The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to life Galadriel’s bold, unsung narrative

Morfydd Clark, the actor, took to the task of giving the elf queen a new depth

“All shall despise me and adore me.” Cate Blanchett’s performance as the elven sorcerer Galadriel in Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring is summed up in this statement from The Fellowship of the Ring. All hell seemed to burst loose in a second. “Instead of a Dark Lord, you’d have a queen!” she exclaims, as the colors of the picture appear to invert, her clothing billow about her, and she shakes as if possessed by a power beyond earthly comprehension. But then everything goes back to normal, leaving millions of moviegoers wondering, “What the heck was that all about?”

Galadriel’s triumph against temptation and her trip to this key time in Frodo’s voyage to Mordor have a narrative to tell. Morfydd Clark, the 33-year-old Welsh actress who most recently soldiered through A24’s horror thriller Saint Maud’s supernatural gauntlet, was eager to explore the character’s deep potential in Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Clark told Polygon earlier this month that she knew Galadriel “as the very tranquil and wise lady of Lothlórien” before stepping into Galadriel’s shoes for the production. But what about now?

“The elves of [The Lord of the Rings] have worked hard to obtain such tranquility and knowledge.” “They’ve been pretty messy throughout many of Middle-eras,” earth’s Clark said.

“She’s a rich and legendary figure, but she’s flawed,” said showrunner Patrick McKay.

Galadriel is a helpful hand to Frodo. In Tolkien’s legendarium, Galadriel lived a life of ambition and adventure, rejecting the gifts of the gods in order to pursue power, justice, and her own world to rule. To Tolkien, the elf was one of the most outstanding figures in his work, and she may be the only character he ever portrayed who craved power yet did not become evil. He also never completed her narrative.

Those deep in the weeds of Tolkien mythology know more about the lady than moviegoers or even ardent book purists, thanks to frequently contradicting notes and his son’s recollections, some published posthumously in volumes like The Silmarillion. Tolkien had meant to make Galadriel exceptionally intelligent and competent in any case. She was a queen of elves, a rider in huge armies of battle, a survivor of tremendous sufferings, a scion of virtue, and a renowned beauty in the version of The Silmarillion he didn’t survive to write. And she was a figure who walked the most difficult mythical tightrope of all: defying the gods and yet living to tell the tale.


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Simply put, Galadriel was born in heaven. The gods constructed Valinor, the capital city of Middle-remote earth’s realm of Aman, as the elf promised land. But she was remarkable even for a woman nurtured in elf Valhalla. Years before she departed Valinor, she thought it was too tiny for her desires.

Galadriel “did indeed wish to depart from Valinor and to go into the wide world of Middle-earth for the exercise of her talents; for ‘being brilliant in mind and swift in action she had early absorbed all of what she was capable of the teaching which the Valar thought fit to give the Eldar,’ and she felt confined in the tutelage of Aman,” Christopher Tolkien summarized in Unfinished Tales, based on one of his father’s “partially illeg

In an article about Middle-earth linguistics, Tolkien wrote of Galadriel, saying, “Galadriel was the greatest of the Noldor, except maybe Fanor, though she was smarter than he, and her intelligence rose with the long years.” That is, Galadriel is the greatest of her clan, which included many, many heroes of the fight against the dark deity Morgoth, with the exception of her kinsman Fanor, the finest crafter and worst elf in history, the one who initiated the conflict in the first place. Anyone who imagined a fighter Galadriel was a creation of modern, “liberal” tastes would be startled, or disappointed, but perhaps happy, to learn that Tolkien was first.

The conflict against Morgoth provided Galadriel with the opportunity to depart Valinor and travel to Middle-earth to establish her own reign. Galadriel accompanied Fanor when he swore revenge on Morgoth and roused the Noldor to sail from Aman to slay him. Tolkien stated in The Silmarillion (assembled from his drafts and annotations by his son) that she was “the sole lady of the Noldor to stand that day tall and gallant among the battling princes.” […] She made no pledges, but the words of Fanor about Middle-earth had ignited her heart, because she desired to explore the great unprotected plains and govern a country at her leisure.”

Galadriel and her elder brother Finrod joined the Noldor, although they resisted and abstained from the historically momentous atrocities perpetrated by the rest of their tribe in order to flee Aman. In return, Fanor made life difficult for them by stranding them and their people in the cold without ships. They survived and made it to Middle-main earth’s continent after a difficult overland march recounted in glowing words by Tolkien. “Few of the Noldor’s subsequent actions in hardihood or misery equaled that harrowing crossing,” he wrote.

Tolkien indicated in some of his notes that Galadriel had never been really impressed by Fanor in the first place, but in all versions of her narrative, she came in Middle-earth with very little desire to rejoin his army — but also with no desire to return to Valinor. Tolkien attributes this to pride (not wishing to beseech the gods for pardon) and retribution in the aforementioned philological article. “She burned with want to pursue Fanor with her rage to any nations he may visit, and to stop him in any way she could.”

As a result, while Galadriel stood up to Morgoth, she also withdrew herself from what I’ll refer to as Several Centuries of Awful Fanorian Drama. Her brother was not so fortunate, dying in Sauron’s dungeons despite killing his opponent (a werewolf) with his own hands. (The Silmarillion is… more raw than most people understand.) Still, the gods forbade Galadriel and all the other Noldor who had followed Fanor from returning to Aman, and when the prohibition was removed for everyone who helped vanquish Morgoth, Galadriel refused to return.According to his notes, Tolkien investigated numerous explanations for this over time, including her own pride, her wish to remain with her spouse, or that she was barred from returning to Aman for reasons unconnected to Fanor.

Galadriel eventually gained sovereignty in the era following Morgoth’s destruction, where The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power begins up. She and her companions lived in the woodland at the forest’s eastern entrance after befriending the dwarves of Khazad-dûm (Moria). In acknowledgment of her incorruptibility, she was awarded ownership of one of the three Elven Rings after Sauron’s treachery.In the Third Age, she was essential in the founding of the White Council, which joined the smartest elves, Gandalf, and Saruman, against the increasing menace of Mordor, and she aided when the council members drove Sauron himself from southern Mirkwood during the events of The Hobbit. Galadriel’s strength drove many waves of Sauron’s soldiers from Lothlórien when Aragorn and company battled orc armies at Minas Tirith in The Return of the King, and upon his final defeat she tore the evil castle of Dol Guldur to the ground with her enchantment.

None of these threats, however, compared to the Fellowship’s arrival to her realm. Frodo presented Galadriel the One Ring, not knowing anything about her background, but in awe of how far her might and knowledge outweighed his own. All she had to do was ask, and she could turn all of Middle-earth into her own domain. The proposal triggers her worst (and, for some, perplexing) moment. Depending on whatever pieces of Tolkien’s notes you read, this was either the final test she had to complete in order to receive her pardon, or the moment she understood she had finally fought every obstacle worthy of her power and had no excuse not to return to Aman.


The Lord of the Rings

Galadriel left heaven because she was sick of being a baby and desired authority. She is the only figure in Middle-earth conceived by Tolkien who coveted power only for the sake of implementing her own will and yet never got corrupted. The most difficult aspect of the task, according to Morfydd Clark, was gaining access to that unbruised self-confidence.

“The elves in particular are very physically powerful,” she told Polygon. A huge part of me […] is that no matter how fit I get, I feel physically weak. And so, throwing off what that would imply, being a being that has never felt weak, never felt that they might be overcome. That was a long voyage, and it’s difficult to conceive how I would have felt if I hadn’t experienced those emotions. Fearlessness and a certain arrogance accompany this.”

Clark doesn’t only mean physical confidence, as seen on television in exquisite battle sequences and endurance feats — though she admits her greatest physical challenge of the production was learning to ride horses for the first time. The actor claims she struggled with portraying a younger version of an eternal. An elf may remain “young” while yet being centuries old – they wouldn’t be any more naïve than their elder counterparts.

Clark discovered the answer: “If they were going to be naïve, it would be hubris.” That is how it would seem. [Galadriel] mentions at one point how wisdom leads to a loss of innocence. So there’s a childlike innocence to her attitude that I don’t think I equate with women in our culture.”

Galadriel has plenty of reasons for benign arrogance in Tolkien’s legend. The author frequently emphasized that she knew the secret evil hearts of some of Middle-greatest earth’s betrayers, such as Fanor and Saruman, years before their betrayals. And one of the few things we know about Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power production is that Galadriel’s predilection for being correct all along is fueling her characterisation. Galadriel starts Rings of Power fiercely chasing the dispersed remnants of Morgoth’s forces, her brother’s murder still fresh in her thoughts. She feels that, despite the conclusion of the war, evil still exists in the world.

Is Galadriel’s intuition correct? Or has years of violence blinded her? Sauron, Morgoth’s most powerful servant, is alive and plotting – most viewers will recognize this as the narrative backbone of the Second Age, and crucial to Sauron’s presence in The Lord of the Rings. And when I brought this up to showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, they realized precisely what I meant. She may be correct about Sauron, but Galadriel the Younger still has a lot to learn.

“I believe she’s really courageous.” I adore her. I respect her. “She’s also making mistakes, left and right [laughs],” McKay remarked. “And we believe it is beneficial to fill a character with that amount of fragility, sensitivity, and pride.”

“One thing we like to attempt to achieve in narrative, especially in Middle-earth, is that people are often collectively correct. “You have dyads where individuals are both right and incorrect, and they will sort of share a truth,” Payne explained. “Both of them are telling the truth, but just one side of the truth.” And by listening to one other and cooperating, they will be able to uncover the entire truth. So Galadriel can be correct while simultaneously being imperfect.And still be imperfect and have unfinished business within her. And by single-mindedly pursuing a goal and blocking out the cautions of, you know, her coworkers, friends, and king, she may make blunders. We’re curious about both her rightness and what she still has to learn.”

The Lord of the Rings

Clark has her own point of view. “I believe Galadriel is out of touch with a community, not just her elf community, but community in general.” What I admire about Tolkien is his fixation with the fact that no one is an island, and that any character who goes it alone in The Lord of the Rings is tragic. At this point, [Galadriel] is inflicting it on herself. So she’s not going to do it correctly since everyone in Middle-earth is a part of a web. And she’s acting strangely, like if she’s trying to get away from it. And I believe that when you’re losing yourself, that’s when you’re most prone to make mistakes.”

However, the actress steadfastly supported her persona. “What [other characters] have missed is that you can never rest on your laurels with peace, and you can never imagine you’ve attained it.” To illustrate, she used a quotation from activist Mariame Kaba, “Hope is a discipline.” “I believe Galadriel sees that everyone is laying back and resting, and even if Sauron isn’t coming, you must continuously safeguard peace.” And there’s always hope. They do not survive by becoming inactive.”

When readers and viewers first meet Galadriel, it is in a story where the burden of practicing hope and protecting peace falls most heavily on the shoulders of others, an era when the wise lady of Lothlórien’s role is to keep her bright borders against encroaching darkness, not to fight darkness itself. For others, the initial photographs from the set of Rings of Power, which showed Galadriel in full armor and wielding a sword nearly as long as she is tall, seemed to misrepresent her character.

But, as Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel says in the first scene of The Fellowship of the Ring, “the world has changed […] and certain things that should not have been forgotten have been lost.” Tolkien’s Galadriel, as cobbled together by his son and others, was a fair and terrifying explorer, a reader of mortal souls, a proud and knowledgeable leader who saw the gods as no more or less flawed than she did. And a lady who, even in the face of the greatest evil, understood precisely who she was.

“I was portraying someone who, if they chose the road of evil, the harm they might inflict would be enormous,” Clark reflected. “I think about it a lot.” I believe that many female pop singers, for example, had large fan bases. I’m thinking, Yeah, and you’re lucky they’re polite because they have an army behind them. And I think it’s amazing that Galadriel rejects a form of power that most — well, we all know that all the human males of Middle-earth would grasp and use to destroy rather than construct.”

“Morfydd is the genuine deal,” McKay said confidently to Polygon. “Just wait, she’s just getting started,” she said, knowing I’d only seen the first two episodes.

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