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In the movie Lord of the Rings: Return of the King we see that the Witch-king gets stabbed in the face by Éowyn after she made saslik of his Fellbeast.

Glorfindel said about the Witch King that:

"He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of a man will he fall."
— Glorfindel, The Return of the King, Appendix A (iv)

The Witch King knew this because he grabbed Éowyn by the throat and said proudly: "Fool! No man can kill me... Die now!" Then the guy got stabbed in the back by a hobbit, falls on his knees while releasing his prey and Éowyn fondly replies: "I am no man!" and stabs the dude in his face. Beside the fact he was having a really bad day, the 'prophecy' appeared to be true, but failed to mention some help of the little folk.

After seeing Galadriel's performance against Sauron in the Hobbit trilogy (movies again) I was wondering whether Galadriel would have been able to defeat the Witch-king. She is not a man, nor of the race of Men, so technically she could have stabbed him in the face instead and fulfill the prophecy right?

I did not read the books but I've seen the movies and know they are a bit off sometimes (compared to the books). Is there any specific reason (in the movies or in the books) that suggest that Galadriel couldn't defeat the Witch-king?

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    Also, for the record, Galadriel did not directly "perform" against Sauron in the books. That was a Jackson Night Special. In the books, Sauron merely fled to Mordor the moment White Council went to D-G. Nov 9, 2015 at 19:00
  • I just mentioned this to make clear I'm not interested in a discussion about the interpretation of the prophecy, but instead to prove that Galadriel qualifies, not matter the interpretation.
    – Mixxiphoid
    Nov 9, 2015 at 19:02
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    It was Merry, not Eowyn who killed the Witch King. In LotR, JRRT says about Merry's blade after he stabbed the W-K, "No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will." Eowyn may well have wounded the W-K, Merry killed him.
    – Mark Olson
    May 6, 2021 at 1:52
  • @MarkOlson Both were necessary. Merry’s blow was not fatal, Eowyn’s was but would not have been without Merry’s happening first. May 6, 2021 at 14:40
  • @suchiuomizu Evidence?
    – Mark Olson
    May 6, 2021 at 15:38

4 Answers 4

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There's no real way of confirming one way or the other. Whether or not you believe it's possible depends greatly on your interpretation of Glorfindel's prophecy, which is vague at best and never clarified. Having said that, my answer is going to be:

Extremely tentative yes

  • Since Éowyn is the one who ultimately defeats the Witch-king, we know that Glorfindel's prophecy is susceptible to wordplay (i.e. the Witch-king was defeated by a Man (i.e. human), but not a male (and a male hobbit with the assist). From that perspective, since Galadriel is neither, presumably she would fall under the prophecy's purview

  • Tolkien says in Letter 210 that the Ringwraiths aren't really physically strong, but rely on fear (emphasis his):

    [The Black Riders'] peril is almost entirely due to the unreasoning fear which they inspire (like ghosts). They have no great physical power against the fearless; but what they have, and the fear that they inspire, is enormously increased in darkness.

    The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 210: To Forrest J. Ackerman (Incomplete). June 1958

    And Gandalf remarks in Rivendell that they have no great power of fear over the Eldar:

    The Elves may fear the Dark Lord, and they may fly before him, but never again will they listen to him or serve him. And here in Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, 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.'

    Fellowship of the Ring Book II Chapter 1: "Many Meetings"

    So Galadriel at least has no debilitating fear holding her back in this hypothetical.

On the other hand

There are also a few reasons to believe that she might not be able to:

  • Galadriel's power is in wisdom and cunning, not battle. I discuss this briefly in another answer (near the bottom); Galadriel is certainly an impressive figure, but we have no reason to believe that her power is offensive in nature.

  • The Witch-king is better than the other Wraiths. After the Letter 210 quote I gave above, Tolkien remarks on the exceptional nature of the Witch-king:

    The Witch-king, their leader, is more powerful in all ways than the others; but he must not yet be raised to the stature of Vol. III. There, put in command by Sauron, he is given an added demonic force. But even in the Battle of the Pelennor, the darkness had only just broken.

    The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 210: To Forrest J. Ackerman (Incomplete). June 1958

Does that mean he's strong enough to seriously contend with Galadriel? We don't know. Absent a direct confrontation (which never takes place), we can never know.

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    Is the prophecy self-fulfilling (e.g. any sufficiently powerful woman can kill him) or predictive (e.g predicting that Éowyn will kill him?
    – Valorum
    Nov 9, 2015 at 21:41
  • @Richard It's hard to say, made more difficult by how mortal free will enters into the theology. If humans have the ability to shape their own destiny (which they do), how can they be bound by prophecy? Nov 9, 2015 at 23:03
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    Well, she did throw down Dol Guldur.
    – Shamshiel
    Nov 10, 2015 at 10:43
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    In addition, Éowyn already considers her life forfeit, as Aragorn has rejected her. She has decided to sacrifice herself on the field of battle for her King, so the fear the wraiths inspire wouldn't affect her.
    – tilde
    May 18, 2018 at 19:03
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In a literal sense, you are right, she is neither male nor a Man racially in the LotR setting. She could have "rules-lawyered" the prophesy of Glorfindel and made a valid attempt/attack upon the Witch-king had she so been moved, and had significant power. But she didn't.

On the practical side:

  • Galadriel's power in the books wasn't quite like the Hollywood action genre that the Peter Jackson tapped into. In the Appendix B to RotK, we see that Orcish forces attacked Lórien three times (last on March 22, three days before Gollum bit off the ring and fell into the Cracks of Doom), but could not defeat the Power in Lórien. She was a major reason behind that. At the end of the war (after Sauron's fall) Celeborn sallied forth from Lórien, crossing the Anduin on 28 March, and began to destroy Dol Guldur. As written, it appears that Celeborn led the operation and later met with Thranduil on April 6 (the latter arriving from the Northern part of Mirkwood/Greenwood). It is generally agreed that Galadriel was of a higher level of power than Celeborn, due to both her lineage and her Ring, but in the main hers was a different kind of power — you could call it "A power that preserves." That said, in the Appendix B narrative (versus the time line) Galadriel laid some lumber on Dol Guldur:

    “… and when the Shadow passed, Celeborn came forth and led the host of Lórien over Anduin in many boats. They took Dol Guldur, and Galadriel threw down its walls and laid bare its pits, and the forest was cleansed.” (Appendix B, Lord of the Rings)

  • Tolkien's powerful women tended to wield their power in more subtle ways than a knife in the face. (If you look at the generation that Tolkien was raised in, the female action hero was a very rare trope, and writers tend to write what they know.)

  • When Gil Gilad took his armies of Elves in the last alliance, at the end of Second Age, to fight Sauron with Elendil and Isildur's armies, Galadriel wasn't out there on the battle field. Tolkien didn't have the action hero model in mind for his heroic women, save perhaps Éowyn of Rohan and Lúthien from The Silmarillion.

  • Lúthien was possessed of considerable power, but she sang Morgoth to sleep rather than using force: her songs were a powerful magic in their own right. She used her cloak to disorient Sauron, who had taken the form of a dread evil hound, which helped the great hound Huan defeat Sauron, which in turn made it possible for Lúthien to free Beren from Sauron's prison. ("Tale of Beren and Lúthien," The Silmarillion)

  • Why would Galadriel resort to such crude means (melee, physical confrontation) when such worthy warriors as Glorfindel, the Sons of Elrond, and even her husband Celeborn were of sufficient merit in close combat to take down the Witch-king on their own? Elves did not fear the Nazgûl the way men did.

    They [the elves] do not fear the Ringwraiths, 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.' (FotR, "Many Meetings")

  • Why would the Witch King put himself in a position to be confronted one-on-one with someone as powerful as Galdriel? He ran from Glorfindel at the battle where the prophesy originated. The Witch-king worked through proxies and their ability to project fear in most of the narration Tolkien provides on the Wraiths, of whom the Witch-king was the most powerful.

All said and done, the hypothetical you set up isn't how Tolkien fit those two characters into his story. There would be no cage match.

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    Interestingly, "sang" may not sound like a big deal... until you remember that this is how Eru Iluvatar basically made everything Nov 9, 2015 at 19:14
  • @DVK I'll amend the answer to point out that Luthien's voice contained strong magic, which it did. Nov 9, 2015 at 19:15
  • She sang morgoth to sleep not sauron just saying; ) but good points!
    – user31546
    Nov 16, 2015 at 21:31
  • @user31546 thanks, I'll fix that. I recall she somehow fooled Sauron with her power, but I obviously need to go back to the book and get the detail right. Nov 16, 2015 at 21:59
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I doubt the Witch-king could bear to approach Galadriel. It would be sort of akin to Dracula approaching a crucifix. Dracula may be physically more powerful than the priest holding up a cross, but he would be unable to resist the effect.

It's a crude analogy but I think the same would hold true for Galadriel. The Witch-king might have more physical power (or maybe not, who knows), but he would be unable to stand, or even hold his ground against her regardless, and would flee before her.

It's like a battle of wills, and her will is essentially unbreakable, plus she wears Nenya, sometimes called the Ring of Adamant. She's not backing down from what is essentially a human ghost.

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It happened, didn't it? In Return of the King, it says that the forces of Mordor tried to attack Lothlórien 3 times, but couldn't because of Galadriel. I don't know who it was exactly, but I think there were 3 Nazgûl among them, including either Khamûl or the Witch-king.

Either way, Galadriel is way more powerful and though she never actually fought in the lore (except maybe during the Kinslaying), she has been stated to be as athletic as any other Eldar.

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    Have you got any reference for the Witch-King being involved in the attack on Lothlorien?
    – Rand al'Thor
    May 26, 2016 at 10:01

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