Analyzing Two of Galadriel’s Most Iconic, and Controversial, Scenes
By Frankie-Robin Cooper, Staff Writer, P.F.I. Co-Host
Wisdom is the fruit of aging, or so I’ve been told. When pondering a character who has lived as long as Galadriel, one wonders what sorts of lessons she has had to learn in order to become the esteemed model of poise and wisdom that she is in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring and its cinematic counterpart made by Peter Jackson.
Galadriel, Lady of Lothlórien, is the epitome of grace and majesty. Every part of her character from her sophisticated posture, her unquestionable power, to her long, silvery hair, so beautiful that Gimli asks if he can take a few strands home to preserve forever, speaks to her maturity and good reputation. This image is cemented in the audience’s mind until Frodo asks Galadriel to take the One Ring. The temptation of the ring is strong, and for a moment Galadriel’s façade of serenity and omnipotence is shattered as she contemplates what the ring could do for her. In Jackson’s rendition of the story, Galadriel’s image is literally transformed as the temptation consumes her: she begins to glow in a devilish light and her voice is pitched down as she proclaims boldly, “Instead of a dark lord, you would have a Queen–not dark but beautiful and terrible as the dawn!” But, in the end, Galadriel resists the temptation of the ring.
The Galadriel presented in Amazon’s Rings of Power is much younger and wilder. Vengeance is not only her only goal in life–it’s essentially her entire personality. Therefore, her outburst against Adar in Season 1, episode 6 is a tad more expected, though not without creating shock waves of its own. Many a fan has wondered if Galadriel might just be a psychopath after she declares that she will murder Adar’s entire race, saving him for last.
Why is one of these outbursts so loved, while the other so hated?
The first outburst both furthers the audience’s understanding of a character, and completely bewilders them. Here we have the Perfect Strong Female Lead™ personified. She’s calm, she’s wise, she’s beautiful, she’s somewhat mysterious. Then, the audience sees this scene. We see a woman who is not only powerful beyond reckoning, but who craves more power. The power to save Lothlorien from annihilation, and the power to become the queen she aspires to be. Galadriel is suddenly human: she has flaws.
Then, in a moment, she changes. She does not revert back to her previous, composed self at the end of this scene. She seems tired, reserved, dare I say afraid. In this moment, we see the price of Galadriel’s wisdom and maturity. She’s won them through literal centuries of internal reflection and growth. Her discipline to refuse the ring–a strength which not many characters possess–has been carefully cultivated and forged in battle.
Perhaps The Galadriel in Rings of Power is a representation of that hard-earned wisdom. She is a younger Galadriel who still has much to learn. From that perspective, can her sudden threat of genocide be better understood? Is it still in character for her?
In my opinion, it is. Galadriel in Rings of Power is not the same Galadriel from The Fellowship of the Ring, just as I am not the same girl I was in my teenage emo-phase. We are talking about a character who has not only lived for centuries, but who has grieved her brother for centuries. Her outburst isn’t necessarily a symptom of underdevelopment, but development ongoing.
That is not to say that I am not without my grievances about Galadriel’s character in Rings of Power. I still find myself a tad unsatisfied with her arc. It feels as though the writers wanted both a flawless character and a character with depth and layers, and you cannot have both. The price of a well developed character arc is the capacity in which a character has struggled or suffered. Galadriel suffers the loss of her brother, that much is clear, and in her quest for vengeance she faces many obstacles. But what exactly has she learned from these experiences? She overcomes all of the hurdles of her quest with this kind of noble and heroic air, and the nobility of her intentions is never questioned up until her outburst against Adar, in episode 6, after which she appears to regret her actions, but it is not entirely clear.
I guess my question is, why are writers so afraid to let their characters struggle, suffer, or even be defeated? This is a problem I see often with many main characters, especially female leads. In an attempt to create that strong female character, writers will create heroines who never fumble, are never forced to reconsider their actions, who never have bad hair days. As a result, these heroines tend to simply not feel real, and furthermore are never able to grow and change as characters. Their overcoming isn’t powerful because they never doubted that they could do it. In the case of Galadriel, this outburst she has in season 6 could have been that moment for her (and I predict that perhaps it still could be, if it is built upon in the second season), but the writers seemed to have hesitated. Galadriel seems to dwell on her actions, as seen in one of the following scenes where she tells Theo not to go down the path of violence, but what takeaways she herself pulled from her interaction with Adar and what steps she may take to be different are yet to be seen. The Galadriel of The Fellowship of the Ring is steady and wise, and I wouldn’t object for a moment against her having a younger, more impulsive counterpart. But if I’m to believe that this younger Galadriel will grow into the older, wiser Galadriel, the writers must overcome their fear of allowing her to be weak. They must do their characters the justice of allowing them to fall so that they can rise again.