Tolkien Encyclopedia > Elves > Glorfindel > The Problem of the Two Glorfindels

Glorfindel: The problem of the two Glorfindels

by Maglor-(V)
July 10, 2000

        One of the most hotly debated conflicts amongst the readers of The Lord of the Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien's other writings is the Glorfindel problem.  The problem is that there are two elves named Glorfindel and in Tolkien's mythology all elves are meant to be unique and no two elves are ever to have the same name.  Both Glorfindels have golden hair that serves their name well because it means "Golden-haired elf".
     The first Glorfindel mentioned is the chief of the House of the Golden Flower in Gondolin. This Glorfindel fled the fall of that city with Tuor and Idril and died protecting them and their son Eärendil from a balrog.
     The second Glorfindel was a noble elf who lived in Rivendell with Elrond.  He fought in the Battle of Fornost and it was he who pronounced the doom of the Witch-King of Angmar saying:

"Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall."
    Almost two thousand years later he helped Frodo and his companions reach Rivendell safely.

My solution to the problem of the two Glorfindels:

    I believe, as do many others, that the two Glorfindels are one and the same.  It is my belief that when he died in the Encircling Mountains after killing a balrog he went to Mandos, the Halls of Waiting, and was re-embodied by the Valar to serve a further purpose, namely to pronounce the doom of  the Witch-King and to later save the Ring-bearer from the Nazgûl.
    Some evidence to support this theory is within the Lord of the Rings itself.  In Chapter 1 of Book 2 "Many Meetings" when Frodo asks if Rivendell is safe from The Dark Lord, Gandalf answers:

      "... And here in Rivendell there live still some of [Sauron's] chief foes: the Elven-wise,
lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas.  They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who
have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the
Unseen they have great power."
      "I thought that I saw a white figure that shone and did not grow dim like the others. Was
that Glorfindel then?"
      "Yes, you saw him for a moment as he is upon the other side.  He is an Elf-lord of a house
of princes..."
    This excerpt states that at one point Glorfindel lived in the Blessed Realm and so had to have been born in Valinor and/or reborn in Valinor.
    Glorfindel also has golden hair though the Noldor were normally dark-haired, but the golden hair of the Vanyar was introduced into the Noldor through Indis, a Vanyarin Elf-maiden; hence the descendants of her sons Fingolfin and Finarfin sometimes had golden hair, suggesting that Glorfindel may have come from this noble line.
    Few Vanyarin elves still lived in Middle-earth at the time of the War of the Ring.  Other elf lines had golden hair, but none that had come to Valinor, therefore he couldn't have lived in the Blessed Realm.
    The excerpt also states that he is an Elf-lord of a house of princes, which the first Glorfindel is, as he was chief of the House of the Golden Flower.

References: Lord of the Rings, Silmarillion