Quote 5

For so it seemed to them: Lórien was slipping backward, like a bright ship masted with enchanted trees, sailing on to forgotten shores, while they sat helpless upon the margin of the grey and leafless world.

This passage describes the Fellowship’s departure from the mystical forest of Lothlórien in Book II, Chapter 8. Here, they look back from their boats as the Great River, Anduin, carries them away from the Elven realm. Lórien is, as Aragorn names it, “the heart of Elvendom on earth”—the most enchanted place in all of Middle-earth. Leaving the beautiful realm is painful for all of the members of the Fellowship, even Gimli, whose people, the Dwarves, have a long-standing animosity with the Elves of Lórien. The departure of the Company also has a broader significance, as it represents the more general fading away of the Elves and their realm. Tolkien uses the flowing Anduin to good effect in this description of transience and impermanence. To the departing travelers, it seems as if Lórien itself is sailing away like a ship, rather than the Company sailing away from it. This manner of description alludes to the fact that the Elves, if they survive the War of the Ring, plan to take to ships and cross the sea away from Middle-earth forever. The river’s current also symbolizes the passage of time—a convention of countless songs and poems—that sweeps the world before it, but leaves the Elves behind. Indeed, throughout the novel, the Elves occupy an unusual position as immortal beings whose creations are often nonetheless fragile and impermanent. The members of the Fellowship, in their boats, are acutely aware of the fact that the world without the Elves will be “grey and leafless,” a drab and less magical place.