The Consolation of Galadriel

You can pick up the damndest tidbits just driving around in the car, as I was doing this morning listening to a lecture from The Great Courses on Boethius and . The lecturer was going on about the concept of consolation at work in this, that and the other work of Great Lit and I was nodding along (but not off) when my ears pricked up.

J.R.R. Tolkien? Really?

Turns out that The Consolation of Philosophy, which used to be as well-known among the literati as Shakespeare, was a work with which Tolkien was very familiar.

Apparently, The Consolation was also the inspiration for another early work of which I had known nothing: Pearl. The lecturer goes on to tell of the collaboration of Tolkien and his friend, E.V. Gordon, in a translation of . Work on Pearl, which Tolkien and Gordon began translating together, was interrupted by Gordon's death. Pearl, my lecturer told me, was strongly influenced by The Consolation. According to my lecturer, Tolkien used the section of , in which Gandalf falls to his death, to deal with his grief at the loss of a friend. More than that, however, he places the Lady Galadriel in the literary tradition of the Lady Philosophy. She who offers consolation for the sorrows of life.

I will not give you counsel, saying do this, or do that. For not in doing or contriving, nor in choosing between this course and another, can I avail; but only in knowing what was and is, and in part also what shall be.

In this phial is caught the light of Earendil's star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.