Deadline and Fellowship of the Fans (FOTF) are carrying separate reports that Howard Shore is in the frame to compose soundtrack music for the LOTR on Prime series. FOTF reports the deal is, in fact, already inked and, additionally, that Shore will be joined by American composer Bear McCreary.

For those living under a rock (yours truly, for example), McCreary is best known for his work on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, as well as Outlander and The Walking Dead. He also composed the music for the God of War computer game.

The choice of Shore offers more evidence that Amazon Studios is exerting a lot of effort to create a synchronicity between the LOTR on Prime Second Age-focused series and the aesthetics that Peter Jackson established with his own renditions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Update

In 2019, Shore expressed in an interview with Loot Crate that he’d be open to and interested working in the Middle-earth milieu again.

I spent so many happy years traveling through Tolkien’s world. If I was able to return and explore a bit more in a creative environment, I would be very interested to do so.

Howard Shore, speaking to Loot Crate.

It’s also worth noting that in September 2020 TORn Tuesday revealed a rumour that Shore and Amazon were in discussions. Staffer Justin reported that Shore didn’t “necessarily want to compose the whole series”, but was keen to be involved in the design and development of the themes. This would tend to bear out FOTF’s report of a dual-pronged appointment and the involvement of McCreary. You can watch that TORn Tuesday episode here (Shore discussion starts around 9 mins 50 secs).

Bilbo’s Birthday Speech

Come join the Southern California TORn staff and Tolkien fans on Saturday, September 18, 2021, as we celebrate Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ shared birthday in Griffith Park. The party will kick off at Noon, and run until about 6 pm. The biggest difference this year will be NO POTLUCK. Please bring enough food and drink for yourself and the group you will be attending with. As always, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses, and maybe a popup for shade are all good things to bring in order to stay comfortable. We are returning to the Mineral Wells section of Griffith Park, which is near the Harding Golf Course. Please head to the Baggins Birthday Bash Facebook event page for directions and a map. https://www.facebook.com/events/193623342558178/

While this event is scheduled for Saturday, September 18, the dual issues of COVID restrictions and/or Wildfires could become an issue this coming week. Should LA County trigger a restriction of large gatherings or a Wildfire trigger evacuations in the region of Griffith Park, we will post a Cancelation notice to the FB page first, and if there is time, post here on the main website as well.

As for COVID restrictions, the LA County guidelines recommend masking outdoors only in the case of a Mega Event, and that has only happened once. We are recommending everyone have a MASK with them, ready to wear near groups of people and remove when eating and drinking. The outdoor setting should afford us more than enough space to social distance if it makes you feel comfortable. We would PREFER if everyone attending was fully vaccinated, but none of us are qualified to verify the CDC card, so we won’t be asking.

Yesterday Amazon Studios premiered their trailer for the Wheel of Time series that’s based on the fantasy novels of the late Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson). You can see it here if you haven’t already.

One notes that the series itself is slated to debut on November 19, 2021 — that’s roughly 10 weeks away.

That got me thinking, and I did a tiny bit of digging.

Turns out that Good Omens — also produced by Amazon Studios — had a roughly 10-week lead time from trailer to series debut.  The first full trailer for Good Omens debuted on March 6, 2019. The series debuted on Prime on May 31, 2019.

Given LOTR on Prime will debut on September 2, 2022, might we then expect a trailer no later than mid-June next year?

However, two data points is a slim thing to build a prediction upon, and I’m just wild-guessing here. (Emphasis and disclaimer: this is speculation based upon publicly available information, not a rumour).

But Amazon loves an algorithm and I feel this coincidence is waggling its eyebrows at me suggestively.

Maybe mark your calendar in pencil, but don’t bet the house.

Wheel of Time Key Art

The Dragon awakens! After a Covid-enforced hiatus last year, DragonCon is back in Atlanta this weekend – and TORn will be there!

The organisers of DragonCon are doing their best to keep everyone safe, requiring attendees to show proof of vaccination or of a negative Covid test, and to wear masks. Numbers will be scaled back (though given how massive DragonCon’s crowds usually are, the venues may not FEEL uncrowded), and there are no fan tables this year. This means TORn staffers deej and greendragon will not be in their usual spot, selling shirts and other merch. BUT – you can find them around the Con, and you can find merchandise online!

TORn's design, featuring quotations from Tolkien: 'Shadows are fleeing ... and merry our meeting. Be of good hope!' We see an image of a smoking pipe, and TORn's logo below. The bottom of the design features another quotation - 'Hope is Kindled' - and the date, 2021. The design is show on a pale grey t-shirt.

TORn’s ‘Hope is Kindled’ design, which was revealed at the end of 2020, seeking to cheer us all in the days of pandemic, can be found at our online Spring store. We’ve also brought back fan favourites ‘Keep Calm and Read Tolkien’ and ‘Coexist’ – which you can order on shirts, mugs, masks, and even socks! Check out all the goodies in the store here; and thanks for supporting the website!

Regular DragonCon attendees will be glad to know that Friday night’s ‘Evening at Bree’ is happening this year. Live music will be provided by The Brobdingnagian Bards and Beth Patterson, and there will of course be a costume contest – sign up for it at the High Fantasy Track Room. An Evening at Bree will be in the Hilton Grand West ballroom, 8.30pm, Friday night.

Tolkien panels in the High Fantasy Track include (of course!) TORn’s panel about Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series. What do we know? What spy reports can we share? Friday 2.30pm is the time to discover those secrets, in the High Fantasy Track Room (Marriott L401-403); when staffers deej, greendragon and Madeye Gamgee will share all they know – and speculate about stuff they don’t know…

On Saturday at 5pm there will be a streamed, pre-recorded panel featuring the above staffers, and a rare sighting for TORn founder Calisuri; this panel is a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring. Calisuri spills the beans about a very special invitation he received, to see some amazing footage in Cannes…

At other times during the Con, you can find entertainment such as Madeye Gamgee discussing the Second Age, greendragon talking Arthurian Adaptations, and deej considering Tolkien’s influence on Stephen King’s The Stand. Find full details in the High Fantasy Track’s schedule for the weekend!

We’re excited to see folks at the Con, and to share some Middle-earth fun with you all. We’ll miss those of you who can’t attend; we’ll raise a drink to absent friends! Cheers, Gaffer!

There is no doubt that the first promotional image from LOTR on Prime is simply amazing. But what is actually going on here?

Rather than blather on with superlatives, let’s just dive on in, and take a detailed look at what it reveals.

Fair warning, though: there will be spoilers for some key elements of The Silmarillion. So, if you’ve just started reading and you have no idea what happens and avoiding story spoilers is important to you, now is the time to step away!

The Two Trees

The obvious place to begin is the trees since, as Tolkien writes in The Silmarillion, “about their fate all the tales of the Elder Days are woven”. They’re also what firmly locates this panorama in Valinor — all our conclusions derive from their presence.

The Two Trees
The Two Trees of Valinor. Laurelin at front, with Telperion behind.

First, a description of the Two Trees of Valinor, taken from the same book.

[Telperion] had leaves of dark green that beneath were as shining silver, and from each of his countless flowers a dew of silver light was ever falling, and the earth beneath was dappled with the shadow of his fluttering leaves.

[Laurelin] bore leaves of a young green like the new-opened beech; their edges were of glittering gold. Flowers swung upon her branches in clusters of yellow flame, formed each to a glowing horn that spilled a golden rain upon the ground; and from the blossom of that tree there came forth warmth and a great light.

Of the Beginning of Days, The Silmarillion.

The trees in the LOTR on Prime panorama cannot be anything else. In the hidden city of Gondolin in Beleriand, Turgon famously created his own reproductions of the Two Trees in silver and gold. However, they emitted no light and were located within the city itself, not out on the plain. No, these are the Two Trees and that means this is Valinor.

You may wonder which tree is which.

My belief is that Laurelin — the tree of gold — is the one nearest the camera. Its shape more closely resembles that of the common beech (Fagus sylvatica). The dark trunk and boughs seem at odds with Telperion’s descritpion and the glow that emanates from it is a warm golden-yellow. And the silvery hue of the tree behind fits Tolkien’s vision of the Telperion much better.

The Two Trees: Alive? Or not?

The next key question is whether the trees are alive in this image. Is this the Years of the Trees? Or is LOTR on Prime using a clever fake-out as Professor Corey Olsen suggested may be the case on TORn Tuesday? Is the scene actually set later — long after Melkor and Ungoliant have paid their fateful visit — during the Years of the Sun, and the sun just happens to be positioned behind Laurelin?

The Two Trees -- level and brightness heavily adjusted
The Two Trees closeup with level and brightness heavily adjusted.

I’ve gone back and forth between the two opinions.

One the one hand, when you adjust the levels in the image and pull the brightness down, the light out of (or through) Laurelin dominates, while the glow emanating from Telperion is muted enough that it could simply be reflected sunlight.

We do know from The Silmarillion that the trees were preserved: “their lifeless stems stand yet in Valinor, a memorial of vanished joy.”

On the other hand, the trees do not appear lifeless stems. They are not “withered” and drained of life as The Silmarillion describes it. In fact, Telperion’s trunk positively gleams.

Nor do they seem brittle. The Silmarillion also states:

Yavanna arose and stood upon Ezellohar, the Green Mound, but it was bare now and black; and she laid her hands upon the Trees, but they were dead and dark, and each branch that she touched broke and fell lifeless at her feet.

Of the Flight of the Noldor, The Silmarillion.

Moreover, something about the way Telperion would be reflecting the sun just doesn’t seem right. The sun should be so far behind the trees that any reflection should be much more muted than shown. I’m no ray-tracing expert, though! (If you are and have a better idea, let us know.)

Nevertheless, I feel the weight of evidence leans to this showing a scene from The Years of the Trees sometime near the end of the Noontide of Valinor. Perhaps even the very end.

The city of white walls and towers

Next, there’s the city on the hill. I feel comfortable in saying that this is Tirion — the city of many white towers that the Noldorin and Vanyarin elves established together after first arriving in Valinor.

Tirion upon Tuna.
Tirion upon Tuna.

Tirion stands upon the hill of Túna at the entrance to the Calacirya (a Quenya word that translates as “The Cleft of Light”). To either side, you have the Pelóri — the immense mountain chain that walls off the interior of Aman from the rest of the world. By the time the Years of the Trees draw to a close, the Calacirya is more or less the only way through from the outside.

Conforming to that description, we see to the left and to the right in the image the slopes of steeply rising mountains. The southern side is most likely the northern shoulder of Taniquetil — the impossibly tall mountain where Manwë and Varda dwell.

However, there are some textual inconsistencies if you want to pick nits (and what are we here for if not to pick nits?).

First, there’s the city’s tall tower.

The Tower of Ingwë
The Tower of Ingwë. Note the absence of the light mentioned in the text of The Silmarillion.

This tower is the Mindon Eldaliéva. Notably, in The Silmarillion it is reported to feature a silver lamp that was said to “shine far out into the mists of the sea”. Famously, it guides the folk of Finarfin back to the city after they turn their backs on the rebellion of Fëanor. That lamp does not seem to be shining here.

…the highest of the towers of that city was the Tower of Ingwë, Mindon Eldaliéva, whose silver lamp shone far out into the mists of the sea. Few are the ships of mortal Men that have seen its slender beam.

Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië, The Silmarillion.

Additionally, despite looking closely at the city, I see nothing that could be Tirion’s own White Tree — Galathilion.

Yavanna made for [the Noldor] a tree like to a lesser image of Telperion, save that it did not give light of its own being; Galathilion it was named in the Sindarin tongue. This tree was planted in the courts beneath the Mindon and there flourished.

Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië, the Silmarillion.

Galathilion would surely have a unique appearance compared to the other flora of the city. And it would probably draw upon similar aesthetic to Peter Jackson’s depiction of the White Tree of Gondor. Admittedly, Gondor’s White Tree is quite dead when we see it in the Return of the King.

The White Tree of Gondor
The White Tree of Gondor from Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King.

The White Tree of Tirion might also not be especially prominent. It could be, compared to the structures about it, quite small. Or its placement might be out of picture, on the far side of the hill so it receives direct light from the Two Trees.

Finally, there’s the shape and position of Túna.

The Silmarillion states that after the Valar created a gap in the Pelóri, in the “deep valley that ran down to the sea the Eldar raised a high green hill: Túna it was called.”

Should Túna be more centrally located, rather than to one side of the Calacirya? Certainly, this is how Karen Wynn Fonstad envisages it — and her sketches in The Atlas of Tolkien’s Middle-earth were made with the backing of Harper Collins and the assistance of resources like the Boedlian Library.

Karen Wynn Fonstad's map of Valinor
Karen Wynn Fonstad’s map of Valinor shows Tirion raised upon a distinctly circular mound.

Nevertheless, the location feels more or less correct, and Wynn Fonstad’s cartography is not — as far as I know — explicitly textually supported. So the LOTR on Prime team probably can get away with playing it a little fast and loose even though they are certainly drawing on her maps.

The small river and the swan-prowed boats

Wynn Fonstad also documents one other geographical feature that is not revealed in the text of the Silmarillion — a stream or river that winds its way up the Calacirya toward Tirion. This probably explains the small river we see in the image. The question is whether it reaches all the way into the far distance. It’s hard to tell, but probably.

The white swan-prowed boats
Are these the ocean-going White Ships of the Teleri? Or rivercraft made in their likeness?

I feel that is less important than the opportunity to reveal several swan-prowed boats that we see upon the river. The question is whether these boats could be the famous White Ships of the Teleri — or smaller, but similar, pleasure craft.

The Silmarillion speaks of Alqualondë:

…the Haven of the Swans, lit with many lamps. For that was their city, and the haven of their ships; and those were made in the likeness of swans, with beaks of gold and eyes of gold and jet.

Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië, the Silmarillion.

Fëanor, of course, had those White Ships burnt after taking them by force from the Teleri in order to transport his folk to Beleriand during the Flight of the Noldor. If these are those White Ships, then this is another piece of evidence to place the image firmly within the Years of the Trees, before the destruction of Laurelin and Telperion.

The lone figure in white

Finally, we have the mysterious, lone figure in white in the foreground.

The figure in white
The figure in white has light-coloured hair, and carries a sword at the left hip.

This person is blond (or blonde), has short hair (or long hair in some sort of up-do), and is attired in what is typically regarded as elvish fashion. The pose also strongly suggests that the figure is carrying a sword at the left hip.

The presence of the sword is useful, as that would definitively place the action after the release of Melkor from bondage. As The Silmarillion records, it was Melkor who “spoke to [the Noldor] concerning weapons; and in that time the Noldor began the smithying of swords and axes and spears.”

If we accept there is a sword (likely, I think), and that the Two Trees are still alive (also likely, I think) we can narrow the time period for this image.

Melkor is released from captivity in Year of the Trees (YT) 1400 according to the Annals of Aman. By YT 1450 he’s been in the ear of the Noldor sowing dissension to the point where they start making weapons — swords, axes, and shields featuring personal insignia.

But, none of the Noldor carry their weapons abroad openly for a long time after that. Not until Fëanor recklessly and publicly puts a sword at the chest of his half-brother. That might allow us to place this image to sometime after the exile of Fëanor from Tirion, but before the destruction of the trees in YT 1495.

It’s worth noting here that, according to this same timeline, Galadriel is born in YT 1362. Galadriel would be a full-grown adult. It could be her.

Might Galadriel have carried a sword in her youth? I think she might have. During the rebellion of the Noldor, The Silmarillion records that:

…Galadriel, the only woman of the Noldor to stand that day tall and valiant among the contending princes, was eager to be gone. No oaths she swore, but the words of Fëanor concerning Middle-earth had kindled in her heart, for she yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will.

Of the Flight of the Noldor, The Silmarillion.

A late essay of J.R.R. Tolkien’s that Christopher Tolkien recounts in Unfinished Tales reinforces this:

She was proud, strong, and selfwilled, as were all the descendants of Finwë save Finarfin; and like her brother Finrod, of all her kin the nearest to her heart, she had dreams of far lands and dominions that might be her own to order as she would without tutelage.

The History of Galadriel and Celeborn, Unfinished Tales of Middle-earth.

The same essay also underscores Tolkien’s vision of her exceptional physique and athleticism and how she “grew to be … strong of body, mind, and will, a match for both the loremasters and the athletes of the Eldar in the days of their youth.” Plus a letter from 1973 describes the youthful Galadriel in similar fashion (while also, potentially, explaining the seemingly short-cropped hair):

[Galadriel] was [in her youth] of Amazon disposition and bound up her hair as a crown when taking part in athletic feats.

Letter #348, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

A Galadriel who in her early years of life is much more oriented to martial activities in not utterly out of Tolkien’s thinking.

Finally, there’s a treatise of Tolkien’s published in Morgoth’s Ring that outlines that while gender traditions — and individual occupational inclinations — exist among elves, these are by no means rigid, or absolute: “there are … no matters which among the Eldar only a [male elf] can think or do, or others with which only a [female elf] is concerned.”

Further, it concludes with the statement that “all … matters of labour and play, or of deeper knowledge concerning being and the life of the World, may at different times be pursued by any among the Noldor.”

If you don’t think this is possible for Galadriel, how else how do you explain Elrond’s trajectory from commander of Gil-galad’s expeditionary force to Eregion in the Second Age (and Herald of Gil-galad during the War of the Last Alliance) to renowned master of healing of the Third Age?

Other options for the figure in white

But, let’s say it’s not Galadriel. Who else might it be?

Hair colour immediately rules out most key Noldor of the time such as Finwë, Fëanor, Finrod, and Fingolfin. They are all dark-haired (as are the vast majority of Noldor). However, Galadriel’s father, Finarfin, or her grandmother, Indis, are options.

She was golden-haired, and tall, and exceedingly swift of foot. She laboured not with her hands, but sang and made music, and there was ever light and mirth about her while the bliss of Aman endured … and she walked often alone in the fields and friths of the Valar, filling them with music.

The Later Quenta Silmarillion II, The History of Middle-earth: Morgoth’s Ring.

Still, I don’t really see Indis as the sword-carrying sort. I might be wrong, but it doesn’t match my perception of her personality and her ambitions. Finarfin would, but some costumers have suggested that the outfit the figure wears is more reminiscent of Galadriel’s attire in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.

Galadriel in Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring
Galadriel in Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring.

As an aside, I also like the concept of elves with short-cropped hair because it challenges an aesthetic that is ambiguously supported in canon. Would LOTR on Prime be brave enough to do that, though?

After that, we’re down to edge cases.

The radical options: Melkor or Sauron

We know that the Valar had no bodies but could assume shapes more or less at will. Morgoth’s Ring reveals that “after the coming of the Eldar they most often used shapes of ‘human’ form, though taller (not gigantic) and more magnificent”.

We don’t know Melkor’s precise form during those years before the destruction of the Two Trees. One revision (The Later Quenta Silmarillion (II)) probably made during the 1950s describes the countenance he presented to the elves as “most fair of all”. It was only after the trees had been destroyed that Melkor-as-Morgoth became fixed in the classical form we know from the Quenta Silmarillion that Chris Tolkien published in 1977 — the tall and terrifying figure clad in black armour who ever-so-reluctantly comes forth to duel Fingolfin.

However, The Silmarillion records that Melkor carried a black spear to the destruction of the Two Trees. Moreover, without any sign of his spider-shaped partner in crime, Ungoliant, there’s nothing conclusive to suggest this scene is a direct prelude to that event.

A similar shapeshifting argument applies to Sauron, who most famously assumes the fair form “Annatar” in order to win over the elven-smiths of Eregion. Sauron, of course, remained at-large in Middle-earth during the Years of the Trees, presumably busily refortifying the fortress of Angband while awaiting the return of his master.

It’s not out of the question that Sauron might have ducked across the great ocean for a bit of a peek at what was going on in Valinor with his master. Against that, such a journey is never mentioned. Still, keep in mind that Tom Shippey mentioned in an interview that LOTR on Prime has creative wiggle room as long as it doesn’t directly contradict what Tolkien himself wrote.

Why Sauron? Well, Sauron is, ultimately, the chief antagonist of this series. Alongside Galadriel, he is one of the very few consistent presences throughout Middle-earth’s history. An opening (or prologue) that directly involves Sauron may be another way for LOTR on Prime to establish the foundations of a series that is going to span a very long period of time.

The human options: Eärendil or Ar-Pharazôn the Golden

While Eärendil‘s hair colour is up for debate, he is the son of two golden-haired parents. Most art depicts him as a blonde.

But what truly interested me was the circumstances in which Eärendil arrives at Tirion: alone.

And he went up alone into the land, and came into the Calacirya, and it seemed to him empty and silent; for even as Morgoth and Ungoliant came in ages past, so now Eärendil had come at a time of festival, and wellnigh all the Elvenfolk were gone to Valimar, or were gathered in the halls of Manwë upon Taniquetil, and few were left to keep watch upon the walls of Tirion.

Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath, The Silmarillion.

I’ve always liked Ted Nasmith‘s illustration of this scene, and there’s something about the LOTR on Prime panorama that evokes that passage, too. The only thing that’s missing is anything that looks like the glow of a Silmaril for there those were “who saw him from afar, and the great light that he bore”. Like the Phial of Galadriel, the Silmarils emit their own light.

Eärendil Searches Tirion, by Ted Nasmith
Eärendil Searches Tirion, by Ted Nasmith.

Still, as Eärendil’s arrival in Middle-earth is the beginning of the closing act of the First Age, and leads more-or-less directly to the founding of Númenor, could something like this offer a tighter link to the major story that LOTR on Prime wants to tell?

Finally — more for the sake of elimination — there’s the last king of Númenor, Ar-Pharazôn the Golden.

For Ar-Pharazôn wavered at the end, and almost he turned back. His heart misgave him when he looked upon the soundless shores and saw Taniquetil shining, whiter than snow, colder than death, silent, immutable, terrible as the shadow of the light of Ilúvatar. But pride was now his master, and at last he left his ship and strode upon the shore, claiming the land for his own, if none should do battle for it. And a host of the Númenóreans encamped in might about Túna, whence all the Eldar had fled.

AKALLABÊTH, The Silmarillion.

But. The apparel on our lone figure isn’t really ideal for battle and war. Certainly not in the fashion reminiscent of our closest visual parallel to Númenór — the Arnorian and Gondorian warriors of the War of the Last Alliance. And the figures on river do not appear alarmed in the slightest — which they would if there was a vast, approaching army of Númenóreans behind the camera.

Finally, a curveball idea: what if it actually was Galadriel finally returning home at the very end of the Third Age? To start at the very end of the story, rather than the beginning.

In conclusion

After all that, what can we conclude? We’re looking at Valinor and the Two Trees. Definitively. And, despite a few topological and architectural quirks, we’re looking west from Tirion. I’m very confident of that, too.

But are those trees alive, or dead? I just can’t tell for sure. And it’s impossible to say for certain that the figure in white is Galadriel, even though it feels the most likely option.

But, since we are here to nail our colours to the mast, I will venture the following theory: the trees are alive, the figure is Galadriel, and this is somewhere near the end of the Noontide of Valinor.

Why? Primarily because in addition to the weight of evidence it simply makes the most sense to the story for the lone figure to be Galadriel. And — regardless of which Galadriel origin story you prefer — Galadriel left Valinor before the creation of the sun and the moon. Thus the trees must be alive.

I think. 🙂

Acknowledgements and thanks

This piece is not necessarily representative of the opinion of TORn staff. However, in assembling this, I have drawn on thoughts, theories and evidence that other staffers have been sharing over the last couple weeks. It would not have been nearly as good without their input. So, in no particular order, I’d like to thank JPB and Tookish for the long conversations, Mithril for the excellent find with Letter #343, Elessar, Josh, Kelvarhin, Garfeimao, Greendragon, Earl, and our TORn Tuesday team of Quickbeam and Justin.

Of course, any errors and oversights are my own.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

Pre-production of season two starts January 2022 and will be shot in the U.K. using the growing soundstage pipeline for other Amazon shows including Good Omens and Anansi Boys.

New Zealand is the production home for Season 1 of Amazon’s huge Lord of the Rings Second Age (First Age?) series, as it was 20 years ago when Peter Jackson took on adapting the main book trilogy. This announcement moving production to the U.K. may be bittersweet to fans as New Zealand has become the visual identity of Middle-earth, yet Tolkien wrote his stories to be a uniquely English mythology. This is a homecoming of sorts.

Early on in the show’s development, there were rumors that Scotland was competing with NZ for the very large production budget spend. Fans breathed a sigh of comfort when Amazon announced it was filming in NZ. Then the pandemic happened, which created incredible hardships for the large cast of which over 60% are British. With COVID still affecting society worldwide, it makes sense for all involved to be closer to home.

No word yet if S2 will be shot EXCLUSIVELY in U.K. or if they may have Second Units in New Zealand taking advantage of the gorgeous and familiar landscape.

Full press release below:

From Episode 1 of LOTR project

Amazon Studios’

The Lord of the Rings Original Series
Sets Season Two in the U.K.
Pre-production expected to begin early 2022

CULVER CITY, Calif. – Aug. 12, 2021 – Amazon Studios announced today that its untitled The Lord of the Rings original series will film Season Two in the United Kingdom (U.K.). The shift from New Zealand to the U.K. aligns with the studio’s strategy of expanding its production footprint and investing in studio space across the U.K., with many of Amazon Studios’ tentpole series and films already calling the U.K. home.
The highly anticipated The Lord of the Rings series recently wrapped principal photography on Season One in New Zealand and is scheduled to premiere on Prime Video in more than 240 countries around the world on Friday, September 2, 2022.

“We want to thank the people and the government of New Zealand for their hospitality and dedication and for providing The Lord of the Rings series with an incredible place to begin this epic journey,” said Vernon Sanders, VP and Co-Head of TV, Amazon Studios. “We are grateful to the New Zealand Film Commission, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Tourism New Zealand, Auckland Unlimited, and others for their tremendous collaboration that supported the New Zealand film sector and the local economy during the production of Season One.” Season One post production will continue in New Zealand through June 2022, and pre-production on Season Two will begin concurrently in the U.K. after the first of the year.

“As we look to relocate the production to the U.K., we do not intend to actively pursue the Season One MoU
five percent financial uplift with the New Zealand government or preserve the terms around that agreement,
however we respectfully defer to our partners and will remain in close consultation with them around next
steps,” said Albert Cheng, COO & Co-Head of TV, Amazon Studios.

The new epic drama brings to screens for the very first time J.R.R. Tolkien’s fabled Second Age of Middle-
earth’s history. Beginning in a time of relative peace, thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar
and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth.

The series is led by showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay. They are joined by
executive producers Lindsey Weber, Callum Greene, J.A. Bayona, Belén Atienza, Justin Doble, Jason Cahill,
Gennifer Hutchison, Bruce Richmond, and Sharon Tal Yguado. Wayne Che Yip is co-executive producer and
directs along with J.A. Bayona and Charlotte Brändström. Christopher Newman is a producer and Ron Ames isa co-producer.

A world-renowned literary work, and winner of the International Fantasy Award and Prometheus Hall of Fame
Award, The Lord of the Rings was named Amazon customers’ favorite book of the millennium in 1999 and Britain’s best-loved novel of all time in BBC’s The Big Read in 2003. The Lord of the Rings books has been translated in around 40 languages and has sold more than 150 million copies.