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Appears in:

The Silmarillion. Fellowship of the Ring


While writing Lord of the Rings, Tolkien sometimes used names of characters from his earlier stories (some of these stories became part of The Silmarillion). Most of these names were changed later on but one which unintentionally remained the same was Glorfindel, a name which means golden haired.

In the Silmarillion, Glorfindel was a great elf in the hidden city of Gondolin which was later attacked by the armies of Morgoth. When a group of elves were escaping from the city they were attacked in the pass of Cirith Thoronath by a balrog. Glorfindel fought with the balrog and killed it but he also died in the battle.

In the Fellowship of the Rings, when Frodo and his group were approaching Rivendell, they were met and helped by an elf named Glorfindel. He placed Frodo (who was injured) on his horse Asfaloth. Asfaloth was faster than the horses of the Nazgul and was able to outrun them. Since Glorfindel was one of the Noldor elves who had in ancient times lived in Valinor, he didn't fear the formerly human ring wraiths. In fact it appeared that they were afraid of him.

The appendices to Lord of the Rings describe the Battle of Fornost hundreds of years earlier when the Witchking of Angmar (leader of the Nazgul) and his army were defeated by Glorfindel and his army. As the Witchking escaped the battle, Glorfindel foretold that the Witchking would not fall by the hand of man. This was fulfilled when the Witchking was defeated by Eowyn, a woman of Rohan with the aid of Meriadoc Brandybuck, a halfling of the Shire.

Were these two Glorfindels the same elf? According to Tolkien they were. After Glorfindel had died and gone to the halls of Mandos, he was released and returned to Middle Earth in the second age. The reason for this is not clear but perhaps it was part of an errand for the Valar, similar to the way the Istari were sent by the Valar to aid against Sauron. This explanation came late in Tolkien's life as a way of accounting for having two characters with the same name and has caused a lot of debate between fans of his work.

Glorfindel was a Noldor elf who had golden hair rather than the dark hair which was more common among the noldor. This may indicate that he was related to Galadriel, who's golden hair made her kin unique among the noldor.

In the Peter Jackson film adaptation of Fellowship of the Rings, the character of Glorfindel was removed and his role in aiding the hobits was instead filled by Arwen, daughter of Elrond.

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