Abstract: Galadriel is perceived in different, sometimes contradictory ways both within the world of Middle-earth and the world of Tolkien scholarship. In some ways, she is a liminal figure, on the threshold between Middle-earth and Valinor, and between secular and sacred influences from the primary world Tolkien actually lived in. One neglected context that may help readers to understand Tolkien’s characterization of Galadriel is the medieval cult of the saints.
The cult of the saints provides specific practices and beliefs that shaped how Tolkien consciously characterized Galadriel as saint-like, especially in terms of her beauty, holiness, and power. Her saintliness has Marian qualities, in that female saints were expected to be like the Virgin Mary, but Galadriel is distinctly different from the Virgin Mary in key ways. So she may not necessarily be a figure of “our Lady” in Middle-earth – at least, not in terms of Tolkien’s conscious, authorial intention.
However, in his letters, Tolkien acknowledges the possibility of the formation of an unconsciousconnection between Galadriel and Mary. The late shift in Tolkien’s thinking between characterizing Galadriel as a saint, who “fell” at the kinslaying of the Teleri at Alqualondë because of her “pride” but was redeemed through her penitence and resistance to the temptation of the Ring, to one who is “unstained” and “committed no evil deeds” (Letter 353 To Lord Halsbury) may have been motivated by the perceptions of influential readers of The Lord of the Rings, like Tolkien’s proofreader, Father Robert Murray, S.J.. As this study suggests, Tolkien is not only the sub-creator of Middle-earth, but also the hagiographer of Middle-earth: the man who finally idealizes the Marian qualities of Galadriel in order to inspire us all.
Beal, Jane PhD
""Saint Galadriel?: J.R.R. Tolkien as the Hagiographer of Middle-earth","
Journal of Tolkien Research: Vol. 10:
2, Article 2.
Available at: https://scholar.valpo.edu/journaloftolkienresearch/vol10/iss2/2