Glorfindel of Imladris-Biography
Who is Glorfindel?
(Work in progress)

There is a dreadful pass, Cristhorn it was named, the Eagle's Cleft where beneath the shadow of the highest peaks a narrow path winds its way, walled by a precipice to the right and on the left a dreadful fall leaps into emptiness. Along that narrow way their march was strung, when it was ambushed by an outpost of Morgoth's power; and a Balrog was their leader. Then dreadful was their plight, and hardly would it have been saved by the deathless valor of yellow-haired Glorfindel, Chief of the House of the Golden Flower in Gondolin, had not Thorondor come timely to their aid.

Songs have been sung of the duel of Glorfindel with the Balrog upon a pinnacle of rock upon that high place; and both fell to ruin in the abyss. But Thorondor bore up Glorfindel's body and he was buried in a mound of stones beside the pass, and there came after a turf of green and small flowers like yellow stars bloomed there amid the barrenness of stone.

Page 174 "The Quenta", The Shaping of Middle Earth, J.R.R Tolkien, © 1986 by Frank Richard Williamson and Christopher Reuel Tolkien as Executors of the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien

"...and here in Rivendell there still live 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."

"I thought I saw a white figure that shone and did not grow dim like the others. Was that Glorfindel then?"

"Yes, you saw him for a moment as he is upon the other side: one of the mighty of the Firstborn. He is an elf-lord of a house of princes...."

page 236 "Flight to the Ford", The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien, © 1954 by J.R.R. Tolkien

These seeming contradictions, with Glorfindel being killed saving his people from the Balrog in year 510 of the First Age, and yet helping save Frodo from the Ringwraiths in year 3018 of the Third Age, appear to not be a contradiction after all.

Though the information about Glorfindel was revised several times, both before and after Tolkien's death, it appears the professor did intend for the two Glorfindels to be one and the same. He was known to re-use names, often with the justification of the later incarnation perhaps having been named after the previous. Rúmil is one example of this. The Rúmil who encountered the Fellowship on the borders of Lórien was specifically written as NOT the same Rúmil who was the inventor of written letters. The two Glorfindels are less clear. At one point, Tolkien appeared to say he HAD intended for the two to be the same, and at another, he said he did NOT intend that.

But if they were the same elf, how is that possible? Did he not die in the First Age?

Once Tolkien decided that he did wish for the two Glorfindel's to be the same person, it led to more unanswered questions, most of which were not answered by Tolkien himself. While it is true that elves that are killed are reborn in Valinor (after a time in the Mandos' Halls to cleanse them of fault and impurity), whether he intended for any elves to be reborn to Middle Earth is less clear.

Which of course leads a person to speculate....if it was so rare for elves to be re-born in Middle Earth, why was Glorfindel one that was? Was he forced to, or was it a choice? After dying a horribly painful, violent death, it hardly seems as if he would choose to return....or would he?

He died in Gondolin protecting and saving the innocents; the females and elflings. One of those he saved was Eärendil, the grandson of Turgon, king of Gondolin. Eärendil was only approximately seven years old (depending on which source you believe, Tolkien contradicted himself many times about exactly when Gondolin fell, but it is certain that regardless of his exact age, Eärendil was very young, just an elfling) when Gondolin fell, but later married and fathered twins, Elros Tar-Minyatur and Lord Elrond of Rivendell. The same Lord Elrond that Glorfindel later ended up serving after his re-birth.

Which leads one to speculate....was he given a choice? Did Námo (the technically correct name for the Valar of the afterlife who is often called Mandos) give him a choice? Was he offered an eternity of peace and serenity in Valinor, or to return to Middle Earth? Of course, this is all in the realm of speculation, but I have found this to be a view shared by many others. This view suggests:

Glorfindel had been a warrior his entire life and knew little of a life away from that. When Morgoth's evil creatures attacked Gondolin, he had no thought of running, no thought of abandoning his king, his friends, his city. He took up a sword and began killing as many of the foul beasts as he could. Once the city was lost, and Turgon killed, he did what he knew his king would have wanted; he fled with the survivors, protecting them even unto his own death.

In Mandos' Halls, after a suitable time to cleanse his spirit and his mind of the horrible memory of his death, he was given a choice. He could live out the rest of his days in Valinor, his every need catered to, given a hero's welcome. Or he could return to Middle Earth, resume the life of a warrior, but with one irresistible advantage for a born warrior....he would get another chance. He had failed in his mission to protect his king in Gondolin....but he had saved the king's grandson. And was now given a chance to serve the king's great-grandson. To make amends for his failure in Gondolin. He chose to return, to serve protect him, and his new home of Rivendell, as he had failed to protect Gondolin.

Is this fact? No, nothing but supposition, and a way of explaining why he would have been re-born in Middle Earth instead of Valinor.

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