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In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie Galadriel is able to speak telepathically with Gandalf, also doing so later with Frodo in The Fellowship of The Ring.

Also she shows Frodo what she calls "elven magic" before she shows him the future. What are the full extent of her powers? She must be important to be able to counsel Gandalf.

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What powers you ask? How 'bout the power of flight? That do anything for ya? That's levitation, holmes. How 'bout the power to kill a yak from 200 yards away... with mind bullets! That's telekinesis, Kyle. How 'bout the power... to move you? – Wad Cheber Aug 4 at 1:25

6 Answers 6

up vote 19 down vote accepted

It is said that Galadriel is the equal even if unlike endowments of Fëanor by Tolkien himself in the unfinished tales. We all know what is said of Fëanor, so she must be crazy powerful, we only rarely see it. There are some tidbits like throwing down walls and sending a mist to protect Eorl's host.

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

Her mother-name was Nerwen ("man-maiden"), and she grew to be tall beyond the measure even of the women of the Noldor; she was strong of body, mind, and will, a match for both the loremasters and the athletes of the Eldar in the days of their youth. Even among the Eldar she was accounted beautiful, and her hair was held a marvel unmatched. It was golden like the hair of her father and of her foremother Indis, but richer and more radiant, for its gold was touched by some memory of the starlike silver of her mother; and the Eldar said that the light of the Two Trees, Laurelin and Telperion, had been snared in her tresses. Many thought that this saying first gave to Fëanor the thought of imprisoning and blending the light of the Trees that later took shape in his hands as the Silmarils. For Fëanor beheld the hair of Galadriel with wonder and delight. He begged three times for a tress, but Galadriel would not give him even one hair. These two kinsfolk, the greatest of the Eldar of Valinor, were unfriends for ever.

Galadriel was born in the bliss of Valinor, but it was not long, in the reckoning of the Blessed Realm, before that was dimmed; and thereafter she had no peace within. For in that testing time amid the strife of the Noldor she was drawn this way and that. She was proud, strong, and selfwilled, as were all the descendants of Finwë save Finarfin; and like her brother Finrod, of all her kin the nearest to her heart, she had dreams of far lands and dominions that might be her own to order as she would without tutelage. Yet deeper still there dwelt in her the noble and generous spirit of the Vanyar, and a reverence for the Valar that she could not forget. From her earliest years she had a marvellous gift of insight into the minds of others, but judged them with mercy and understanding, and she withheld her goodwill from none save only Fëanor. UT

So it seems she has an extraordinary ability to see the minds and intentions. In the fellowship of the ring she stated that she is able to read the mind of Sauron, at least all that what concerns the elves, but he can´t see hers, even if he tries. Furthermore with Nenya she is able too keep all evil out of Lorien, unless Sauron had come there himself.

She was a strategist too, wanted to establish an easternmost outpost in Lorien, left Beleriant in the first age to unite wood elves and men and . All this is written in the unfinsihed tales.

So, with Galadriel it´s not that obvious at the first sight, but if someone looks deeper in the text, one will recognize her powers.

In my humble opinion, Galadriel is greater than Fëanor, Tolkien seems to be unsure regarding that matter, but I think she´s greater, being maybe even the inspiration for the Silmaril. The only elf being greater is Luthien.

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She's not greater than Feanor. There is a single quote saying they are equal, all others say Feanor is greater, and none says Galadriel is greater. – user8252 Jan 11 '13 at 17:41
Quote: "For Fëanor was made the mightiest in all parts of body and mind: in valour, in endurance, in beauty, in understanding, in skill, in strength and subtlety alike: of all the Children of Ilúvatar, and a bright flame was in him." – user8252 Jan 12 '13 at 7:22
Indeed. But it's not a real contradiction, as all those quotes were not written by the same author in-universe. So it's impossible to know who was right. And those quotes were written long after the death of Feanor, so they could be wrong: with time Feanor's legend gets exaggerated, or in reverse, Galadriel gaining prominence in the second and third age gets boosted. – user8252 Jan 13 '13 at 8:21
The quote saying Feanor is the best in everything was written in Numenor by Elendil. He had no real way to know. – user8252 Jan 13 '13 at 8:28
The fact that Galadriel refused to grant Fëanor her hair makes her gift to Gimli all the more meaningful. – Matthew Piziak Dec 23 '14 at 23:37

Unlike some other story tellers, Tolkien lets his magicians be subtle in wielding their magic. When they do great deeds with magic, it is mostly in stories of old ages, which are told within the stories we read. Rarely a powerful being directly performs impressive magic. This is true for Galadriel as well. She is powerful (allegedly she destroys the walls of Sauron's stronghold Dol Guldur all by herself), but what we are shown directly in TLotR and TH is her scrying, foretelling, and handing out subtly magical items.

Galadriel is a grandchild of the two kings of two of the great elvish dynasties (Finwë and Olwë), and closely related to the king of a third (Ingwë), and said to have inherited positive traits from all of her ancestors, making her the fairest and mightiest of all elves on Middle Earth (after Gil-galad's death).

She is among the Noldor when they rebel against the Valar and leave Valinor, and is said to be the only one who — at the end of the Third Age — had her ban lifted and allowed to return. At that time, Galadriel is well over 7000 years old and has been on Middle Earth since the First Age, for thousands of years before Gandalf arrived there. Galadriel sends Gwaihir, lord of the eagles, to search for Gandalf after he defeated the Balrog, she healed him, and clothed him in white robe.

She has always been admired both for her beauty and her ability to look into others' hearts and minds, and judge them (fairly, it is said) and was able to communicate telepathically. (She does so with Elrond, who is her son in law.) Due to her abilities, she (together with Gil-galad) distrusted the loremaster Annatar, who taught the elves to forge the rings of power, and was later unveiled as Sauron in disguise. Celebrimbor, who forged the rings, gave her the ring called Nenya.

While the One Ring was lost (and thus Sauron could not use it against the other ring-bearers), Galadriel used Nenya to turn Lothlórien, where she and her husband Celeborn ruled, into a safe refuge for the Silvan Elves. Later it became somewhat of a center of the opposition against Sauron's schemes. Allegedly due to the ring, Lothlórien withstood several sieges by Sauron's armies, Galadriel later played an important part in the destruction of Dol Guldur, from where those armies came.

When Frodo comes to Lothlórien and offers her the one ring, she is able to resist which is no small feat for a powerful being as she is. This is what makes the Valar lift the ban that prevented her from returning to Valinor. Thus, she departs to the West after several millenniums.

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I do not have the sources rigth here but I do think that the Valar forgave and lifted the ban at the end of the first Age as reward for the long years of figthing against Morgoth. Galadriel simply refused to be pardoned. – Nuno Freitas Jan 11 '13 at 12:04
Another show of her power was the fact that she alone managed to bring down the Fortress of Dol Guldur. Take from wikipedia Dol Guldur: "power of Nenya, Galadriel's Ring of Power, which only Sauron himself could have overcome. The elves, led by Thranduil of Mirkwood and Galadriel of Lorien led an assault on Dol Guldur and Galadriel herself threw down its walls, and laid its pits bare" – TeamGB Jan 11 '13 at 12:49
@NunoFreitas: Oh, right, ISTR seeing this somewhere. I considered it besides the point here, though, and only mentioned the ban at all as a kind of explanation for her extended stay on Middle Earth (of 7 millenniums). – sbi Jan 11 '13 at 20:31
@TeamGB: "...allegedly she destroys the walls of Sauron's stronghold Dol Guldur all by herself..." – sbi Jan 11 '13 at 20:31

Galadriel is described by Tolkien as having the power to perceive the desires and motivations in the hearts of others. In the film this is interpreted as being telepathic. She had the power to heal, create, protect and preserve although some of these powers were either due to or greatly enhanced by her possession of the Elfstone and Nenya, a ring of power.

After the War of the Ring, Galadriel is described as casting down the walls of Dol Guldur and cleansing the Mirkwood. Technically this would be after the destruction of the ring and so would be after Nenya's power failed and gives us a good idea of Galadriel's innate power.

Tolkien also describes Galadriel as greatest of the Eldar save Feanor who was her equal and rival, although both had different skills and power.

Galadriel also had the gift of forsight (rembracing/scrying) which she could concentrate in her mirror.

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A good first post. You could improve this with some canon quotes or references. – Richard Feb 20 '14 at 23:40

It was written that at the end of the First Age, after the defeat of Morgoth, the Valar lifted the ban of Mandos on all the Noldors except for those who played a leading role among the rebel elves.If it was phrased like that by the Valar, Galadriel had any reason to believe that the ban lifting basically excluded her being the sole surviving Noldorin leader of those who left Valinor and being proud she wouldn't ask for their forgiveness. As for the who was the most powerful, you must not forget the lifespan of each elf. Probably, during the first age Faenor (physically) and Luthien(magically) might have been the most powerful and Galadriel not far behind.But by the end of the third age, both were long dead and Galadriel probably far older,more powerful than she was during the First Age and with a magic ring on her finger.So it can be assumed that by the end of the third age she was more powerful that Faenor and Luthien were in the first age to an extent that Maiar like Gandalf and Saruman respected her power and Sauron feared her to an extent. Besides, it seems she alone of the elves acquired powers that Maiar like Melian or her daughter Luthien had (bringing down buildings, casting magic protection around her Kingdom, telepathy)

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Please reread Unfinished Tales. Christopher Tolkien writes that (paraphrasing) the character of Galadriel was a continuous work in progress. That is to say, the Galadriel of the Lord of the Rings was not the same as the Galadriel of the Silmarillion.

As far as Tolkien contradicting himself, he says as much in "Letters". He admits that at times he could not remember things that he had written earlier, and so he does contradict himself on occasion. The point is, the later writings take precedence over the earlier ones, as his view of the history of Middle Earth changed over the decades.

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Feel free to not paraphrase. Show us the commentary. – Solemnity Jun 17 '13 at 2:57

Personally I'd relate Galadriel to the Maia Melian in Doriath from whom she learned and in the 3rd Age acted in like manner.

she remained in the Hidden Kingdom, and abode with Melian, and of her learned great lore and wisdom concerning Middle-earth. [Of the Return of the Noldor]

Galadriel has also been compared to Manwë.

Galadriel, the greatest of the Eldar surviving in Middle-earth, was potent mainly in wisdom and goodness, as a director or counsellor in the struggle, unconquerable in resistnace (especially in mind and spirit) but incapable of punitive action. In her scale she had become like Manwë with regard to the greater total action. [The Istari]

Someone mentioned how Galadriel had a marvelous gift of insight which is true, but the darkness she saw in Fëanor she failed to see in herself:

she did not perceive that the shadow of the same evil had fallen upon the minds of all the Noldor, and upon her own. [The History of Galadriel and Celeborn]

Elven magic is innate and can be bettered with practice. The use of devices, like the Rings of Power, can impede the development of these innate abilities. Tolkien speaks about the use of these devices

for power, for making the will more quickly effective, - and so to the machine (or Magic)... all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of development of the inherent inner powers or talents - or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of dominating

Such things "make the will more quickly effective" [Letter 131]. When she showed the Hobbits some her ability, which they understood as magic, she said:

this, if you will, is the magic of Galadriel. Did you not say that you wished to see Elf-magic? [The Mirror of Galadriel]

This is with her use of the Mirror to allow Frodo and Sam to see things. What she says about it is that:

Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal... to some I can show what they desire to see... the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold. What you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be. [The Mirror of Galadriel]

According to Tolkien Elvish

"magic" is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations: more effortless, more quick, more complete (product, and vision in unflawed correspondence)...the Elves (the representatives of sub-creation par excellence) [Letters of J.R.R. Tolkie, Letter 130]

There is an example I think of what Tolkien refers to as "goetia" where the Elvish minstils are known to "make the things of which they sing appear before the eyes of those that listen." [Appendix A: Tale of Aragorn and Luthien] In Letter 155 Tolkien says the Elvish

goetic effects are entirely artistic and not intended to deceive

whereas with Sauron he uses

goetia to terrify and subjugate.

In either case, with the Elves or with the Enemy Magic is used for "immediacy: speed, reduction of labour, and reduction also to a minimum (or vanishing point) of the gap between the idea or desire and the result or effect." [Letter 155]

I think Galadriel has honed her talents and can use them as good as anyone. One more example of Galadriel perhaps using magic would be to look at her brother Felagund who dueled Sauron. When they fought Finrod's guilt weakened him before Sauron.

He chanted a song of wizardry, Of piercing, opening, of treachery, Revealing, uncovering, betraying. Then suddenly Felagund there swaying Sang in answer a song of staying, Resisting, battling against power, Of secrets kept, strength like a tower, And trust unbroken, freedom, escape; Of changing and of shifting shape, Of snares eluded, broken traps, The prison opening, the chain that snaps.

Backwards and forwards swayed their song. Reeling and foundering, as ever more strong The chanting swelled, Felagund fought, And all the magic and might he brought Of Elvenesse into his words. Softly in the gloom they heard the birds Singing afar in Nargothrond, The sighing of the Sea beyond, Beyond the western world, on sand, On sand of pearls in Elvenland.

Then the gloom gathered; darkness growing In Valinor, the red blood flowing Beside the Sea, where the Noldor slew The foamriders, and stealing drew Their white ships with their white sails From lamplit havens. The wind wails, The wolf howls. The ravens flee. The ice mutters in the mouths of the Sea. The captives sad in Angband mourn. Thunder rumbles, the fires burn, And Finrod fell before the throne. [Beren and Luthien]

Even against Sauron one on one he began to gain the upper hand before his guilt did him in. This might be an example of goetia in action.

The extent of Galadriel's powers? I'd say her peak is quite high as she is often compared in terms of her gifts with the greatest of the Children of Illuvatar, Feanor. C.T. says of a late note his father wrote, "he emphasized the commanding stature of Galadriel already in Valinor, the equal if unlike endowments of Feanor" [the History of Galadriel and Celeborn].

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