Galadriel was the greatest of the Noldor, except Fëanor maybe, though she was wiser than he, and her wisdom increased with the long years.
Born in Valinor during the Time of The Two Trees (1) to Finarfin and Eärwen, the last of five children and only daughter, she was named Artanis, (noblewoman) by her father. The name Galadriel, meaning radiant garland in reference to her hair, was given to her by her lover and eventual husband, Celeborn after she came to Doriath in Middle-Earth.
Her mother name was Nerwen (Man-maiden), and she grew to be tall beyond the measure even of the women of the Noldor (2); she was strong of body, mind, and will, a match for both the loremasters and athletes of the Eldar in the days of their youth. Even among the Eldar she was accounted beautiful, and her hair was held to be a marvel unmatched. It was golden like the hair of her father and foremother Indis, but richer and more radiant, for its gold was touched by some memory of the starlike silver of her mother; and the Eldar said that the light of the Two Trees, Laurelin and Telperion, had been snared in her tresses. Many thought that this saying first gave Fëanor the thought of imprisoning and blending the light of the Trees that later took shape in his hands as the Silmarils. For Fëanor beheld the hair of Galadriel with wonder and delight. He begged three times for a tress, but Galadriel would not give him even one. These two kinsfolk, the greatest of the Eldar of Valinor, were unfriends for ever.
From her earliest years, she had a marvelous gift of insight into the minds of others, but judged them with mercy and understanding, and she withheld her goodwill from none save only Fëanor.
During her time in Valinor, Galadriel was a pupil of Aulë and Yavanna, where she learned much craft and lore.
She joined in the revolt of the Noldor, and once she set foot upon that road of exile, she would not relent, but rejected the last message of the Valar and came under the Doom of Mandos. She did indeed wish to depart from Valinor and go into the wide world of Middle-Earth for the exercise of her talents; for being brilliant of mind and swift of action, she had early absorbed all of what she was capable of the teaching which the Valar thought fit to give the Eldar; and she felt confined in the tutelage of Aman.
Even after the merciless assault upon the Teleri and the rape of their ships, though she fought fiercely against Fëanor in defense of her mother’s kin, she did not turn back. Her pride was unwilling to return, a defeated supplicant for pardon; but now she burned with a desire to follow Fëanor with her anger to whatever lands he might come, and to thwart him in all ways she could. Pride still moved her when, at the end of the Eldar days after the final overthrow of Morgoth, she refused the pardon of the Valar for all who had fought against him and remained in Middle-Earth. It was not until two long ages more had passed, when all she had desired in her youth came to her hand, the Ring of Power and dominion of Middle-Earth of which she had dreamed, that her wisdom was full grown and she rejected it, and passing the last test departed from Middle-Earth forever.
In the flight of the Noldor, Fëanor and his house took the ships of Alqualondë and crossed the sea to Middle Earth. Rather than send them back for the rest of the Noldor to use in their crossings, he betrayed his kin and burned the ships after his crossing. This left the remaining Noldor with the choice of returning defeated to Valinor to beg the forgiveness of the Valar or to cross the grinding ice hills of the Helcaraxë. The fire in their hearts was young, and led by Fingolfin and his sons, and by Finrod and Galadriel, they dared to pass into the bitterest north; and finding no other way they endured at last the terror of the Helcaraxë and the cruel hills of ice. Few of the deeds of the Noldor thereafter surpassed that desperate crossing in hardihood or woe.
In Middle-Earth she was welcome in Doriath, because her mother Eärwen, daughter of Olwë was Telerin and the niece of King Thingol, and because the people of Finarfin had no part in the Kinslaying of Alqualondë; and she became a friend of Melian, a Maia of Yavanna, wife to Thingol and Queen of Doriath. In Doriath she met Celeborn, grandson of Elmo the brother of Thingol. Great love grew between them and they were wedded.
The First Age saw Galadriel lose her entire family to the incessant wars with Morgoth, all four of her brothers, her only niece, her uncle Fingolfin and all his children. Her only remaining kin were her parents in Valinor. After Morgoth slew her Grandfather, Finwë, the King of the Noldor, her father became the ruler of her people. She was a witness or related to many of the great tragedies of the age, including the slaying of Thingol, her great Uncle, the death of Lúthien his daughter and the sack of Doriath, with the slaying of Dior, Nimloth and their twin sons, Eluréd and Elurín.
For the love of Celeborn, who would not leave Middle-Earth (and probably with some pride of her own, for she had been one of those eager to adventure there), she did not go West at the Downfall of Melkor, but crossed Ered Lindon with Celeborn and came into Eriador. (3) When they entered that region there were many Noldor in their following, together with Grey-Elves and Green-Elves; and for a while they dwelt in the country about Lake Nenuial (Evendom, north of the Shire). Celeborn and Galadriel came to be regarded as Lord and Lady of the Eldar in Eriador, including the wandering companies of Nandorin origin who had never passed west over Ered Lindon and come down into Ossiriand. During their sojourn near Nenuial was born, at some time between the years 350 and 400, their son Amroth. (4)
The time and place of Celebrían’s birth, whether here or later in Eregion, or even later in Lórien, is not made definite.
Eventually Galadriel became aware that Sauron again, as in the ancient days of the captivity of Melkor, had been left behind. Or rather, since Sauron had as yet no single name, and his operations had not been perceived to proceed from a single evil spirit, prime servant of Melkor, she perceived that there was an evil controlling purpose abroad in the world, and that it seemed to proceed from a source further to the East, beyond Eriador and the Misty Mountains.
Celeborn and Galadriel therefore went eastwards, about the year 700 of the Second age and established the primarily (But by no means solely) Noldorin realm of Eregion. It may be that Galadriel chose it because she knew of the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm (Moria). Celeborn had no liking for Dwarves of any race (as he showed to Gimli in Lothlórien), and never forgave them for their part in the destruction of Doriath. Galadriel was more far sighted in this than Celeborn; and she perceived from the beginning that Middle-Earth could not be saved from the residue of evil that Morgoth had left behind him save by a union who were in their way and in their measure opposed to him. She looked upon the
Dwarves also with the eye of a commander, seeing in them the finest warriors to pit against the Orcs. Galadriel was a Noldo, and she had a natural sympathy with their minds and their passionate love of crafts of the hand, a sympathy much greater than that found among many of the Eldar: The Dwarves were ‘the Children of Aulë’, and Galadriel, Like others of the Noldor, had been a pupil of Aulë and Yavanna in Valinor.
Galadriel and Celeborn had in their company a Noldorin craftsman named Celebrimbor. Celebrimbor had ‘an almost “dwarvish” obsession with crafts’; and he soon became the chief artificer of Eregion, entering into a close relationship with the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm, among whom his greatest friend was Narvi. Both Elves and Dwarves had great profit from this association: so that Eregion became far stronger and Khazad-dûm became far more beautiful, than either would have done alone.
The chief city of Eregion, Ost-in-Edhil, was founded in about 750 of the Second age. The growing power of Eregion and Khazad-dûm, combined with the increasing strength of the Númenóreans in Lindon, and their friendship with Gil-galad and their landings in Harad caused Sauron worry and about the year 1000 he took for himself the land later to be called Mordor as his stronghold against the increasing strength of Númenor. There he stayed and built his strength until around the year 1200 of the Second Age, when Sauron himself came to Eriador wearing the fairest form he could contrive.
During this time, the power of Galadriel and Celeborn had grown and Galadriel assisted by her friendship with the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm had come into contact with the Nandorin realm of Lórinand (5) on the western side of the Misty Mountains. This was peopled by those Elves who forsook the Great Journey of the Eldar from Cuiviénen and settled in the woods of the Vale of Anduin, and it extended into the forests on both sides of the great river, including the region where afterwards was Dol Guldur. These Elves had no princes or rulers, and led their lives free of care while all of Morgoth’s power was concentrated in the North-west of Middle-Earth; but many Sindar and Noldor came to dwell among them and their “Sindarizing” under the impact of Beleriandic culture began.
In Lórinand under the influence of Galadriel and in Lindon ruled by Gil-galad, Sauron’s attempts to befriend the elves were rebuffed. He had better fortune with the Noldor of Eregion and especially Celebrimbor, who desired in his heart to rival the skill and fame of Fëanor, his grandfather. In Eregion, Sauron posed as an emissary of the Valar, sent there to give aid to the Elves, calling himself Annatar, Lord of Gifts. He perceived at once that Galadriel would be his chief adversary and obstacle, and he endeavored therefore to placate her, enduring her scorn with outward patience and courtesy. The Elven smiths of the brotherhood of the Gwaith-I-Mírdain hearkened to Annatar, and they learned many things, for his knowledge was great. In these days the Elves of Ost-in-Edhil surpassed all that they had contrived before; and they took thought, and they made rings of power. But Sauron guided their labours and he was aware of everything they did; for his desire was to set a bond upon the Elves and to bring them under his vigilance. So great became his hold on the Mírdain that at length he persuaded them to revolt against Galadriel and Celeborn and to seize power in Eregion; and that was at some time between 1350 and 1400 of the Second Age. Galadriel thereupon left Eregion and passed through Khazad-dûm to Lórinand, taking with her Amroth and Celebrían; but Celeborn would not enter the mansions of the Dwarves, and he remained behind in Eregion, disregarded by Celebrimbor. In Lórinand Galadriel took up rule, and defense against Sauron.
Now the Elves made rings; but secretly Sauron made the One Ring to rule all others, and their power was bound up with it, to be subject wholly to it, and to last only as long as it should last. Much of the strength and will of Sauron passed into that One Ring; for the power of the Elven-rings was very great, and that which would govern them must be a thing of surpassing potency; and Sauron forged it in the Mountain of Fire in the Land of Shadow. And while he wore the One Ring he could perceive all things done by the lesser rings, and govern the very thoughts of those that wore them.
But the Elves were not so easily caught. As soon as Sauron put the One Ring on his finger they were aware of him; and they knew him, and perceived that he would master them, and all that they wrought. Then in anger and fear they took off their rings. But he, finding that he was betrayed and that the Elves were not deceived, was filled with wrath; and he came against them in open war, demanding that the rings should be delivered to him, since the Elven-smiths could not have attained to their making without his lore and council. But the Elves fled from him; and three of their rings they saved, and bore them away and hid them.
Now Celebrimbor was not corrupted in heart or faith, but had accepted Sauron as what he posed to be; and when at length he discovered the existence of the One Ring he revolted against Sauron, and went to Lórinand to take council again with Galadriel. They should have destroyed all the Rings of Power at this time, ‘but they failed to find the strength’. Galadriel counseled him that the Three Rings of the Elves should be hidden, never used, and dispersed, far from Eregion where Sauron believed them to be. It was at this time that she received Nenya, the White Ring, from Celebrimbor, and by its power the realm of Lórinand was strengthened and made beautiful; but its power upon her was great also and unforeseen, for it increased her latent desire for the Sea and for return to the West; so that her joy in Middle-Earth was diminished. Celebrimbor followed her counsel that the Ring of Air and Ring of Fire should be sent out of Eregion; and he entrusted them to Gil-galad in Lindon.
When Sauron learned of the repentance and revolt of Celebrimbor his disguise fell and his wrath revealed; and gathering great force he moved over Calenardhon (Rohan) to the invasion of Eriador in the year 1695. Six years of war followed which ended when Númenor landed a large force in the west of Middle-Earth and attacked Sauron from the rear and utterly defeated him. After that, the Elven stronghold of Imladris was founded under the leadership of Elrond, to whom Gil-galad gave Vilya, the Blue Ring, and appointed him his vice-regent in Eriador.
With the passing years, the sea longing grew so strong in Galadriel (though she deemed it her duty to remain in Middle-Earth while Sauron was still unconquered) she determined to leave Lórinand and to dwell near the sea. She committed Lórinand to Amroth, and passing again through Khazad-dûm with Celebrían she came to Imladris, seeking Celeborn. There she found him and they dwelt there for a long time; and it was then that Elrond first saw Celebrían and loved her, thought he said nothing of it. It was while Galadriel was at Imladris that the first White Counsel was held. At some later date, Galadriel and Celeborn along with Celebrían departed Imladris and went to the little inhabited lands between the mouth of the Gwathló and Ethir Anduin. There they dwelt in Belfalas, at a place that was later afterwards called Dol Amroth; there Amroth their son at times visited them, and their company was swelled by Nandorin Elves from Lórinand.
During the Third Age Galadriel became filled with foreboding, and with Celeborn she journeyed to Lórien and stayed there long with Amroth, being especially concerned to learn all the news and rumors of the growing shadow in Mirkwood and the dark stronghold of Dol Guldur. But his people were content with Amroth; he was valiant and wise, and his little kingdom was yet prosperous and beautiful. Therefore after long journeys of enquiry in Rhovanion, from Gondor and the borders of Mordor to Thranduil in the north, Celeborn and Galadriel passed over the mountains to Imladris, and dwelt there for many years; for Elrond was their kinsman, since early in the Third Age he had wedded their daughter Celebrían.
It was not until far into the Third Age, when Amroth was lost and Lórinand was in peril, that Galadriel returned there, in the year 1981. After the disasters of 1980 in the Third Age, the coming of the Witch King to Mordor with the Nazgûl, the Balrog slaying Durin VI in Khazad-dûm, and the sorrows of Lórien over the loss of their king, Amroth, (6) Celeborn and Galadriel returned to Lórien and were welcomed by the people. There they dwelt while the Third Age lasted, but they took no title of King and Queen; for they said that they were only guardians of this small but fair realm, the last eastward outpost of the Elves.
In 2463 of the Third Age the White Council, named after the council of the previous age, is formed at Galadriel’s urging. Her plan was for Gandalf to be its leader, but Saruman insists that he as chief of the Istari should be its leader. The council consists of Saruman, Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond and Radagast. Its purpose is to coordinate the opposition to Sauron.
In 2509 of the Third Age Galadriel’s daughter Celebrían is waylaid by Orcs in Redhorn Pass while travelling to Lórien, is captured and held in torment until rescued by a party led by her twin sons Elladan and Elrohir. She is healed in body, but not in spirit and departs West in 2510.
In 2980 of the Third Age Aragorn, Chieftain of the Dúnedain, enters Lórien and stays for a season during which time he is betrothed to marry Galadriel’s granddaughter Arwen Undómiel, Lady of Imladris.
In 3019 of the Third Age, the Fellowship of The Ring comes to Lórien after the disastrous passage of Moria (Khazad-dûm) where Gandalf the Grey fell in combat with the Balrog of Moria. They rest and are refitted and after receiving council from both Galadriel and Celeborn continue on their quest. Galadriel gives the Elessar to Aragorn on the day of their departure.(7)
The day after the Fellowship leaves Lórien, Gwaihir bears the reborn Gandalf the White to Lórien.
In March of that year, Lórien is assaulted three times by the forces of Dol Guldur before Celeborn led the host of Lórien across the Anduin in boats and took Dol Guldur. Afterwards Galadriel threw down its walls and laid bare its pits, and the forest was cleansed. Celeborn then drove north into Mirkwood with his force until the day of The New Year when he met Thranduil, King of the Wood Elves in its midst. They renamed the forest Eryn Lasgalen, the Wood of Greenleaves. The forest south of the narrows was annexed to Lórien and named East Lórien.
On Mid Summer’s Day, Galadriel and Celeborn attend the wedding of Elessar (formerly Aragorn), King of the Reunited Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor and their granddaughter Arwen Undómiel, in Gondor.
In 3021 of The Third Age, Galadriel traveled to Mithlond, the Grey Havens, and sailed West with the other Ringbearers, save Samwise Gamgee, marking an end to the Third Age of Middle-Earth.
1) Born in Eldamar, Year of the Trees 1362. The Two Trees were killed in their 1495th year and the first age began with the lighting on the Sun and Moon in the 1500th year of the Trees. One year of the trees was either 9.582 or exactly 10 Sun Years, which means Galadriel’s Age at the Flight of the Noldor was 133 Tree Years or either 1274 or 1330 Sun Years, and her age in Third Age 3020, The Great War of the Ring, was either 8,424 or 8,366 Sun Years. (The length of a Tree Year is one of many places where Tolkien had more than one version.) Thanks to Nath Kuiipers for the dates. From HoME.
2) Galadriel, ‘the tallest of all the women of the Eldar of whom tales tell’, was said to be man-high, but it is noted according to the measure of the Dúnedain and the men of old. The term ‘man-high’ was of Númenórean origin, meaning two rangar. A ranga was the standard marching pace of a Númenórean soldier, set at 38 of our inches, making man-high a height of 6’ 4” or 1.93M. From Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth; The Disaster of Gladden Fields, Appendix Númenórean Linear Measures.
3) This conflicts with the account given by Galadriel in Fellowship of The Ring, The Mirror of Galadriel; “"For the Lord of the Galadhrim ... has dwelt in the West since the days of dawn, and I have dwelt with him years uncounted; for ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin I passed over the mountains, and together through ages of the world we have fought the long defeat." Which would indicate they left before the year 495 of the First Age.
4) There are two accounts of Amroth’s origins. The one given in the narrative above, and an alternate history where he is the son of Amdír, a Sindarin prince. Both versions from Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth, History of Galadriel and Celeborn.
5) Lórinand is an earlier name for the land, which in the time of The Great War of the Ring was called Lórien. It was the only place in Middle-Earth where the Mallorn tree grew. The trees were a gift of the Eldar to Númenor, and then from Númenor’s sixth king, Tar-Aldarion, to Gil-galad. The trees did not thrive in the clime of Lindon, but Gil-galad gave some of the seeds to his kinswoman Galadriel and under her power they grew and thrived in Lórinand. Lórinand is a conjunction of the Sindarin words for Golden Light and Valley of Gold. The later name Lórien is the name the healing gardens of the Vala Irmo, and it is thought the name was adapted by Galadriel as she attempted to make her realm a similar refuge and an island of peace and beauty, a memorial of ancient days. Condensed from Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth, History of Galadriel and Celeborn
6) Amroth was in love with the Silvan Elf-maiden Nimrodel, and she loved him, but would not wed him because she resented the Noldor for bringing war and destroying the peace of her land. She told him they would wed only after he brought her to a land of peace. They traveled south together seeking the Elf-haven in the South of Gondor. They became separated during this journey and Amroth sought after her in vain. Eventually he made his way to the haven and found that only a few remained. They were in the process of packing their belongings onto the last ship and were going to sail West soon. They welcomed him to accompany them, but were unwilling to wait for Nimrodel beyond the favorable sailing weather of autumn. The Elves were at that time living onboard the ship for their dwellings had been stripped to outfit the ship as they were the last to leave. One night a great storm caused the ship to break its moorings and be pulled far out into the bay. When day came and Amroth saw they were far out to sea, he cried out Nimrodel in despair and leapt overboard and began to swim to shore. The Elves watched him swim for many hours before he disappeared from their sight. No eyes of Men or Elves ever beheld him again, and what befell Nimrodel is unwritten. Condensed from Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth, History of Galadriel and Celeborn, Amroth and Nimrodel.
7) The Elessar was a green healing gem made by a Gondolin jewel-smith named Enerdhil. The touch of the hand of one who held it brought healing to all that was hurt. Idril wore it upon her breast and so it was saved from the sack of Gondolin. Before she departed West, she gave it to her son Eärendil. He used it to heal those in Sirions’ Haven before he sought the West, and much was healed by its power. It returns to the story and again there are two versions of how. Either Gandalf brought the one made by Enerdhil to Galadriel as a gift from Yavanna, or in a second version, it had been made by Celebrimbor in Gondolin and he later made a new one for Galadriel at her request. Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth, History of Galadriel and Celeborn, The Elessar.