This Lord of the Rings article contains spoilers for The Rings of Power.
Episode 4 of The Rings of Power featured numerous references to Elrond and Galadriel’s fathers, but with most of their activities having happened in the First Age, which the series isn’t allowed to adapt, the explanations around them were a bit vague. So who exactly were they, and how are Elrond and Galadriel likely to feel about them by the time of the series?
Elrond does give Durin a basic outline of his father’s story in their conversation in “The Great Wave.” He says that his father “single-handedly sailed to Valinor and convinced the Valar to join the war and vanquish Morgoth.” As a result, “the Valar lifted him beyond the bounds of this world to forever carry the evening star across the sky.”
The Valar are the Powers of Arda; essentially, they are gods, though Tolkien, being Roman Catholic, tended to steer away from that terminology. Morgoth, the Bad Guy of the First Age, was one of them. The Maiar, lesser heavenly beings, were created to be their servants – the Maiar include Gandalf and the other Wizards, as well as Sauron and the Balrogs. So basically, Elrond’s dad Eärendil convinced the gods to go to war, and was placed among the stars as a result – very Greek mythology.
Elrond’s story about his father is a mostly accurate, if short, summary of what Tolkien wrote about Eärendil. He didn’t go “single-handedly,” because his wife Elwing went with him (which is a whole story in itself). And the light seen as the evening star in Middle-earth is one of the Silmarils, which Eärendil wears as a headpiece. The Silmarils are jewels which shone with the Light of Valinor, but which can’t be mentioned by name in The Rings of Power because Amazon don’t have the rights to The Silmarillion.
Eärendil is Elrond’s father, and also Aragorn’s ancestor through Elrond’s twin brother Elros (yes, Aragorn and Arwen are distantly related). Eärendil was the son of a Man (Tuor) and an Elf (Idril) while his wife Elwing was the grand-daughter of a Man (Beren) and an Elf (Lúthien), so Elrond and Elros have both Elf and mortal ancestry on both sides. Their father Eärendil was known as “the Mariner” and built his own ship with help from the Elf Círdan the Shipwright.
After their bravery in the war against Morgoth, Eärendil and Elwing, along with all their descendants, were given the opportunity to choose whether they wanted to live as Elves or as mortals. Both chose the Elves, but of their sons, Elrond chose the Elves while Elros chose to become mortal, and became the first King of Númenor – we saw his picture in a tapestry in episode 3. This is why Arwen has to choose between going with the Elves or staying with Aragorn and becoming mortal in The Return of the King.
Bilbo sings a song about Eärendil while the hobbits are staying at Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings (including a reference to the Silmaril) so it’s possible we’ll hear more about him over the course of The Rings of Power, since that puts it in the category of material from The Lord of the Rings, i.e. material Amazon is legally allowed to adapt. In the meantime, it’s clear that the legacy of his famous father hangs over Elrond’s head. The Rings of Power has chosen to really play up the tension between Men and Elves, and Elrond’s Half-Elven status is something he carries almost as a burden, while his separation from his family – as both parents are in Valinor and therefore unreachable, and his brother is long dead – is also something that leaves him feeling rather lonely and outcast.
That problem may eventually be solved by Galadriel, since he will ultimately end up married to her daughter. However, since Galadriel doesn’t appear to have any children yet and we haven’t heard so much as a whisper of her husband Celeborn, he may have to wait a while. (In Tolkien’s mythology, Galadriel and Celeborn are married but living separately at this point. Whether that’s the case in the show has yet to be revealed as Celeborn hasn’t been mentioned at all).
Unlike Elrond, Galadriel is all Elf, and in fact she is a grand-daughter of one of the very first Elves created. She has been referred to several times as “daughter of Finarfin” in The Rings of Power, but the show hasn’t gone into any detail about what that means, probably because Finarfin is barely mentioned in the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings, which means Amazon don’t have the rights to his story.
Galadriel’s father Finarfin was the younger half-brother of Fëanor, King of the Ñoldorian Elves and the Elf who made the Silmarils and the palantíri (the seeing-stones seen in both The Lord of the Rings and The Rings of Power). When Morgoth stole the Silmarils, Fëanor persuaded many Elves to go to war to get them back, and when a group of sea-faring Elves called the Teleri refused to give him ships to sail to Middle-earth and go to war, he and his followers killed them in the First Kinslaying. Finarfin tried to talk Fëanor out of going to war, unsuccessfully, and left him after the Kinslaying, at which point Finarfin was made High King of the Ñoldor.
By pointedly calling Galadriel “daughter of Finarfin,” the Númenoreans might just be emphasizing her high status in Elf society as, essentially, a Princess. But they might also be alluding to her family’s violent past; her father may have turned back and not taken part in the Kinslaying, but he was still persuaded to take an army with the intention of waging war in Middle-earth, even if that war was against Morgoth. While Elrond seems to have something of an outsider status due to his mixed parentage, Galadriel is met with hostility from some of the humans she comes into contact with because of her famous Elven relatives.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.