|Tolkien's legendarium character|
|Aliases||Lord of the House of the Golden Flower of Gondolin|
|Book(s)||The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)
The Silmarillion (1977)
Children of Húrin (2007)
Glorfindel is a fictional character in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He is introduced in various material relating to the First Age of Middle-earth, including The Silmarillion. The name is also used for a character in The Lord of the Rings, which takes place in Middle-earth's Third Age. In later writings, Tolkien states the two characters were one and the same, though this is not evident from The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.
The character and his name (meaning "blond, golden-haired") were among the first created, when Tolkien first conceived of what would become his Middle-earth legendarium in 1916–17.
Glorfindel was born around the time of the Years of the Trees in Valinor. He was part of the host of Turgon, but only followed him because of his kinship. He took no part in the Kinslaying of the Alqualondë. After the Noldor's exile, his history became more obscure.
Glorfindel next appears in The Fall of Gondolin about the conquest of the Elven city Gondolin by the Dark Lord Morgoth. It was the first part of The Book of Lost Tales to be written, in 1916–17. As his ideas evolved, Tolkien wrote about this event various times, and it appears in compressed form in The Silmarillion; by the time he wrote Lord of the Rings, Tolkien had superseded or abandoned many of his original ideas.
From the beginning, Glorfindel appears as a noble lord, known as one of King Turgon's chief lieutenants. In the original Fall of Gondolin, he was called the chief of the House of the Golden Flower. After fighting in the city's defence, Glorfindel escaped together with Tuor, Idril, Eärendil and many others. The survivors passed through the Encircling Mountains above Gondolin. However, they were ambushed by enemies, including a Balrog. Glorfindel duelled and killed the Balrog, but was himself killed. His body was buried under a mound of stones, set there by the great eagle Thorondor, who lifted him up from the abyss. The Fall of Gondolin relates that "Glorfindel and the Balrog" became an Elven proverb to describe great skill and courage in battle.
In The Fall of Gondolin Tolkien writes that Glorfindel's name "meaneth Goldtress for his hair was golden". Christopher Tolkien comments that "this was from the beginning the meaning of his name", as the character is called "yellow-haired Glorfindel" in The Silmarillion.
The Lord of the Rings
An Elf of the same name appears in The Lord of the Rings, written many years after The Fall of Gondolin. He figures in the main story of The Lord of the Rings, about the hobbit Frodo Baggins and the One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron (himself a servant of Morgoth).
One of the Appendices usually published with the third volume, The Return of the King, relates that during the Third Age, Glorfindel led the Elvish forces of Rivendell, the Grey Havens, and Lothlórien against Angmar in the Battle of Fornost. There he fought alongside Eärnur, the future king of Gondor, along with the remnants of Gondor's sister kingdom Arnor. When the Witch-king of Angmar, Lord of the Nazgûl and chief servant of Sauron, rode out to defend his ruling seat at the captured Fornost, his presence frightened Eärnur's horse and sent the prince flying backwards, and the Witch-king mocked him. Glorfindel confronted the Witch-king, who fled into the night. Eärnur wished to pursue him, but Glorfindel bade him not to and prophesied the Witch-king would fall in the far future, but not by "the hand of man". Many years later, during the War of the Ring, Éowyn (a woman) killed the Witch-king during the Battle of Pelennor Fields, assisted by Meriadoc Brandybuck (a hobbit). Prior to this event, the prophecy had been interpreted to mean mankind in general, not a man in the sense of gender.
As told in the first volume, The Fellowship of the Ring, Glorfindel was sent by Elrond of Rivendell to help the hobbit Frodo reach Rivendell as he is pursued by the Nazgûl. He set Frodo on his horse, Asfaloth, and Frodo rode ahead to the other side of the Ford of Bruinen, where he defied his pursuers. He was nearly captured, but Glorfindel, Strider and Frodo's hobbit companions drove the Nazgûl into the water, where they were swept away by a wave of water resembling charging horses (an enchantment created by Elrond and Gandalf). Glorfindel revealed himself as a mighty Elf-lord terrible in his wrath; Frodo saw him as a shining figure.
Later, when Frodo asked about the safety of Imladris from Sauron's forces, Gandalf explained:
In Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power.
Gandalf pointed to Glorfindel as one of these, saying he was "one of the mighty of the Firstborn," "an Elf-lord of a house of princes." While enjoying the hospitality of the Elves, Frodo was enchanted Glorfindel and his kinfolk:
Frodo looked at them in wonder, for he had never before seen Elrond, of whom so many tales spoke; and as they sat upon his right hand and his left, Glorfindel, and even Gandalf, whom he thought he knew so well, were revealed as lords of dignity and power... 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.
In the very first draft of the "Council of Elrond" - which was to become The Fellowship of the Ring - there was a crucial difference in the members of the Fellowship. The Nine Walkers were to comprise Frodo, Gandalf, Trotter (later Strider/Aragorn), Glorfindel, Durin son of Balin (who became Gimli son of Glóin), Sam, Merry and Pippin. Boromir and Legolas did not come in until much later.
Legolas replaced Glorfindel as the representation of the Elven people in later drafts, but this did not take away from the power that Tolkien attributed to Glorfindel. He sat in honour next to Elrond and Gandalf in the Hall of Fire in Rivendell, and was one of the few Elves of Imladris who was known to be strong enough to stand against the Ringwraiths and be sent out to guide Frodo to safety from them. Glorfindel was the strongest of these few, as he was sent in the direction that the Nazgûl were most likely to come from, and even held the Bridge of Mitheithel against some of the them single-handedly. Glorfindel was noted for his great power and strength, so much so that Gandalf referred to him in relation to the difficulty of the task of destroying the One Ring, though in a rather unusual way. When Elrond sought to fill the last two spots in the Fellowship with folk of his own house, Gandalf supported Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took by saying:
"I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom. Even if you chose for us an elf-lord, such as Glorfindel, he could not storm the Dark Tower, nor open the road to the Fire by the power that is in him."
The special "matter of Glorfindel"
In The Return of the Shadow, Christopher Tolkien states that some time after the publication of The Lord of the Rings, his father "gave a great deal of thought to the matter of Glorfindel" in the book, and decided that it was a "somewhat random use" of a name from The Silmarillion that would probably have been changed, had it been noticed sooner.
The problem lay in Tolkien's conception of the spirits of dead Elves being re-embodied in their old bodies after a Purgatory-like period in the Halls of Mandos in Valinor, the home of Tolkien's "gods", the Valar and Maiar (more akin to angels, though rulers and overseers), where Elves previously lived before (re)migrating to Middle-earth. After being re-embodied, previously dead Elves stayed in Valinor. Tolkien decided that each Elf's name should be unique, and therefore the two Glorfindels should be one and the same.
Tolkien had a well-documented (and confusing) habit of inventing and changing character names while writing drafts, so this is not too surprising. On the other hand, early notes for the Council of Elrond state "Glorfindel tells of his ancestry in Gondolin", indicating that the character was early on already intended to be the same Elf. This may be reconciled by the fact that Tolkien was known for being disorganized, misplacing his notes and having to work from memory alone on several occasions. Nevertheless, seeing that the reintroduction of the name had been made, and that it would require some explanation, Tolkien devised a solution. He would, at the end of his life, devote his last writings to the issue of Glorfindel and some related topics, as detailed in The Peoples of Middle-earth.
Tolkien wrote that Glorfindel is sent back to Middle-earth by the Valar during the Second Age circa 1600, when Barad-dûr was completed and Sauron forged the One Ring, and while Númenor was still friendly with the Elves under Tar-Minastir. He is sent as a kind of predecessor to the Istari (Wizards), or in a different version, together with the Blue Wizards. At one point he was even considered as a possibility for the identity of one of them, though this was immediately rejected since the Eldar were not initially conceived as possibilities for the Wizards, and he had come to the conclusion that they were exclusively Maiar.
Conceivably the problem of Glorfindel's resurrection could easily have been resolved by changing the name of Glorfindel of Gondolin to another name, but Tolkien was unwilling to do this, as he now associated the name with the character.
Glorfindel is not prominently featured in film versions of The Lord of the Rings.
In Peter Jackson's live-action The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), his role is given to Arwen, who even takes Frodo to the Ford herself and summons the flood through an incantation.
In the musical stage adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, which ran from June 2007 to July 2008 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London's West End, the character of "Glorfindel" was portrayed as a dark-haired elf-woman, played by Alma Ferovic.
Glorfindel, as depicted by Jarl Benzon, appears on a trading card in The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, based on the Jackson films.
Glorfindel is also playable in the older Middle-earth Collectible Card Game. Here he is one of the most powerful characters outside the circle of the Wizards and Haven-elves (Elrond, Galadriel and Círdan).
He also is a playable hero unit in the real-time strategy game, The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, also based on the Jackson films, where his hair is silver-blond (as opposed to his eponymous colour golden-blond) (see video game box art). There he is depicted as one of the heroes available on the Elvish faction and is able to mount his steed Asfaloth.
The good campaign of the game begins shortly after the Council of Elrond and has Glorfindel and Glóin fight their way west, slaying Gorkil the Goblin king and Drogoth the Dragon Lord (two invented villains) and saving the Grey Havens from a naval assault. Then, they travel east in time to break the siege of Erebor and participate in the destruction of Dol Guldur.
In the popular mod The Last Days for the independent game Mount&Blade, Glorfindel is the most powerful recruitable hero from Lothlórien, who is available to the player only after having accumulated a great amount of influence.
Glorfindel can also be found in the Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO), as a non player character (NPC) giving several quests to the players that visit him. In the game he is in a white robe with purple belt, his hair is blonde, and he gives hope to the players around him.
The Games Workshop tabletop strategy battle game of The Lord of the Rings features two versions of Glorfindel: In one form, he is dressed in armour and named as 'Glorfindel, Lord of the West' (a possible reference to his elf lordship). The other is Glorfindel clad in robes (alluding to his description in The Fellowship of the Ring)
A version of Glorfindel also recently appeared in the Lego Lord of the Rings video game, where he is available as part of a purchaseable DLC add-on.
Glorfindel is featured as a hero in two versions in the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games.
Glorfindel was one of the Calaquendi (High Elves) and one of the Noldor, one of the three groups of the Eldar. As his name indicates, he was blond. The Noldor were dark-haired, so this must mean he was related somehow to the Vanyar, Eldar who were blond. His blond hair is considered a mark of his distinction.
Blond hair was also found in the Noldor royal family (House of Finwë), among the descendants of Indis of the Vanyar, second wife of their High King Finwë — namely in the Golden House of Finarfin, his third son, which included Galadriel, who appears in The Lord of the Rings. Both the Vanyar and the Noldor kindreds lived in the fair city of Tirion upon the hill of Túna in Valinor for a time, and in other parts of the royal family tree it has been shown that other Vanyar married in, so it is conceivable that the two groups mingled in more than just the royal line.
Notes and references
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1984), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Book of Lost Tales, 2, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, "The Fall of Gondolin", ISBN 0-395-36614-3
- Tolkien called Morgoth Melko at this stage; the original survived as Melkor in The Silmarillion.
- "Glorfindel - Tolkien Gateway". tolkiengateway.net. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-25730-1
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- In Letter #31 of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Tolkien does say that Hobbits were strictly a sub-group of Men rather than a distinct race.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields", ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "Flight to the Ford", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "Many Meetings", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1988), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Return of the Shadow, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-49863-5
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The Ring Goes South", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1996), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Peoples of Middle-earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-82760-4
- "Glorfindel". Tolkien Gateway.