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Utter Elven Awe: Envisioning the Chamber of Celeborn and Galadriel

What Celeborn and Galadriel's house looks like in Lothorien in The Lord of the Rings
Lothlórien: The Chamber of Celeborn and Galadriel - Miriam Ellis

J.R.R. Tolkien once told an interviewer that his regard for trees extended to him longing to make contact with one and see how it feels about things. It is no accident, then, that when he lavishes us with his depiction of the most high elvish realm remaining in Third Age Middle-earth, its stewards live not only amongst trees, but in them.

Our hearts are still aching over Gandalf as Haldir guides us over the rope bridge and up the ladder into this most elvish of sanctuaries. Up to this point, we have glimpsed elven gravity and charm in the meeting with Gildor Inglorion and his folk above Woodhall.

Tolkien inspired art of Gildor Inglorion from The Lord of the Rings by Miriam Ellis
"More Than Chance" - Miriam Ellis

We have been rescued on a perilous road by the "almost angelic" Glorfindel.

Tolkien inspired art featuring Glorfindel and Asfaloth by Miriam Ellis
"An Elf-stone" - Miriam Ellis

And, we have dwelt in Imladris with Elrond, in whom reposes thousands of years of elvish lore.

Tolkien inspired art of Elrond from J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium
"Elrond and the Moon Letters" - Miriam Ellis

But when we reach Caras Galadhon, the city of trees in Lothlórien, seeing it through the eyes of humble hobbits, we understand with Sam that this is the height of elvendom. We stand so in awe of Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel that it may take a close reading to note the aesthetics of their rarefied receiving chamber.

As I studied the passages describing this ultimate flet in Lothlórien, I realized that the trees, themselves, had codified the style and arts of Lothlórien's elves. The hall-like room has the ovoid construction of a leaf, and its green, gold, and silver finishings mimic mallorn foliage. Like the hobbits under the Party Tree, the Galadhrim delight in hanging lanterns, and these, too, are silver, green and gold. The grey cloaks and grey mail of these folk pay homage to the bark of the mellyrn, and obscure their guardians amongst the trunks and branches. And though Galadriel and Celeborn dwelt long in other realms before coming to the Golden Wood, their gold and silver tresses again recall to us phases of a mallorn leaf.

It is a sumptuous subject for any illustrator, but one I had to consider for over a year before attempting. The beauty of these scenes in Lothlórien is in their exaltation of the glory of nature, and it is no small task to closely follow Tolkien's words in attempting to faithfully depict how the subtle arts of the Galadhrim might have woven a home that feels at home amid the trees. Professor Tolkien gives such tantalizing hints that bring up dozens of questions for any artist, such as:

  • How are the gold, green, and silver of the walls and roof enmeshed?

  • What are the walls made of?

  • Would part of the roof be glass to ensure that the living tree was receiving plenty of light, as in a conservatory?

In mulling over questions like these for months, I felt the walls would be lightly made, papered with a textile woven by Galadriel's ladies from mallorn leaves, like grasscloth. I felt that the gold and silver would be gleaming but light and elegant. The filigree work on the vaulted ceiling symbolizes elvish history, being made up of rows of elves, leaves, and stars. I felt the floor of this magnificent flet would be highly polished, and that for love of their Lord and Lady, the Galadhrim would have hung their initials in Tengwar near their seats beneath the bough. You can enjoy close-ups of some of these details in this short video, and I hope it will give you a sense of being there:

Frodo is so small in this picture, only half the size of these tall beings, and we see in this meeting both his great wonder amid weariness and the grave wonder of the elves at his coming, given all it betokens to their remnant society.

Tolkien inspired art of Lothorien by Miriam Ellis
"Leaf and Branch, Water and Stone" - Miriam Ellis

We are told more than once throughout J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium that elves are both sad and merry. It is a tremendous relief to many readers' feelings that we get to walk with Frodo and Sam and the others in the sunshine and safety of Lothlórien, recovering from our "journey in the dark". Our primary focus is whether or not the little hobbits will succeed on their quest, but I believe that lifelong Tolkien readers take on some of the merry-sad qualities of the elves because we know that the disempowerment of the three elvish rings means the hastening of the fading. Our stay in Lothlórien is bittersweet and exceedingly blessed because the time, the place, and the elves are fleeting.

It cannot be said too often: J.R.R. Tolkien was a genius, and his love of trees and elves continues to weave an enchantment like no other around the hearts of all elf-friends.


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