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Based on Barrow-Downs Forum material compiled by Shark
Any errors of spelling or grammar have been corrected silently.

"In the Silmarillion, it recounts of the death of Glorfindel, the golden haired Elf, in battle with a Balrog in Gondolin. How then could he attend the Council of Elrond in The Lord of the Rings?" (-Gwaihir)

"When an Elf dies the fa ('spirit, soul') goes to the Halls of Mandos to await rebirth. The length of time between death and rebirth depends upon the circumstances of the Elf's death and the manner in which he lived his life. Since Glorfindel died in such a noble, self-sacrificing manner he was permitted to return to Middle-Earth after only a short period of time. This also happened to Finrod who "walks with Finarfin his father beneath the trees in Eldamar" (or words to that effect) [See especially History of Middle-Earth Vol. X, "Laws and Customs among the Eldar"].

Rebirth is perhaps the wrong term to use, since the process actually involves the fa recreating the hra (physical body) from memory and then reinhabiting it. The Elf in question is not actually born again." (-Taimar)
[However, the "last discussion of Elvish reincarnation refers only to the 'restoration' or 'reconstitution' of the former body by the Valar, and makes no mention of the idea that it could be achieved by the 'houseless fea' operating of itself." (HoME XII, Last Writings)]

The concept that Glorfindel at the Ford of Bruinen is the very same Glorfindel of Gondolin goes back almost to the very first appearance of him. In a very early draft of the chapter of the Council of Elrond, we find JRR Tolkien's note "Glorfindel tells of his ancestry in Gondolin" (History of Middle-Earth XI)
Christopher Tolkien annotates thus:

"Very notable is "Glorfindel tells of his ancestry in Gondolin". Years later, long after the publication of The Lord of the Rings, my father gave a great deal of thought to the matter of Glorfindel, and at that time he wrote: "[The use of Glorfindel] in LotR is one of the cases of the somewhat random use of the names found in the older legends, now referred to as the Silm, which escaped reconsideration in the final published form of The Lord of the Rings." He came to the conclusion that Glorfindel of Gondolin, who fell to his death in combat with a Balrog after the sack of the city (II. 192-4, IV.145), and Glorfindel of Rivendell were one and the same: he was released from Mandos and returned to Middle-earth in the Second Age" (ibid.).

"In Last Writings (History of Middle-Earth XII), Tolkien says that Glorfindel's return very probably took place during the Second Age before the shadow fell on Numenor. It is said that he might have come to Middle Earth to aid Gil-Galad in the battles that occured following Sauron's forging of the One Ring. While Tolkien doesn't rule out the possibility of Glorfindel returning after the Change of the World, he deems it very improbable, saying that Manw would have need special permission from Eru to allow it to happen." (-Voronwe)

The idea that they might just be two Elves with the same name is thus refuted by Tolkien:

"At any rate what at first sight may seem the simplest solution must be abandoned: sc. that we have merely a reduplication of names, and that Glorfindel of Gondolin and Glorfindel of Rivendell were different persons. This repetition of so striking a name, though possible, would not be credible. No other major character in the Elvish legends as reported in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings has a name borne by another Elvish person of importance. Also it may be found that acceptance of the identity of Glorfindel of old and of the Third Age will actually explain what is said of him and improve the story" (History of Middle-Earth XII, Last Writings).

Primary sources:
The Silmarillion, QS 23 (or the volumes of History of Middle-Earth which tell of Glorindel's history in the First Age)
The Lord of the Rings, I xii - II iii
History of Middle-Earth VI; X Laws and Customs; XII Last Writings

Forum resources:
On Glorfindel I
On Glorfindel II
On Glorfindel III

Did Glorfindel go to Valinor [after the Ring War]?

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