The stretches Lord of the Rings background, The Rings of Power, there is no main character. The show boasts 22 regular episodes and is set in six or seven countries – in the first season alone. But the immortal and powerful elf Galadriel is perhaps the closest to a character in the series. While reporting The cover of TIME in the new Prime Video series, I spoke to actor Morfid Clarke and hosts JD Payne and Patrick McKay about how they created a new version of one of Tolkien’s most iconic characters.
The fans of Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson’s books and film adaptations will now introduce the flaxen-haired elf who aids Frodo in his quest to destroy the titular ring and thereby defeat the evil villain Sauron. In Jackson’s trilogy, Cate Blanchett plays an older version of Galadriel who serves more as a stateswoman.
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
New Line Cinema
But The Rings of Power takes place during the Second Age of Middle-earth, about 3,000 years before the events of Fellowship of the Ring. This means that Galadriel will undergo millennia of growth and experience before becoming the version of the character we are familiar with from this core text.
To understand how a much younger Galadriel might behave, Rings of Power showrunners Payne and McKay delved into Tolkien’s applications at the end of The return of the King, which serve as source material for the show.
Amazon has acquired the rights to The Hobbit, Lord of the Ringsand Applications but it doesn’t work The The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s collection of Middle-earth myths. This limited what versions of the characters they could show, but they were also hyper-aware of the rest of Tolkien’s work so they wouldn’t fool the fans. “There are four versions of how Galadriel met a certain person, and we don’t have rights to any of them, but we have to be aware of them,” says McKay.
Morfidd Clarke as Galadriel and Lloyd Owen as Elendil c The Rings of Power
Matt Grace — Premium Video
Complicating matters, Tolkien often changed his mind about the immortal and powerful elf. Galdriel’s origins, including when he arrived in Middle-earth, when he married, and how he spent his time during the rise and fall of Sauron. Although it appeared in Lord of the RingsTolkien also wrote extensively about the mighty elf in the appendices to this work, his notes, and various other texts, often contradicting himself in the process.
Most Tolkien fans are most familiar with the version of Galadriel that appears in Lord of the Rings, and especially in Jackson’s adaptation of this story. At this point in her life, she was a quiet stateswoman contemplating retirement. At the end of fellowship of the Ring, Frodo and his companions visit her. Frodo even offers her the one ring. Galadriel admits that she has long waited for the chance to grab the powerful symbol. But, she says, if she takes it, she herself will become corrupt and rule Middle-earth as a beautiful but tyrannical queen. She rejects Frodo’s offer and is relieved to realize that she has passed the ultimate test and can return home to the Undying Lands, where the elves came from before they came to Middle-earth.
Morfydd Clarke as Galadriel c The Rings of Power
Matt Grace — Premium Video
But in various other works, Tolkien wrote about Galadriel as a warrior, which clearly influenced her image in Rings of Power. Payne, who has a tendency to switch to elven mid-conversation, points out that Galadriel’s name roughly translates to “elven maiden with a crown of golden hair.”
“That’s because when she was sparring and sword fighting, she would braid her hair on the top of her head,” he says. “So the idea of Galadriel as a warrior is built in Tolkien’s Legendarium. It’s just not something we think of from the images we’ve seen.”
Actor Morfid Clarke says that the different portrayals of Galadriel gave her space to form a character that they felt would work best for the show. “Tolkien changed his mind about her a lot,” she says. “That was nice because there were quite a few of her structures to choose from.”
The showrunners wanted to focus on the moment Galdriel rejects the ring and understand how she grew into this character. “That level of self-awareness is extraordinary and it speaks to what kind of journey she’s been on to know herself so well and be able to make the right choices?” What kind of darkness has she faced herself?” says McKay. “And that speaks to a whole emotional inner world that we felt was ripe for exploration.”
Morfidd Clarke as Galadriel and Charlie Vickers as Halbrand
Ben Rothstein—Prime Video
And they wanted to tell that emotional journey in a way that was true to Tolkien’s voice. “We never want to be meta or constantly undercut things. We hate that in stories,” McKay adds. “We’re not trying to be trendy. We’re trying to find fresh ground in this story that’s bursting with ideas.”
“It always comes back to Tolkien,” Payne says. “We just put our own authorial intent on it.”
Clark points out that there are many versions of Galadriel, even beyond Blanchett’s iconic iteration in Jackson’s films. Galadriel has been the subject of plays and radio dramas and films. She has been interpreted and reinterpreted and will continue to play on the theme of enchantment: “I’m not the first and I’m sure I won’t be the last Galadriel.”
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