Suite101: The Wars of the Glorfindels – Was there one or two of him? And why was he so cool?

by Nov 20, 2000Lord of the Rings (Movies)

“In 1958 Rhona Beare asked Tolkien (on behalf of other fans) why Asfaloth, Glorfindel’s horse, had a bridle and bit “when Elves ride without bit, bridle, or saddle?” Tolkien responded quickly that he should have written “headstall”, and this change was eventually made to the text. And that but for the request of the use of Glorfindel’s name for a cow represents the sum total of early fannish interest in Middle-earth’s most enigmatic Elf.”

In his latest Suite101 article, Michael Martinez tells us that Glorfindel has been the subject of much curiosity and discussion through the years despite how little J.R.R. Tolkien actually told us about this character. And yet it wasn’t always that way….

Here is a brief excerpt.

J.R.R. Tolkien created a lot of “throw-off” characters, characters who appear for a story or only part of a story, never to re-emerge fully again. And of all these throw-offs the one which garners nearly as much attention and discussion is Glorfindel. Or would that be, the Glorfindels. Was there one or two of the guy? Enquiring minds want to know (or do they just want to argue forever and never actually know?).

Why is Glorfindel so cool? He shows up near the end of “Flight to the Ford”, is seen but not heard in “Many Meetings” (oh, Gandalf and Frodo talk about him briefly), participates in “The Council of Elrond” long enough to confound and confusticate Bombadilian matters, and then vanishes until Arwen arrives in Gondor to marry Aragorn in “The Steward and the King”. Except for putting Frodo on his white Elven horse and lighting up like a Christmas tree when the Nazgul try to cross the Ford of Bruinen, what does Glorfindel do that is so special? His one real claim to fame comes in an anecdote in Appendix A where his arrival with an Elven army in Angmar helps defeat the Witch-king (in the north) once and for all.

Of course, no Glorfindel discussion is complete (and few are started) without someone asking, “Was the Glorfindel of Gondolin related to the Glorfindel of Rivendell?” Sometimes one is tempted to respond with something like, “Yes, they were twin brothers, and the evil one killed the good one and took his place in the family. The Elves have yet to catch on to the truth.”

It may be fairly said that the relationship between the two Glorfindels is not obvious. In fact, it’s really not clear to many people who have studied the matter for decades. For some reason, the revelation in The Return of the Shadow that “years later, long after the publication of The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien decided after much thought that Glorfindel of Rivendell was actually Glorfindel of Gondolin returned from the dead, just doesn’t carry much weight with some people. Why?

Follow the link below to read the entire article.


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