In the wake of Gandalf’s unexpected demise, the Fellowship is understandably devastated. Howard Shore has flipped an emotional switch musically and we’ve gone from full-on battle mode to deep mourning. And why not, Gandalf was a dear friend and counselor, they were clearly counting on his help the closer they came to Mordor.
All of the Fellowship are scene in mourning and we see various ways grief can manifest itself: anger (Gimli), shock (Legolas), simple tears (Sam, Merry and Pippin). But the most painful one of all is Frodo; when he looks back and the tears are streaming down his face, that is the look of someone who has lost a part of himself. The music here is simple and effective in conveying how deep an impact this had on everyone.
But the mourning period is cut short. Aragorn reminds everyone that nightfall is coming soon, and then the orcs will swarm the countryside looking for them. If they have any hope of surviving to the next day, they need to reach the woods of Lothlorien in the distance.
The moment the Fellowship enters the forest, you know this is a special place, though not in the same way that Rivendell was special. Rivendell was a haven, whereas Lothlorien is more a place of power, a very deep power. The background is full of chants and an almost oriental feel with what is either a lute or a sitar in the background. The elves of Lothlorien appear out of nowhere and the initial meeting does not go smoothly. The leader of the group, Haldir, can sense the evil in the One Ring and doesn’t want them to enter any further into the forest. Aragorn manages to vouch for the entire group and they are taken into the heart of Lothlorien, to Caras Galadhon “The heart of Elvendom on Earth, realm of the Lord Celeborn and Galadriel, Lady of Light.”
Once they reach the Elven city, the music changes again, as we are greeted by the sight of enormous trees, with dwellings on every branch. And it’s here as they climb the neverending staircase that I noticed something. Listen to the choir as they climb up; doesn’t that pattern of chords sound familiar? I wasn’t sure where I’d heard it before, so I began searching the rest of the soundtrack. That’s when I got back to “Shadow of the Past” (our first visual introduction to Mordor post-Prologue”) and I gasped. The chord pattern for Lothlorien and Mordor are IDENTICAL. Different instruments to be sure, but the same chords nevertheless.
This is HUGE, and it took me several days to process what exactly this meant. Consider what we learn about Galadriel. She too has a ring of power (Nenya, the Ring of Adamant), and is quite likely the most powerful Elf still living in Middle-Earth, and quite possibly one of the oldest. If anyone possessed the power to successfully claim the One Ring and rule Middle Earth AND defeat Sauron in the process, it would probably be Galadriel. And I think this is why Howard Shore chose to use the same chords for both locations, as a subtle reminder that, however beautiful Lothlorien is, it has the potential to become a second Mordor.
Musical revelations aside, the music continues to build in beauty until the Fellowship is assembled at the topmost platform below a staircase. And from that staircase comes a couple that practically glows with their own light (I love that moment when Celeborn and Galadriel appear and take each other’s hand). The music slowly descends as the rulers of Lothlorien descend to meet the Fellowship, with the winds fading into the background as Galadriel’s face is revealed (showing Frodo that she is the one he heard in his head earlier).
I absolutely love the scenes set in Lothlorien, it’s the perfect “calm moment” after Moria and the last restful moments we see before the breaking of the Fellowship. And one last thought: Cate Blanchett was the perfect casting choice for Galadriel, as she nails the part.
That’s all for now, next time I’ll look at “Knife in the Dark.” -Becky
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