(Question sparked by discussion on Why does Frodo follow Galadriel and offer her the ring?)
When Frodo suggests that Galadriel should take the ring, she appears tempted: she gives a vision of the power she could wield if she took it — which presumably is what the ring itself wants — but then she refuses it, and returns to normal. “I have passed the test,” she says.
Is she really tempted here? Is this a moment that genuinely could have gone either way? Or is she just calling up the vision to impress on Frodo the point that being “more powerful” doesn’t make her better-qualified to deal with the ring?
I’d always understood it as the latter, but re-reading the scene, it’s a bit more ambiguous than I’d remembered. Is there anything elsewhere in the books or letters that sheds more light on this?
Her full speech from the book:
“And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!”
She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
“I pass the test”, she said. “I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.”
In the film, of course, it is similar but turned up to eleven, with lots of force lightning and floaty hair.