While the army of Orcs on their way to Erebor, the people of Lake-town searching for refuge and the Dwarves hiding away inside the Lonely Mountain, Gandalf suffers in captivity in a cage in Dol Guldur. He had come to face the evil that had established itself in this Hill of Sorcery. However, he alone cannot win against the powers of Sauron.
Together with Radagast, Gandalf chants an incantation in Quenya so as to summon help from other Guardians of Middle-Earth and help himself in the process. It is clear to him that he himself is not able to face the horrors that inhabit the cesspits of Dol Guldur.
Torture of Gandalf
Orc: “Spells will not save you, old man. You have something my Master wants. Where is it? One of the three Elven Rings. The Ring of Fire! Where are the others?”
The Orc in this scene, was one of the prototypes created to be Azog. However, though menacing and towering, he did not possess the gravitas and individuality of the character of Azog the creative team needed. Nevertheless, they used him in this scene to clarify the possession of the three Rings of the Elves.
Three Elven Rings
Originally the Three Rings of the Elves were kept by Elrond, Galadriel and Círdan, Lord of Mithlond. However, after the descent of the Istari, Círdan recognized Gandalf as the wisest of the five Wizards and entrusted him his Ring, Narya. Since in the two trilogies we have already met the Lothlórian Elves and the Rivendell Elves both of whom kept Vilya and Nanya Rings respectively, we were never told who kept the third Ring, until now.
As the Orc finds Narya on Gandalf’s finger and moves in to cut off his finger, Nanya Ring appears in the shot with the hand of Lady Galadriel opening the gates to Dol Guldur. In this dark and ruinous space she shines like the star of Eärendil we saw reflected in the phial she gave to Frodo.
Sauron is looking to augment his power by possessing every ring his servants can get their hands on. Since there is still no sign of the One Ring which is believed to be lost forever, his only hope of dominion over Middle-Earth is to gather as many as he can from the twenty that were forged.
Galadriel: “I come for Mithrandir and I will leave with him. If you try to stop me, I will destroy you.”
Clearly and concisely, Galadriel presents her case to the Orc of whom she is not afraid. Though she has told him what will befall him if he tries to go against her, he does not comply, and is thus destroyed by the flick of her hand.
She carries Gandalf with her, whose power has waned so much that he has become unconscious. Where there is light and power for good, the evil will have the effect of sucking that power out of those who try to counter it. She lays him down on her lap under a statue holding a Palantír.
Philippa Boyens, in keeping with the Christian faith that Professor Tolkien was devoted to, placed Galadriel and Gandalf in a pose similar to that of the Pietà sculpture by Michealangelo on display in Rome. Seeing it, brought her a great sense of sadness and sacrifice which she wanted to incorporate in this particular scene.
The voice of Sauron
Sauron: “Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone…”
Galadriel: “…Nine for mortal Men doomed to die.”
Sauron: “You cannot fight the shadow. Even now you fade. One light, alone in the darkness.”
Galadriel: “I am not alone.”
A voice is heard encircling her without a clear sense of direction. The voice of Sauron recollects the Rings of Power that were given to those in power at the moment of their creation. As Galadriel finishes Sauron’s monologue, the nine Men, known in the original trilogy as the Nazgûl surround her, giving her ample cause to fear.
The nine Men are not hiding under their black cloaks this time. Now, they are presented in their respective armor they donned when they ruled their people. They begin to close in on Galadriel when she announces that she has not come alone to fight the darkness.
Saruman: “Are you in need of assistance, my lady?”
Elrond: “You should’ve stayed dead.”
From out of the shadows, Saruman and Elrond step into the circle that now surrounds Galadriel. They too have been summoned for they need the strength of all the Guardians of Middle-Earth if they are to defeat the darkness. They both engage the Nazgûl in a fight of strength.
However, the Nine cannot be killed since they are neither alive nor dead. Whatever they do to them, they keep coming back. Nevertheless, if this is all they can contribute to defending the most powerful amongst them, then that is what they will do.
The kiss of life
Galadriel: “Mithrandir, come back.”
Gandalf: “He is here.”
Galadriel: “Yes. The darkness has returned.”
As the fight rages around Galadriel and Gandalf, as in the eye of the storm, they both are peaceful. Galadriel with one kiss on the forehead brings Gandalf to life. As he awakens, the only thought on his mind is the return of the darkness that he has been fearing would strike again. This time Galadriel as well as the rest of the White Council can clearly see that Gandalf was right in his concerns and that all that he had told them in Rivendell rings true.
Leaving Dol Guldur
Radagast: “Go on! Gandalf! Gandalf! Climb on!”
Galadriel: “He is weak. He cannot remain here. It is draining his life. Go! Quickly!”
Gandalf: “Come with me, my lady.”
Radagast comes in the nick of time to take Gandalf out of the raging battle. Galadriel, whose life is also being drained by the evil that encircles her, hastens Gandalf onto Radagast’s sleigh and bids him to take him away. Gandalf, however, would have Galadriel come with him. There is a moment the two of them share, a moment of love.
Though this love hints at romanticism, especially after the Rivendell scene of just the two of them, the love they have for each other, I would describe it as one between two Ring-bearers who better than anyone else knows what it is like to carry the burden of aloneness.
With her last strength, Galadriel flashes a bright light from out of her eyes to Radagast to make haste and leave Dol Guldur. Radagast does as he is told, for she has managed to instill fear into him.
The power of Galadriel
Sauron: “It has begun. The East will fall. So shall the Kingdom of Angmar rise. The time of the Elves is over. The Age of the Orc has come.”
Galadriel: “You have no power here, servant of Morgoth. You are nameless, faceless, formless. Go back to the void from whence you came!”
For a moment the Nine appear to have been defeated. Suddenly, Sauron appears atop the stairs, reinforcing his Nine Men to stand by him as he announces his comeback. Elrond and Saruman take steps back and a defensive stance knowing they will not be able to fight or defeat Sauron and the Nine on their own.
Out of her assumed defeat rises Galadriel. She is the same “drowned” Galadriel we have seen in the Fellowship of the Ring when Frodo offers her the One Ring. She stands before Elrond and Saruman facing Sauron on her own with her phial in her hand. Decisively she strips Sauron of every power, driving him to flee. As Sauron vanishes into the East, Galadriel falls backward into Elrond’s arms, having utterly spent her own powers.
Sauron flees into the East
Elrond: “We were deceived.”
Galadriel: “The spirit of Sauron endured.”
Saruman: “And has been banished.”
Galadriel: “He will flee into the East.”
Elrond: “Gondor should be warned. They must set a watch on the walls of Mordor.”
Saruman: “No. Look after the Lady Galadriel. She has spent much of her power. Her strength is failing. Take her to Lothlórien.”
They know now what they are facing, and what the rest of Middle-Earth will face if Sauron is not stopped in time. However, again the “wisest” of the order stops their plan in their tracks. He deflects Elrond’s argument to warn Gondor by focusing his attention on Lady Galadriel. He seems concerned for her well-being.
We, as the audience having seen the original trilogy, know exactly why Saruman does what he does. And as his “subordinate” Elrond does not defy his orders. Just because Sauron has been banished does not in any way equal to them stopping him for good. It just means that he will look for a suitable abode and try and procure himself an army that would serve him. As we know he does in the Lord of the Rings.
Elrond: “My Lord Saruman. He must be hunted down and destroyed once and for all.”
Saruman: “Without the Ring of Power Sauron can never again hold dominion over Middle-Earth. Go now. Leave Sauron to me.”
Elrond’s suggestions though reasonable fall of deaf ears. Saruman does not want him meddling into his own agenda which we see progress sixty years after the events of The Battle of the Five Armies.
The argument that Sauron needs the One Ring to hold dominion over MIddle-Earth though true, does not mean that he cannot ascend to power with all the rest of the Rings he already has in his possession and become a powerful enemy who can work his malice through the inhabitants of Middle-Earth who would do his bidding.
Saruman knows this, and because of it, he orders Elrond to leave him to deal with Sauron. As we all know he deals with him by forming an alliance of the Two Towers.
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