I’ve read a lot of responses to, and hot takes on, The Rings of Power in the last 24 hours (you can check some of them out here if you’ve missed our roundup). But, without a doubt, this is the most insightful and useful one so far.

In it, Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson puts 10 key questions about Amazon’s Rings of Power production to showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and adds her own lore-based thoughts on their answers.

It’s just a terrific read, chock-full of amazing details.

An excerpt:

In studying the language from the first three episodes Amazon let Vanity Fair screen, we found a mix of cleverly repurposed lines of Tolkien’s dialogue as well as a few snatches of Biblical text. “Both Patrick and I have religious backgrounds,” Payne says. “I spent a lot of time just reading those sacred texts. I was an English major at Yale and loved Shakespeare at the time and still go back and reread the various plays. I’ve also spent a lot of time studying Hebrew poetry and parallelism and inverted parallelism and chiasmus and all these cool rhetorical strategies that poets and prophets from thousands of years ago would use to communicate sacred material. And Tolkien, sometimes, will play in that kind of a sandbox.”

McKay explains that they tailored the dialogue to fit each kind of character. The harfoots speak with an Irish lilt whereas the elves speak in elevated British phrases. “We even came up with hero meters for each different race in Tolkien,” Payne says. “Some of them will speak in iambs. Some of them will speak in dactyls. Some of them will speak in trochees.” That in-depth approach might please Professor Tolkien, whose specialty was philology, a.k.a. the history of language.

One of the best revelations is clear, direct confirmation on the rights situation simply because it immediately clears away so much fan debate:

So what did Amazon buy? “We have the rights solely to The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, the appendices, and The Hobbit,” Payne says. “And that is it. We do not have the rights to The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth, or any of those other books.”

So if you’ve been wondering (as I have), everything in the trees image must be explained by LOTR and The Hobbit alone. And if you can’t find it in those books, don’t expect to see it in The Rings of Power.

Read Vanity Fair’s “10 Burning Questions”.

BOOTNOTE: Writer Joanna Robinson will be joining TORn Tuesday tomorrow from 5pm PT, 8pm ET to discuss her Rings of Power experience with Staffers Quickbeam and Justin. Join us then, and be sure to bring your own burning questions!

Galadriel, commander of the Northern Armies. Matt Grace/Amazon Studios.
Galadriel, commander of the Northern Armies. Matt Grace/Amazon Studios.

Here’s what Vanity Fair’s article reveals (or confirms, or in some cases, suggests…) about those 23 character posters we saw last week. (All quotations are from VF’s ‘First Look’ article.)

This is Owain Arthur as Prince Durin IV, ‘prince of the bustling subterranean realm of Khazad-dûm’. As we noted, his hammer hilt reads ‘Awake Sleeping Stone’.

Dwarf princess Disa, played by Sophia Nomvete. Durin’s wife?

Galadriel, played by Morfydd Clark, and described in Vanity Fair as ‘Commander of the Northern Armies’. There had been rumours of short hair for Galadriel – the Vanity Fair images show us otherwise! We also see an eight pointed, Feanorian star on her chest. Significant…?

Elrond, played by Robert Aramayo. Vanity Fair describes him as, ‘a politically ambitious young elven leader’ – and he does have short(ish) hair.

This is silvan elf Arondir, a newly created character, who is played by Ismael Cruz Cordova. His closely cropped hair is the shortest of the lot; his earthy, rugged attire sets him apart from the other elves we have seen. Clearly silvan elves are not quite like their high elven kin…

This is Bronwyn, a created human character, and Arondir’s ‘forbidden love’. She is described as a ‘single mother and healer’ – we see her apothecary’s sickle in this image. She’s played by Nazanin Boniadi.

The Rings of Power includes ‘Two lovable, curious harfoots, played by Megan Richards and Markella Kavenagh’. The two character posters above seem most likely to be them.

As we already knew, ‘Brit of Jamaican descent, Sir Lenny Henry, plays a harfoot elder’. Could this image show him? Perhaps the clutched scroll is an indication of his elder wisdom?

From VF: ‘Another story line will follow a sailor named Isildur (Maxim Baldry) years before he becomes a warrior and cuts the soul-corrupting ring off Sauron’s hand, then falls victim to its powers himself.’ Could the rope here suggest a sailor?

The Rings of Power will feature ‘the elven smith Celebrimbor ([played by] Charles Edwards)’. Could either of these seemingly elvish characters be Celebrimbor? Most likely not the one all in gold; this is rumoured to be Gil-galad, and certainly he seems kingly. So do we see Celebrimbor in red?

(My original thinking was this – but see below for an update!)

This one is total guesswork… VF says we encounter, in the ‘Sundering Seas … a mortal castaway named Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), who is a new character introduced in the show. Galadriel is fighting for the future; Halbrand is running from the past. ‘ There aren’t many of the character posters which look like they might be from the world of men. Could THIS be Halbrand? Could the evil looking, broken blade be part of the past from which he is running? (We do see a wooden chest on the raft, when he and Galadriel meet at sea – so it’s possible he bears with him artefacts from his past…)

UPDATE – VF reached out to let us know that this image in fact shows Bronwyn’s (seen above with sickle) son, and the hilt he is holding is hers. But WHY would she have such a sinister looking object…? Some interesting backstory to come there, methinks, about this ‘broken heirloom’…

Finally, VF tells us that our two Harfoots ‘encounter a mysterious lost man whose origin promises to be one of the show’s most enticing enigmas’. Of all the character posters, this to me is the most enigmatic. So I’m putting my money on this dishevelled, grubby character being our mysterious being…

Don’t forget to join us to watch and discuss the trailer this Sunday!