The Company prepares to leave Lothlórien and are outfitted by the elves for the next leg of the journey. Apart from cloaks and rope of elvish make, and lembas bread to keep them on their feet, the Fellowship receives individual gifts from Galadriel.
Also of note is Aragorn’s divided mind. He did not know what Gandalf’s plans for the journey were after Lothlórien and his intention since Rivendell was to accompany Boromir to Minas Tirith. Now, with Gandalf’s burden on his shoulders, he’s doubly thankful for the gift of boats, which will allow him to delay his decision whether to follow the Ring or go to Gondor—as far as the falls of Rauros.
Old wives’ tales
Before the departure of the Company, Celeborn warns them against entering Fangorn Forest, for it “is a strange land, and is now little known.” Boromir remembers warnings about Fangorn but recalls them as “old wives’ tales, such as we tell our children.” He’s doubtful about these tales because it has been generations since the people of Gondor visited the forest, “to prove or disprove the legends that have come down from distant years.”
“But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.”
Boromir is not worried about possibly braving Fangorn; he has made long and perilous journeys already: “I do not doubt that I shall find a way through Rohan, and Fangorn too, if need be.” Despite Boromir’s well-earned confidence, Celeborn reproves his easy dismissal of “old wives’ tales.”
“But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years,” says the ancient elf. Can the old and outmoded be useful for those of us who have the knowledge and progress of the present? As is fitting for an immortal, Celeborn has a dim view of chronological snobbery, “for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.”
The elves are far from perfect but they are nothing if not wise.
The most useless gift
If the elves are among the wisest beings in Middle-earth, why does the great Lady Galadriel bestow a useless gift on the Ringbearer’s faithful companion? Sam will go all the way to Mount Doom with Frodo but instead of a weapon, or even a belt to keep his pants up, Samwise Gamgee receives a box of dirt.
Yet, Sam “clutched the box and bowed as well as he could” when he accepts his gift from the lady, why? Because Sam’s greatest virtue is not his bravery, his hate for evil, or even his good sense. Sam’s greatest virtue is his love of goodness, plain and simple; he loves growing things—not the act, because he cannot make anything grow himself, but the living things themselves.
The gift of soil from Lothlórien, blessed by the lady, is a promise of hope. More than just the hope of returning to the Shire, Sam’s gift hope for a renewal. “It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril,” Galadriel tells him. “But if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you.” The garden this soil blesses will reflect “a glimpse far off of Lorien [that] will never be seen on earth again save in memory.”
It is this hope, not of home as Sam left it but of home as it ought to be—a good and endless Shire—that will carry Sam across the wastes of Mordor. It is this hope that will carry them home after so much fear and failure.
On to The Great River, along which dark wings of fear close in and, far off, the wings of hope are spotted, even no no one can yet understand the promise they hold. Only two more chapters left in The Fellowship of The Ring!