THE DIMINISHMENT OF THE ELVES, an
Elven theme, represents "the
Elves concept of finality, both as it concerns their
recession from Middle-earth and their understanding of
death." (Doug Adams,
CR-FOTR liner notes, page 17)
Doug Adams comments in the
CR-FOTR that the
Rivendell Theme is often applied to
Arwen, especially in TTT & ROTK. But as a 'freethinker' among the
Elves, she is supplied with her own material and is given
"four subsidiary themes" (The Music of the LOTR
Films, pg 44) Three of the Elven themes are clearly
connected to Arwen and The Diminishment of the Elves must be
the fourth. Although the book does not discuss how it is
directly connected with Arwen, it is combined with the
"Evenstar" theme when
Aragorn tries to return the Evenstar jewel to Arwen.
The theme is usually sung using lyrics from
See below for my original thoughts
on how this theme might represent 'hope' and Arwen's role in
place this theme is heard in FOTR:
Places this theme is heard in TTT:
As Elrond urges
Aragorn to let Arwen leave for the Undying Lands.2
Gilraen's Song are
Aragorn tries to give the Evenstar back to Arwen, the music
mixes elements from the Diminishment theme with the Evenstar
Melody. This scene immediately follows the one listed above.3
As Elrond urges Arwen
to leave for the Undying Lands.4 We
now know that the Diminishment music was not originally intended
to be used for this scene. The
CR-TTT has the music written
originally for it. Lyrics from
During the closing credits of TTT,
there's a brief restatement of the final phrase as heard in the
fullest iteration in FOTR. This phrase is not used in the TTT
movie, nor is is heard on either the
CR. Lyrics from
This music is first heard at Gilraen's grave which is why I had
originally named it 'Gilraen's Theme'. Adams said in the
that the "melody is built off a
principal line from "Gilraen's
Song"", (page 17-18) although he made no connection between the
lyrics or subject of that song and the theme's
representation of the finality of the Elves other than
Gilraen was mortal and dear to the Elves.
I didn't think it represented Gilraen,
though. I thought it either represented 'hope' or perhaps, 'not
having hope', although I was quite leaning toward the former. I also
thought that it was being especially applied to Arwen and might be
setting Arwen up as the character that maintains hope when others
falter in their faith. It turns out it does apply to Arwen (enough
to be referred to indirectly as one of 'her' themes) but hope does
not seem to be the message.
I've left my notes about 'hope' in place
below. Somehow, they don't feel
'wrong' to me. I think in some ways, what I felt from the
theme as I listened was not so far off from what Howard
Shore felt when he wrote it. We each interpreted and
verbalized it from our own context, is all.
What does Gilraen's Theme
(written before the release of the Complete Recordings)
Prior to the release of the
I tried to figure out what this music represented. Looking at the
scenes involving Arwen, I started to think along the lines of
Gilraen having no hope and Arwen being the hope-bearer for Aragorn,
and by extension, Middle-earth. I liked that thinking so well, that
I left it on the page when DA's notes seemed to indicate I was a bit
Does this theme represent
Gilraen? I don't think so. Other than the first scene in FOTR,
Gilraen doesn't figure directly into the movie.
If one goes to the
Appendices of the LOTR (specifically: Appendix A-Annals of the Kings
and Rulers, I-The Númenorean Kings, (v)-Here Follows a part of the
Tale of Aragorn and Arwen), one can find the story of Aragorn and
Arwen and this is where we learn about Gilraen. Aragorn's
father was killed when Aragorn was young. As the heir of
Isildur he was in danger from the Enemy, so his identity was kept
secret and he was called 'Estel', which means hope. He was
fostered in Rivendell by Elrond, a distant relative, who became as a
father to him and Gilraen returned to her people. When last
...she said to him
before he went: This is our last parting, Estel, my son. I
am aged by care, even as one of the lesser Men; and now it draws
near I cannot face the darkness of our time that gathers upon
Middle-earth. I shall leave soon.' Aragorn tried to
comfort her, saying: "Yet there may be a light beyond the
darkness; and if so, I would have you see it and be glad.' But
she answered only with this linnod:
Onen i-Estel Edain, ú-chebin estel amin,
(I gave hope to the
Dúnedain, I have kept no hope for myself.)
and Aragorn went away heavy of heart. Gilraen died before the
A-Annals of the Kings and Rulers, I-The Númenorean Kings,
(v)-Here Follows a part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen
Here we have the word
hope used three times. Hope is Aragorn's name. Hope was given to the
Dúnedain, the line of Men from which Aragorn is descended. And
Gilraen has no hope... she has, in a sense, lost it.
I don't know what exactly is being sung in the lyrics of Gilraen's
Theme, but I'm quite sure the first word is 'estelio' which was used
in Evenstar as the verb, 'trust'. But estel means hope, also.
UPDATE: We know the lyrics now. The source text is
The word, 'Estel', although not in the source text, is most likely
an insertion of Gilraen's name for Aragorn. The text does not
directly deal with hope.
But we find more, in this
section of the Appendices. This is the back story of Aragorn
and the entire story of Arwen's place in this tale. We find
Aragorn was fostered
by Elrond in Rivendell and there was named Estel.
Aragorn meets Arwen
in Lothlórien (she has been living with Galadriel, her
grandmother) and then and there falls in love with her.
Gilraen warns him
against this aspiration since, as Elf-kin, Arwen is too above
Elrond agrees that
Arwen is too far above him, but even if she were to agree to wed
Aragorn, still Elrond would protest. Her immortality is
not the same as other Elves. Her immortality is tied to
her father's. If he departs for Valinor, she must depart
with him or relinquish her immortality.
Years later, Aragorn
again meets Arwen in the woods of Lothlórien. It is then
that Arwen renounces her immortality. "'I will cleave to
you, Dúnadan, and turn from the Twilight (immortality). Yet there lies the land of my people and the long home of all my
kin.' She loved her father dearly."
Elrond is grieved at
the news but acknowledges that 'by (his) loss the kingship of
Men may be restored.' But he will not allow Arwen to wed
anyone less then the King of Gondor.
After the destruction of the Ring, they were wed and
dwelt together for 120 years. At the approach of his
death, she began to understand the true meaning of mortality. At his death, she became 'cold and grey as nightfall in winter'
and she 'passed away to the land of Lórien, and dwelt there
along under the fading tees until winter came.'
There, 'she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is
her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of
her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after...'
So when we think on these
aspects of Arwen and Aragorn and Gilraen and then take a look at the
scenes, we can find some common threads: having hope... not having
hope... the choice made through love between immortality and
mortality... a decision to follow a father or cleave to a love.
I don't know what this
theme represents to Howard Shore or Peter Jackson. But for me,
it evokes the complexity of the story and it represents all of those
things: Finding and keeping hope in a time when hope is
scarce, Making hard choices where no choice is without loss.
I can't make out the lyrics (Elvish-illiterate)
(see previous strikeout) but I can hear the
word 'Estel' which
we know means hope. I suspect that hope figures into
this theme. But is it having hope (Arwen) or is it lacking
hope (Elrond - movie version - and Gilraen). My instinct says
that this theme is really an Arwen theme that represents how Arwen
holds on to hope for all the people who need it, but don't have it.
She holds out against her father's lack of hope and she is the
emotional sustainer for Aragorn - and by extension -
It might be helpful to compare the
use of this theme to the
especially since they are usually 'paired' together. In a flashback,
Aragorn remembers a conversation with Arwen.
Aragorn's Theme and the
are played for this scene. Almost immediately, he remembers a
conversation with Elrond (#2 below) that uses
Gilraen's Theme. Then when Aragorn tries to give back the
Evenstar, we hear music that seems to blend the
with Gilraen's Theme (#3 below). Later,
Elrond gives Arwen a glimpse of life with a mortal as the
plays. As the vision ends, he calls her name while a snip of
Gilraen's Theme is played (#4 below). Then he
goes on to say, "There is nothing for you here. Only death."
lyrics to Arwen's Theme
connect her to Tinúviel, the Elven princess who married a mortal. Evenstar is a theme for her relationship
with Aragorn. But Gilraen, to me, represents Arwen as more
than an Elf, more than a woman in love... it presents Arwen as a
representative for holding fast to hope. (Sam would be another
representative.) You decide what you think.
Further Connecting Gilraen to
Arwen and then to "the Diminishment of the Elves"
I dropped in on a
TheOneRing.net. They were discussing screencaps of the movie and
that day's image was of Arwen wilted and fading on the couch.
The question was asked,
All of Middle Earth is tied to the
fate of the Ring in some way... What makes Arwen so special?
Well, she's not. Her fate seems
to be exactly the same as that of Gilraen, who dies because
she's weakened by the coming Darkness. And then there's the
Elves themselves, who have to leave when they suffer a certain
level of chronic exposure to Melkor's Taint. Indeed, in the
first such case, cited in Morgoth's Ring, the Valar come to the
consensus that Míriel Serindë's death was "unnatural" and
ultimately due to Melkor's Taint on Arda. (Also note that "Serindë"
means "needlewoman", which Arwen is too!) So really, "Arwen is
dying" has clear and solid roots in the Legendarium.
All of a sudden, the connection between
Gilraen and Arwen made through this theme made perfect sense. I
think I couldn't see it before because, frankly, I quite dislike
this plot sideline. I did with it what I do with much of the diverse
material I dislike - I ignored it and refused to see it. By not
considering fading Arwen, I couldn't make a proper connection to
Gilraen. And I can then understand how Shore sees this as "The
Diminishment of the Elves". I'll still leave my old 'Arwen represents hope' notes
below. I become quite attached to my thoughts and writing and they
will come in handy some day... I'm convinced of it.
Dialog connected with the scenes:
When I was mulling over what this
theme might represent, I decided to 'map' out the dialog that went
with the theme. The parts that are heard (or seen) while the
theme plays are in black. The Evenstar Melody plays
during the lines in blue in section 4. Anything in grey is heard
before or after these themes.
[The scene changes to the grounds of Rivendell,
where Aragorn cleans the leaves and dirt from his mother's
grave. Then he looks at her statue beside it, and touches
its face with the back of his hand.]
Anirne hene beriad i chên în.
[Translation: "She wanted to protect her
Ned Imladris nauthant e le beriathar
[Translation: "She thought in Rivendell you would
In her heart, your Mother knew you'd be hunted all
your life. That you'd never escape your fate. The skill of
the Elves can reforge the sword of kings but only you have
the power to wield it.
[Still looking at his mother's grave.] I do
not want that power. I have never wanted it.
You are the last of the
blood line. There is no other.
[Flashback to Elrond
conversing with Aragorn at Rivendell:]
Our time here is ending.
Arwen's time is ending. Let her go. Let her take the ship into the
West. Let her bear away her love for you to the undying lands, there
to be ever green.
But never more than a memory.
I will not leave my daughter
here to die.
She stays because she still
She stays for YOU! She belongs
with her people.
Arwen before the departure of the Fellowship.]
le men, men na guil edwen... haer o auth a nîr a naeth.
"You have a chance for another life ...away from war... grief...
Why are you
mortal. You are elfkind. It was a dream Arwen, nothing more.
(The melody continues, but it
sounds more like Evenstar here than for that line above.)
[Aragorn tries to
give the Evenstar back to Arwen.]
It was a gift.
Arwen. Tollen i lû. I
chair gwannar na Valannor. Si bado, no círar.
"Arwen. It is time. The ships are leaving for Valinor. Go now before
it is too late."]
I have made my
He is not
coming back. Why do you linger here when there is no hope?"
There is still hope.
Aragorn survives this war, you will still be parted. If Sauron is
defeated and Aragorn made king and all that you hope for comes
true... you will still have to taste the bitterness of mortality.
Whether by the sword or the slow decay of time, Aragorn will die.
And there will be no comfort for you, no comfort to ease the pain of
his passing. He will come to death. An image of the splendor of the
kings of men in glory, undimmed before the breaking of the world.
But you, my daughter, you will linger on, in darkness and in doubt.
As nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Here you will
dwell, bound to you grief, under the fading trees, until all the
world has changed and the long years of your life are utterly spent.
Arwen... (a quick phrase of
Gilraen's Theme plays as he says her name and then hesitates.)
there is nothing for you here, only death.
A im ú-'erin veleth lîn?
[Translation: "Do I not also have your love?"
Gerich meleth nîn, ada. [Translation: "You have my love father."]