She was a royal Elf of both the Noldor and the Teleri, being a grandchild of both King Finwë and King Olwë, and was also close kin of King Ingwë of the Vanyar through her grandmother Indis. Towards the end of her stay in Middle-earth she was co-ruler of Lothlórien along with her husband, Lord Celeborn, and was referred to variously as The Lady of Lórien, The Lady of the Galadhrim, Lady of Light or The Lady of the Wood. She had a daughter Celebrían, making her Elrond's mother-in-law and Arwen's grandmother.
According to the older account, used in the published The Silmarillion, Galadriel was an eager participant and leader in the rebellion of the Noldor and their flight from Valinor: in fact the 'only female to stand tall in those days'. She was, however, completely separated from Fëanor and his kin, and did not participate in the Kinslaying at Alqualondë. Once in Beleriand, she lived nominally with one of her brothers, Finrod Felagund of Nargothrond mainly, but spent much time at the court of Thingol and Melian in Menegroth, from whom she learnt many things concerning Middle-earth. She met Celeborn, a kinsman of Thingol, in Doriath.
Both in The Silmarillion and in the movies, Galadriel is portrayed with the power of telepathy. In The Silmarillion, she is actually described as having been "blessed with the ability to peer into the minds of others and she judged them so fairly. But in Fëanor, she only sees darkness". As one of the members of the royal house of Finwë and having the blood of the Vanyar from her paternal grandmother, Indis, she was often called the fairest of all Elves, be it on the shores of Aman or of Middle-earth.
According to Unfinished Tales, Galadriel was living with her mother's kindred in the Telerin port of Alqualondë when she met Teleporno (later known as Celeborn), who would become her husband and co-ruler. During the great upheaval at the end of that period, she and Celeborn sailed from Valinor and came to Beleriand separately from most of the Noldor (who either followed Fëanor in the ships of the Teleri or followed the main host that crossed Helcaraxë). Galadriel was not directly involved in the revolt of the Noldorin princes and fights in defence of Alqualondë during the kinslaying, but she fell under the Ban of the Valar because she left without permission. Once in Beleriand she and Celeborn were welcomed by Thingol and lived in Doriath. Celeborn, by this account, was Olwë's grandson. Once the Noldor arrived, Galadriel reestablished contact with her brothers.
In both accounts Celeborn plays no important role in the Battles of Beleriand. Both Celeborn and Galadriel had left Beleriand before the War of Wrath, but refused the pardon offered by the Valar. Galadriel refused out of pride and therefore remained under the Ban.
Celeborn and Galadriel travelled first to Lindon, where they ruled over a group of Elves, probably as a fiefdom under Gil-galad. Later they moved eastward and established (or are welcomed in) the realm of Eregion or Hollin. At this time they made contact with a Nandorin settlement in the valley of the Anduin, then later Lothlórien. Later they removed from Eregion by way of the mines of Khazad-dûm and became lords of Lothlórien. Celebrimbor now ruled over Eregion. Celeborn and Galadriel had a daughter Celebrían, who later married Elrond Half-elven of Rivendell, thus making Galadriel and her husband Celeborn the grandparents of the twins Elladan and Elrohir and their younger sister Arwen Undómiel, future Queen of the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor.
During the Second Age, when the Rings of Power were forged, Galadriel distrusted Annatar, the loremaster who guided Celebrimbor and the other Noldor of Eregion. It later turned out that this distrust was justified, as he was finally revealed to be Sauron, pretending to be an emissary from the Vala Aulë. When Sauron attacked Eregion, Galadriel was entrusted with one of the Three Rings of the Elves. Her Ring was Nenya, the Ring of Water. Conscious of Sauron's power, and wishing to thwart it, she did not use the Ring as long as the One Ring was in his hands. However, during the Third Age, when the One Ring was lost, she put it to use. Its power might have been related to the Mirror of Galadriel, a large bowl of water in which visions of the past, present, and future could be seen. She may also have used it in the defence of Lórien, and the ring may have assisted her in making Lórien a fair refuge for the Nandor in the years after the departure and loss of Amroth and Nimrodel. Galadriel maintained constant vigilance against Sauron and often strove with him in thought. Sauron was said to have great desire to see into her mind. By this time, with the death of Gil-galad in the War of the Last Alliance, Galadriel had become the most powerful individual Elf ruler in Middle-earth (though ruling only a small area), and the foremost of the remaining Exiles; but so long as he did not have the One Ring, it was impossible. Throughout the Third Age, when Lothlórien is closed to outsiders, the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim maintained intelligence with Imladris, but less so with the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood.
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Galadriel hosted the titular characters after their escape from Moria. When she met the Fellowship in her tree dwelling at Caras Galadhon, she gave each member a searching look, testing their resolve, though Boromir regarded this test as a temptation. She, in turn, was tested when Frodo Baggins later offered to place the Ring in her keeping. Knowing that its corrupting influence would make her "great and terrible", and recalling the ambitions that had once brought her to Middle-earth, she refused the Ring, accepting as her fate that she would diminish to make way for the dominion of Men, and returned at last to Valinor. When the Fellowship left Lothlórien, she gave each member a gift and an Elven cloak, and outfitted the party with boats and supplies.
On the very same day that the Fellowship left Lórien, Gandalf arrived, carried by the eagle Gwaihir. There, Galadriel cured him of his wounds and reclothed him in white, signalling his new status as head of the Istari. During the last battles of the War of the Ring, Lórien was besieged three times by the armies of Dol Guldur. It is stated that Lórien resisted the attacks thanks to the bravery of its inhabitants; but most importantly, "the power that dwelt there was far too great for any to overcome, only if Sauron had come there himself".
After Sauron perished, Celeborn led the Lórien host over the Anduin and captured Dol Guldur. Then, Galadriel came forth and "threw down its walls and laid bare its pits", recalling the deeds of Lúthien Tinúviel who did the same thing at Tol Sirion during the First Age.
She passed over the Great Sea on the Last Ship with Elrond, Gandalf, Círdan, and the Ringbearers Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, marking the end of the Third Age. She left her husband Celeborn behind until he finally set sail as well. (Tolkien's original account here differs from Peter Jackson's movie version, where Celeborn apparently travels with her on the same ship.) It is her refusal of the One Ring that lifts the Ban (along with her services in the war against Sauron) and finally allows her to return to Valinor. Of the Noldorin exiles, she is the only one of prominence to return. She was aged well over 7,000 years at that time, second only to Círdan the Shipwright.
Galadriel was voiced by Annette Crosbie in Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated film of The Lord of the Rings, and by Marian Diamond in BBC Radio's 1981 serialisation.While she did not appear in the 1980 animated The Return of the King, she was mentioned by name when Frodo mentioned the phial in Sam's hand as Galadriel's phial.
In Peter Jackson's movie trilogy, Galadriel is played by Cate Blanchett. In this adaptation, Galadriel narrates the Prologue, explaining the creation of the Rings of Power and the War of the Last Alliance. Earlier plans considered were to have either Frodo or Gandalf narrate the Prologue, but this was dropped: Frodo was not alive until thousands of years after these events happened, and Gandalf was not present in Middle-earth at the time; the Wizards came some one thousand years after the Prologue ends. Thus Galadriel narrates the Prologue, because she has first-hand knowledge of this history and actively participated in its events.
Later in the films, Galadriel frequently seems to be consulting telepathically with Elrond (possibly because they each possessed one of the Three Rings). There is some indication from the books that the two are able to communicate mentally, but in the book it takes place primarily when they are in each other's presence, and the specific instances in the movies, particularly the discussion with Elrond in The Two Towers, have no direct counterparts in the books. In the movie, she sends messages to Frodo; as the Fellowship enters the woods of Lórien, Frodo hears a voice that says: "Frodo, your coming to us is as the footsteps of doom! You bring great evil here, ring-bearer." Later, while she is audibly speaking with the Fellowship, she telepathically says to Frodo, "Welcome, Frodo of the Shire... one who has seen the Eye!" Also, Boromir says that he heard her voice in his head telling him about his father and the fall of Gondor. Telepathically she told him, "Even now there is hope left."
On stage, Galadriel was portrayed by Rebecca Jackson Mendoza in the 3-hour-long Toronto stage musical production of The Lord of the Rings, which opened in 2006. The musical moved to London's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and, following an extensive rewrite, opened in preview on May 9th, 2007 and officially on the 19th of June 2007. Laura Michelle Kelly returned to the stage as Galadriel with Matthew Warchus directing. Abbie Osmon took over the role on 4th February 2008.
In the game The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, Galadriel is available as a hero, costing 10,000 resources (the most expensive of Heroes, along with Sauron, and looks like her viewing of herself holding the Ring in the movies), after obtaining the Ring, when the custom option of "Ring heroes" is selected. It is only available to good factions (Dwarves, Elves and Men), however evil factions (Mordor, Goblins, the new faction Angmar, and probably one of the most disputed factions, Isengard) will be in control of Sauron if the Ring is obtained and successfully returned to the Fortress, which, upon holding of the Ring, will be surrounded by the language inscribed around the Ring. Both heroes are highly destructive, high in health points, have a special highly destructive power, and are not affected by heal. Sauron deals more damage to structures, but is much slower than Galadriel. Both can destroy a unit in a single hit.
Her character was similarly a blend of characteristics of the kindreds of the Eldar from whom she was descended. She had the pride and ambition of the Noldor, but in her they were tempered by the gentleness and insight of the Vanyar. She shared the latter virtues of character with her father Finarfin and her brother Finrod. "She was proud, strong, and selfwilled, as were all the descendants of Finwë save Finarfin; and like her brother Finrod, of all her kin the nearest to her heart, she had dreams of far lands and dominions that might be her own to order as she would without tutelage. Yet deeper still there dwelt in her the noble and generous spirit of the Vanyar, and a reverence for the Valar that she could not forget. From her earliest years she had a marvellous gift of insight into the minds of others, but judged them with mercy and understanding, and she withheld her goodwill from none save only Fëanor. In him she perceived a darkness that she hated and feared, though she did not perceive that the shadow of the same evil had fallen upon the minds of all the Noldor, and upon her own." Her sympathy for Gimli the Dwarf in Lothlórien, when she rebuked her husband Celeborn for being tempted to regret his decision to admit the Dwarf to that land, won Gimli's heart forever.
The song Stairway to Heaven by English rock band Led Zeppelin contains references to Lady Galadriel. The group's songwriters, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were obsessed at the time with The Lord of the Rings mythology. The song's lyrics refer to the Lady in the magical forest who turns objects into gold.
The name Galadhriel was used outside Lórien by the people who did not know the ancient days and Galadriel's history, confusing galad with the Sindarin word galadh and the name of the Galadhrim, the people of Lórien.
As the ruler of Lothlórien, she was referred to by a variety of titles, including "Lady of Lórien", "Lady of the Wood", "Queen Galadriel". She was also referred to as "Lady of Light" or "White Lady", implying her fair skin and white cloaks which make her seem to be shining.