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What Did Finrod Say to Galadriel in ‘The Rings of Power’?

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel stares into the light of the Grey Havens

***Spoilers for the first episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power***

In the first episode of the new Amazon Prime Video The Lord of the Rings prequel series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, we get to the epic scope of history in J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe. But before launching into migrations, wars, and evil Dark Lords, the show opens from the more personal viewpoint of the elf Galadriel (Amelie Child-Villiers) as a child. In the prologue sequence of “A Shadow of the Past,” Galadriel is seen talking with her beloved brother Finrod Felagund (Will Fletcher). Galadriel and Finrod philosophically discuss darkness and light, and how to distinguish what direction to go in and which paths to take in life, especially when the right decision may not be immediately clear. Finrod whispers words of advice to Galadriel that we don’t hear until later in the episode—so if you didn’t catch them, we’ve got you covered.

“It’s hard to say which way is up and which way is down,” Galadriel says to Finrod. Then she asks, “How am I to know which lights to follow?” Finrod leans over and whispers something in her ear that the audience doesn’t hear. “But that seems so simple,” Galadriel says in response. Finrod tells her, “The most important truths often are. But you must learn to discern them for yourself … I won’t always be here to speak them to you.” Indeed, these come to be prophetic words, as we soon learn that Finrod, after vowing to seek out and destroy Sauron, was killed by Sauron, who carved an unknown symbol into his flesh. After the tragic death of her brother, Galadriel dedicates herself to completing his mission at all costs. “And there, in the darkness, his vow became mine,” she says.

What were Finrod’s words of advice to Galadriel?

Galadriel gazes at her brother Finrod's body

We don’t actually learn what Finrod said to Galadriel until the end of the first episode of The Rings of Power. Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is trying to decide whether she should go with the rest of her company into the the Grey Havens, the legendary elvish port city that King Gil-gahad describes as being in “the Blessed Realm, the Far West, the Undying Lands of Valinor.” There’s really no coming back to Middle-earth for Galadriel if she goes, and she is still committed to her vow to destroy Sauron and worried that his evil is reemerging. As she desperately wonders what to do as the other elves on board her ship are engulfed by light, Galadriel remembers her exchange with Finrod.

After she asked her brother “How do I know which lights to follow?” we now hear Finrod’s answer. He said, “Sometimes we cannot know until we have touched the darkness.”

Recalling her brother’s advice prompts Galadriel to jump off of the elven ship and swim back to Middle-earth, leaving the Grey Havens behind.

We can interpret Finrod’s words in a few different ways. Finrod could be saying that it’s hard to know the right way to go until you’ve actually gone the wrong way first yourself (this works on a lot of levels—literally, metaphorically, spiritually). And technically, this applies to the scene where Galadriel remembers his advice, since it’s vital for her to turn back from the Grey Havens and return to Middle-earth. It further means she may have even longer and farther to go into the darkness first.

His advice could also indicate that it’s difficult to persevere towards the “light” until you’ve run up against real evil—in Galadriel’s case, she’s witnessed so much suffering and death that now she’s well-acquainted with evil. She was getting close to Sauron—or at least his minions—in her pursuit, so she was nearly close to touching darkness herself. She had also cited that she took her vow to finish Finrod’s mission “in the darkness.” She should, and did, trust her instincts that to go back was the right decision, that she was following the right lights. However you want to interpret Finrod’s words, we do know that Sauron is “the shadow of the past” indicated in the episode’s title. In a way, so is Finrod, only his shadow is a guiding light when his sister needs it most.

(images: Amazon Studios)

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Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.