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Elf Magic
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A Longwinded Explanation

Vino Veritas


The White Ship, driven by a fair quartering breeze, was making good way on its second evening at sea. The ring bearers were standing by the side rail, talking of this and that, admiring the moonlight shimmering upon the water.

Frodo took a drink from the bottle of red wine, passed it on to his friend the old wizard, and asked, “One thing I never got around to asking you. Just how is it that a small thing like a ring can have so much power in it?”

A sudden hush came over the group. It was as if someone had opened a door to a forbidden room.

“Such questions should not be asked,” Elrond said.

“Nor answered, “Gandalf added.

“But you promised,” Frodo continued. “You told me that some day, when you were less busy; you would answer all my questions. You are not doing much now, and it is the question that is most on my mind.”

“I think he meant all questions anyone should know the answer to,” Elrond said.

“No the lad is correct,” Gandalf said. “I did promise, but the thing is, no one person knows the whole lore of the Rings, and the secret of their function was only ever known to Celebrimbor and Sauron, and now they have passed. Saruman never discovered the secret to their function, despite centuries of study.”

“There you see,” Elrond said, “The knowledge is lost, and none can now answer your question.”

“Oh you two,” Galadriel laughed. “You think that if you do not know something, it is unknowable, or better yet, should not be known at all. What typical arrogance.”

This drew looks of puzzled irritation from Gandalf and Elrond.

“Let me ask this,” she continued. “Who made my mirror? How does it work?”

“It was made by the smiths of the Blessed Realm, and uses unknown magic,” Elrond answered.

Galadriel smiled, like a teacher dealing with a dense student, “So tell me, dear Son in Law, lore master that you are, which ancient text did you read that in?”

“Ah, I never did find any reference to its origin,” he answered.

“And Olórin, did you ever hear of such a device while you lived in the Valinor?”

“Mmmm”, Gandalf answered.

“Could it be that it is not from the Blessed Realm?” Galadriel continued. “If it had been, I would have had to carry it on my back across the Helcaraxë. We were in such dire straits there, that we would have used it for cooking or abandoned it as useless. It was not made in Valinor. Either of you want to guess where it came from?”

The silence from her audience indicated that no one had the correct answer.

Hand me the bottle,” Galadriel said, “my throat is dry and this is not a short tale.”

After she had a drink of the wine and spent a long moment looking across the open sea, she continued. “Have you ever thought of a good friend you have not seen for a while, only to have the friend or a letter from them appear within the hour?”

There was a general nodding in agreement, but Bilbo asked, “What does that have to do with my old ring?”

“Nothing and everything, I am starting the subject from the bottom; if you are patient we will reach the top,” she answered. “When you ring a bell, it always rings the same note, but if you change the shape of the bell, the note will change. The note also changes imperceptibly if the bell is colder or warmer. Do you know why?”

“The case of the bell is easy,” Frodo said. “It vibrates at a set rate when struck, which makes the sound and changes to the bell change the rate of the vibrations.”

“And just as sound a bell is carried by the air, thought vibrations are carried on the invisible substance that fills all of Eä, what in the ancient tongue was called Súle, or Breath of Eru” Gandalf added. “But that is known to all the wise and many others, yet few have made Rings of Power.”

“Speaking of the Wise,” Elrond interjected, “Is it wise to speak of such things? Consider the pain such knowledge has wrought in the past. We have just contained it at great cost. I would rue seeing it escape.”

“The knowledge did not cause the evil, nor is it evil in itself,” Galadriel replied, “An Evil one can put most any object to evil use. Should we not make kitchen knives because swords are used by our enemies? Are you not wearing a Ring of Power this moment? Is it evil?”

“Now where was I?” Galadriel asked herself, “Yes, we were speaking of vibrations.”

“I cannot believe you plan to just tell these Hobbits how to make a Ring of Power,” Gandalf said.

“You are correct,” she said, “I am not going to tell them or you how to make one, just how they work.”

“Even that is dangerous in the wrong hands,” Gandalf replied.

“I have no worry,” she said, “Not one of you has the skill needed to make such a thing. And by the time you had gained such skill, you would know better. Besides, we are all here because we have resisted the call of this power when it was within our grasp. I can think of no safer audience on this side of the sea.”

Gandalf and Elrond just stood there looking at her. As always, she did what she wanted and would not bend to counsel.”

“Do not look at me like that,” She said, “I spent over a thousand years as an apprentice in Aulë’s workshop. I learned much you will never know.”

“Now, if I may have your attention; when you throw a rock into a still pond, what happens?”

Before they could answer, she answered her own question, “The waves spread out in circles. And what is the chief characteristic of these circles? They are evenly spaced and all spreading at the same speed, determined by the density of the water and the stiffness of its surface. The water is vibrating at its natural resonance frequency, and the vibrations spread from the source at a steady rate.”

“That is all well and good, Bilbo said, being more alert than usual, “but what does it have to do with magic rings?”

“Have some patience sir,” She said. “If you were telling this, it would be an epic poem many times longer.”

“To continue, this ship is rocking at a steady rate, determined by its resistance to rocking, its mass, and the distance between its center of mass and center of buoyancy. Is everyone starting to understand that each thing has its own natural rate of vibration?”

All nodded their heads.

“Now, let us examine a fairly simple device, the Palantíri, the seeing stones of Númenor. Those were crystals that had two layers, an inner core that was tuned to the exact same vibration in all the stones, and an outer layer tuned the vibration of thought.” She paused to let that sink in.

“Are you now going to tell us that you know how to make a Palantír?” Elrond asked.

“I am telling you how they work, I can guess how to make them and yes, if I had the inclination and the proper equipment, I could make one,” She replied.

“How do you know they have layers?” Gandalf asked. “That was written in no document I know of.”

“Simple,” She replied. “Elendil allowed me to examine the Stone he had in Annúminas. I put my hand on it and I knew how it was built. I have great perception in such matters.”

“As I was saying,” she continued, “The inner layers are tuned to each other on a wavelength that travels well through the substance that fills all of Eä, the Súle. This is done by casting the stone in a way that makes the individual crystals within it both perfectly aligned and of a uniform size that matches the wavelength you wish to amplify.

If another stone is made with the same crystalline structure, they will vibrate in harmony on a spiritual level, regardless of the distance of their separation.”

“Is everyone still following this?” she asked.

“The outer layers were made the same way, only their crystal structure matched the wavelength of thoughts. When they picked up a thought vibration, it was immediately transferred to the other stones via the center part, and then transmitted to the person on the other end by the outer layer of that stone.”

She paused, watching as her audience processed that information, and then said, “Not magic, just a tool. It only looks like magic because you do not know how it works.”

The Hobbits looked enthralled, loving the explanation, even if they could only begin to grasp its meaning. Gandalf and Elrond, on the other hand, looked like they were trying to formulate a question, but were not sure what to ask.

Breaking the silence, Bilbo said, “You still haven’t answered Frodo’s question. What he wanted to know was, why my ring made people disappear, and how could it command anything?”

“I am learning that everything Gandalf said about Hobbits is true,” she laughed. “Be patient my dear fellow, I am on the road to the destination you seek. Pass me the wine, if you will.”

“The problem with the Palantír is that they do not easily let you see what you wish. You need another stone at the other end for them to work efficiently; they are mostly useful for communicating person to person. They can be used to view events at a distance, but the design is inefficient for that purpose and requires great strength on the part of the user to gather any useful information.

This is largely due to the material they are made out of, a ceramic. The heavy metals conduct energy much more efficiently, and are a much better choice for thought transmitting devices.”

She paused for another drink of wine.

“I spent many nights, drinking and talking with Narvi about just this topic, and we came to the conclusion that an alloy of mithril with either gold or platinum would the best material. Like mithril, gold and platinum are both impervious to the elements, can carry great power without deteriorating, and can be wrought in any grain structure you please if you have the skill.”

“You discussed this with a Dwarf!” Elrond exclaimed.

“You sound like my husband,” she laughed.

“I cannot believe you let such knowledge out to a mortal,” he replied.

“It is not as if the Immortals made a good showing for themselves,” she answered. “Besides, I never could have worked with Celebrimbor. Like his Grandfather, he lusted after my body and was jealous of my abilities; a bad choice for a collaborator.”

“This is astounding,” It was you who brought us the plague of the Rings?” Elrond said.

“No, Celebrimbor learned how to make them himself with help from Sauron; he didn’t need or get any help from me.” She answered, “Anyway, we are off track here. I would like to finish my tale without you blaming me for your mistake.”

“My mistake?” Elrond sputtered.

“Yes, you should have thrown Isildur into the fire with the One Ring if he would not throw it in himself,” Galadriel replied. “It is what I would have done.”

Elrond faced her with his finger pointing halfway to the sky, mouth askew, searching for words, finding none.

Gandalf laughed, “Your family dinners must be interesting, but we are way off topic now, and revisiting millennia old disagreements will help nothing.”

Elrond turned and looked out over the rail, watching the moonlight play on the waves.

Galadriel smiled and winked at Gandalf, “Anyway, we investigated the mathematics of field shape found that a ring was a more efficient shape than a sphere, because it created a toroid shaped field, where a sphere created a uniform field of much lower strength from the same input energy.”

The Hobbits looked a bit lost.

“Sorry,” she said. “Just realize that rings work better than spheres.”

“Sometimes, when I put on the ring, if I closed my eyes, I could see or perhaps sense a ring shaped golden glow about my hand,” Frodo commented.

“Yes,” Galadriel replied, “That is the shape of a toroidal field. That was the core of the Ring’s field of power you saw. You are most perceptive for a mortal.”

“So,” She continued, “I made the Mirror with the help of Narvi. His workshop was the best one outside of Valinor. No one else’s had the same ability to carefully heat and cool metal to control the grain.

For the base we made a series of rings made from an alloy of mithril, gold, and platinum. We carefully heat-treated each ring so the grain was uniform and each matched to a different vibration. Some matched the thoughts of Men and Elves, others are attuned to the communications in spirit world, and still others resonate with the waters of Ulmo, which are everywhere and carry all news to those who can read the vibrations.

The rings were made with such precision that they could be press fit into each other easily without stressing the metal, so as not to disturb the carefully tuned grain structure. The edges were machined so finely and were so clean that when we assembled them that the metals cold fused into a single piece. We then encased that disk within the mithril basin everyone sees, which is there to protect the disk and hold water.”

“When I saw the Mirror, it felt as if I was stepping into some other place,” Frodo said.

“Yes,” Galadriel answered. “You were entering the field of its power. It can definitely be felt. The mirror amplifies the natural connection one has to reality. That is how it allows you to see things far away and in different times. We all have that power, the mirror just focuses and magnifies it much like a lens. It is a type of lens, a perceptual lens, if you will.”

“Why did you pour water into it?” Frodo asked.

“Ulmo, the Vala whose domain is the water, places his thought and perception into every drop,” she answered. “The water of the Silverlode comes from the mountains, from the melting snows and bubbling springs whose source is deep in the mountains, and finally flows down the mighty Anduin to the sea. Thus, that water carries much news of the world. It connects the mirror to the world, and allows those who use it to see many things.”

At that, Bilbo twitched and awoke. “Sorry, I dozed off. Did you answer the question yet? I did not want to miss it”

“No, and she is not going to answer,” Elrond replied. “Enough has been said already. These are things that only the wise need hear. It is not for every ear.”

“I do not recall you being appointed as my keeper,” Galadriel snapped.

“Please,” Gandalf said. “I doubt I can stand eternity if I have to listen to you two bickering for the whole of it. I think those here have earned some trust, and I would love to hear this out.”

Elrond resumed gazing at the moonlight on the waves.

Galadriel took another drink from the bottle, handed it to Gandalf and resumed, “You awoke in time, Sir Hobbit. I have finally laid the foundation of explaining how the rings work.”

“The rings of power,” Galadriel said.

Elrond cast a glance at the Wizard, and then looked back to the Sea, having given up on influencing his Mother in Law.

She continued, “The rings were made much as the mirror or the stones. A layered crystalline structure tuned to the notes of Eru’s creation; simple enough to say, a master’s work to get right. Each ring had layers tuned to the different notes of power.”

“Notes of power?” Frodo asked.

“Yes, notes, same as played by a flute or harp,” she answered. “Vibrations in the breath of Eru which influence events. Thoughts, needs, abilities all vibrate. We are all sensitive to them to some extent.”

She paused and looked out at the Moon over the sea. A feeling of dread came to all who were standing there there.

“I fear Elrond is right,” Frodo said. “I am suddenly afraid, worried that we should not speak of this.”

Galadriel smiled at him; a new feeling of calm and peaceful safety spread like warm water, soothing them all.

“There,” She said. “I just gave you a demonstration. Fear, safety, love, command, and many more things have their special note. We all hear and sing these notes with our minds all the time. I am different in that I was born more able to hear them and my mind can sing them more loudly. Just now, I concentrated on first projecting fear and then safety; you all felt it. I know because I could feel your reaction.”

There was total silence. She had everyone’s attention, even Elrond who had quit feigning disinterest.

“The rings of power amplified these notes. They increased the bearer’s ability to hear and send out thoughts on the notes they were tuned to. In my case, the power was far more, because this sense was the strongest in me of any Eru ever made. This is why the One Ring coming within my grasp was so dangerous. No other was so well made to use its power, to blend with it and become one with its power, not even Sauron. I recognized it at once as Eru testing me, to see if I was worthy of his gift. You are lucky I passed.”

She was silent for a long moment, as if her mind was drawn to another place, then she returned. “Enough about me. As I said, they work like the other devices of their kind. They only differ in the subtlety of their crafting. Somehow, the layers of differently tuned structure were all made of a single piece. The layers were too thin to have been cold pressed together, and the layers themselves had a seamless change from note to note, so they play together like a beautiful chord. I can guess how that was done, but I will not muse upon it other than with Aulë.”

“Well, let us be thankful for that!” Elrond snorted. “And don’t look at me in that superior way you have. It is your worst feature.”

She smiled warmly, “Is that better?”

“You still haven’t answered the questions I wanted most,” Frodo complained. “Why does the Ring make people disappear and how does it prolong their lives?”

“Oh, that is simple as well,” she said. “The physical and spiritual realms are woven together. The One Ring operates in the spirit world. If you command a person’s spirit, you can utterly control them. You are a creature who lives in both worlds. As a mortal, you are mostly aware of the physical realm, only occasionally hearing spiritual whispers. When you put the ring on on, it connects you so fully to the spirit realm that you pass from sight of those who live primarily in the physical realm. You are still there, but most of you has passed through to the other side, so to speak. Immortals would still be able to see you because they live in both worlds. That is why old Tom did not disappear when he put it on. He is a powerful spirit, but makes himself a physical presence so he can drink the joys of the other side. He just chose to maintain the illusion.”

“How did you know about Tom?” Frodo asked.

“The moment he put the Ring on, I felt it, no it was more like I was there with you. The Three are linked to the One. Tom is most powerful. His putting on the One Ring would be felt to the ends of Eä by those who hold the Three.”

“And the long life?” Frodo asked.

“The rings are centers of spiritual power.” She answered. “They draw spiritual power into themselves. The stronger your spirit, the more slowly your physical form decays. This is the reason Elves are immortal, and why it was foolish of Men to try and learn the secret of longer life from them. If they wished a longer life, they should have enjoyed the simple things of life and fed their spirits. As long as you possess one of the Rings, it feeds your Spirit with more of the power of the Eä than you would have otherwise, and that slows your rate of physical decay.”

She paused while the Hobbits thought about what she had just said.

Have I answered your question sufficiently?” she asked Frodo.

“Yes, I have a basic idea how they work, but it is still mostly above my head,” he replied.

“Then it was worth it,” she said, giving Elrond a defiant look. “You toiled harder and suffered more than I thought possible for a Mortal, you saved us all when all appeared to be lost; you have earned the right to know these things.”

“What a tale,” Gandalf said. “I have learned much that I was only able to guess at. It must have been hard, listening to Saruman give all those sonorous lectures on that which he knew so little of.”

“My tongue was sore from biting it, and it took all my strength to appear impressed rather than to laugh out loud,” she said with a smile. “Pass me the wine.”


Of course she's a Geek. Why else would she have worked with Aulë? Did you think she spent 1000 years learning to make horseshoes?

I was going to call this, Galadriel Explains It All, but that was too cutesy.


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