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I always thought it was the other way around, but then I read this (Letter 246):

"Of the others only Gandalf might be expected to master him – being an emissary of the Powers and a creature of the same order, an immortal spirit taking a visible physical form. In the 'Mirror of Galadriel', 1381, it appears that Galadriel conceived of herself as capable of wielding the Ring and supplanting the Dark Lord. If so, so also were the other guardians of the Three, especially Elrond. But this is another matter. It was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with imaginations of supreme power."

This "especially Elrond" confuses me. I don´t think that Elrond is inherently more powerful than Galadriel, who is described as the greatest of the Noldor, except for Fëanor (and possibly even his equal).

A quote from Unfinished Tales says:

"...In this he (Tolkien) emphasized the commanding stature of Galadriel already in Valinor, the equal if unlike endowments of Fëanor; and it is said here that so far from joining in Fëanor's revolt she was in every way opposed to him."


"A queen she was of the woodland Elves, the wife of Celeborn of Doriath, yet she herself was of the Noldor and remember the Day before days in Valinor, and she was the mightiest and fairest (so even fairer than Arwen I would guess) of all the Elves that remained in Middle-earth."

(The Silmarillion, of the Rings of Power)

And again...

"Galadriel was the greatest of the Noldor, except Fëanor maybe, though she was wiser than he, and her wisdom increased with the long years."

(the Shibboleth of Fëanor)

Restating it:

"These two kinsfolk (Fëanor and Galadriel), the greatest of the Eldar in Valinor, were unfriends for ever." "Who together with the greatest of all the Eldar, Luthien Tinuviel, daughter of Elu Thingol, are the chief matter of the legends and histories of the Elves."

(Unfinished Tales)

The latter means that Luthien, Fëanor and Galadriel are the chief matter of the history and legends. It seems to me that Tolkien thought of those three as the creme de la creme of the elven crop.

Reading all that I have serious problems believing that Elrond could be superior to her. As great as Elrond is, descending from Melian, he is no equal of Fëanor, who is said to be the mightiest of all elves, and if Galadriel is his equal, then there is no way that Elrond would be mightier than her.

Maybe I just read this "especially Elrond" wrong; it could as well mean that especially Elrond was deceived into thinking that he could master the ring, because that was the deceit of the ring. And Tolkien said explicitly that only Gandalf could possibly master it.

So, what do you think?

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She's mother-in-law of Elrond and that says all about who are at the top of the chain-of-command =) – jean Apr 20 '15 at 18:08

In my opinion, no, because by my interpretation of that letter excerpt that's not what Tolkien is actually saying –

In the 'Mirror of Galadriel', 1381, it appears that Galadriel conceived of herself as capable of wielding the Ring and supplanting the Dark Lord.

That's fairly clear in what Tolkien is saying. He's saying that Galadriel saw herself as being capable of wielding the One Ring and overthrowing Sauron.

If so, so also were the other guardians of the Three, especially Elrond.

What Tolkien is saying here is that if Galadriel saw herself capable of wielding the One Ring, then so did Elrond and the other guardians of the Three Elven rings.

In other words, he's saying that the existing wearers of the Three Elven Rings of Power would all see themselves capable of wielding The One ring.

That's not the same as saying Tolkien saw Elrond as being more powerful than Galadriel.

I just thought I'd add clarification on what the Three Elven Rings were and who the guardians of them were –

Narya, the Ring of Fire, set with a ruby. Originally Celebrimbor gave Narya to Gil-galad, who later gave it to Círdan who later on gave it to Gandalf.

Nenya, the Ring of Water or Ring of Adamant, made from mithril and set with a white stone. Celebrimbor gave Nenya directly to Galadriel, which may explain why she was considered the most powerful Elf of the time given she possesed the ring for so long.

Vilya, the Ring of the Air, the mightiest of the Three, made of gold and set with a sapphire. Celebrimbor gave Vilya to Gil-galad who later on gave it to Elrond.

So the guardians of the Three Elven rings during the time-frame we're refering to here were Galadriel, Gandalf and Elrond.

The Three Rings of Power

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Coupled with this leading directly into a statement about the ring's deceit, I am compelled to say this is the correct reading. – horatio Jan 3 '13 at 17:21
@ohmi, that should say I 381, it's a page reference. – Kate Ebneter Jan 4 '13 at 8:40
"the other guardians of the Three" could also include the past guardians of the Three – Theoriok Jan 4 '13 at 12:22
"so also were the other guardians" clearly means "so also were the other guardians capable of wielding the Ring", not "so also were the other guardians conceiving themselves as capable ...". You've misinterpreted the sentence. – TheMathemagician Jan 17 '14 at 23:21
I agree with @TheMathemagician. That is the only way to interpret that sentence, grammatically; if Galadriel were capable of it, then so are Gandalf and Elrond. – TylerH Nov 25 '15 at 16:32

I have read that sentence as in "Elrond was especially liable to conceive himself as capable of wielding the Ring". Of course, he was also wise enough to be able to restrain himself, as shown in various instances. I agree with your reading of Galadriel as a "more powerful" being.

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I like this interpretation. A hint at his part-human ancestry, perhaps. Those Men are always very confident in their ability to use the Ring. – Plutor Jan 3 '13 at 13:49
That's a complete misreading. Tolkien is saying that if Galadriel were indeed capable of wielding the Ring, then the other bearers of the Three would be capable of wielding it too, especially Elrond. He is not saying Elrond is more likely to conceive himself as being capable of wielding the Ring. – TheMathemagician Jan 17 '14 at 23:18
And what about the "essential deceit" of the Ring? – Francesco Jan 19 '14 at 13:14
@TheMathemagician I'm not a native English speaker, and I understood the same as Francesco. Is there a grammatical clue that it means "capable of wielding the ring" instead of "conceiving himself capable of..."? If so, how would you write the sentence to mean what Francesco claims, changing as little from Tolkien's original sentence as possible? (I'm not challenging you, I'm just curious!). If it's not a grammar thing, but merely your interpretation, then how can you claim that it's a complete misreading? – Andres F. May 10 '14 at 23:30
Tolkien writes "so also were ... especially Elrond" which can only be followed by an adjective. If Galadriel were capable then so also were the others [capable]. If he'd meant that the others also conceived the same thoughts then he would have written "If so, so also did ... especially Elrond". But it doesn't make logical sense this way round in any case. Suppose A and B were equally skilled at something and A believed they could defeat C. It's perfectly logical to say "If so, then so could B [defeat C]". But it's completely illogical to say "If so, then B also believed that". How can we tell? – TheMathemagician May 12 '14 at 9:28

It's pretty clear to me, at least, that Tolkien in this passage is being a bit sloppy, since the other guardians of the Three were Gandalf and Elrond — keep in mind that this Letter is actually a draft. He may possibly have been thinking at this point of Círdan, who was Sindarin rather than Noldorin, and who was the original bearer of Narya. In any event, I don't think "especially Elrond" means "as opposed to Galadriel" but rather "as opposed to the other ring-keeper." (And keep in mind that he may not have been thinking very clearly about who the other ring-keeper was — he often wrote drafts very quickly.)

So, no, I don't think this overrules anything he says otherwise about Galadriel. She was a Noldo, probably born in Valinor, and one of the greatest of them; Elrond is also very powerful, probably the other most powerful Elf remaining in Middle-earth at the time of the War of the Ring, but he has never been to Aman or seen the Light of the Trees.

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+1; in context it seems quite explicit that "especially Elrond" refers to the other guardians, i.e. excluding Galadriel. Also important to note that "power" in Tolkien may manifest in many different ways, not all of which are comparable to others: "There is power, too, of another kind in the Shire". – user8719 Jan 4 '13 at 13:50
@Darth Melkor: "There is power, too, of another kind in the Shire". I always refer that sentence to Tom Bombadil who has been, by design or not, a great buffer protecting the Shire alongside the watch of the Rangers, his domain being an extension, am I right or did Tolkien mean something else by that ? – Joel Apr 20 '15 at 14:55
@Joel I'd say that considering that Bombadil was not in the Shire, Gandalf was talking about the great power of hobbits generally speaking to resist evil - as seen in Bilbo's resistance to the Ring's temptation, or Frodo's resistance to the Witch-king's knife. – Matt Gutting Apr 20 '15 at 18:07
Nng, it always bugs me when people think Bombadil is unusually powerful for the setting. What makes him special is that he's enlightened, in the Buddhist sense. He doesn't desire anything that the One Ring can give him, and so it has no power over him -- that doesn't mean he wields any more power than it takes to confront and destroy a Barrow-wight (which I expect Beorn or the average Elf-warrior would also have had no trouble with). – zwol Apr 20 '15 at 19:29
@Joel As to the "power, too, of another kind in the Shire", I believe that is simply the general hobbitish lack of susceptibility to lust for power: which is, perhaps, different only in degree to Bombadil. It is not that Sauron could not conquer the Shire by force of arms, but that he would have more difficulty corrupting the hobbits of the Shire than the men of Minas Tirith (for example). Witness, to that, Saruman's difficulty doing the same. – zwol Apr 20 '15 at 20:50

especially Elrond.

Elrond has an element of human ancestry: "Elrond half Elven"; and we know humans are more easily influenced by Sauron and his power.

Thus, despite choosing the elven path, he is arguably more vulnerable to the dark influence in all its forms...

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If I read Tolkien correctly, Elrond's choice made him fully Elven, so I don't think this actually applies. – Kate Ebneter Jan 4 '13 at 8:51
and yet the elvish blood in humans lead to the race of Numenor. Perhaps Elrond half-Elven inherited hybrid vigor from his human ancestry and was more powerful than the typical elf. – Jim2B Apr 22 '15 at 3:35
No Elrond is an Elf through and through. He chose that destiny. Elvish blood did not lead to the race of Numenor, although Elvish blood was in the Kings house. Except for Elros early in Numenor, none of the other Numenoreans were of Elvish descent. Their genetics were altered, but they were all still men even in the house of the kings. – Belegorn Dec 17 '15 at 5:15

Tolkien's words in this particular passage are a little loose and obtuse, to be certain. At first he suggest that "of the others, only Gandalf might be expected to wield the ring" and remarks that by claiming the ring Gandalf would become even worse than Sauron.

But immediately afterward, he recalls quite swiftly that he said the very same thing about Galadriel in TFOTR, where he describes her temptation, her clear ability to not only contend with Sauron and to perceive his mind, but to repel Sauron's advances to perceive hers, but also her prophetic and powerful revelation that, if she were to take the ring, she would indeed supplant Sauron and become a monstrous evil as his replacement, only in her case, the evil that she wrought would spring from a distorted understanding of "love" -- one that would bring only "despair."

Realizing quickly, in his draft of the letter, that he said exactly the same thing about Galadriel as he said about Gandalf, he says: "In [TFOTR] it seems Galadriel considers herself capable of wielding the one ring and supplanting Sauron. If so, then so were the other guardians of the three, especially Elrond ..."

Well, here, Tolkien is writing and affirming using rhetorical speech; careful attention to his words is needed. He writes that Galadriel "seems" to believe she can wield the ring and replace Sauron, but in fact there is no "seems" about it: Tolkien's scene in The Mirror of Galadriel clearly in dicates that she DOES believe it, and that, in fact, she knows she can, for Tolkien describes her realization of what would happen if she succumbed to the temptation, i.e. the creation of a queenly figure more terrible than the dawn, one who would turn love into despair, etc.

She is under no delusion of power, for even after she rejects the ring and is no longer tempted, Sam Gamgee asserts that he wishes she HAD taken the ring, because he felt that she, of all people, would have the power "to make some folk pay for their dirty work." To which Galadriel replies, "I would. But, alas, it would not end there."

So Galadriel knows she could wield the ring.

In the draft of his letter, then, words like "seems" are not intended to question what Galadriel understood about herself (since Tolkien is explicit in the book about what she thought!) and the same applies to his clause, "if so." Here, he is again speaking rhetorically, for there is no question of "if." By saying "if so," he is admitting the possibility that she could indeed wield the ring (or, at the very least, he is not ruling it out) for he immediately delineates exactly HOW Galadriel and, for example, Elrond would go about asserting their power, i.e. they would build-up empires and armies and military forces in the very same "policy" used by Sauron.

Tolkien next states that a direct, magical confrontation with Sauron, person to person, was never contemplated by any of them (even Gandalf) and backs this up by using Gandalf as an example, and saying, "imagine Gandalf in such a scenario," and noting that, even with the ring, Gandalf confronting Sauron in person would be a "delicate balance" with no guaranteed outcome.

So, using a scholar's coy, rhetorical language --one in which Tolkien contemplates his own characters as if he were observing them from a detached standpoint-- he is essentially saying, at first, that only Gandalf the White could perhaps be expected to wield the ring, then he quickly catches himself and remembers what he said about Galadriel in the actual book, and acknowledges that she, too, would be capable, and, if she had taken the ring, he describes how she (or even Elrond) would have supplanted Sauron, and that none of them would have contemplated a direct fight with Sauron in any case, because it would be an uncertain outcome --even if Gandalf was "imagined" in such a confrontation.

His words in the letter about the deceitful quality of the ring appear to have more to do with what he said about someone like Sam Gamgee or Gollum in the books, and their delusions of greatness, concerning the status and power that could be theirs, when in fact they did not possess great native powers of their own, unlike the Wise.

So, yes, a bit of a rambling, sloppy draft from Tolkien, but in the end he reaffirms all of the points he made in the books about the main characters in question. Again, even after overcoming the temptation to take the ring, Galadriel has the wisdom and presence of mind to assert that, yes, she WOULD have made Sauron and his minions pay for their evil, if she wielded the ring, but that it would not end there and she would've become evil, just as Tolkien describes how Gandalf would have become evil as well, distorting goodness in the same way that Galadriel would have distorted love.

The question of greatness between Galadriel and Elrond is a non-question, for Tolkien is abundantly clear that Galadriel is mightiest, greatest, fairest, wisest of all the Eldar, on a par with Feanor, and thus greater than Elrond. Only Luthien surpassed any of them, but she did not survive and Galadriel did.

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Good answer. It was also said that of the Elves that remained and stayed in the 3rd Age she was the mightiest. I also tend to think that that passage from Tolkien's letters was saying that Elrond was more likely to be under such a conception. In Valinor Galadriel was able to compete with the athletes and loremasters, the loremasters being in the class of the "valiant captains of Gondolin" [The Peoples of Middle-earth, Note 23]. – Belegorn Dec 27 '15 at 22:06
Just for the record: this “scholar’s ploy” is very common with Tolkien. He deliberately did not make his characters omniscient (except Eru, but he's hardly a ‘character’ as such), and all his characters make mistakes and are limited by their own conditioning. So yes, he's saying, “Well, my character certainly believed so. Whether it is really, objectively true is another matter”, as he does quite a bit (cf. Treebeard’s “young master Gandalf”). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 19 at 2:28

I may have missed it in skimming all answers after the first couple, but it appears that every answer (every one that addresses the matter, anyway) has understood the passage to mean "if Galadriel was deceived into thinking she could wield the ring, they were deceived too".

I think this is a mistaken reading.

Tolkien is being (characteristically for his letters) concise here, but I believe that what he means is:

...Galadriel conceived of herself as capable of wielding the Ring.... If she was capable, so also were the other guardians...

But while this means I disagree with everyone whose response is, "No, it's saying he was weaker to the lure of the Ring," I still believe the answer is no.

Regardless of whether you agree with my reading, I think "especially Elrond" is comparing Elrond to the other ring-bearers, without any reference at all to how he compares to Galadriel.

It's clear that Tolkien saw Elrond as a very great individual: he was the lieutenant of the last King of the Noldor, and a descendant of the Noldorin royal house himself, not to mention the royal line of Doriath. Really, he was the nearest thing the Third Age had to an Elven high king. He was one of the Half-elven, which it seems didn't make him "half-rubbish", but "the best of both worlds", the descendant of Tuor and Beren. He was also a descendant of Melian. He was the cool uncle of the Númenorean royal house. And he bore the greatest of the Three.

And yet, Tolkien really liked Galadriel. She was born in Valinor, in the Bliss of Aman, and that pretty much puts her ahead of anyone born in Middle-earth who wasn't themselves the daughter of a Maia. The quotes about her being roughly equal with Fëanor confirm that further. Galadriel was the greatest Elf in Middle-earth.

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And there it is, tucked away far down on the page: the answer that actually makes sense, both logically and grammatically. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 19 at 2:30

Galadriel was clearly the more powerful. She only stood in comparison to Fëanor among the Noldor (as others have noted), and none living in Arda could challenge her.

During the time of the Lord of the Rings, using Nenya, she contended directly with the mind of Sauron, in order that he keep her foremost in his mind as a threat; as one who would use the One Ring against him.

Though not sufficient alone, in this way, her efforts were pervasive and paramount in the success of the quest of the Ring Bearer.

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I agree with this, but while it answers the question in the title, what about Tolkien's letter? – Andres F. May 10 '14 at 23:36
@AndresF. As given in the question, letter 236 lacks full context for me to answer more certainly but... like Steffi indicates the "especially Elrond" might mean he would be especially susceptible to thinking he could master the One Ring and rule them all. Elrond had, with Galadriel, worn his ring the longest. The Three Eleven Rings remember were created by Celebrimor at the close tutelage of Annatar (Sauron disguised as a Valya from Valinor) and so may have had a 'rule them' bent, even if not to evil ends. Elrond was Eldar as well, unlike Gandalf and may also be more susceptible by lineage. – user23715 May 11 '14 at 23:09
Correction: "The Three Eleven Rings remember were created by Celebrimor after the close tutelage of Annatar..." – user23715 May 11 '14 at 23:25
2nd correction: (Arghh!) Sauron was disguised as a Vanya. Conflated Valar and Vanyar. At least I got it right in the singular and not plural form; even if it is a made-up word :) – user23715 May 11 '14 at 23:44

Before a final answer can be given, we should take a closer look at Sauron's pedigree.

Sauron is a fallen Maiar created by Ilúvatar himself (The Maiar are lesser Ainur (The Ainur were the first, and mightiest, beings created by Ilúvatar before the beginning of the World.), who descended to Arda (the world) to help shape the World). Sauron was the greatest and most trusted servant of Morgoth/Melkor, the first and most powerful of the Ainur. The Ainur were each given understanding only of that part of the mind of Ilúvatar from which they came. The exception to this was Melkor, the greatest of the Ainur, who had a part of the gifts of all the others.

So Sauron, the greatest servant of the greatest Ainur, made a ring for himself that could control the other rings of power (and their wielders); be they Men, Dwarves or the mightiest Elf.

According to Tolkien, older is stronger so we can simply run the numbers:

*Sauron (a spirit) was created before the Years of the Lamps which lasted for 3500 years.

*Galadriel was born (a flesh and blood though immortal Elf) at least 4862 years later in the Years of the Trees 1362. (YT lasted 1500 years)

*Elrond was born (a flesh and blood though immortal Elf) 670 years after Galadriel in the First Age 532.

Using their respective ages and Tolkien's criteria, Galadriel is more 'inherently powerful' than Elrond but 'less' than Sauron. Also, given their 'species type', neither Galadriel or Elrond (flesh and blood) could wrest control of the One Ring from Sauron (a spirit).

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Absolutely not

Galadriel is stated in canon to be the mightiest elf that remained in Middle-earth at the end of the Third Age.

The Ring of Adamant was in the Land of Lórien where dwelt the Lady Galadriel. A queen she was of the woodland Elves, the wife of Celeborn of Doriath, yet she herself was of the Noldor and remembered the Day before days in Valinor, and she was the mightiest and fairest of all the Elves that remained in Middle-earth.

-- "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age" (The Simarillion)

Galadriel was Calaquendi, an Elf of the Light. She had lived in Valinor, during the time of the Two Trees no less, and simply put, they were bad-ass. As Gandalf explained to Frodo about Glorfindel's ability to resist the Nazgûl on the road to Rivendell:

The elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwaiths, 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 ... you saw him for a moment as he on upon the other side: one of the mighty of the Firstborn.

-- "Many Meetings" (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)

Elrond however, was one of the Halfelven. He was descended from the Royal Houses of the Noldor and Teleri, from two of the three Houses of the Edain and from Melian the Maiar — he had attributes of both the kindreds of the Children of Ilúvatar with a sprinkling of the Ainur to boot.

So why was Elrond singled out?

Let's start by taking a look at those known to have born the Three:

  • Celebrimbor
  • Gil-Galad
  • Galadriel
  • Círdan the Shipwright
  • Gandalf
  • Elrond

While Elrond is Halfelven and chose to be accounted one of the Eldar, genetically, he is still roughly 40% human — when his father Eärendil appeared before the Valar, Ulmo asked:

Is he Eärendil Tuor's son of the line of Hador, or the son of Idril, Turgon's daughter of the Elven-house of Finwë?

-- "Of the Voyage of Eärendil" (Quenta Simarillion, The Silmarillion)

I have argued previously that the Choice given to the Halfelven doesn't impact their bodies so much as it 'changes' their souls. (Long story short: the bodies of both Elves and Men can be killed, immortality in this universe is all about what happens next (also, interbreeding is possible))

Finally, the paragraph before the one you're asking about speaks of what would happen if Frodo had opted to claim the Ring at Mt Doom:

In [Sauron's] actual presence, none but very few of equal stature could have hoped to withhold [the One Ring] from him. Of 'mortals' no one, not even Aragorn.

After a digression about how Aragorn was able to take control of the Palantir from Sauron, the new paragraph begins and considers what would have happened if others, particularly the Bearers of the the Three Rings, had asserted control of The One.

In this context, it seems clear that Elrond is explicitly mentioned due to his mortal ancestry, which is more susceptible to the plots of Sauron, and Morgoth before him.

TL;DR Elrond was not compared to Galadriel, but highlighted due to his mortal ancestry

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