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In the Lord of the Rings books, Galadriel of Lorien is even more exalted than in the movies. She is essentially a queen, and the deference shown to her far exceeds that shown to Elrond of Rivendell. Yet in the films, we see her trying to persuade Elrond to intervene in the battle of Helm's Deep by sending Elf troops to reinforce Theoden's forces. Eventually, Elrond relents, and orders the Elves into battle. But the troops in question are Galadriel's, not Elrond's - they are led by Haldir, one of Galadriel's guards; the trip from Rivendell to Helm's Deep (500 miles as the crow flies) is about 2 times longer than the trip from Lorien to Helm's Deep (250 miles as the crow flies), far too long for the reinforcements to arrive in time. But then Haldir greets Theoden of Rohan by saying he has come bearing a message from Elrond - not Galadriel.

I bring word from Lord Elrond of Rivendell. An Alliance once existed between Elves and Men. Long ago we fought and died together. We come to honor that allegiance.

This seems odd for a few reasons. The troops are Galadriel's, not Elrond's, and they come from Lorien, not Rivendell. She clearly wanted to send them to Helm's Deep - she was cajoling, prodding, and guilt-tripping him into doing just that. She is also a queen, and could presumably order them into battle regardless of what Elrond says.

So why does she have to talk Elrond into letting her send her own troops into battle, especially when he is too far away to contribute manpower (elfpower) or materiel to the battle of Helm's Deep? Why not say, "I'm not going to sit here doing nothing while Saruman runs roughshod over Rohan; you can support me or not, Elrond, but if you aren't willing to help, you can at least get the hell out of the way"? Why does her aide Haldir "bring word from Elrond" when the troops - and the impetus for sending them - came from Galadriel, and Elrond resisted sending them out for as long as he could? And again, what is Elrond's official position/status/rank, and why would a queen need his permission to deploy her own troops?

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    Wad, you will get a much better idea of both Galadriel's and Elrond's significance in The Silmarillion. The tl;dr: she's more or less the most powerful elf spirit ever born (second only to Fëanor, if not his equal), while Elrond is the oldest descendant of both the ruling Noldar in Exile, and the ruling Sindar, a maia (Melian was his great grandmother) and Edain (humans) fighting against Morgoth (notably Beren, and Tuor) . – Lexible May 11 '15 at 1:08
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    Galadriel is Elrond's mother-in-law. (Which makes this whole situation even stranger.) See lotrproject.com for the family tree. – Nobody May 11 '15 at 8:49
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    "the trip from Rivendell to Helm's Deep is about 5-6 times longer than the trip from Lorien to Helm's Deep" No it isn't. You can't judge by how long it took the Fellowship to get to places. They didn't take the fastest and most direct route. – dmm May 11 '15 at 17:16
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    With Galadriel having a bad reputation as the Witch of Lorien, using Elrond's name is just good public-relations. – Oldcat May 12 '15 at 22:43
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    Elrond’s normally a little to the left. – Paul D. Waite Dec 13 '15 at 18:44
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As has been pointed out, no Elves fight at the battle of Helm's Deep in the book1. However, there is a way of justifying this, and it comes down to the succession of the High Kingship of the Noldor2, 3.

The most correct answer is that Elrond had been given special authority by the last High King, Gil-galad, following Sauron's expulsion from Eriador:

At this time the first Council was held, and it was there determined that an Elvish stronghold in the east of Eriador should be maintained at Imladris rather than in Eregion. At that time also Gil-galad gave Vilya, the Blue Ring, to Elrond, and appointed him to be his vice-regent in Eriador

Unfinished Tales Part 2: "The Second Age" Chapter IV: "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn"

Of course, Lothlórien isn't actually in Eriador, so strictly speaking Elrond's authority shouldn't apply to Galadriel. However, this regency does make Elrond the closest thing we know of to Gil-galad's heir.

Another point to consider is that, following Gil-galad's death, Elrond has a stronger claim on the High Kingship than Galadriel.

The High King

The High King of the Noldor is the political leader of the Elves in Middle-earth4. Historically, the Kingship begins with Finwë, the first King of the Noldor. Finwë had three sons:

After Finwë's death, the kingship was claimed by Fëanor:

Fëanor appeared in [Tirion] and called on all to come to the high court of the King upon the summit of Túna. [...] He claimed now the kingship of all the Noldor, since Finwë was dead, and he scorned the decrees of the Valar.

The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 9: "Of the Flight of the Noldor"

After Fëanor's death, the Kingship technically passed to his eldest son Maedhros, but Maedhros gave up his claim, and the claim of his entire family, after he was rescued from Thangorodrim by Fingon, and it passed to Fingolfin:

Maedhros begged forgiveness for the desertion in Araman; and he waived his claim to kingship over all the Noldor, saying to Fingolfin: 'If there lay no grievance between us, lord, still the kingship would rightly come to you, the eldest here of the house of Finwë, and not the least wise.' But to this his brothers did not all in their hearts agree.

Therefore even as Mandos foretold the House of Fëanor were called the Dispossessed, because the over-lordship passed from it, the elder, to the house of Fingolfin, both in Elendë and in Beleriand

The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 13: "Of the Return of the Noldor"

From there, the crown went to Fingolfin's eldest son, Fingon. Fingon died childless, so the crown went to Fingolfin's second son, Turgon. Turgon had no sons, and Fingolfin had no surviving sons, so the crown passed to the heir of Fingolfin's brother (Finarfin, who stayed in Aman): his great-grandson Gil-galad5, 6. Gil-galad died in the Last Alliance, and he died with no heirs. The High Kingship died with him.

So how do Elrond and Galadriel fit into this?

Of all the Elves who remained in Middle-earth into the Third Age, Elrond and Galadriel have the strongest claims to the High Kingship:

  • Elrond's grandmother, Idril, was the only child of Turgon (the second-to-last High King).

  • Galadriel, meanwhile, was the youngest child of Finarfin, Finwë's third son.

They both have very strong claims to the throne, but they are presumably ineligible to actually take up the mantle of High King (or Queen), because of Elvish succession rules: I'm not sure off hand if Tolkien has confirmed this, but based on the evidence it seems likely that the "female line" is not considered in line for the throne, at all.

However, Elrond's claim is slightly stronger. If we assumed that succession was able to pass through the female line, his father Eärendil would have succeeded Turgon as High King7, and Elrond would have succeeded him.

Galadriel, meanwhile, is further down the chain in this hypothetical. She would come after Gil-galad, who would have been much further down the succession chain in this scenario.

So what is Elrond's rank?

Aside from being Lord of Rivendell, he's officially the vice-regent of the High King of the Noldor. He's also pretty much the de facto High King, although he never claims the title.

What about Galadriel?

She's the Lady of Lothlórien; that's all. She's not a queen, just a very noble Elf-maid. In fact, Tolkien makes it a point to note that she didn't call herself a queen8:

After the disaster in Moria [in the year 1980] and the sorrows of Lórien, which was now left without a ruler (for Amroth was drowned in the sea in the Bay of Belfalas and left no heir), Celeborn and Galadriel returned to Lórien, and were welcomed by the people. There they dwelt while the Third Age lasted, but they took no title of King or Queen; for they said that they were only guardians of this small but fair realm, the last eastward outpost of the Elves.

Unfinished Tales Part 2: "The Second Age" Chapter IV: "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn"

And specifically mentions in one of his Letters (in response to a proposed film treatment) that she was not a queen:

21 ff. 'A splendid sight. It is the home of Galadriel... an Elvenqueen.' (She is not in fact one.)

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

What she is is one of a very small number of Elves in the Third Age who lived in Aman and beheld the light of the Two Trees of Valinor. Galadriel has been around for a long time, and is one of the oldest living beings in Middle-earth. People revere her and respect her opinion because of her wisdom, not her status.

Of course, it's also worth noting that Galadriel is a woman, who traditionally get treated a little differently in the mythic histories Tolkien was trying to mirror. Although I doubt he'd like the comparison, it's notable that characters in the Arthurian mythology tend to treat Queen Guinevere with more (or, at least, different) reverence than they do King Arthur.


1 Except for Legolas, of course.

2 Warning: this post is going to have lots of names. You might find the Elvish family tree at LOTRProject.com helpful.

3 It's not important to understand who "the Noldor" are, except that they're the upper-class Elves. Although it's technically true that the High King of the Noldor doesn't have official authority over the "commoner" Elves (Sindar and Silvan Elves), in my experience that's less important than having authority over their rulers.

4 When I say "High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth", I really do mean "Middle-earth"; the Noldor who stayed in Aman were being ruled by Finarfin

5 Finarfin had three sons: Finrod, Angrod, and Aegnor. Finrod had no children, and had died by this point. Angrod was Gil-galad's grandfather. Aegnor, also childless, was also dead at this point.

6 Gil-galad's parentage is somewhat more complicated then I'm making out; I discuss Tolkien's shifting perspectives on the topic quite extensively over at What is the parentage of Gil-galad?

7 For the purposes of this thought experiment, we'll ignore the complication that Eärendil was seven years old when Turgon died.

8 Interestingly, Galadriel is called a Queen once: by Gimli, of all people, who is admittedly not an unbiased source of information where Galadriel is concerned.

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    Didn't Elrond's sons travel to Helm's Deep with the rangers? – mu is too short May 11 '15 at 7:16
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    @Joel Well, the oldest after Círdan (and possibly some others), but he's content to hang out in Mithlond and play with his boats – Jason Baker May 11 '15 at 12:57
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    Yes, you're right, I tend to forget about Cirdan, who was probably born by the shores of Cuivienen and is an intriguing character. But that still doesn't change much the case that Galadriel is arguably the most powerful elf in Middle-earth. – Joel May 11 '15 at 13:24
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    @dmm - Not true Cirdan can't fight. He fought many times throughout the first age and the second age, up to and including the War of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. He was at Mount Doom with Elrond when they both try to persuade Isildur to destroy the ring. – Joel May 11 '15 at 20:59
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    "Reading The Silmarillion, you'll find the Silmarils responsible for most of the plot." It's all in the name, folks. – Adriano Varoli Piazza May 12 '15 at 14:35
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Why did Haldir say what he did?

It's a throwaway line written for the film, so we don't really know. But a plausible explanation would be that Elrond had somewhat friendly relations with humans, whereas Galadriel is a far more remote and terrifying figure. Recall Gimli's line in the film:

They say a great sorceress lives in these woods; an elf-witch of terrible power.

Theoden would at least have heard of Elrond, which would make him more likely to accept this band of heavily armed elves who had just turned up out of nowhere.

What's the deal with the High King?

Jason Baker provides a very thorough analysis, but there may be a simpler explanation. The High King was ruler of the Noldor (elves exiled from Valinor), not the Sindar (the elves who had never left Middle-Earth, and had their own rulers). In the Third Age, the remaining Noldor may have concluded there was not enough left to be High King of.

Many Elves died in the War of the Last Alliance, and many others were leaving Middle-Earth forever. The old Noldorin realm of Eregion (where Celebrimbor forged some of the Rings of Power) was no more. The remaining Noldor were scattered between the Grey Havens, Rivendell, and Lothlorien -- and in the case of Lothlorien, many of the population were Sindar, with only a few Noldor such as Galadriel.

Elrond, Galadriel, and Cirdan were all elves of great power and wisdom, and content to rule their own small domains. If they declared Elrond (or Galadriel) to be the High King (or Queen), it would be little more than an empty title.

Accordingly, the Noldor might have simply decided the title of High King was defunct -- in much the same way as the Western Roman Empire no longer existed after the last Emperor was deposed in 476 AD, or (much later) the Austrian Habsburgs abandoned their old title of Holy Roman Emperor.

This would be in keeping with Tolkien's theme that the Elves were "fading", and diminishing in power and glory.

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    To further underline your point about Elrond, he - at least as portrayed in the film - fought directly alongside the Kings of Men in the Battle of the Last Alliance that Haldir is presumably referencing. You couldn't ask for a better "let's get the band back together" than his. :) – Dan J May 11 '15 at 20:05
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This whole mess of Elves at Helm's Deep is a movie invention, so the books will only help so much as to why all this happened. Elrond's 'position' is simply lord of Rivendell. He has a few, but certainly not many Elves of his own but he has no authority over the Elves of Lorien, his only direct connection to Lorien is that he is Celeborn and Galadriel's son-in-law.

  • WOW. I am currently reading the books for the first time, and I'm on Two Towers, but I'm only up to the part where Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas reach Fangorn searching for Merry and Pippin. I had no idea the Elves at Helms Deep isn't in the books. I almost want to delete the question now, but you deserve credit for the answer. I'll accept it in a day or two, unless someone figures out a better way to say "It isn't even in the books, dummy!" – Wad Cheber May 11 '15 at 0:59
  • Or unless someone explains how Peter Jackson justified Galadriel needing Elrond's permission. – Wad Cheber May 11 '15 at 1:02
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    @WadCheber The elves aren't in the books but they are taking the place of some other last minute reinforcements that do appear in the books. Introducing lots of extra characters works better in print than it does in video (purists tend to forget this). – mu is too short May 11 '15 at 7:23
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    the Appendices mention that although neither elves nor dwarves help the humans fight at either Helm's Deep or Minas Tirith, it is because they are fighting their own desperate battles elsewhere. Humans were not fighting the entire war by themselves even though they fought those battles without aid. – Jim2B May 11 '15 at 18:07
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    @Jim2B: you are right. – Joel May 11 '15 at 21:02
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Galadriel is older, wiser, and generally more impressive. But, I think that by the end of the Third Age, the Wise have mostly gone beyond comparative rankings. They are allies, and that is what is important.

  • Welcome to SFF.SE. Please provide some justification to your claim that "Galadriel is older, wiser, and generally more impressive". – Null May 14 '15 at 21:35
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It makes no sense like it was in the movie, Galadriel would have no need to ask her son in law if she could send HER troups to battle. She is the highest ranking Noldor, (acording to Tolkien the greatest elf in ME and among the greatest overall, after Luthien and Feanor) and unlike someone here mentioned, she would actually be High Queen of the Noldor. Christipher Tolkien said that making Gil-Galad son of Fingon was a mistake his father rather intended Gil-Galad to be of the house of Finarfin, son of Orodreth, that actually would mirror the fact that in Aman Finarfin rules and in ME his descendant.

While Elrond is very noble, especially with his maia ancestry, Galadriel surpasses him.

being... "the mightiest and the fairest of all the elves that remained in Middle-Earth."

and "the greatest of the Noldor expect Feanor maybe" and his "equal even if unlike in endowments".

Elrond was more well known in ME, people trust him, unlike Galadriel, who most people fear, her being a "witch of terrible power", but she is of the house that last ruled in ME (according to unfinished tales, there Christopher Tolkien explaines that) and had the greater "spiritual power", being "unconquerable is resistance (especially in mind and spirit) -unfinished tales

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The presence of Haldir in the movie is indeed a conundrum, though I just chalked it up to the Elvish force that showed up being a blend of Rivendell and Lorien fighters. There would be no reason they would not fight together under such circumstances (though this entire part did not occur in the book, but it makes for a good movie).

Galadriel wants Elrond's approval not as deference to his relative status -- in fact, Galadriel is probably the only Elf in Middle-earth of greater status than him -- but rather she wants his approval as a member of the Council of the Wise. In matters external, the Wise have been not acting unilaterally for centuries, and Galadriel does not want to begin acting like a dictator at that pivotal moment, though decisiveness was indeed called for.

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Haldir led them, sure, but the film doesn't say that the elves were from Lorien or Rivendell. The book makes it clear that there are political/familial differences between the elves in different places, but the film doesn't go into that. Also the elves could happily stroll down the main road between Rivendell and Lorien, because Sauron and Saruman wouldn't be particularly surprised about another bunch of people on the march, whereas the Fellowship definitely couldn't. (Remember that the reason the Fellowship had to try Caradhras and then Moria was that the main route was being watched for the Ring.) Hell, if they'd wanted to be sneaky then they could even have dressed it up as just another bunch heading for the coast.

Anyway, Galadriel isn't so much asking Elrond's permission as persuading a friend (and equal) of what's the right thing to do. If you think she sounds weak, it's your impression of a drippy elf maiden wafting around in a flowing dress compared to a manly elf who you've seen chopping up orcs with a big sword. Her monologue with Frodo makes it clear that's a seriously false impression. And the film does sideline her husband Celeborn who's a pretty kick-ass elf in his own right.

As for why the film and the books have serious differences, Tolkien had a bad habit of going "hey, here's an interesting person, here's a page or two about how great they are - aaaand there's a sword through them and they're dead". Even on the page, that doesn't work well. And his explanation of the Rangers happening to turn up at the right place and the right time to reinforce Helm's Deep is honestly just lame writing. The elves marching to Helm's Deep was a significant improvement IMO. Not least because it's pretty clear (again some lame plot from Tolkien) that the elves and dwarfs weren't in existential danger in their respective strongholds - raiding parties of orcs, yes, but not armies by any means.

  • But the Elves at Helm's Deep MUST have come from Lorien - they were sent there AFTER the Orcs left Isengard, and Lorien is 250 miles from Helm's Deep as the crow flies - on foot, it is a bit farther; Rivendell is 500 miles from Helm's Deep as the crow flies, probably twice that distance on foot. Isengard is 100 miles from Helm's Deep, and it seems possible to walk there via a straight line. So the Elves couldn't have come from further away than Lorien. Everywhere else is simply too far away. – Wad Cheber May 12 '15 at 18:57
  • And Legolas' home in northern Mirkwood is about 700 miles from Helm's Deep. – Wad Cheber May 12 '15 at 19:00
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    Most of your last paragraph is wrong. The Rangers didn't turn up until several days after the Battle at Helm's deep. The dwarves (and men of Dale) were defeated in the Battle of Dale and besieged in Erebor. – Ian Thompson May 13 '15 at 20:13
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Now there 's a different answer one should give without having read the books. It is quite clear and stated by Galadriel in the preface of the first movie that the Elves are "... immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings." One could therefore say that the connections, the way of thinking and thus acting and the hierarchy in the world of the Elves does not necessarily resemble the ones of men. What would not make sense in the community of men, is perfectly normal in the mindset of the Elves that have a much broader sense of fellowship and strong bonds of communication between them. Different laws apply to the World of the elves that go far beyond the narrow, self-centered logic of the world of men. So Galadriel and Elrod are one and the same before the great task and Haldir is presented as the representative of all Elves to highlight that Union. Elves and men do not think alike.

  • I would appreciate a further comment on my answer in order to enrich the conversation. I posted my answer here because the one I wanted to answer was duplicated. – Alexandra Jan 10 '16 at 19:35

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