THe spreads Lord of the Rings prequel, The Rings of Power, doesn’t have a main character. The show boasts 22 series regulars and the action takes place across six or seven lands—just in the first season alone. The series’ closest hero is probably Galadriel, the powerful and immortal elf. While reporting TIME’s cover story on the new Prime Video series, I spoke to actor Morfydd Clark and showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay about how they created a new version of one of Tolkien’s most iconic characters.
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The fans of Lord of the Rings books and Peter Jackson’s film adaptations will already be familiar with the elf with flaxen hair who helps Frodo in his mission to destroy the titular ring and thus defeat the evil villain Sauron. In Jackson’s trilogy, Cate Blanchett plays an older version of Galadriel who serves as more as a stateswoman.
Cate Blanchett portrays Galadriel in “The Lord of the Rings”: The Fellowship of the Ring
New Line Cinema
But The Rings of PowerIt is located in the Second Age of Middle-earth about 3,000 years prior to the events of The Fellowship of the Ring This means Galadriel will undergo millennia of growth and experience before she becomes the version of the character we’re familiar with from that seminal text.
To figure out the behavior of a younger Galadriel, Rings of Power showrunners Payne and McKay dug into Tolkien’s appendices at the end of The Return of the Kings, They serve as source material.
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Amazon bought the rights The Hobbit, The Lord of the RingsThese are the Appendices. It Silmarillion, Tolkien’s collection of Middle-earth myths. That limited what versions of the characters they could show, but they were also hyper-aware of the rest of Tolkien’s works so they didn’t misstep with the fans. “There’s four versions of how Galadriel met a certain person, and we don’t have the rights to any of them, but we have to be aware of them,” says McKay.
Morfydd as Galadriel, and Lloyd Owen playing Elendil The Rings of Power
Matt Grace—Prime Video
Tolkien often changed his mind on the immortal, powerful elf. Galdriel’s origins, including when she arrived in Middle-earth, when she married, and how she spent her time during Sauron’s rise and fall. Although she was not in the movie, Lord of the RingsTolkien wrote extensively in his appendices about the powerful Elf, as well as in various texts and notes. He often misunderstood himself along the way.
Tolkien lovers are familiar most with Galadriel’s version. Lord of the Rings and especially in Jackson’s adaptation of that story. She was contemplating retiring as a calm stateswoman at that time in her life. The end of Fellowship of the RingFrodo, his friends and companions visited her. Frodo offers the one ring to her. Galadriel acknowledges that she has waited for this chance to grab the powerful token for a long time. She says she was afraid she’d be corrupted and become a tyrannical, but beautiful, queen of Middle-earth if she accepted the powerful token. She turns down Frodo’s offer and, relieved, realized she has passed the ultimate test and can return home to the Undying Lands, where the elves hailed from before they came to Middle-earth.
Galadriel as Morfydd C Clark The Rings of Power
Matt Grace—Prime Video
In other works Tolkien also writes about Galadriel, a warrior. This clearly influences her portrayal in Rings of Power Payne, who has a penchant for switching to Elvish mid-conversation, points out that Galadriel’s name roughly translates to “elf maiden with a crown of golden hair.”
“That’s because when she would do sparring exercises and fight with a sword, she would do her hair up in braids on the top of her head,” he says. “So the idea of Galadriel as a warrior is built into Tolkien’s Legendarium. It’s just not something that we think of from the depictions that we’ve seen.”
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Morfydd, an actor says that the various descriptions of Galadriel allowed her to create a character she thought would be the best fit for the series. “Tolkien changed his mind about her a lot,” she says. “That was nice because there were quite a few structures of her I could pick from.”
Showrunners wanted to concentrate on the moment Galdriel refuses the ring, and then figure out her growth. “Having that level of self-knowledge is extraordinary and speaks to what journey did she go on that she knows herself that well and can make the right choice? What darkness has she faced herself?” says McKay. “And that speaks to an entire emotional interior world that we felt was ripe for exploration.”
Morfydd Campbell as Galadriel, and Charlie Vickers als 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 be constantly undercutting things. We hate that in stories,” adds McKay. “We’re not trying to be hip. We’re trying to find fresh terrain in this story that’s bursting with ideas.”
“It always comes back to Tolkien,” Payne says. “We just put our own authorial intent on top of it.”
Clark points out that there have been many versions of Galadriel, even beyond Blanchett’s iconic iteration in Jackson’s movies. Galadriel is the subject of many radio dramas, films and plays. She has been interpreted and reinterpreted and will continue to bet the subject of fascination: “I’m not the first, and I’m sure I won’t be the last Galadriel.”
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