One of my favorite scenes from the trilogy is in the first book, The Fellowship of the Rings. For those who don’t know the story, the protagonist, Frodo, is on a journey to destroy an evil, living Ring that has terrorized Middle Earth. Frodo is sidetracked along the way by intertwining subplots that reinforce the main, symbolic purpose of the journey into Mount Doom to destroy the Ring.
One such magical subplot takes him into a mysterious woodland where he meets the Lady Galadriel. She is an elf queen who is both beautiful and terrifying for her many powers, including the ability to see things before they occur.
In a dramatic scene, Lady Galadriel leads Frodo to her reflecting pool, which, when stirred, becomes an oracle of sorts. She gives him the opportunity to look at the unseen—his potential future, but the choice to look or avoid is fixed with him. He asks her advice on facing his future and this is her response:
“I do not counsel you one way or the other. I am not a counselor. You may learn something, and whether what you see be fair or evil, that may be profitable, and yet it may not. Seeing is both good and perilous. Yet I think, Frodo, that you have courage and wisdom enough for the venture, or I would not have brought you here. Do as you will!”
Frodo chooses to look in the mirror, and is faced with a terrifying sight. He sees the master of the Ring also known as the “all seeing Eye,” a soulless, pit of black emblazoned in fire. He pulls himself away from the mirror just before the Eye is able to observe that Frodo carries the Ring of power. Frodo is visibly shaken, and yet, he’s ultimately left with a greater determination to stay the course and end the reign of terror on Middle Earth.
Lady Galadriel is a symbol for the mirror’s revelations (which are both beautiful and terrifying). Her words to Frodo echo with truth about the journey to understanding our own identities. Our development can’t happen without observing a reflection of that which is unseen about ourselves.
We avoid the opportunity to look with clarity. We know, as Lady Galadriel said, that “Seeing is both good and perilous.” If we truly fix upon all of our flaws, secrets, and weaknesses, it’s terrifying. Exposing those flaws engages an act of vulnerability that increases the potential for rejection, abandonment, and hurt. . .at first.
Then comes the opportune peace. Following the reign of terror there’s the beckoning of a resonant calm as we settle into unfiltered observations of ourselves. If this happens within the context of a connected relationship, there’s a deepening attunement. We realize that instead of being judged, we’re valued; instead of being shamed, we’re respected; instead of being rejected, we’re embraced.
There’s so much about this voyage that I hesitate to share. The journey takes different shapes for each of us. You’ll only understand how it translates if you take the risk of adventuring into your own world of mirrors. As with Frodo, it will be both beautiful and terrifying, and you won’t know what’s rippling in the pool until you take a hard look. If you choose to take the risk, stepping towards the pool with “courage and wisdom,” you will certainly be changed for it.