“‘They are fair garments, and the web is good, for it was made in this Land. … You are indeed high in the favour of the Lady! For she herself and her maidens wove this stuff; and never before have we clad strangers in the garb of our own people.’” — “Farewell to Lórien”
The warp and the weft had been meant as a means to confine her. Long ago, ‘neath the pure Light of the Trees, the loom had been her shackle; her mother’s solar her cell. Outside, her brothers rode with Oromë and labored before the forge with Aulë. Her cousins conferred in vast libraries and swam in crystalline pools. But she was wild, said Eärwen, wild and willful. Secluded indoors, she felt neither the heat of the sun nor the cool of the snows. Indoors it was temperate: mild as she must learn to be.
“Nerwen,” said her mother. “Nerwen, thou must heed the work at hand. Thy hands are idle.”
Idle were her hands, but not her thought. She raced across open heaths and scaled the roughest crags. She wrought greatness with her touch and wielded command with her voice. The Light in her face was fair and fearsome.
“Nerwen, attend to thy loom.”
And she would bow her head and return to her weaving, while all the while her mind lay far afield, practicing knifework with Findaráto.
As Nerwen, they had despaired of her, and they had kept her close in order to calm a heart that beat too quick and too strong.
Nerwen no longer.
Radiantly crowned was she—Galadriel, Lady of Lórien. No prison wall surrounded her, no mandates pressed upon her will, save those she wished.
She often held a shuttle in her hand now, but it was at no one’s bidding but her own. The webs she spun served her own purposes and none other. The task before her was just begun, and she took it up gladly. Eight hoods and eight cloaks; eight looms tended by industrious maids and by herself, Lady of the Golden Wood. Yet a ninth loom stood empty; Mithrandir had not passed into Lothlórien. He had fallen into Shadow, and there he needed no raiment.
“Ai, Mithrandir.” Grief like fog clung to her, sorrow that no hours of toil could master. Time alone could heal, and she had not enough of it. Laboring fingers paused, trembled, but she was adamantine. No tears stained her fair cheek, no weeping echoed in her chamber. As Nerwen she had learned that lamentation availed her not.
“Leave me,” she said, and her companions halted their efforts. “I would be let alone this day.”
Her handmaidens, soundless and loyal, retreated. Half-done, the grey-green webs upon their abandoned looms wavered in a sweet-scented breeze. Galadriel continued her work alone, shaping the fabric that would become the Ringbearer’s cloak. Golden light flowed like a river across her, but her heart remained shrouded. Dark were the days, and dark the reflections in her mirror. Hope yet remained, she had told the Company, but in truth she could see it not. Each day the Enemy strengthened, and each day more of her hard-won dominion faded away.
And thus she wove.
As Nerwen she had been enclosed, the warp upon her loom as bars in a cage. Eärwen, fair and tranquil, sought to tame a froward daughter’s ambition with silken threads.
As Galadriel she was power itself, and all that she hungered for lay within her grasp. The Halfling could not—would not—resist her. Freely had he offered that which would imperil them all, had she only accepted. But she had not. It had taken great will to refuse, but she had done so.
“Nay,” she said to the empty chamber, to the fading sun. “I will not condemn mine own to the Shadow.”
As Galadriel she had learned to deliberate when Nerwen would have stormed. She knew now the merit of silence, of stillness. In the hushed breath before a tempest, there was found wisdom.
In the solid bulk of her loom, there was found harmony.
The warp and weft had been meant to confine, and as Nerwen she had fought against this intent. Yet as Galadriel she wielded her shuttle as a weapon against chaos. This moment, somewhere in Caras Galadhon, temptation glimmered about the neck of a Halfling. A temptation she had resisted, though she felt its presence, singing dark enchantments. Evil had come here, to the threshold of her home and she had stood—and still stood—against it.
There was strength in action, but there was strength in quietude as well. This she knew, for had not Celeborn taught her? Celeborn, he who had named her Galadriel, who had ever counseled her wisely and justly. He had stood firm as she fought to burn away the skin of Nerwen and emerge anew from the flames, just as iron emerges as new steel. Celeborn: her husband and her lord; much of what she had accomplished was done only because of him.
“I have learned much,” she said, an assurance to the shade of Nerwen who yet dwelt within her. “And I have attained much.”
Had it been enough?
Beneath her pale hands the web took shape; Nenya flashed. The cloth was light, yet durable. It would serve the Ringbearer well, to whatever end. She knew not what it must be. There was much her mirror did not reflect and much that the Shadow obscured from her sight. If only Mithrandir had not fallen; his vision could oftentimes pierce most keenly into the dark places.
Sorrow surged, but again she held it at bay. Her work was not yet finished, and until that hour, she could have neither the comfort of tears nor the indulgence of reminiscence. There was much yet to do, and the hour grew late. Night was falling.
The warp and weft had been meant to confine her, but lo! It was the passage of time that now ensnared the lady Galadriel.