Guest post by Lucas W. Holt
Behind the Mind of Middle Earth: How The Lord of the Rings Presents an Imaginative Defense of the Catholic Faith (Part 2)
Another specifically Catholic element of The Lord of the Rings is the typological characteristics of certain women, especially the Lady Galadriel, to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Caldecott writes, “There is another way in which Mary is present in LOTR, and that is through her reflections in Galadriel and Elbereth…. Tolkein himself calls her ‘unstained’ in Letter 353… He admitted that Catholic teaching and imagination about Mary lay behind the character as portrayed in the novel (L 320).” One of the places where one can especially see Marian aspects in Galadriel is when the Company first arrives at Caras Galadhon. When they meet both her and Celeborn, the members of the Company feel like they are being tested when they make eye contact with the Lady. “At length the Lady Galadriel released them from her eyes, and she smiled. ‘Do not let you hearts be troubled,’ she said. ‘Tonight you shall sleep in peace.’ Then they sighed and felt suddenly weary, as those who have been questioned long and deeply, though no words had been spoken openly.”, After this intense encounter Boromir becomes suspicious of the Lady’s motives but Aragorn says, “There is in her and in this land no evil, unless a man bring it hither himself.” Furthermore, we see that “On the land of Lorien there was no stain.” This goes with the ‘unstained’ comment referred to by Caldecott in Letter 353. Finally, Galadriel possesses one of the Three Rings of the Elves, which were made for “understanding, making, healing, to preserve all things unstained.” This imagery of purity with which the reader is presented is similar to the Blessed Mother, who is ‘full of grace’, without the stain of original sin.
The bearing of gifts by Galadriel also reflects characteristics of the Blessed Mother. Two of the gifts seem to especially resemble the role of Mary. The phial of Galadriel—a powerful beacon of light in dark places—that she gives to Frodo is symbolic of the fact that Mary bore the Light of the world.
It is no accident that the light of the Phial comes from “Earendil’s star”, for Earendil is Tolkien’s version of Venus, which is both the Evening Star and the Morning Star. The Morning Star is a Biblical name for Christ (Rev. 22:16, 2 Peter 1:19) and thus we can see that Frodo’s Phial is, in a sense (without unduly allegorising the story), a Christ-symbol.
Not only does Galadriel bear the phial, but she also bears lembas, the Elvish waybread that gives strength and nourishment to the Company as they travel. “Often in their hearts they thanked the Lady of Lorien for the gift of lembas, for they could eat of it and find new strength even as they ran.” Again, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary who bore the Bread of Life into the world. It seems fitting, therefore, that Galadriel is the giver of these gifts. What is also interesting is that this passage seems to be a subtle nod to the practice of praying to the saints, since ‘in their hearts they thanked the Lady of Lorien’.
These reflections of the Blessed Mother illustrate the both/and philosophy espoused by Catholics and would help a Protestant reader to see that in revering Galadriel it does not diminish the characters’ obedience to their Creator but actually enriches it; that we need not necessarily adopt an either/or philosophy when considering God but that we should have intimate relationships with all of his people. We see in the story that Galadriel, far from being a hindrance to the quest to destroy the Ring, or tempting the nine companions to worship her, actually was a major aid and comforter to the nine companions. So it is in this life: the Queen of Heaven, through her intercession and loving kindness, aids and comforts us during our exile in this valley of tears and can be a conduit of grace.
 Stratford Caldecott, The Power of the Ring: The Spiritual Vision Behind the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, second edition, (Chestnut Ridge, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2012), Kindle, 77.
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 357.
 This scene also seems to echo Luke 2:34–35 when Simeon prophesies and says to Mary, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 358.
 Ibid., 351.
 Ibid., 268.
 Michael Ward, “The Two Towers – Thoughts from Dr Ward”, discussion thread in the class Literature and Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, December 4, 2017.
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, 427.
Lucas W. Holt is a missionary with Spiritus Ministries in Menasha, Wisconsin. He holds a B.S. from the University of Arizona, as well as a PGDip from the University of Oxford. He is also the creator of Pelican Poetry, which is a literary project dedicated to restoring a sense of wonder at the world.