Of all the heroes in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, only one was considered the greatest of elven women. Great enough to even wear a Ring of Power herself.
Galadriel, also known as the Lady of Lórien and the Lady of Light, has a major role — maybe even de facto central protagonist — in the new streaming series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power for Prime Video, where she’s played by Morfydd Clark.
“Galadriel is thousands of years old, but she’s not as old as she will become,” Clark tells Inverse. (Elves are immortal, remember.) “She’s not quite so wise. And she is living in a time of peace, but she knows that’s fragile. She’s not yet lived in a world where the rings exist.”
But with its story set long before Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the Galadriel audiences meet in The Rings of Power isn’t like the one described in those books or seen in director Peter Jackson’s movies (where she’s played by two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett).
Because of her younger age and feverish devotion to staying vigilant against evil in a time of peace, the Galadriel seen in The Rings of Power has a long way to go before she becomes the hero — and person worthy of one of the three elven rings — that she’s known to be.
Tolkien’s Second Age
The Rings of Power tells the story of the forging of the Rings of Power during the Second Age. You probably remember how it goes: Nine rings are given to mortal men, seven to Dwarves, and Sauron wields his One Ring (to rule them all). There are also three forged for elves. Based on fire, water, and air, Galadriel receives the white ring of water, Nenya, which she uses to protect the realm of Lothlórien.
While the forging of the rings forms the prologue of The Lord of the Rings, it’s an endpoint for The Rings of Power. The Amazon series intends to break down in detail the events that lead to the rings’ creations, which might also mean the introduction of a certain Necromancer one day.
But that’s the future of Rings of Power. At present, Middle Earth is enjoying a time of peace. Sauron and the forces of evil have long been vanquished. The series debuts Clark as Galadriel, who swears on one of her brothers’ graves (Finrod?) to hunt and end Sauron once and for all. The thirst for vengeance leaves Galadriel unquenched for centuries. Even when the threat of Sauron fades into memory, it only pushes her further.
A different Galadriel
The Galadriel we meet here is a far cry from the one depicted in The Lord of the Rings. That character seemed at peace with the world and her place in it and even managed to resist the temptation of the One Ring. But in Rings of Power, we see a fiery warrior, one who might not reject the Ring if it was offered to her and one who refuses to accept that evil has been defeated.
For Galadriel, the peace enjoyed by most is only temporary, and maybe even a façade.
“She feels people are not valuing the peace,” Clark tells Inverse. “They’re not keeping the fragile peace safe. There’s an element of, ‘It’s all done, it’s all fine, we can relax.’ I like that saying that you have to water your hope. Apart from her seeing signs that it’s there, she’s seeing people let their guards down in a way that she knows is dangerous.”
Galadriel’s story also brings forth a new character to the saga: Halbrand, played by Charlie Vickers, whom Galadriel meets stranded on a raft.
“He's on a raft in the Sundering seas and he's made a decision to move forward with his life and forget his past,” Vickers tells Inverse. “He’s a Southlander, a human from the Southlands, which is the part of Middle-earth that's currently being ruled by the elves. Because the ancestors of these people fought on the side of Morgoth at the end of the First Age. They fought on the side of evil, they lost, and they're being punished. So Hal comes from a place of pain, living in squalor for a long time.”
Without giving too much away, Vickers promises Halbrand’s story is consequential to Galadriel’s.
“Their relationship at first is standoffish,” he says, “There’s a push-pull dynamic between them as their relationship presses on, and she makes him question things about his past and his future.”
Known for her roles in shows like Netflix’s Dracula and HBO’s His Dark Materials, Clark also starred in the 2020 horror film Saint Maud, where she plays a nurse haunted by an evil entity. Clark tells Inverse she was a fan of The Hobbit and thought she knew enough about Tolkien’s work before stepping into The Rings of Power.
“I’d loved The Hobbit. I watched the film countless times. So I thought I’d had quite a big education,” Clark says. “You’d think that Tolkien could have only managed to write The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings because they’re huge. But no. There’s just so much.”
Clark admits she felt trouble grasping the sheer amount of lore left behind by Tolkien. “I kind of had this bit of identity crisis when I arrived, thinking I was like a Tolkien [expert], very knowledgeable. And it was like, I’m not!”
“She’s not quite so wise.”
But with production taking place during a global crisis, the pause in shooting gave Clark and other members of the cast time to make up for their blind spots. “We weren’t filming, and it was really nice to have an obsession,” she says.
Galadriel’s vengeance can give her a sense of tunnel vision but is ultimately the fuel that keeps her going.
“Grief, I think, is the most powerful thing to keep someone going to a degree. It can go either way with her,” Clark says. “It’s like an incredible drive.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premieres Sept. 2 on Prime Video.