Galadriel, the "Rings of Power" horse girls and why they matter to Middle-earth

Galadriel is on a mission, but the show is concerned with all living things

By Alison Stine

Staff Writer

Published October 3, 2022 5:37PM (EDT)

Morfydd Clark (Galadriel) and Lloyd Owen (Elendil) in "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" (Ben Rothstein/Prime Video)
Morfydd Clark (Galadriel) and Lloyd Owen (Elendil) in "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" (Ben Rothstein/Prime Video)

This piece contains minor spoilers for Episode 6 of the Prime Video series "The Rings of Power"

In an interview about her memoir "Let the Tornado Come," writer Rita Zoey Chin spoke of finding her horse, a "flight animal" prone to panic attacks, after she survived her own difficult childhood, marked by violence. Chin told HuffPost, "It does seem like we're invariably drawn to creatures who mirror us in some way." Perhaps only in finding our mirror, as Chin found her horse Claret, can the healing begin.

What would Galadriel's horse say about her? It's a huge beast, snowy white with pale eyes that look otherworldly. All the more fitting for an elf. And "The Rings of Power," Prime Video's "The Lord of the Rings" prequel, films the horse lovingly, lingering in slow-mo on the hooves mid-flight in a sweeping, beach scene that wouldn't be out of place in a romance like "Somewhere in Time." We get it. The elf likes horses. What does it mean that Galadriel is such a horse girl — and that she's far from the only one?

In 2021, Fangirlish wrote a comprehensive article titled, "What are horse girls and why does everyone hate them?" In the piece, the writer, admittedly a self-confessed former horse girl, laid out the bones of the stereotype. Basically, it's an awkward young girl obsessed with horses, often at the detriment of everything else like a social life and that bastion of teenagerhood: boys. But the horse girl type isn't confined to young adult. In 2020, Alison Brie starred in the film "Horse Girl," where she played an isolated adult intently absorbed in hobbies (arts and crafts and yes, horses) and having increasingly creepy dreams.

"Horse girl" means you don't get it. Or, you get and care about only one thing. Think Rachel Berry in "Glee" (or Lea Michele as Fanny in "Funny Girl."). Think Tracy Flick in "Election." Even Misty of "Yellowjackets" has horse girl energy, though with a parrot. 

The Lord of the Rings: Rings of PowerMorfydd Clark (Galadriel) in "The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power" (Ben Rothstein/Prime Video)

She's a horse girl about evil.

The phrase has become slang for a kind of earnestness that Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) certainly displays. "Did you say ride?" her pointed ears seem to perk up when Elendil (Lloyd Owen) suggests a day trip. That dreamy beach gallop is one of the only times the driven character smiles, a smile so wide — and so lingering — it starts to get creepy. Elves were never a personal favorite, mostly because they're so dourly intense. And that single-mindedness comes to roost in Galadriel. She's a horse girl about evil, which she believes has not left Middle-earth.

Galadriel also fits the trope in her ignoring of sexuality and romance. She has chemistry with a quite a few "The Rings of Power" characters, or they have it with her. Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) seems the most obvious choice; saving each other from a sea worm can really bring a couple together. But loyal and dashing Elendil casts a quite a few smoldering glances her way, glances his son Isildur (Maxim Baldry) is starting to emulate, with more naiveté and stars in his eyes. Queen Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and Galadriel have some tension-filled moments (sticking up for each other is hot) while elf friend Elrond (Robert Aramayo) seems to be nursing a flame for her too. So, Galadriel has options. 

But Galadriel is on a mission. You know what gets in the way of missions? Men. And queens. Horse girl purpose-driven thinking will help the elf lead a battle — on a horse, of course.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerThe Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Courtesy of Prime Video)

Horses have always been important to "The Lord of the Rings."

As the American Museum of Natural History puts it, "Horses were a huge advantage in battle. Riding on horseback made a soldier much bigger, faster, and stronger than a fighter on foot." And when the calvary arrives in Episode 6 of "The Rings of Power," they do so on horses. Horses can also be injured and soldiers pulled down from them. The height doesn't give you much of an advantage if you're surrounded. But give some points to Prime Video for bucking a trend (pun intended) of onscreen animal cruelty and leaving the horse of Orc-leader Adar (Joseph Mawle) unscathed. The horse falls as Adar is captured, but the episode spends a decent amount of time showing us the animal getting up. Forget Adar. The horse seems OK, everyone!  

In stories, the horse girl archetype tends to still be dominated by wealthy, white girls, as Polygon and others have pointed out. A huge, expensive animal, the horse is a status symbol. The Harfoots, our likeable Hobbit ancestors, don't have horses — or any work animals. They pull their wagons themselves, which means a relatively minor injury, like a sprained ankle, can mean death not just for one Harfoot, but for his entire family. It can mean being left behind.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerSara Zwangobani (Marigold Brandyfoot), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor 'Nori' Brandyfoot), Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow), Beau Cassidy and Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot) in "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" (Ben Rothstein/Prime Video)Galadriel is the show's main horse girl, but not the only one. When Isildur reaches land after time away at sea, he's excited to finally be reunited not with his sister, but with his horse, Berek. A big betrayal to earnest, and oft-messing-up Isildur is that not only will his friends be on the rescue mission to Middle-earth, his horse will be too. When Isildur finally gets cleared to go, it's as a groom, sweeping out the stables. It would be great to see some kind of diagram of these ships and where exactly their stables are, because when the group makes land, they ride out in a thunderous show of hooves flying over the emerald hillside, one of the many emotion-stirring moments of Episode 6.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerMaxim Baldry (Isildur) and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Queen Regent Míriel) in "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" (Matt Grace/Prime Video)Isildur has a history with horses, something that seems to be in his blood. As he tries to calm his prescient horse, his father says, "It's not his pain that's bothering him but that of his rider." When Isildur scoffs that his father could know the horse's feelings, Elendil says the horse "knows yours" and tells his son that he learned so much about horses from the boy's mother, who drowned. Isildur asks to be taught, the horse bringing the father and son, often at odds, together.

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Horses have always been important to "The Lord of the Rings." Remember Aragon calming the horse Brego in the Peter Jackson film adaptation? In J.R.R. Tolkien's books, multiple horses are named as well. And naming means they matter. "The Rings of Power" continues this legacy of attention to horses and, like much of the series, deepens it with new meaning.

It's a connection with other life, like healer Bronwyn preserving Alfirin seeds and elf Arondir planting a seed before battle. Caring for the natural world seems to matter in this Middle-earth, in all the lands of the story, to matter deeply, and that's a cause to rally behind. 

By Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a former staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

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