Right now, nothing about our shiny, new Rings of Power trailer is exercising my mind more than Galadriel’s statement to Elrond “You’ve not seen what I’ve seen”.
Well, even by the first year of the Second Age, Elrond had seen and endured quite a bit: extended parental absences and the wholly unwarranted slaughter of family and friends by kinfolk who subsequently adopt him (and his twin brother). Sometime later, said kin, seemingly, abandon him in favour of some shiny gems.
This is some Grave of the Fireflies-scale trauma.
So you wouldn’t think that Galadriel means something similar, like that one time at Aqualondë when Fëanor decided to requisition some boats (or, later, when he decided to use said boats for tinder on the beach at Losgar).
It’s also likely that Elrond was involved in the The War of Wrath and present at Thangorodrim for the defeat of Morgoth at the conclusion of the First Age. It’s implicit in his statement during the Council of Elrond when he speaks of the Last Alliance.
“I remember well the splendour of their banners,” he said. “It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled. And yet not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken…”The Council of Elrond, The Lord of the Rings
Arguably that’s the defining event of the First Age (even if it’s the most-sketchily recorded). A dragon falls on and destroys a mountain chain. Later, an entire sub-continent sinks as a result. It is, quite literally, a world-changing event.
Let’s say your preferred canon is that Galadriel remained in Doriath into the later stages of the First Age (one option CJRT outlines in Unfinished Tales), the sacking of Menegroth doesn’t remotely meet that benchmark. Even were you to place Galadriel at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad (I wouldn’t), or the Dagor Bragollach (a big stretch, but I do wonder if the showrunners might), it’s just not comparable.
So what’s left?
I broached this with fellow staffers, suggesting that only one thing in Galadriel’s history is truly incomparable: the destruction of the Two Trees by Morgoth and Ungoliant.
But, generally, we agree that the description of that event given in The Silmarillion is a poor match for the imagery from the scenes that Galadriel’s voice-over cuts across in the trailer. The Silmarillion describes that Laurelin and Telperion wither as Ungoliant drains them of life. They do not burn. The assault causes a vast, ever-expanding gloom and darkness, and it is entirely unexpected and unanticipated.
That’s very unlike what we see in the Rings of Power trailer scene. There’s a the red-hued background, flickering embers pass behind Galadriel, and there are bodies that seem to hang in space. Further, whatever Galadriel is looking on seems to centre on something that looks like a tower, or a fortress. Not trees.
If it’s not something in Galadriel’s (distant) past, what is it then?
Perhaps it’s some Second Age event around or during timeline that The Rings of Power covers.
Here, fellow-staffer Garfeimao cleverly suggests that we should keep in mind that Galadriel has powers of foresight. This, after all, is how Sam is able to see a vision of The Shire getting, let us say, redeveloped.
“Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal,” she answered, “and to some I can show what they desire to see. But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold. What you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell. Do you wish to look?”The Mirror of Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings
Scholar Michael Martinez suggests that — at that point — Galadriel’s reach may have been increased since she was able to use the Ring of Adamant, Nenya freely. Yet he also clearly believes that Galadriel had always possessed a native foresight of her own.
I could see some pointing out that Elrond also has a mighty foresight. And that’s true.
For example, his concern for welfare of The Shire is not at all misplaced. But he also doesn’t intuit how critical Merry and Pippin would prove to the Quest to destroy the Ring. That’s not to say his foreknowledge is less, it’s more to showcase how imprecise such things can be in Tolkien. No-one ever sees the full picture — even the memories of the Valar of the Music are said to be fuzzy.
And a vision might explain the subtle differences between the two shots: Galadriel is not physically present at the second scene. Instead she’s perceiving it through the lens of vision — just as Frodo and Sam did in Lorien — from somewhere else that is distant in both place and time. Somewhere else that — in a sneaky bit of misdirection — just happens to have endured some sort of fire or assault.
Recall, also, that such visions and dreams in Tolkien can be the cause of great restlessness in the receiver. In The Silmarillion, Turgon and Finrod each receive a vision from Ulmo while resting by the banks of the Sirion.
“Unquiet was upon them ever after, and doubt of what should befall, and they wandered often alone in untrodden lands, seeking far and wide for places of hidden strength…”Of the Return of the Noldor, The Silmarillion
This might be a key reason why Galadriel is unable to, as Elrond suggests, put down her sword.
A vision opens up possibilities of things that we, as an audience, might not see come to pass in the first season of The Rings of Power.
Now, that seems appropriately apocalyptic.
It would explain why all the figures look like they’re floating — they are. And it explains the odd ripples through that scene — it’s distortions caused by the surface of the water.
The mist cleared and he saw a sight which [Frodo] had never seen before but knew at once: the Sea. Darkness fell. The sea rose and raged in a great storm. Then he saw against the Sun, sinking blood-red into a wrack of clouds [my emphasis], the black outline of a tall ship with torn sails riding up out of the West.The Mirror of Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings
There might be powerful reasons for Amazon Studios to tip people to this end-scenario early. The fact is that most viewers won’t know what a Númenor is, let alone that it was an island-continent that was sunk after an entire people went off their collective trolley, implemented a system of human (and, presumably elven) sacrifice, and decided to invade the “land of the gods” out of a misplaced belief that conquering it would confer immortality.
Sure, even the most casual watcher will understand Ring Bad(tm), but this is vastly more tangible and visceral.
This would be one way to drive home the wider audience what’s at stake and, conceptually, I like it a lot.
Unfortunately, neither The Lord of the Rings nor its Appendices mention the “mighty temple” that Sauron has built in Armenelos, nor the sacrifices of the Faithful that are conducted inside. Those details are only found in the Akallabêth story in The Silmarillion.
However, Appendix A and Appendix B do mention that the Faithful are persecuted, and that rebellion and “civil war” occurred in the final years of Númenor.
That may be enough for the purposes of a vision. That may also satisfy a quite accurate objection that Staffer Earl raises — that the scene does have the appearance of being the outcome of battle. In fact, the most prominent floating figure seems to be run through with a spear.
Perhaps it reflects that, in those final, doomed years, “men took weapons … and slew one another for little cause; for they were become quick to anger.” Chaos and violence as the apocalypse literally occurs should not, I think, be unexpected.
But let’s say that’s incorrect and we’re not looking upon a scene of Akallabêth.
Is there something else it might be?
Here, I’m indebted to one of our Discord chatters DrNosy who informed me that the fan hivemind suspects that the trailer aerial of a city at the confluence of two rivers is Ost-in-Edhil, the chief city of Eregion.
Ost-in-Edhil lies at the joining of the rivers Sirannon and Glanduin. It will be a key location for the series, since it’s where all the rings of power — lesser and greater are created (except the One). And it is beseiged, then destroyed, when Sauron leads a host into Eriador after Celebrimbor refuses to turn over the rings the elven-smiths made.
“…the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk, and the trees and the grass do not now remember them: Only I hear the stones lament them: ‘Deep they delved us, high they builded us, fair they wrought us, but they are gone.'”The Ring Goes South, The Lord of the Rings
While not as apocalyptic as the end of Númenor, it is still the end of Eregion. More, it’s the civilisational high mark of the Noldor. Although Elrond establishes subsequently a refuge in Rivendell, never again would they attempt anything on a similar scale.
A vision of the dreams of the Noldor going up in flames might just suffice.
About the author: Staffer Demosthenes has been involved with TheOneRing.net since 2001, serving first as an Associate News Editor, then as Chief News Editor during the making of the Hobbit films. Now he focuses on features and analysis. The opinions in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent those of TheOneRing.net and other staff.