Is there a hidden significance behind the fact Galadriel gave 3 hairs to Gimli instead of one?

  • I just saw an interesting interpretation of Galadriel's gift to Gimli on Reddit today, I retraced the source of the image to this tumblr post:

    The scene

    If you’ve read the Silmarillion, you know who Fëanor was. If you don’t, Fëanor was the dickhead who created the Silmarils: three indescribably beautiful and magical jewels that contained the light and essence of the world before it became flawed. They were the catatlyst for basically every important thing that happened in the First Age of Middle Earth.

    It is thought that the inspiration for the Silmarils came to Fëanor from the sight of Galadriel’s shining, silver-gold hair.

    He begged her three times for single strand of her beautiful hair. And every time, Galadriel refused him. Even when she was young, Galadriel’s ability to see into other’s hearts was very strong, and she knew that Fëanor was filled with nothing but fire and greed.

    Fast forward to the end of the Third Age.

    Gimli, visiting Lorien, is also struck by Galadriel’s beauty. During the scene where she’s passing out her parting gifts to the Fellowship, Galadriel stops empty-handed in front of Gimli, because she doesn’t know what to offer a Dwarf. Gimli tells her: no gold, no treasure… just a single strand of hair to remember her beauty by.

    She gives him three. Three.

    And this is why Gimli gets to be an Elf Friend, people. Because Galadriel looks at him and thinks he deserves what she refused the greatest Elf who ever lived—and then twice* that. And because he has no idea of the significance of what she’s just given him, but he’s going to treasure it the rest of his life anyway.

    Just look at that smile on Legolas’s face in the last panel. He gets it. He knows the backstory. And I’m pretty sure this is the moment he reconsiders whether Elves and Dwarves can’t be friends after all. [source]


    I didn't finish The Silmarillion, so I wonder; Is that true? Did Tolkien confirm this interpretation?

    *: "twice" is in the source being quoted here; "three times" of course would be the correct amount but "twice" is retained to preserve the quote.

    Just as a comment for anyone unfamiliar with the text of LOTR who may think that this is purely a cinematic addition, and to whom it may not be clear from the question; this event occurs in the novel as well.

    @NominSim: Does the novel explicitly state Legolas's reaction?

    @bitmask It states that "The Elves stirred and murmured with astonishment...", but Legolas' reaction is not specifically mentioned. However upon just reading it over, Galadriel does *specifically* state, "For none have **ever** made to me a request so bold and yet so courteous." I'll have to look back at *The Silmarillion* and see whether the Feonor request actually happened (I don't remember it but am less familiar with *The Silmarillion* than with LOTR).

    @bitmask Doing a search of *The Silmarillion* with the following separate keywords; **Galadriel**, **Fëanor**, and **hair** all turn up nothing regarding any such request as stated in the quoted information from Reddit. Upon further research the interaction between Fëanor and Galadriel is in *The Unfinished Tales*, and **not** *The Silmarillion*. *The Unfinished Tales* can perhaps be stated as canon, but there are a lot of inconsistencies, so...it will be difficult to state categorically that that was what caused Legolas' "smiling" reaction.

    Just to additionally point out for fun, "Galadriel’s ability to see into other’s hearts" may not have come into as much play for knowing Fëanor as the quoted passage gives it credit, as Fëanor means "Spirit of Fire" anyways.

    @NominSim the "stirring and murmuring" is at the boldness of the request, not at the giving of the hairs. In fact no reaction at all is shown to the actual giving.

    @DanielRoseman Yes sorry I didn't make that clear. That is the only reaction.

    @NominSim, I suspect Galadriel may have found Fëanor's request less courteous than Gimli's...

    @KateEbneter That's a possibility, however as the interaction is in *The Unfinished Tales* it's more likely that Tolkien simply used the "request" with Gimli *instead* of Fëanor. It is difficult to believe that this request was intended to be used *in addition to* the older one without Tolkien specifically bringing it up.

    Also, three hairs, three Silmarilli

    @NominSim, I'm pretty sure that the story of Galadriel and Fëanor was written *after* *The Lord of the Rings*.

    By the way, and native speakers miss out the nuance as well, *he deserves what she refused the greatest Elf who ever lived—- and then twice that*, implies that he got one lot of what Fëanor requested (1*x) **and** then twice that again (+2*x) for a total of three (1*x + 2*x= 3x). So the source isn't incorrect at all.

    @Pureferret: Yes, I agree. The "and then" indicates that the "twice" is to be read as additive. So, the quote is fine.

    If @drowbane's quote below is correct, then Feanor asked 3x for a "tress" (i.e., a bunch of hairs), while Gimli named only a "single hair" as his desire (which he technically did not even ask for).

    Quick comment, Gimli didn't ask also. He was commanded to tell her his wish (well in the book) basically trapping her in courtesy

    "...twice [sic] that..." would be the usual method of indicating the statement comes from the original source.

  • Plutor

    Plutor Correct answer

    8 years ago

    This blog post from 2011 discusses Gimli and Feanor, and their requests of Galadriel, in a bit more detail. There's some comparisons to Aule's creation of the dwarves, as well as a reference to a letter that may perhaps contain an answer:

    In a letter that invites us to see the exchange between Galadriel and Gimli against the back-drop of the earlier encounter between Galadriel and Frodo, Tolkien indicates that until Frodo’s arrival in Lothlórien, Galadriel had actually believed her own exile from Valinor to be not temporary but “perennial, as long as the Earth endured.” It was only after her intercessory prayer on Frodo’s behalf—that he should be allowed the grace Galadriel believed to be forever denied to herself, namely of returning to the West—as well as a reward for her refusal of the Ring and her part in the war against Sauron, that Galadriel discovered the ban placed upon her return to the West to be eucatastrophically and miraculously lifted (Unfinished Tales 229).

    The post goes on to suggest that Galadriel gave him the hairs because, ironically, the dwarf didn't want the hairs as a physical thing for himself. Rather, he wanted them as symbols of new friendship between elf and dwarf.

    "Eucatastrophically" is my word for the day.

    For those who don't know, "eucatastrophe" is a word Tolkien invented and spent a good deal of time elaborating on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eucatastrophe

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