This Lord of the Rings article contains spoilers for The Rings of Power.
Five episodes in, we finally have a pretty solid idea of where most of The Rings of Power‘s plotlines are going. Galadriel, Halbrand, and the people of Numenor are sailing to Middle-earth to stop the rise of Sauron in the Southlands. Meanwhile, Arondir and Bronwyn will need to find a way to defend the watchtower of Ostirith from Adar’s impending Orc attack.
Evil stirs beyond the world of man, too. The Harfoots continue their migration through Middle-earth, the Stranger in tow. Is he good or evil? The jury’s still out on whether he’ll ultimately turn out to be Gandalf, Saruman, or Sauron himself, but Nori and her people will undoubtedly find out in the coming weeks, especially now that the menacing Dweller — who we’re pretty sure is Sauron — has learned of the Stranger’s existence.
But what about the rings of power themselves? For a show with “rings” in the title, there’s very little talk about actual rings so far. That’s clearly where the Elf storyline is headed though, as Elrond and Celebrimbor continue their work on the forge in Lindon while King Gil-galad schemes to learn about mithril from Durin. Episode 5 reveals that acquiring mithril from Moria is key to the continued survival of the Elves of Middle-earth, who need the light of the Valar contained within the rare mineral to remain immortal. You see, since darkness is rising in the land, it’s causing the mystical light of the Valar to dim, which is a fancy way of saying all the Elves are slowly dying. Fans of the Peter Jackson trilogy will remember that the loss of this light was one of Arwen’s key storylines after choosing a mortal life in Fellowship.
What does the light of the Valar have to do with mithril, though? This is where The Rings of Power plays it a bit fast and loose with Tolkien’s legendarium. Gil-galad tells Elrond a story about an Elven hero of old who fought one of Morgoth’s Balrogs to the death to protect a sacred tree said to hold the last of the Silmarils, jewels that contained the essence of the Two Trees of Valinor, which are what originally held the light of the Valar. (This is why Tolkien’s Elves are so into trees.) During this epic battle in the First Age, the tree was struck down by lightning, and the tree’s light was lost deep in the earth until Durin and the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm discovered mithril.
Again, this stuff doesn’t really line up with the histories of Middle-earth and Valinor that Tolkien himself outlined in the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings and in The Silmarillion, but it has sparked a new fan theory that the show might have just foreshadowed the arrival of a classic character who was cut from Jackson’s films.
In his fictional history accounts that make up his posthumous books The Silmarillion and The Book of Lost Tales, Tolkien writes of a mighty Elf warrior who bravely sacrificed himself to slay a Balrog during an event known as the Fall of Gondolin, the destruction of a secret Elven city by Morgoth and his army. For his valor, this Elf was brought back to life by the god-like Valar and allowed to live in peace in the Undying Lands of Valinor. But according to Tolkien, this Elf was later sent back to Middle-earth by the Valar with the powers equivalent to those of the Wizards.
His name, of course, was Glorfindel.
If you’re a big fan of The Lord of the Rings movies, you have probably heard the name before — but not because he plays a pivotal role in Jackson’s adaptation. Rather, it’s because the director famously cut the character almost completely from the trilogy despite Glorfindel playing a small but important part in Frodo’s journey to Rivendell in The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s remained a controversial omission among fans of the books ever since.
In the original book, Glorfindel is the Elf who Elrond sends to meet Frodo and his companions, and he’s also the the one who helps a wounded Frodo cross the Ford of Bruinen to safety while the Nazgul give chase. But in the film, it’s Liv Tyler’s Arwen who helps Frodo escape the Ringwraiths, and it’s easily one of the best scenes in The Fellowship of the Ring. Some fans maintain that Jackson did Tolkien’s original work a disservice by cutting Glorfindel’s big scene from the trilogy, relegating him to brief cameos in the first and third movies, appearing most prominently during Aragon’s crowning at the end of Return of the King. He’s the blonde dude standing next to Elrond in the pic below:
Now, while Gil-galad’s story could be referencing Glorfindel’s heroic deeds, he didn’t die protecting a tree specifically in Tolkien’s writings but rather he was defending his people. Since The Rings of Power hasn’t shied away from changing other things about Tolkien’s world — the writer never put such an emphasis on mithril in his writing, for example — it’s possible that Amazon has completely reimagined the legend of Glorfindel to better fit the narrative of the series. Or maybe Gil-galad is just straight up lying to Elrond to get him to play ball and betray Durin’s trust.
Whether or not this is supposed to be Glorfindel, Gil-galad’s story will hardly be the first time fans have wondered if the legendary Elf is making his way to Middle-earth. Some have even speculated that the Stranger himself might actually be a reincarnated Glorfindel sent to Middle-earth by the Valar. Since the show takes place in the Second Age, which is when Glorfindel returned to Middle-earth, it does kind of line up. But the Stranger looks nothing like the golden-haired Elf, so that’s probably a stretch. Plus, he’s clearly Gandalf. Right?
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.