‘And what gift would a Dwarf ask of the Elves?’ said Galadriel, turning to Gimli.
‘None, Lady,’ answered Gimli. ‘It is enough for me to have seen the Lady of the Galadhrim, and to have heard her gentle words.’
‘[…] Yet surely, Gimli son of Glóin, you desire something that I could give? Name it, I bid you! You shall not be the only guest without a gift.’
‘There is nothing, Lady Galadriel,’ said Gimli, bowing low and stammering. ‘Nothing unless it might be – unless it is permitted to ask, nay, to name a single strand of your hair, which surpasses the gold of the earth as the stars surpass the gems of the mine. I do not ask for such a gift. But you commanded me to name my desire.[…]
‘And how shall I refuse, since I commanded him to speak? But tell me, what would you do with such a gift?’
‘Treasure it, Lady,’ he answered, ‘in memory of your words to me at our first meeting. And if I ever return to the smithies of my home, it shall be set in imperishable crystal to be a heirloom of my house, and a pledge of good will between the Mountain and the Wood until the end of days.’
This incident is Gimli singlehandedly curing the millennia-old feud between Dwarves and Elves and being more awesome in forty seconds than Legolas was in his entire life. That is not the important part.
Another thing the important part isn’t is that, since Gimli did make it back to the smithies of his home, there is now a hair (well, three actually) from Galadriel’s head that he set in imperishable crystal to be passed down throughout the Future.
The important part is that what do we do with hair? Clones! Some time in the distant future of the Fourth Age, someone clever could clone Galadriel. (Tolkien guessed that we might be at the end of the Fifth Age, or maybe into the Seventh. It was never supposed to actually fit with real history, but someone asked.)
This would mean that the Elves might not stay extinct in Middle-Earth! It’s a Really Big Deal.
In Tolkien’s universe, it’s pretty much assumed that ancient foregoers are basically more intrinsically awesome than their descendants. And everyone knows it. Aragorn is so much better than every other human partly because he has the blood of Numenor that happened to turn out almost 100%. Back when Numenor was around, Aragorn would have been more like “average.” Faramir has the same thing: in his case “the blood of Westernesse runs nearly pure.” His brother is less awesome because he doesn’t have nearly as much of that blood (Tolkien didn’t care much about how genetics works.) Anyway, the point is that people Back Then had some kind of inherited quality that was gradually lost over the course of those three Ages. This diminishment is a major theme of Tolkien’s work and blah blah literary criticism blah, but the point is that clones.
Galadriel is from the First Age. She is from so far back that her grandfather was never actually born: he (Finwe) was simply created. Galadriel didn’t just know the world’s mythic history, she remembered it. She is one of those legendary forerunners; she was one of the legendary forerunners even back in Frodo’s time. She is probably the single best person from the War of the Ring to clone. Lucky we have her hair.
But wait, I’m sure you’re saying, just because the clone is genetically identical doesn’t mean she’d be as awesome as Galadriel was. Sure, she’d be taller, stronger, more beautiful, maybe smarter than most other Elves (let alone humans), but all the wisdom and authority and stuff are all from experience. And who knows how magic works with heredity. It would be like if you cloned King Arthur. The new guy is genetically Uther’s son and maybe he’s a pretty cool guy, but you’d be an idiot to put him in control of England just because of that. (Merlin agrees with me on that point; he’s a big proponent of nurture over nature.) In the case of Galadriel, you are extremely right.
Galadriel is one of the Elves of Light. Without going into too much detail, that means she saw the light of the Two Trees before they were destroyed and replaced with the Sun and Moon. (I told you she was old.) Elves who have seen that are basically better in every way than Elves who decided not to go or Elves who were born too late. The clone would not have seen the Trees and would therefore be less impressive than Galadriel herself.
Or would she? Another obscure detail about the Elves is that when they die they spend a little while (up to but no more than the remainder of the world) in something like Limbo, and they have the option to reincarnate as themselves. (Except Feanor. He’s serving a serious time-out right now.) The new body is always recognizable as being identical once it reaches adulthood, and all memory comes back. So when we clone Galadriel, it’s possible that the fea (the spirit) would, if Galadriel happened to be dead at the time, end up here. If that happens, you basically hit the jackpot. She wouldn’t just be someone similar, she’d be Galadriel herself, complete with memory, history, and magic. This would be like if you cloned King Arthur and the clone turned out to actually be King Arthur, if King Arthur had won the War of the Ring, had once been on speaking terms with the gods, and had superpowers.
How likely is that? Not very. Galadriel is more or less immortal, and while she might have died by accident at some point during or after the Fourth Age, she probably didn’t. Elves are tough. And even if she did, she might have just decided to be reborn. So her fea is unlikely to be hanging around bodiless at any given time.
If the clone does turn out to be Galadriel herself, she wouldn’t want to stay here for long. She’ll go back to her own world (which used to be part of this one, back when it was flat, but now only Elves can sail back…long story). Maybe she’ll let someone try to follow her boat, just to see what happens. Now that could be interesting.
But that won’t happen, because Galadriel’s fea is otherwise occupied and won’t be dropping by. Instead, you’ll just end up with a nearly immortal superhuman. Boring.
If you noticed that the hairs in question were cut off rather than pulled out and therefore have no follicle and no genetic material and the entire premise is impossible, then you win a lot of nerd points. And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling smart people.