13 Feb 2010

Reflecting on 'reflection' -The meaning of Galadriel's Mirror

Reflecting on the meaning of the 'reflection' inside Galadriel's Mirror, one thing is quite clear, her Mirror is very confusing! Often mirrors are confusing, letting us wonder the meaning of the images we see in them.

"Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal,' she answered, 'and to some I can show what they desire to see...."(J.R.R.Tolkien -The Mirror of Galadriel)

Mirrors are powerful objects in mythology, folk tales and fairies stories, they can show the past, the present or the future - they can tell about things that will come to pass or that just might. Once one of the most rare and expensive object, the first mirrors where just pool of dark, very still water in ancient vessels. In the old times mirrors were feared as it was believed they could capture one's soul - oracles and wizards however, were attracted by the powers of the reflecting mirror, and started using it for 'scrying' (future-reading) and for performing spells. Mirrors do appear often in literature , Merlin the Wizard has one, Albus Dumbledore and Harry himself use mirrors in J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter, and there are mirrors in many fairy-tales like Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and Alice Through the Looking Glass.


In leaving the Shire, Frodo and the hobbits do meet an elf called Gildor Inglorion near Woodhall. It is a fascinating first encounter, and Gildor will tell Frodo:

"Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they say both no and yes.' (J.R.R.Tolkien)

In The Lord of the Rings Galadriel warns Frodo her Mirror is not to be trusted. Tolkien uses the Mirror as an 'oracle' (a magic object or person that can reveal visions of the future). In ancient times , people were often consulting an oracle before acting upon things. Oracles with the gift of vision are usually women , as women are believed to be in more closer contact with nature's powers then men. It falls to Lady Galadriel to perform this task. Gildor does warn Frodo how dangerous the gift of advice is, even from the wisest of the wise. Oracle's visions are often misunderstood and misinterpreted, their words encrypted and mysterious. Galadriel's Mirror does give hints of what as yet to pass but how to act upon these hints is down to Frodo.


What Frodo sees in the Mirror is Sauron's wish. The vision of the destruction of peaceful Middle-earth to be replaced with a reign of evil, and Frodo is scared, we all would in the same situation - but the Mirror does also show what one desire to see - the power of the One Ring is taking over Frodo, corrupting his soul. Frodo becomes a tool of Sauron when looking into Galadriel's Mirror and the vision is coming him. Mirrors never lie, what we see its Frodo's soul. Yet there is hope, Frodo wore the One Ring only three times, and is yet to fully understand its power and that is for the best as the Ring gives power according to the measure of each possessor.


In many cultures and stories mirrors are believed to be portals to other dimensions - like Alice walking through the Looking Glass. The world that Sauron is seeking IS in Galadriel's Mirror and Frodo seem mesmerized by it - he moves closer and closer helped by the Ring power. Frodo will stop only when Galadriel tells him not to touch the water. Sauron is close and watching Frodo from the other side of the Mirror which seem to act like a portal. Galadriel's Mirror is made of water, you can look 'at' it and 'through' it.

"The Mirror seemed to be growing...." (J.R.R.Tolkien)

Of all the objects of Middle-earth, Galadriel's Mirror is one of the most powerful. The world of Sauron and the world that Frodo knows are close, separated by a surface of still water and the One Ring is the key that Sauron need to open the door between them.

(Galadriel pic by Greg Hildebrandt -Mirror pic courtesy of castastone.com)