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If you would like to know more about Glorfindel you have come to the right place. In this article, we will cover who is Glorfindel, how old was he, was he in the Lord of the Rings movies, why didn’t he joined the Fellowship, and much more.
Glorfindel (S. “Golden Haired”, pron. [ɡlorˈfindel]) was one of the mightiest Elves of Middle-earth in the Third Age. He was distinctive because of his return to Middle-earth after death, acting as an emissary of the Valar, on a similar mission to the Istari who were to come several thousand years later.
Glorfindel was born in Valinor sometime during the Years of the Trees. He was of the host of Turgon. Glorfindel himself was reluctant; only for his allegiance and kinship with Turgon did he go, and had no part in the Kinslaying of Alqualondë.
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After the Exile of the Noldor Glorfindel’s history is obscure. As a great follower of Turgon he was appointed chief of the House of the Golden Flower, one of the Twelve Houses of Gondolin. He was dearly loved by all the Gondolindrim, and went about in a mantle embroidered in threads of gold, diapered with celandine “as a field in spring”. His vambraces were damascened with “cunning gold”.
Two hundred years after Gondolin was wrought, Glorfindel, Ecthelion, and Egalmoth, along with the White Lady of the Ñoldor left the Hidden City due to Aredhel’s yearning for the freedom she once had in Valinor. Their orders were to lead her towards Hithlum, where she would meet her elder brother Fingon. When coming upon the Ford of Brithiach, Aredhel ordered them to turn South, for she desired to see the Sons of Fëanor. Thus Ecthelion and his companions sought admittance to Doriath, but the wardens refused them entrance inside the Girdle of Melian. Having no other choice, they took the dangerous road between the haunted valleys of Ered Gorgoroth. Near Nan Dungortheb, the Valley of Dreadful Death, the riders were caught in a mesh of shadows and they were lost from Aredhel. In vain they sought her afterward, but the fell offsprings of Ungoliant that dwelt in that place pursued them. Barely escaping alive, the three lords returned to Gondolin without the princess, where they were received in sorrow.
He followed Turgon who surprisingly came to fight in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. When the war turned against the alliance, Turgon’s and Fingon’s forces retreated to the Pass of Sirion and Glorfindel with Ecthelion guarded their flanks.
Fall of Gondolin
Glorfindel witnessed the coming of Tuor and later the Fall of Gondolin. During the ensuing battle in the streets, Glorfindel chose (or was ordered) to hold the Great Market from the advancing orcs. He attempted to flank them, taking the enemy by surprise but was himself ambushed and surrounded. Cut off, the House of the Golden Flower fought on fiercely for hours, until a fire-breathing dragon came and leveled their ranks.
Glorfindel, with some of the strongest of his followers, cut his way out, but the survivors of that battle were very few. Even then they were pursued and might have all been killed, but the House of the Harp arrived in time, after rebelling from their treacherous leader Salgant, ambushing their pursuers. The Golden Flower arrived at the Square of the King, one of the last of the Houses to be driven in.
As many of the lords had fallen, Ecthelion was wounded, Galdor was engaged, and Egalmoth had not yet arrived, Glorfindel joined Tuor in leading the defense of the King’s Square. When Egalmoth arrived, bringing with him many women and children, he took over Glorfindel’s job in going from place to place, strengthening the defenses. Glorfindel presumably threw himself once more into the thick of the fight. But even he could not prevent a dragon from coming down from the Alley of Roses, breaking through their lines.
The dragon was accompanied by orcs and balrogs, among them Gothmog. Even Tuor was thrown down, but Ecthelion sacrificed himself to kill Gothmog and buy the Gondolindrim a little more time. When the Gondolindrim fled southward, and King Turgon was slain, Glorfindel held the rear manfully, losing many more of his House in the process. After they had escaped Gondolin via Idril’s secret way and passed through the Cirith Thoronath, Glorfindel again held the rear with the largest number of the unwounded.
It was at that time that a balrog and a contingent of orcs ambushed their company. Glorfindel there accomplished his greatest deed, for he saved the lives of Tuor, Idril, and all the company when he defied the balrog. They fought long. According to The Fall of Gondolin, Glorfindel stabbed it in the belly, but as the balrog fell it reached out and grabbed his long golden hair, pulling him back down over the edge of the cliff. He perished in the fall, but his body was borne up by Thorondor and buried him with a mound of stones in the pass. On that mound grew yellow flowers (possibly celandine), despite its remote location.
Re-embodiment and Return
Glorfindel’s spirit passed to the Halls of Mandos, where he waited with the spirits of the other Noldor who had died during their war against Morgoth. But because of Glorfindel’s noble actions in life, his reluctance at the Exile, and his furthering of the purposes of the Valar by saving Tuor and Idril, he was re-embodied after only a short time. He had redeemed himself and was purged of any guilt. Not only did his sacrifice get him an early pardon, but it also earned him great powers so that he was almost an equal to the Maiar.
Eventually, Manwë sent him across the sea to Middle-earth, possibly as early as Second Age 1200, but more likely in 1600 with the Blue Wizards. If the latter date, he arrived just after the One Ring had been forged, Barad-dûr built, and Celebrimbor dead or soon to be so.
While the Blue Wizards were sent to the east, Glorfindel’s mission was to aid Gil-galad and Elrond in the struggle against Sauron. He played a prominent behind-the-scenes role in the war in Eriador and the other struggles of the Second Age and Third Age. His part, though great, was mostly overlooked by the histories, because his immense, angelic power was not usually displayed openly.
Glorfindel spent several hundred years in Valinor and for an unknown reason, near T.A. 1000, he landed with Olórin, who was on a similar mission of his own. Over time, as the few remaining great Elves of Middle-earth took ship to Aman or fell one by one, only Galadriel, Celeborn, Elrond, and Círdan were left of the Wise. Glorfindel took a more active role, leading the Elven forces in the Battle of Fornost. Upon the humiliation of Eärnur before the Witch-king, Glorfindel bade him not pursue and prophesied that the wraith would not fall by the hand of man. Not much can be said about his deeds and role in the events and struggles of the Westlands before the War of the Ring.
During the War, he was one of the elves dispatched from Rivendell by Elrond to search for the Ring-bearer. Elrond had chosen him partially because Glorfindel did not fear the Ringwraiths, as he had a great presence in both the Seen and Unseen worlds. While on his perilous mission the Ringwraiths avoided him; he met five of them, and they fled at his presence. It was Glorfindel indeed who accomplished his mission and found the Ringbearer, Frodo Baggins, and his friend Aragorn with him. Glorfindel put Frodo on his horse, Asfaloth, and upon the approach of the Ringwraiths ordered him to go on.
The white horse bore Frodo to safety across the Ford of Bruinen, but Frodo, in a rash act of attempted heroism, turned around at the other side and defied the Nine. Glorfindel, expecting the flood that protected Rivendell to come down and smite the riders, revealed his power to the Riders, and drove them (willingly or not) into the River, where they were swept away by the ensuing waters.
After this adventure, he helped bear Frodo to Rivendell, where the wounded Ringbearer was tended to. Glorfindel attended the Council of Elrond, playing an active role in the conversation, speaking prophetically of Tom Bombadil and other matters with authority. Glorfindel stood beside Elrond and Gandalf as the backbone of the Council, laying out clearly their options. At first, Glorfindel suggested that the Ring would be safe in the depths of the Sea, but the far-sighted Gandalf noted the change of landscapes and the unforeseen possibilities that could bring the Ring forth once more in a hundred or even a thousand years in the future. He was briefly considered as a member of the Fellowship of the Ring, but as his friend Gandalf said, Glorfindel’s power would be of little use against the might of Mordor, on a mission of secrecy.
During the War of the Ring, nothing is said of Glorfindel. Whatever his role, he survived and joined Elrond’s company to the Wedding of Elessar. After that no more is said of him. Like Olórin, his task in Middle-earth was done, and the age of the Elves was over. He probably passed West, perhaps with the bearers of the Three Rings and the One Ring. Or he may have remained for a time in Middle-earth to oversee the clean up after the war.
Glorfindel vs. Balrog
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Glorfindel was great Noldor warriors whose inherent “power” was close to that of a Maiar spirit. This would allow him to actually stand a chance at fighting a Balrog.
Additionally, it is important to note that Glorfindel didn’t actually “slew” the Balrog he fought. Instead, he used his surroundings to kill the Balrog, sacrificing himself in the process. Glorfindel did this by hurling the Balrog off of a mountain peak.
Despite its apparent invulnerability to mundane attacks, it seems that the Balrog was not immune to drowning or being crushed by a long fall.
Why wasn’t Glorfindel included in the Fellowship?
Glorfindel was too powerful. He had lived in Valinor in the time of the Two Trees, had killed a balrog (and been killed by it) and then was resurrected and returned to Middle Earth.
As such, he existed (was visible) in both the unseen and seen worlds.
A being of his power would stick out like a sore thumb to Sauron and the Nazgul. The fellowship was all about stealth and surprise. Glorfindel would be a net negative for this.
“Even if you chose for us an elf-lord, such as Glorfindel, he could not storm the Dark Tower, nor open the road to the Fire by the power that is in him.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, book 2, chapter 3: “The Ring Goes South”
Elrond understood that even the most powerful of them could not accomplish the task through power alone. He tells the Council of Elrond
‘The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.’
The Lord of the Rings Book Two, Chapter 2: The Council of Elrond
Page 269 (Single volume 50th Anniversary Edition)
Why didn’t Peter Jackson include Glorfindel in his Lord of the Rings film trilogy?
Ok, this answer is only some conclusions that I found around the forums, but I mostly agree with them.
“Because Glorfindel is underwritten, unimportant and overpowered for the story of The Lord Of The Rings.
In the book, he only comes out to get the Hobbits. That’s his only role. In movies, you want to keep the number of characters small. If several characters are unimportant for the plot then you fuse them into one, instead of splitting them. For that reason, he was replaced by Arwen in the Peter Jackson trilogy and in the Ralph Bakshi version he was replaced by Legolas.
He is unimportant because that’s his only role. That’s why you replace his role with that of another character. He is underwritten in the sense that we never get any depth to the character.
He is overpowered because that elf killed a Balrog. A Balrog. On his own.
Given the role Glorfindel plays in the plot, it is only logical to replace him with Arwen or Legolas.
There is no room in the movie version of Fellowship to explain the power of Glorfindel, and if you do, how do you explain to a modern audience (think of every question you see here that starts with, “Who would win…”) who thinks D&D defines fantasy and magic, why this badass does not go on the quest.”