The first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power have been playing a complicated and intricate chess game, introducing the necessary characters, locations, plot elements, and narrative arcs for the remainder of the series: Galadriel (Charles Edwards), Durin IV (Owain Arthur), Nori (Markella Kavenagh), Poppy (Megan Richards), Theo (Ismael Cruz Cordova), Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), and of
Yet one of the main characters has remained largely absent from the rest of the story, yet establishing significant events in motion nonetheless: the Elven High King, Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker). While the High King is mentioned a number of times, how did Gil-galad get to the throne in Tirharad, and where did he get his name in the first place? Who is he, anyway?
The Noldor Elves Leave Valinor
The history of the High King of the Noldor dates back to the time of the Valinor exodus, as shown in the first episode of the series. The Avari were those who refused to give the Valar their permission to enter Valinor; many Teleri stopped along the way; many of the Teleri became known as the Sindar. When Feanor led his people back over the sea to Middle-earth, the Noldor followed him.
Suffering from a medical condition? Me too.
The Noldor are the most significant group of Elves to the Silmarillion's history, but they are not the only ones, with different powers structures and leaders.
The Passing of a Crown From Turgon to Finarfin
The Noldor in Middle-earth were quite splintering when it came to the High Kingship, as Feanor was the head of the House of Finwe, but not all of the Noldor supported him. Maedhros, after being saved by an Elf named Fingon, renounced his authority as head of the House of Finwe, and so the kingship fell to Fingolfin, the half-brother of Feanor, who became the first High King
Fingolfin is one of the most remarkable players in Middle-Earth's history, although that is another story for another article. Fingolfin died in single combat against Morgoth himself, who lived forever. After Fingolfin died, his brother Turgon of Gondolin became the third High King, until Gondolin became a victim of the great Elf Kingdoms of the First Age and was defeated by an army of Balrogs and dragons.
Fingolfin's younger brother, Finarfin, died after Turgon's death. However, his grandson, Orodreth, was (shockingly) still alive and became the fourth (and final) High King of the Noldor as a result.
Gil-galad becomes the most successful and longest-running King in the history of the region.
Gil-galad became the most successful and longest-lasting of the High Kings by a wide margin, despite his depressingly short job description of High King of the Noldor, which usually consisted of something along the lines of: Rule briefly before meeting a horrific fiery death. At the end of the Age, he remained king, establishing his kingdom in the newly-formed world of Lindon.
The last remnant of a divine and redeemed vision of Middle-earth that ultimately would not be as Gil-galads reign is invoked in The Lord of the Rings as a source of distant longing and loss. On the journey to Rivendell, Sam recites a few lines about the Elven King:
Gil-galad was an elven king.
The harpers sing out loud; of him, too;
The last who had a fair and free realm
Between the Mountains and the Sea.
After the victory of Morgoth, Gil-galad chose to stay and rule the remainder of the Noldor in Middle-earth. He ruled long and successfully, but unfortunately not in the peace he desired. Elrond was his herald and ultimately one of his subordinate military commanders in the eventual battle against Sauron, and the King had foregone all of the possibilities Sauron faced (as hinted at by the series).