The Fellowship of the Ring: The Prologue and Why It’s So Effective
The opening sequence to The Fellowship of the Ring, the first instalment in The Lord of the Rings film franchise, comes in the form of a prologue, narrated by Lady Galadriel. For the most part, it details the One Ring’s journey through the ages, from its initial forging by the Dark Lord Sauron, to its eventual passing from Isildur to Gollum until it is fatefully found by Bilbo. Though it also explores the making of the Great Rings of Power and provides an account of the Battle of Dagorlad. The sequence is an extremely effective one and one of the best I have seen in terms of driving forward such a bulky timeline. It successfully manages to sum up such a vast amount of source material in a way that is both concise and thoroughly engaging to watch. In addition, the scene helps to establish so many of the elements which later become important as we progress through the story.
The very beginning of the prologue details the forging of the Rings of Power. As well as being important to the general plot, it serves as a means of introducing us to the various races of beings which inhabit the world of Middle-Earth. First of all, we are made acquainted with the immortality of Elves, which go on to appear widely throughout the story as the Fellowship travels to the realms of Rivendell and, later, Lothlórien. Secondly, there are the Dwarves and their craftsmanship, which is an important factor to consider with the Fellowship’s arrival at the Mines of Moria. Lastly, we are introduced to the race of Men and their susceptibility to power lust. Now, this hints at a number of things. Not only does it establish how the Nazgûl first came to be, but also helps to explain why later on it is Boromir who is among the first to fall under the Ring’s influence.
Though the decision of having it be Lady Galadriel narrating the story is an artistic liberty at the hands of the filmmakers, I find the results extremely promising. Galadriel, being among the eldest beings in Middle-Earth as well the original bearer of one of the Three Elven-Rings, is an effective choice for the part. Should there be anyone left to remember the story, it would be her. Additionally, having the history be recounted by a true character as opposed to an all-knowing narrator helps inject emotion into the performance. We get a sense of where the character has been, what she has seen. In all her long years, Galadriel has experienced first-hand the changings of the world. Throughout the ages, she has witnessed the rise of evil down to its eventual fall, and may therefore be all too familiar with the notion that history has a way of repeating itself. As we later find out with the Fellowship’s arrival in Lothlórien, Galadriel is also in possession of an enchanted ‘Mirror’ which shows the past, present or future. This connection may be another factor as to why she was chosen to narrate the prologue.
In regards to Gollum’s story, I agree with the filmmakers’ decision of having Déagol’s murder scene be postponed until later on in the trilogy even when it technically fits into the events of the prologue. In fact, it is important in many ways. Firstly, it paints a much more sympathetic first impression of Gollum. More than anything, the audience will come to see him as a victim of the Ring and a victim of torture rather than a culprit. Secondly, by having his cold-blooded nature not yet revealed, it also leaves a lot more room for a potential redemption for Gollum—at least in the eyes of the audience. We almost come to look at him in the same way as Bilbo once did (and consequently Frodo later on)—with pity.