Tolkien’s universe has a lot of mysteries and while some of them are unclear, there are some that are solved but need further clarification. In this article, we are going to be explaining a very cryptic sentence, uttered by Galadriel in The Fellowship of the Ring; after refusing the One Ring Galadriel said: “I Pass the Test.” What did she mean by that?
When she said “I Pass the Test”, Galadriel meant that she successfully resisted the One Ring’s seductive powers and that she was able to pass the test that the One Ring put before her. Had she not refused it, the whole plan would have probably failed and Sauron would have succeeded in his plans.
The rest of the article is going to be dedicated to Lady Galadriel and her temptation to take the One Ring from Frodo. After refusing it, she said that she passed the test, which is one of the most iconic quotes from the whole franchise. In this article, we are going to give you the context of that quote and its meaning, so stick with us until the very end. So what is the meaning of Galadriel’s “I pass the Test” quote? What test did Galadriel pass?
Why did Galadriel say “I Pass the Test”?
A very important moment in The Fellowship of the Ring happened when young Frodo Baggins offered Lady Galadriel the One Ring. He offered it to her because he thought she would be a good guardian (or keeper) and offered her the One Ring. This happened after Frodo looked at a possible future of his in the Mirror of Galadriel. So, did she accept? Let us see what Tolkien wrote about that:
“‘I will look,’ said Frodo, and he climbed on the pedestal and bent over the dark water. At once the Mirror cleared and he saw a twilit land. Mountains loomed dark in the distance against a pale sky. A long grey road wound back out of sight. Far away a figure came slowly down the road, faint and small at first, but growing larger and clearer as it approached. Suddenly Frodo realized that it reminded him of Gandalf. He almost called aloud the wizard’s name, and then he saw that the figure was clothed not in grey but in white, in a white that shone faintly in the dusk; and in its hand there was a white staff. The head was so bowed that he could see no face, and presently the figure turned aside round a bend in the road and went out of the Mirror’s view. Doubt came into Frodo’s mind: was this a vision of Gandalf on one of his many lonely journeys long ago, or was it Saruman?
The vision now changed. Brief and small but very vivid he caught a glimpse of Bilbo walking restlessly about his room. The table was littered with disordered papers; rain was beating on the windows.
Then there was a pause, and after it many swift scenes followed that Frodo in some way knew to be parts of a great history in which he had become involved. The mist cleared and he saw a sight which he had never seen before but knew at once: the Sea. Darkness fell. The sea rose and raged in a great storm. Then he saw against the Sun, sinking blood-red into a wrack of clouds, the black outline of a tall ship with torn sails riding up out of the West. Then a wide river flowing through a populous city. Then a white fortress with seven towers. And then again a ship with black sails, but now it was morning again, and the water rippled with light, and a banner bearing the emblem of a white tree shone in the sun. A smoke as of fire and battle arose, and again the sun went down in a burning red that faded into a grey mist; and into the mist a small ship passed away, twinkling with lights. It vanished, and Frodo sighed and prepared to draw away.
But suddenly the Mirror went altogether dark, as dark as if a hole had opened in the world of sight, and Frodo looked into emptiness. In the black abyss there appeared a single Eye that slowly grew. until it filled nearly all the Mirror. So terrible was it that Frodo stood rooted, unable to cry out or to withdraw his gaze. The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.
Then the Eye began to rove, searching this way and that; and Frodo knew with certainty and horror that among the many things that it sought he himself was one. But he also knew that it could not see him-not yet, not unless he willed it. The Ring that hung upon its chain about his neck grew heavy, heavier than a great stone, and his head was dragged downwards. The Mirror seemed to be growing hot and curls of steam were rising from the water. He was slipping forward.
‘Do not touch the water!’ said the Lady Galadriel softly. The vision faded, and Frodo found that he was looking at the cool stars twinkling in the silver basin. He stepped back shaking all over and looked at the Lady.
‘I know what it was that you last saw,’ she said; ‘for that is also in my mind. Do not be afraid! But do not think that only by singing amid the trees, nor even by the slender arrows of elven-bows, is this land of Lothlorien maintained and defended against its Enemy. I say to you, Frodo, that even as I speak to you, I perceive the Dark Lord and know his mind, or all of his mind that concerns the Elves. And he gropes ever to see me and my thought. But still the door is closed!’
She lifted up her white arms, and spread out her hands towards the East in a gesture of rejection and denial. Earendil, the Evening Star, most beloved of the Elves, shone clear above. So bright was it that the figure of the Elven-lady cast a dim shadow on the ground. Its rays glanced upon a ring about her finger; it glittered like polished gold overlaid with silver light, and a white stone in it twinkled as if the Even-star had come down to rest upon her hand. Frodo gazed at the ring with awe; for suddenly it seemed to him that he understood.
‘Yes,’ she said, divining his thought, ‘it is not permitted to speak of it, and Elrond could not do so. But it cannot be hidden from the Ring-bearer, and one who has seen the Eye. Verily it is in the land of Lorien upon the finger of Galadriel that one of the Three remains. This is Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, and I am its keeper.
‘He suspects, but he does not know, not yet. Do you not see now wherefore your coming is to us as the footstep of Doom? For if you fail, then we are laid bare to the Enemy. Yet if you succeed, then our power is diminished, and Lothlorien will fade, and the tides of Time will sweep it away. We must depart into the West, or dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten.’
Frodo bent his head. ‘And what do you wish?’ he said at last.
‘That what should be shall be,’ she answered. ‘The love of the Elves for their land and their works is deeper than the deeps of the Sea, and their regret is undying and cannot ever wholly be assuaged. Yet they will cast all away rather than submit to Sauron: for they know him now. For the fate of Lothlorien you are not answerable but only for the doing of your own task. Yet I could wish, were it of any avail, that the One Ring had never been wrought, or had remained for ever lost.’
‘You are wise and fearless and fair, Lady Galadriel,’ said Frodo. ‘I will give you the One Ring, if you ask for it. It is too great a matter for me.’
Galadriel laughed with a sudden clear laugh. ‘Wise the Lady Galadriel may be,’ she said, ‘yet here she has met her match in courtesy. Gently are you revenged for my testing of your heart at our first meeting. You begin to see with a keen eye. I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired to ask what you offer. For many long years I had pondered what I might do, should the Great Ring come into my hands, and behold! it was brought within my grasp. The evil that was devised long ago works on in many ways, whether Sauron himself stands or falls. Would not that have been a noble deed to set to the credit of his Ring, if I had taken it by force or fear from my guest?
‘And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!’
She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.’
They stood for a long while in silence. At length the Lady spoke again. ‘Let us return!’ she said. ‘In the morning you must depart for now we have chosen, and the tides of fate are flowing.’– The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter VII, “The Mirror of Galadriel”
As you can see, Galadriel was faced with a vision of her evil self, of a self corrupted by the One Ring’s powers. She would become a queen, but an evil, tyrannical queen that would be feared much more than respected. At that point, she came back to reality and refused Frodo’s offer, stating: “I Pass the Test.” The sections that follow are going to explain the meaning of that quote, but before we continue, have a look at how the scene was adapted in Peter Jackson’s movie:
What test was Galardiel referring to?
Galadriel was referring to both the test of the One Ring and the test of her own maturity. Galadriel was in a very sticky situation, let us be honest. Namely, the main reason she returned from Valinor was that she wanted to rule over her own kingdom. She was not evil, but she wanted power. This is why the One Ring was so dangerous for her, as she could’ve very easily fallen under its mesmerizing powers. Galadriel thought about this and, as Tolkien states in Letter 246, it was a decision well-made:
“In the ‘Mirror of Galadriel’, it appears that Galadriel conceived of herself as capable of wielding the Ring and supplanting the Dark Lord. If so, so also were the other guardians of the Three, especially Elrond. But this is another matter. It was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with imaginations of supreme power. But this the Great had well considered and had rejected, as is seen in Elrond’s words at the Council. Galadriel’s rejection of the temptation was founded upon previous thought and resolve.”– Tolkien, Letter 246
Frodo’s offer was sincere. He did not want to test Galadriel nor was it a move by the One Ring itself. He trusted the Elf maiden and he thought that she was a good person to entrust the Ring to. Galadriel was tempted, but observing the Evil Galadriel and the viciousness of that persona, she refused it. For her, it was certainly not an easy decision, as the power the Ring might have given her was enormous. So, her test was both a test of her ability to resist the One Ring and her ability to surpass herself and her own desires.
What did Galadriel mean by “I Pass the Test”?
When Galadriel finally uttered the phrase from the title, she meant that she actually passed two tests. First was the test of resistance to the One Ring’s powers. Namely, Galadriel was – like many other characters – tempted by the Ring, since it was so enormously powerful. In that aspect, the Ring wanted her to take it because that would mean the failure of Frodo’s mission; although Frodo did not offer her the Ring as a test, he was very sincere in his intentions. Despite the powers of the Ring, Galadriel managed to resist it and refuse it. This also meant that she passed her own test of maturity and that she managed to surpass her own character and her own desires, which were quite strong and very suitable for the One Ring. By managing to refuse Frodo’s offer, she has proven herself mature and worthy of the respect she had.