After the foregoing posts, I was going to leave the chapter of many meetings behind forever, and press ahead to the chapter of many speakings.  But after speaking of so many other meetings, could I pass over our first sight of Arwen Undómiel in silence?  It would falsify every effect that Tolkien says she is supposed to have on us, and would embarrass the praises of the Elven troubadours.  So here is my panegyric upon Arwen, and the last one I shall make on the present chapter.

Tolkien says almost nothing about her.  Tolkien, in fact, does not let us near her.  The two times that Frodo sees her, he notices her from practically the other end of the room, and he neither speaks to her nor hears her voice.  This continues to be the case even in The Return of the King, when Arwen is queened in Gondor.  The only time that Frodo (and therefore the reader) draws near to Arwen is when that doughty Hobbit takes his last farewell before returning to the Shire.  The first and only words we hear from Arwen’s lips are those in which she surrenders her passage over the Sea to Frodo, and gives him the white crystal to ward off evil.  Beyond this, if we desire any further acquaintance with her, we must look to “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen” in the appendix.

Without that appendix, even the glorious wedding of Arwen to Aragorn comes as nothing more than a curious surprise to the reader.  The love of Arwen and Aragorn is a hidden thing in the Tale of the Ring—hidden as Arwen herself was hidden for many an age in Lothlórien, and as she still continues to be hidden in the sense of being kept more or less at a distance from the reader.  She is there and ever present in Aragorn’s thoughts, as the reader recognizes the second time through; but she is far removed, like the star after which she is named.

Like the star, Arwen’s colours are grey and silver.  She would be an excellent subject for black-and-white photography.  Her eyes are grey, her hair is dark, and her skin is flawless white.  When Frodo sees her first, she is clad in grey with silver lace in her hair; and when he sees her last, she is once again in the same colours.  There could be no greater contrast to the other women in the book.  Eowyn, Galadriel, even Goldberry have golden hair and flourish in rich earthy colours, especially of green.  The Evenstar’s colours are grey and silver because they are less terrestrial and more celestial.  The other heroines are of the day; she is of the twilight.  And Tolkien intends it to be so.

Perhaps another post would provide more space for speculations on why Tolkien removes this heroine so far from the reader, why she is presented as the woman who waits and glimmers—like the stars wait and glimmer in the sky—and not the woman who rides to war or weaves enchantments or holds her washing-day in the rain.

For the moment, however, I wish to conclude these reflections by referring this celestial heroine to another heroine whose name enters only briefly into the Tale of the Ring (and almost always in connection with Arwen).  From the beginning, Tolkien forges a link between Arwen and Lúthien Tinúviel.  Frodo knows right away that of Arwen “it was said that the likeness of Lúthien had come on earth again”; and before the end of Frodo’s first feast in her presence, we have already received the hint that she will share not only in the likeness of Lúthien but in her doom.  Frodo receives a visual clue (and a very rare one at that) near the end of the evening, when he sees Aragorn standing beside Arwen and speaking with her—Aragorn appearing no more in the guise of a Ranger but in Elven-mail, with a star on his breast.

This briefest glimpse of the twain together is the first time that Tolkien the narrator calls Aragorn directly by his proper name.  In place of the pejorative “Strider,” the true name of Aragorn becomes predominant from this point onward through the rest of the tale.  Arwen herself will vanish like a star in the daylight; but like a star, she will continue to exert subtle influences discernible to those who know to look for them.

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