Magic and the Elves

Devorah West '07, English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien creates a world that largely reflects aspects of our own, though it is actually far from similar. Middle Earth is a land where Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Men, and other fantastical creatures, good and evil, all live. It is a land that is rich in a history that is now only partially remembered. Throughout this history, there is a realm of magic that is present and fundamental to Middle Earth. Many times this magic takes form in nature itself, especially in Lothlórien and Rivendell, both home to powerful and influential Elves.

One evening, while the Company rests and recovers in Lothlórien from the loss of Gandalf in Moria, Frodo and Sam walk together. Frodo asks Sam about what Sam thinks about the Elves now that they have spent substantial time in elvish lands.

"They're all elvish enough, but they're not all the same. Now these folk aren't wanderers or homeless, and seem a bit nearer to the likes of us: they seem to belong here, more even than Hobbits do in the Shire. Whether they've made the land, or the land's made them, it's hard to say, if you take my meaning. It's wonderfully quiet here. Nothing seems to be going on, and nobody seems to want it to. If there's magic about, it's right down deep, where I can't lay my hands on it, in a manner of speaking."

"You can see and feel it everywhere," said Frodo.

"Well," said Sam, "you can't see nobody working it. No fireworks like poor Gandalf used to show."

In the midst of their conversation, Galadriel beckons the hobbits to glance into the Mirror of Galadriel. Asking Sam if he wants to look into the Mirror, Galadriel tells him that it is similar to what he would call magic.

"And you?" she said, turning to Sam. "For this is what you folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same word for the deceits of the Enemy. But this, if you will, is the magic of Galadriel. Did you not say that you wished to see Elf-magic?"


1. What does Galadriel mean by the statement "they seem to use the same word (magic) for the deceits of the Enemy" is there some implication towards the double meanings of words that falls into the theme of deceit that runs throughout the novel?

2. What is this magic that Sam and Frodo discuss? What kind of magic is it that runs throughout Middle Earth?

3. How is Elf-magic different from other forms of magic in Middle Earth? Or is it different at all?

4. How does this magic differ from other forms of magic that we have seen in Dragonsong, Phantastes, and The Chronicles of Narnia? How is the magic similar? How is it different?

5. What does this passage tell about the Elves? Who and what exactly are they? What do they represent throughout the novel?


Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1966.

Victorian Web Overview J. R. R. Tolkien Victorian courses

Last modified 25 February 2004