodo. No actor is specified for this part.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:

Decipher made two cards featuring extra Jarl Benzon as Glorfindel, one of them being at the Coronation of Elessar.[17][18] He is briefly seen in the film at Aragorn's coronation when Arwen is revealed.

2006: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II:

Glorfindel played an important part in this video game, set during the War of the Ring. Together with Glóin of Erebor, Glorfindel fights in several places in northern Eriador and Rhovanion. He is voiced by Jason Carter, and portrayed as white haired. His design was changed to a more movie-accurate version in the expansion pack, The Rise of the Witch-king. He serves as narrator throughout, and appears in the story itself after the death of Arvedui.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Glorfindel can be found in Rivendell just south of the Last Homely House. He has long blond hair and wears a white robe with purple belt. He is involved in some of the book quests for Shadows of Angmar. The player also talks to him after defeating the balrog Thaurlach.

2012: Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game:

Glorfindel is purchasable as an optional player character in DLC character pack 2 for use in free play and on the open world. He is portrayed with light tan hair (rather than yellow blond like Legolas), wears an outfit which is a mix of light blue robe parts and silver armour whilst wearing a light blue cape. He wields a bow of the Galadhrim and also carries a golden Elvish longsword (all Elvish longswords appear gold in the game). Glorfindel is one of the most proficient fighter characters in the game.

[edit] Collectibles

Gentle Giant produced a Glorfindel Mini Bust for Comic-Con 2007, based on Glorfindel's appearance in EA's The Battle for Middle-earth II.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "XIII. Last Writings", "Glorfindel I & II"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
  4. , "The Five Wizards", p. 384
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Flight to the Ford"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Steward and the King"
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "III. The Fall of Gondolin"
  10. 10.0 10.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Three. The Wanderings of Húrin and Other Writings not forming part of the Quenta Silmarillion: III. Maeglin"
  11. 11.0 11.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: XI. From Weathertop to the Ford", p. 214
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Story Continued: XXIII. In the House of Elrond", p. ?
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part II", entry "Glorfindel"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Alphabet of Rúmil & Early Noldorin Fragments", in Parma Eldalamberon XIII (edited by Carl F. Hostetter, Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, and Bill Welden), p. 104
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", entries "LAWAR", "SPIN"
  16. 16.0 16.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings: Eldarin Roots and Stems", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson)
  17. "Glorfindel's Cameo in ROTK!", TheOneRing.net (accessed 15 October 2013)
  18. "The Making of the Weta "Book Cards": An Interview With Weta Workshop's Daniel Falconer" dated 5 April 2004, Decipher.com (archived) (accessed 15 October 2013)
Attendees of the Council of Elrond
Aragorn · Bilbo Baggins · Frodo Baggins · Boromir · Elrond · Erestor · Galdor · (Samwise Gamgee) · Gandalf · Gimli · Glóin · Glorfindel · Legolas
Twelve Houses of the Gondolindrim
King (leader: Turgon) · Wing (Tuor) · Mole (Meglin) · Swallow (Duilin) · Heavenly Arch (Egalmoth) · Pillar (Penlod) · Tower of Snow (Penlod) · Tree (Galdor) · Golden Flower (Glorfindel) · Fountain (Ecthelion) · Harp (Salgant) · Hammer of Wrath (Rog)