The Enigma of Goldberry: Tolkien’s Narrative Braiding of Genre- and Symbol-Related Vocabularies in the Withywindle River-Daughter
The enigma of Goldberry continues to stimulate diverse readings of her narrative in the Withywindle Cottage episode. The root contention of this article is that Goldberry’s enigma is textured through Tolkien’s complex narrative braiding of multiple genre- and symbol-specific vocabularies woven together throughout her episode. The effort to interpret the enigma of Goldberry needs to be grounded in the philological, lexical, and thematic signifiers circulating in the cauldron of her storyline. These mythopoeic signifiers are variously conveyed by the genre- and symbol-related vocabularies influencing her enigma in the narrative. Where much of the critical commentary has justifiably considered a single strand of source material, or a few threads as discrete and contiguous influences in isolation, few if any have considered the consistency of Tolkien’s synthesis in the mythological imaginative space enveloping and expressing Goldberry’s unique narrative arc within the legendarium. The cumulative contention of this study is that the enigma of Goldberry can be interpreted through the braiding of several signifiers that, without exhausting her mystery, consistently connect her with the mythological profile of water’s divine presence and activity in Arda. Tolkien’s innovative weave of signifiers, driven by mythological consistency, was intrinsic both to Goldberry’s enigma and its literary function in achieving a remarkable balancing act between rupture and continuity, exit and entry, needed for the transition of the epic Quest outside the familiar Shire homeland.