Farewell to Lórien
“A single strand of your hair” – we, the inhabitants of the modern “civilized” ages of the world, may find Gimli’s request both weird and uncomfortable. How coarse and unseemly, a male asking of a female a seemingly non-romantic gift, and what’s more a length of her locks? Settle down, Gimli, and don’t embarrass yourself (and Celeborn, Galadriel’s husband, sitting like three feet away). Yet, there are few scenes in all of The Lord of the Rings that evoke such subtle humor, such rich history, and such deep emotion as that of the gift asked by a Dwarf of the Elves.
For here is Gimli the Dwarf – a strong and masculine warrior – stammering over his words, more nervous than were a thousand orcs charging down upon him. For here is Gimli the Dwarf – a lover of things of the shaft and mine, of the gold and gems and mithril that are the touchstone of his people – rejecting the ultimate power of material things. For here is Gimli the Dwarf – a descendent of a longstanding feud between Elves and Dwarves that has resulted in death and distrust – pledging a symbol of unity between two great peoples. The world is turned upside, and the chief peril of our Quest lies not in Rings or weapons, but in being transformed beyond who we are.
There is even more to be said, were one willing to look deeper into the lore. For in the early days of Middle earth, the greatest of Elves was Fëanor, mighty captain and leader against the forces of darkness. Thrice has asked Galadriel, fair and beautiful among all the Elves, for a strand of her golden hair and each time, seeing his heart consumed with greed and the desire for power, she had demurred. And now, at the end of the Third Age, here is a humble dwarf, a seeming lesser child of creation and an adversary of Elves, upon whom she bestows three hairs! It is enough to rouse to astonishment and wonder those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
And so, we consider the gift of three golden hairs. For Gimli desired only one, and Galadriel cut of three. “For whoever has, more shall be given,” as we have heard from the mouth of Jesus. “Knock and the door shall be opened.” When we ask, more will be passed down unto us. If only we had the courage to speak of the deepest desires of our hearts, and the boldness that would stir those around us to murmuring and astonishment!
What are the gifts that matter most in the great pilgrimage of our life? What is the treasure of three golden hairs in a time when Elves have long since sought the ships to Valinor? The most painful at the parting, the most perilous to those who wander the world in these after-days: those things that would draw us out of ourselves and into our true selves. Three wooden beams upon the Cross; three darkened days within the Tomb. Three golden hairs of Galadriel are a dangerous gift indeed – yet we must take up Dwarven courage and name them as our desire.