For so it seemed to them: Lórien was slipping backward, like a bright ship masted with enchanted trees . . . while they sat helpless upon the margin of the grey and leafless world.
The time comes for the Company to set off. Celeborn gives each member the option of staying in Lórien, but they all choose to go onward. Their next destination, however, is undecided. Boromir wants to go to the city of Minas Tirith, but it is on the other side of the river from Mordor, where the Ring must ultimately go. Luckily, the Company does not have to decide for a few days, as the Elves have provided them with boats to use to float down the Great River, Anduin, which leads out of Lórien. Only when they reach a point where they cannot go farther on the Great River will they have to choose whether to go east or west. During their debates, Frodo says nothing and Aragorn says little, and the Company as a whole remains undecided. Boromir, however, shows a strange reluctance to destroy the Ring at all.
The Elves present the Fellowship with many gifts, including lembas—wafers of long-lasting meal that have a pleasant taste and provide a day’s worth of energy—along with ropes and magic cloaks that provide warmth in the cold and cool in the heat, are light and strong, and change color to conceal the wearer. The Company then has one last meal with the Lord and Lady on the banks of the river.
Galadriel then presents the Fellowship with additional gifts. To Aragorn she gives a sheath for his sword, Andúril, and a green gem in a silver brooch. Boromir, Merry, and Pippin each receive belts of silver or gold, while Legolas receives a longer, stouter bow. Sam, the gardener, gets a box of dirt from Galadriel’s orchard that, sprinkled anywhere, will cause the earth to burst into bloom. Galadriel asks Gimli to name his request. To the great shock of the Elves, the dwarf reluctantly asks only for a strand of Galadriel’s hair as a memento and a token of good faith between their races. The Lady gladly agrees. Lastly, Galadriel gives Frodo a phial of water in which is caught the light of Eärendil’s star. The time has come for the Fellowship to leave, and Galadriel sings to them as they float down the river and out of sight of Lórien. With heavy hearts, they turn and look to the journey ahead.
In this chapter, we begin to see the first signs that Boromir is wavering from the goal of destroying the Ring. The corruptive power of the evil object is no longer merely a potential threat to the Fellowship, but may be an actual threat if Boromir becomes a traitor to the cause. We see in him hints of moral indecision and, though not an inherent evil, a capacity for corruption. Of all the Company, Boromir appears the least contented with Gandalf’s and Elrond’s explanations as to why the Ring must never be used, even as a weapon in the fight against Sauron. Boromir makes it clear that his goal is to reach Minas Tirith, not to head for Mordor where the Ring must be destroyed. He even declares that he will journey to the city alone if need be—a strong urge toward individualism that is one of the telltale signs of the Ring’s wicked influence. It is, of course, far too early to accuse Boromir of outright treachery, or even of plotting it. But our suspicions linger, and the Fellowship appears a more fragile alliance than it ever has before.
The gifts Galadriel offers to the group are useful and urgently needed: the lembas cakes provide nourishment, and the cloaks warmth. But many of the gifts also symbolize what is missing from the bleak landscape of the war-threatened Middle-earth. Galadriel gives Frodo her phial of light, reminding us of the “dark times” (as a character in the next volume of the novel describes them) that currently prevail in Middle-earth. Her gift of magic soil to Sam reminds us of how little regeneration and growth there has been in this time of warfare and destruction. Finally, Galadriel’s gift of a strand of her hair to Gimli—who may have a small crush on the Lady—is not merely a gesture of reconciliation between the Elves and Dwarves, but also a reminder of how few females there are in Tolkien’s work (a fact upon which many readers have commented). In Tolkien’s universe, women and girls are associated with times of peace, prosperity, and happy home life—none of which can survive the wide-ranging disturbances of Sauron. As such, Galadriel’s gifts are more than just a fairy-tale addition to the adventure. Rather, they remind us of all the fruits of civilized and peaceful life for which the Fellowship is fighting.