Disclaimer: none of the characters are mine, but belong to Tolkien and his estate.
Note: spoilers for the official books.
What are you dreaming of, Galadriel, lady, as you wait for your ship in Gray Havens?
Do you dream of the Teleri slaughter in Alqualonde, when the swords of your Noldor brothers and cousins run red with the elven blood into the bay of Eldamar and sparks and smoke of burn-ing ships darkened the Valinor sky? Of all the elf-maids of Noldor you were the only one who did not look away, did not repent, but just stared on and on, until you fancied that you saw a Shadow in the smoke, but you never spoke of it to anyone.
Or do you dream of the long, arduous journey across the Helcaraxe, with its polar bears and wolves and giant gaps in the ice? Many a Noldor maid and warrior perished in those wastelands, but not you, you, who actually smiled – a tiny, little smile, but a smile nevertheless – when you’ve reached the Middle-earth at last and felt that now you are really going to flourish, you will have your own domain at last.
“No, I do not dream of that, Shadow, I do not!”
Then perhaps you dream of your days in the Sindar court in Doriath, under the guidance of Melian the maya. The wise-woman of the Sindar elves saw everything, knew even more, and taught you everything that you needed to know as to how to be a true elven queen, while your husband, Celeborn, really was a namesake of a tree. And the price for that knowledge? An ever-growing feeling of a fly being caught in sticky amber, from which you want to escape but you cannot.
Do you dream of your own kingdom, Lothlorien, overshadowed by the Greenwood of Thranduil, where your subjects lived on trees, very different from the white stone and crystal towers of Tirion? Did you dream then of Melian and her husband back then, trying to avoid comparison between your old plans and your current reality?
“Stop it! My family was... I was power-hungry, even after the War of Wrath was over and Morgoth Bauglir, Melkor, He, Who Rises In Might, was cast from this world. For that the Valar did not permit me to return to Valinor, and so I had to stay in the Middle-earth, until I proved my repentance by refusing the One Ring offered by the Ringbearer-“
Do you dream of what could have been? If the Valar didn’t offer you to return to Valinor, what then? You would have taken the One Ring and become the horror that flew on the wings of night that everyone loved and despaired? Is that what you wanted if you could not return home? Do you want to return home? Why are you weeping as you are lying in Cirdan’s halls in Gray Havens?
“Quiet, Shadow, do be gone! You are not real; the real Shadow was gone when I entered Middle-earth. The One Ring... I did not seek its power to rule, I did not seek any power to rule – all I wanted, all I want is to change. To become someone else – the Galadriel that I have become is not the Galadriel I wanted to become... But what do you know? You are just a shadow of whatever you once were...
Want to bet, Galadriel Altariel? Maybe I am whom you met in Alqualonde, on Helcaraxe... who knows? You want to change, you want to be somebody else, you want to see whom else can you be? Take my hand. Is there a sliver of your old self left, or are you really gone?
“Shadow, if it is really you, then here’s my hand. Show me how I want it to be.”* * *
Next morning Cirdan’s staff and servants found lady Galadriel to be completely and totally missing. A Havens’-wide search was made but no trace of her was found, and so the search was eventually called off. By now few people (and most of them were elves) knew Galadriel Altariel in person, and few of them were in Gray Havens when the disappearance did occur, so for a long period of time no searching did occur whatsoever, and when it was restarted, it was too late. When Galadriel did re-appear, it was under a completely new guise, a completely new name – and that was a completely new story.