Gil-galad is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium, the last High King of the Noldor, one of the main divisions of Elves. He is mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, where the hobbit Sam Gamgee recites a fragment of a poem about him, and The Silmarillion. In the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, Gil-galad and Elendil laid siege to the Dark Lord Sauron's fortress of Barad-dûr, and fought him hand-to-hand for the One Ring. Both Gil-galad and Elendil were killed, and Elendil's son Isildur took the Ring for himself. Gil-galad briefly appears at the opening of Peter Jackson's film trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, and features in several video games based on Tolkien's Middle-earth.
|Aliases||Ereinion, Artanáro, Rodnor,|
High King of the Noldor
|Book(s)||The Silmarillion (1977)|
Gil-galad, an Elf of the royal house of Finwë, was born in Beleriand sometime in the First Age; as a child, he was sent away during the Siege of Angband for safekeeping with Cirdan the shipwright in the Falas.[T 1]
He became the High King of the Noldor-in-Exile in Beleriand after the fall of Gondolin and the death of the previous High King, Turgon.[T 2] After the War of Wrath and the end of the First Age, Gil-galad founded a realm in the coastal region of Lindon along the shores of Belegaer, the Great Sea. At its height, his realm extended eastward as far as the Misty Mountains.[T 3] King Tar-Aldarion of Númenor presented Gil-galad with the gift of some seeds of the Mallorn tree; he in turn gave some to Galadriel, who grew them in the guarded land of Lothlórien.[T 4] Gil-galad did not take a wife and had no children. He was the first of the Eldar to mistrust a stranger who called himself Annatar, and forbade him from entering Lindon. His mistrust was well founded, for Annatar was in fact Sauron.[T 3] About the year 1600 of the Second Age, Sauron secretly forged the One Ring. Celebrimbor, the creator of the Three Rings, gave two of them, Narya and Vilya, to Gil-galad for safe-keeping once he knew Sauron's intention to take them. Gil-galad passed Narya to Cirdan the shipwright, who stated that this was only to keep it secret; Cirdan never used it. Gil-galad chose to give Vilya, and control of Eriador, to Elrond.[T 5] War broke out between the Elves and Sauron; Gil-galad asked the Númenóreans for help, and their king Tar-Minastir brought a great force, enabling Gil-galad to defeat Sauron's army.[T 5]
After the Downfall of Númenor there was peace in Middle-earth. At the end of the Second Age, Sauron reappeared with a newly formed army and made war against the kingdom of Gondor, near his old home of Mordor. Gil-galad formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men with the High King of Men, Elendil. The armies of Elves and Men entered Mordor and laid siege to Sauron's fortress of Barad-dûr. At the end of the siege, Sauron finally came forth and fought hand-to hand against Gil-galad and Elendil on the slopes of Mount Doom, losing the One Ring but killing them both.[T 6] A record left by Isildur in Minas Tirith implies that Sauron himself killed Gil-galad with the heat of his bare hands. Recalling the encounter at the Council of Elrond at Rivendell before the Fellowship took the One Ring south, Elrond said that only he and Círdan stood by Gil-galad in that fight.[T 7]
Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
The last whose realm was fair and free
Between the mountains and the sea.
His sword was long, his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen.
The countless stars of heaven's field
Were mirrored in his silver shield.
But long ago he rode away,
And where he dwelleth none can say.
For into darkness fell his star;
In Mordor, where the shadows are.[T 8]
Sam's companions are impressed, and ask for more; Sam admits that is all that he learnt from Bilbo. Aragorn says the fragment is a translation from "an ancient tongue" and suggests that the hobbits may hear the rest in Rivendell.[T 8] The Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey comments that the longer poem does not exist, and that Sam's fragment seems to have been composed while Tolkien was writing the chapter. He notes that it has the form of a ballad, each stanza being a quatrain in eulogy mode with end-rhymes in the rhyming pattern AABB/CCDD.
Aeglos, the spearEdit
Gil-galad's spear was named Aeglos or Aiglos, meaning "snow-point" or "snow-thorn" or more commonly "icicle"[T 9] (aeg: sharp, pointed; los: snow) because when orcs saw his spear, they would recognize it by its reputation to bring a cold death to them. Elrond said that at the battle of Dagorlad, "we had the mastery: for the Spear of Gil-galad and the Sword of Elendil, Aiglos and Narsil, none could withstand."[T 7][T 10][T 11] It has been suggested that Tolkien might have based the spear on the god Odin's irresistible spear Gungnir in Norse mythology.
Tolkien created two sketches of heraldic devices for Gil-galad. They were drawn on an envelope posted to him in 1960, along with a device containing a star or Silmaril for Eärendil. The Tolkien scholars Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull note that matching the description in the poem, "The countless stars of heaven's field / Were mirrored in his silver shield", the lozenge-shaped devices both contain stars, with an elongated star in each corner. Margaret Purdy, in Mythlore, writes that Gil-galad's shield, like all elvish heraldry personal not inherited, seems to incorporate his stars, though the field is blue not silver.
|House of Finwë family tree[T 12][T 13]|
Kings of the Noldor in Valinor
Concept and creationEdit
Gil-galad's name means "star of bright light" in Sindarin. His names in Tolkien's invented languages of Quenya and Sindarin were Artanáro and Rodnor, respectively.[T 14] Tolkien considered several different parentages for Gil-galad in different draft texts, including making him the son of Orodreth.[T 14] In the second version of The Fall of Númenor, he is called a descendant of Fëanor, who made the Silmarils.[T 15] Then Tolkien treated him as a son of Finrod Felagund.[T 16] Christopher Tolkien, editing the published version of The Silmarillion, made Gil-galad the son of Fingon, a decision he later regretted, saying he should have left the parentage obscure.[T 14]
The scholar of literature Lawrence Krikorian, in Mallorn, writes that Elrond's account of being Gil-galad's herald in the Second Age, thousands of years earlier, as recalled first-person observation helps to make the narrative function as history rather than allegory, lending an impression of depth.
Film, TV, and radioEdit
In the Lord of the Rings film trilogy by Peter Jackson, Gil-galad is portrayed by actor Mark Ferguson, who appears very briefly in The Fellowship of the Ring during the opening prologue sequence. Gil-galad is mentioned in the behind-the-scenes documentaries included with the Special Extended Edition DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring and is listed in the credits. In an interview with Ferguson and Craig Parker (Haldir), Ferguson stated that it had been planned for his death to be depicted onscreen as in the book, but it was considered too violent. The Lay of Gil-galad was set to music in the 1981 BBC Radio 4 dramatisation, The Lord of the Rings, composed by Stephen Oliver. In the forthcoming Amazon Prime Video The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV series, which will focus on events in the Second Age, Gil-Galad will be played by Benjamin Walker.
Gil-galad has been included in multiple video games since Jackson's films were first shown. The 2004 video game The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age featured Mark Ferguson as Gil-galad. Others are the 2007 The Lord of the Rings Online; the 2011 The Lord of the Rings: War in the North; and the 2012 Lego The Lord of the Rings which has Gil-galad near Mount Doom.
- Tolkien (1977) The Silmarillion, Chapter 18, "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"
- Tolkien (1977) The Silmarillion, Chapter 23, "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
- Tolkien (1977) The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
- Tolkien (1980) Unfinished Tales, Part II, Chapter 1 "A Description of Númenor"
- Tolkien (1980) Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn"
- Tolkien (1955) The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Second Age"
- Tolkien (1954) The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 2: "The Council of Elrond"
- Tolkien (1954) The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 11 "A Knife in the Dark"
- Tolkien (1977) The Silmarillion, p. 313
- Tolkien (1977) The Silmarillion, p. 294
- Tolkien (1980) Unfinished Tales, pp. 148, 417
- The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age": Family Trees I and II: "The house of Finwë and the Noldorin descent of Elrond and Elros", and "The descendants of Olwë and Elwë"
- The Return of the King, Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers, I The Númenórean Kings
- Tolkien (1996) The Peoples of Middle-earth, "The Shibboleth of Fëanor", "The parentage of Gil-galad"
- Tolkien (1987) The Lost Road and Other Writings Part One: II. The Fall of Númenor, (iii) "The second version of The Fall of Númenor"
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- Burdge, Anthony; Burke, Jessica (2013) . "Weapons, Named". In Drout, Michael (ed.). J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. pp. 703–705. ISBN 978-0-415-86511-1.
- Day, David (17 October 2019). "Gungnir ('Swaying One')". A Dictionary of Sources of Tolkien: The History and Mythology That Inspired Tolkien's World. Hachette. ISBN 9780753734063.
- Hammond & Scull 1995, pp. 193–194.
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- Hammond & Scull 2005, p. 86.
- Krikorian, Lawrence (2018). "Realism in fantasy: The Lord of the Rings as 'history . . . feigned'". Mallorn (59): 14–17.
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- "Analysis: what can we deduce from the Amazon synopsis about the plot of the new Middle-earth series?". TheOneRing.net. 17 January 2021. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
- Williams, Caleb (30 January 2022). "Benjamin Walker Will Play High-Elven King Gil-Galad in Amazon's 'Lord of the Rings' TV Series". Knight Edge Media. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
- Clark, Campbell (1 February 2022). "Gil-Galad Casting For The Rings Of Power Revealed". LRM online. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
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