The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Likely existed across much of the history of Lórien, but the cloaks worn by the Company of the Ring were given to them on 16 February III 3019
Location
Made in the land of Lórien
Race
Division
Culture
Meaning
Simply cloaks made by the Elves, specifically the Elves of Lórien

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About this entry:

  • Updated 9 November 2019
  • Updates planned: 1

Elven-cloaks

The concealing grey cloaks of Lórien

The association of the Elves with grey cloaks went back into deep history. One of their greatest kings, Thingol of Doriath, was known as Thingol Greycloak, and from this - at least in part - came the name of his people, the Sindar or Grey-elves. Galadriel had dwelt in Thingol's halls during the First Age, and the tradition of the grey Elven-cloak was continued when she settled in the land of Lórien. Accounts of the Elves of Lórien have them cloaked in grey, and when Aragorn visited Galadriel's land in the years before the War of the Ring, she gave him a cloak of Elven-grey.

In the closing years of the Third Age, when the Fellowship of the Ring departed on the Quest of Mount Doom, each wore a cloak lined with fur against the cold, and they wore these cloaks through the earlier parts of their adventures until they found themselves in Galadriel's land of Lórien. There Galadriel replaced their wayworn garments, and gave each of the surviving members of the Fellowship an Elven-cloak of their own.

Each cloak had an accompanying hood, and all were woven from a light thread, grey in colour, the handiwork of Galadriel herself. The cloaks appear to have been made from the material known as hithlain, or something very similar.1 The cloaks kept their wearers warm in cold climes, but were cool when needed, and rolled into a remarkably small bundle when not being worn. Each of the cloaks was pinned at the throat of its wearer by a small brooch. These brooches were of a distinctive leaf-shaped form, green in colour with the leaf's veins picked out in silver. They were said to have been shaped somewhat like a beech leaf (that is, as a broad single-lobed leaf narrowing to a point).

Though the cloaks were silver-grey in a neutral light, they had the remarkable property of shifting their colour to blend into their surroundings. At night the grey would darken to hide the cloak's wearer, and the cloaks could also shift into shades of brown or green at need. As members of the Fellowship chased a band of Orcs across the green fields of Rohan, for example, their Elven-cloaks changed to a grey-green colour to conceal them among Rohan's grasses. This power was said to come from the fact that the natural hues and essences of Lórien had been woven into them at the time of their making.

The Elven-cloaks of the Fellowship of the Ring

When the Company of the Ring passed through Lórien, each of the eight surviving members were given one of the Elven-cloaks as gift by Galadriel. The ninth member of the company, Gandalf, had been lost in Moria before the Company reached Lórien, though he did later make his way there, and there is reason to think that he also received one of the grey cloaks, or at least something similar.2

Of the eight Elven-cloaks given to the Fellowship, only one failed to survive their travels through Middle-earth. This was the cloak borne by Boromir: after his death, it was folded into a pillow for his head in his funeral boat, and thus carried down Anduin and out into the Great Sea. Even this loss would ultimately prove useful to the Fellowship, for Boromir's body was seen by his brother Faramir as it was swept along the river, and thus Faramir was later able to recognise Frodo Baggins as a member of the Fellowship by the workmanship of the brooch on his Elven-cloak.

The cloak borne by Frodo was later taken by the Orcs of Cirith Ungol, but recovered by Gandalf at Mordor's Black Gate and ultimately returned to the Hobbit. While Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took retained their own cloaks after they were captured by Orcs, Pippin intentionally discarded his brooch-pin to leave a trail for the Three Hunters, who managed to recover it and return it to him.

When the four Hobbits known as the Travellers returned to the Shire, Frodo and Samwise each wore their Elven-cloak (and presumably Merry and Pippin also wore theirs, though this is not confirmed). After the ousting of Sharkey and his Men, the Shire slowly returned to normality, and the Hobbits' cloaks were put away. Nonetheless, they would be worn on suitably grand occasions, still clasped at the neck by their leaf-shaped brooches.3


Notes

1

It's never specifically said that the Elven-cloaks were made from hithlain, but it's strongly implied that the substance must at least have been very similar. Ropes made of hithlain are described as '...silken to the touch, grey of hue like the elven-cloaks' (The Fellowship of the Ring II 8, Farewell to Lórien), so some connection seems to be intended.

2

After his return from Moria, Gandalf passed through Lórien, and there he was clothed by Galadriel. After this time he's described as wearing a grey cloak, and since this was acquired in Lórien it would seem natural to assume that it was one of the Elven-cloaks, or at least something of the same kind.

On the other hand, when Gandalf appears in Fangorn Forest shortly after his return, he's described as wearing a cloak that's old and tattered, which hardly seems to be one of Galadriel's Elven-cloaks. Indeed, as he had been freshly attired only a few days earlier, it's hard to see how he came by an old and tattered cloak at all, unless its appearance was intentionally designed to mirror his former attire. Alternatively, perhaps he was somehow able to retain his original travelling cloak even through the Battle of the Peak, and his death and return on the peak of Celebdil.

3

Both Frodo and (much later) Samwise would eventually leave Middle-earth and travel into the West. It is not mentioned whether they wore their Elven-cloaks at the time, but it seems at least plausible that one or both of those cloaks eventually found their way across the Great Sea to the Blessed Realm.

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 9 November 2019
  • Updates planned: 1

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