What Exactly Is Valinor in Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power?

Let’s jump into the golden glow of Valinor, even if Galadriel won’t.
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In the climactic moments of the first episode of The Rings of Power, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) has to make a choice. Does she join the fellow elves, her companions in seeking out Sauron throughout the land, and head into Valinor? Or does she turn around, return to Middle-earth and explore the nagging feeling that yes, Sauron might still be hanging around somewhere?

To honour her brother’s memory (and plot development), Galadriel turns back. But not without raising a couple of questions. Mostly, what is Valinor? And why is it so significant that Galadriel turns her back on it?

What is Valinor?

Like many aspects of Tolkien’s expansive universe, which now includes hobbit ancestors harfoots, Valinor has different names; rather evocatively, it’s also called the Undying Lands. Valinor is to the west of Middle-earth accessible by sailing west from Lindon, which is good to know if you are someone who cares about the geography of fictional locations. But most importantly, it is home to the Valar, Middle-earth’s godlike beings.

The elves used to live in Valinor too (they were deemed important enough to get an invite) until they went to fight with Morgoth over in Middle-earth. After that war ended, some elves went back to the Valinor, but others remained in Middle-earth. You might also remember it from Return of the King, as it’s where Frodo heads off to as a reward for all his walking and eventual ring-destroying.

Valinor is a blessed place where you can chill for eternity. If you couldn’t tell from the excessive golden glow, it’s supposed to be good. A key point to remember is that elves are immortal, but they can be killed (like Galadriel’s brother) so hanging around in Valinor is seen as a positive thing.

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Why does Galadriel not go to Valinor?

Valinor is a double-edged sword for Galadriel in this episode. King Gil-galad grants Galadriel and her comrades access to the lands as a reward for their courage, but it’s also to get her out of the picture – he’s uncomfortable with her insistence that Sauron lingers in Middle-earth.

We actually see Valinor twice in the first episode of The Rings of Power. At the very beginning, Galadriel is racing her paper boat along a stream in her native land while the other elf children throw stones at her creation. (For immortal beings, elves are quite petty.) It’s where she grew up, and spent happy childhood days with her brother before the war.

Here’s what showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay told USA Today about Galadriel’s choice at the end of the episode: “She’s been through so much. She has a difficult conversation with Elrond where she says, ‘If I go to Valinor right now, it would be heaven. But it might not be heaven for me because I’m taking so much pain inside me, and I also don’t really know if I’ve finished the mission that I’m in Middle-earth to do.’”

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In other words, Galadriel is looking for closure. While you don’t necessarily need to the know the ins and outs of elf lore to watch the show – Amazon would have a very narrow audience base if that were the case – the context doesn’t hurt. When Galadriel jumps from the boat, she’s not only rejecting Gil-galad’s reward and defying him once again, she’s saying no to going home. Charting your own course, embarking on adventures far from where you know? Classic Tolkien territory.

FromEsquire UK

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