Theo, played by Tyroe Muhafidin, has joined the list of characters now confirmed as denizens of the Second Age of Middle-earth in Prime Video’s upcoming Rings of Power series. Living with his mother, Bronwyn, in the village of Tirharad, we still know little about Theo’s story or character. We do know, though, that whatever is to come will be entwined with one of the more menacing weapons that Amazon has also revealed: a broken sword and possible family heirloom.
We have seen this sword before, revealed in a series of hands-centric posters that Prime Video released in February. We are still left to speculate about the origin and nature of this broken heirloom – possibly marked by Black Speech – and how Theo and his mother come to possess it. Could this have been crafted by Sauron/Annatar during his seductive stay on Númenor? A remnant of a past migration of Black Númenoreans as they colonized Haradwaith to the south of Gondor? A family heirloom from an absent father, now consumed by a piece of jewelry more powerful than he bargained for?
With Theo’s arrival, we are beginning to see some facets of a fuller family in this branch of the storyline that the Rings of Power writers have been crafting. Bronwyn, played by Nazanin Boniadi, is a single mother and village healer, living in apparently rustic conditions with her son well to the south of more familiar Lord of the Rings landscapes. But we know there must be more, even without that broken sword. Bronwyn has a romantic connection with the Sylvan Elf Arondir, played by Ismael Cruz Córdova. (How does Theo feel about that?) And now we also know that Nazanin Boniadi can strike a classic “New Zealand is Middle-earth” pose with the best of our Second Age heroines.
And again, we’re left with more questions than answers. Where is Bronwyn headed? Does her regal robe reveal that “village healer” is only a part of her story? Can we get some GPS coordinates for this shooting location? How many cosplay homages will this photo inspire?
Tyroe Muhafidin is a 16-year old Australian actor who has appeared in an array of short films and television series, including Dusk (2018) and Caravan (2019). This will be his first appearance in a major role.
Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Powerbrings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. The series will launch on September 2, 2022.
The first-ever reveal of Amazon’s TV series The Lord of the Rings – The Rings of Power via Vanity Fair last week ignited anew the flame of passion for discussing Tolkien’s works, now being adapted for a new medium and in a new format; more so because the showrunners have set out to “come up with the novel Tolkien never wrote“.
For the Second Age of Middle-earth covers a vast period of time spanning over a thousand years, yet Tolkien himself, one might say, for all his numerous writings, both published and unpublished, almost neglected this period of Arda’s history in comparison to the detailed stories he wrote concerning the events and characters from the First and Third Ages of Arda, and indeed even those ages that preceded the First Age, reaching far back in time to the very creation of the World before Time itself began.
Bold yet befitting of this sprawling legendarium is the title of the show, concerning which showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay say, “This a title that we imagine could live on the spine of a book next to J.R.R. Tolkien’s other classics.“
Amazon’s ambition to embark upon crafting such an original story – one that compliments Tolkien’s writings, stays true to the essence of his works, and will be judged critically by millions of hardcore fans, scholars, artists, and the industry itself – must certainly be applauded.
Behind the corporate logo that we are all familiar with are a group of passionate artists – showrunners, writers, production crew, and of course, the cast – many themselves Tolkien fans, who have been working for the past few years, and will continue to do so for the better part of this decade, to bring to life beloved characters and stories that so far have existed only in word.
The weight of responsibility to both honour Tolkien and please his legions of fans must be tremendous… and the initial wave of reactions to Vanity Fair’s first reveal is telling of the enormity of this responsibility.
We finally saw many of the leading cast as the characters they were chosen to portray. While most of the cast, such as Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel, Owain Arthur’s Prince Durin IV, and Robert Aramayo’s Elrond were generally enthusiastically well-received, the reactions to the rest of the diverse cast was rather dismaying, shocking even, and even those might be understatements.
We got to see Sofia Nomvete as the Dwarven Princess Disa standing in her regal garb at the entrance of Khazad-dûm (possessing, in my personal opinion, a rather awe-inspiring bearing), but rather than geek out over the fact we will get to see this fabled Dwarven realm when it was still full of light, food, and music, what many chose to focus on was the colour of her skin.
Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Arondir was likewise ill-received for his ethnicity, skin colour, and hair; rather than through an open-mind for his portrayal of a Silvan Elf, a group of Elves who Tolkien describes in the chapter “Flies and Spiders” in The Hobbit as “not wicked folk. If they have a fault it is distrust of strangers. Though their magic was strong, even in those days they were wary. They differed from the High Elves of the West, and were more dangerous and less wise. For most of them (together with their scattered relations in the hills and mountains) were descended from the ancient tribes that never went to Faerie in the West.”
The character Bronwyn played by Nazanin Boniadi (shown below) and the Harfoot-elder, a Hobbit, played by Sir Lenny Henry (whom we haven’t fully seen yet) have similarly received criticism for no other reason than simply being people of colour.
Having been part of the Tolkien community and TheOneRing.net for more than 20 years, helping moderate discussion forums and social media platforms, I have witnessed the attacks of racists, bigots, and trolls on TORn’s many social platforms, and being a person of colour and finding myself at the receiving end occasionally, I have grown accustomed to ignore, and accept, and move on.
Yet the avalanche of unveiled, blatant, shameless racism that hit our social platforms like a massive wave last week shook me.
According to the Vanity Fair article, Tolkien scholar Mariana Rios Maldonado says, “Obviously there was going to be push and backlash, but the question is from whom? Who are these people that feel so threatened or disgusted by the idea that an elf is Black or Latino or Asian?”
I wondered about this myself… who really are these self-appointed gatekeepers of Tolkien’s works, and what conceit leads them to believe they possess this automatic authority?
For Tolkien’s writings have been translated in numerous languages and read by people of vastly different cultures and backgrounds; and surely their imaginations of the characters and stories are informed and influenced by their background, upbringing, culture, and surroundings?
Here at TORn, I can attest with complete honesty, and without bias, that we have supported a diverse membership for over 20 years. Across our platforms – from the old IRC Chatrooms and our enduring Discussion Forums, to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and most recently on Discord, our volunteer staff have striven to consistently maintain respectful spaces where people of all backgrounds and affiliations can gather together to share our love of Tolkien.
It must also be said that we have never refrained from objectively debating the adaptations of Tolkien’s works, and despite having great relationships with many of the people who worked on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, we have never shied away from being critical in our reviews of these films.
Debate, discussion, and interpretation has always been welcomed at TORn – it is what has kept us going for two decades – but racism, bigotry, and intolerance simply have NO place in our discourse.
So to all those Tolkien fans out there who may be feeling sidelined, belittled, marginalized, or discriminated against for various reasons (not just your race), please know that TORn is your haven. Our staffers are committed to working round the clock, covering most time zones, on all our platforms, to ensure you can feel not just safe but also empowered to join us and others on this new journey back to Arda.
And to the folks at Amazon – we will of course be objectively critical of the show – but we fully support your casting choices, and we can’t wait to see how this ensemble cast you’ve assembled will bring our beloved characters (and then some!) to life.
Bring on Disa, Arondir, Bronwyn, and the Harfoots (or is it Harfeet?)
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.
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.
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!
You’ve undoubtedly read Vanity Fair article “Amazon’s Lord of the Rings Series Rises: Inside The Rings of Power” by Anthony Breznican and Joanna Robinson.
If you haven’t, go here now and ogle the series of stunning production photos and get some hints as to what’s in store for us. And then, once you have, hurry back and read on because a selection of our staffers have given their candid impressions on the Vanity Fair revelations.
Quick note: Your first article on Vanity Fair is free to read so you can digest everything in full — there’s no catch. But if you like what you read, and want to support good journalism, a yearly sub is only $15.
Great literature stands on its own merits. But there is so much from Tolkien that is not known by the wider audience, many of whom think Middle-earth is just a story about brave little Hobbits who save the world at the end of the Third Age. The bulk of Tolkien’s lesser-known output concerns the First age, with only cursory information ever written for most of the Second.
Amazon purchased rights to create stories in this little-explored Second Age. By necessity, they need to create storylines and characters from whole cloth. I look forward to seeing these new tales play out. My only personal criteria in judging them are these three:
First, will the series get more people to read the pre-Third Age tales by Tolkien? Second, will it increase the desire of the general public to see adaptations of tales from the First Age? Third, will I smile when I watch it, and want more?
Only the completed first season, indeed, only the completed series will answer these questions. Not photos. Not trailers. I wait, with the same nervous but excited anticipation that I had for the early 2000s Rings trilogy.
The collected fragments of JRRT’s imagination pre-LOTR are scattered and changeable to begin with. To me, this means that any work based on these notes can deviate. Despite Christopher’s attempts to document, footnote, and caveat every single scrap of his father’s writing, the one thing Christopher underlines is that it’s clear that not even Tolkien had one solid timeline in mind for his characters. There is no one, true canon, here.
I am willing therefore to hold off on judgement before viewing the Amazon interpretation of his characters and world. The Vanity Fair article and other evidence indicates that we’ll see a compressed Second age story — from Galadriel adrift in the Sundering Sea after Morgoth’s capture ends the First Age (sure, why not?), all the way through 3441 years to the day Isildur cuts the ring from Sauron’s finger.
Galadriel’s timeline in the Second Age differs depending upon whether you take into account the pre-1960s appendices or the post-1960s one, and her timeline obviously differs in various versions of the notes collected by Christopher.
My initial reaction was to wonder where Celeborn and young Celebrían (born in SA 300) are, because they should be by Galadriel’s side at various points in the Second Age. But given the fact that Galadriel’s journey around Middle-earth looks like a confused yarn tangle as she moves from Lindon to Eregion to Imladris to Dol Amroth to Imladris again… OK sure she probably has some time to float around in the Sundering Sea alone to wreak vengeance upon Morgoth’s minions.
Why not? She really isn’t with Celeborn for some of the time in the Second Age, so I will stop being fussed by it.
I am very excited to see how Amazon will handle the Aulendil plot, where handsome “pupil of Aule” Sauron meets Galadriel and attempts to win her trust before he wiggles into Celebrimbor’s good graces and creates the Rings…
And finally, Elves are imaginary, my friends.
The article confirms that Amazon does not have any rights to the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, Histories of Middle-earth, or any other works outside of the Lord of the Rings and its appendices and the Hobbit. So they are crafting a coherent story from what essentially is a bunch of outlines, brief references, etc. The only way to do that is to create non-canon characters to interact with canon characters in order to move the story forward. The Tolkien Estate has said that Historic events that are known can’t be changed, but the showrunners will be able to decide for themselves how much or how little time they spend on some events over others.
I’m not as concerned about the time compression, because I don’t believe they are compressing the whole of the Second Age. After all, the story is called The Rings of Power, so the story should just be focusing on Sauron, in disguise, shopping the notion of collaborating to make magical rings, being denied here and accepted there, the creation of those rings and possibly the distribution of them, ending with the creation of the One Ring. This event does not encompass the entirety of the Second Age, so less compression than you think, and most likely fewer grand Second Age stories even being told, unless a character actually chooses to talk about something we don’t really see.
I still can’t figure out that first still image we saw a few months back, except that it is probably in a flashback, and that the image is from Galadriel’s point of view, looking at her brother, the city and the Two Trees. Heck, if she’s been shipwrecked and in the water, what better way to get some prologue style flashbacks into the existing story.
I love the diversity in the casting and I’m especially looking forward to seeing more of the Dwarven princess. I was never expecting a beard because my head-canon from 30+ years of reading before the movies never pictured a female dwarf with a beard. It’s fascinating to see this is a deal-breaker for so many. Same for short hair on elves.
I remember all the uproar when the Lord of the Rings movies first came out, that they were not “faithful” to the books. Interesting to see this repeated by movie-firsters, who now deplore that the Rings of Power isn’t “faithful” to the original movies.
I was interested to read that the show plans to compress the hundreds of years of the Second Age. I’m OK with that because there is not enough of Tolkien’s content to pull together a coherent story. I appreciate the point made in the article that the multiple cast changes would be confusing.
I see a similar attention to detail in the pictures released so far that made the original movies so believable. Of course, the costumes, swords, jewelry, etc that we’ve seen so far are different; I still very much like what I have seen so far.
Overall, I’m very intrigued and look forward to more reveals.
I’m really interested to see how the new characters develop. I’m also quite happy to see the greater diversity amongst the various peoples of Middle-earth. This is because, right from the very first time I read The Lord of the Rings, over 40 years ago, I always assumed that’s what the peoples of Middle-earth were like, with just as much diversity as our world has.
I can’t help wondering about the time compression. I can understand the difficulty of trying to show over 3000 years of Middle-earth history, and facing having so many characters dying from old age, but it’s intriguing to figure out how this compression of time is going to work without it becoming a bit messy.
Curious as to where Celeborn is, whilst Galadriel is off hunting orcs. Maybe he became a stay-at-home dad to Celebrían.
I really don’t have a problem with short hair on elves. Tolkien never actually specifies that all of the Eldar have long hair. Someone on Facebook was claiming that Glorfindel’s hair streaming behind him, as he rode his horse, was proof that all elves have really long hair. Well, when I went riding in my teens mine used to do that too, and my hair was only shoulder length at the time.
I can’t wait to see Khazad-dûm in all its glory.
I do still have some reservations about the show, but I’m willing to wait until I’ve actually watched it before I make any judgements. The same as I did with the Peter Jackson movies.
I’ll start with the diversity we saw in the images. I personally loved what I saw. Based on what I’ve read of Tolkien over the years these characters could easily fit into the books. So for me I think that Amazon is doing solid with this. If folks want to get mad then get mad that they made Elrond a blonde. Otherwise getting your knickers in a twist over invented characters and not already established ones seems like a giant waste of energy.
I also love the detailing we see in these photos. If looks like it’s going to be a world that’s actually lived in. The armor looks fantastic as well as the weapons. I’m hoping this means that our friends at Weta Workshop are doing the work. That means these seasons should have some quality items on screen in this regard. This is also good for cos-players as they’ll have some quality items they can work to create.
One of the big things I think is the time compression. I’ve already seen some folks complaining about this. Why? In order to hit the marks for this you were going to have to have this happen. Otherwise this show would have to last well beyond my lifetime. So as long as proper care is taken this should workout and give us something folks can enjoy.
I’m a movie-firster. So based on some of what we’re seeing changes to Elrond and some looks to weapons some haven’t seen yet. This doesn’t appear to be set in the same sandbox as the Peter Jackson films. For me that is a massive disappointment. Why? I find those films to be about as perfect as you can find. They translated the text rather beautifully I find (after having read the books multiple times now). If Amazon didn’t take a page out of the Disney/Marvel playbook and connect everything a-la the MCU, they’ve missed a big chance. PJ already showed you how you could turn out a kick-ass product that is respectful of Tolkien and makes folks happy. Will this show still be good? Maybe. Will I still enjoy it? Maybe. That still doesn’t mean I won’t be disappointed and feel like this was a massive missed opportunity.
Staffer Nancy “Mithril” Steinman
One thing I realize about The Rings of Power is that the show has only the barest of outlines to work with. The Lord of the Rings “Appendix B: The Second Age” is only twelve-and-a-half pages long. These pages hit highlight points only, leaping across huge gaps in time. The sole note about Galadriel is half a sentence long, yet the Second Age lasts 3,441 years, and she is in Middle-earth that entire time. With this information and a few poems, the showrunners have to create “50 hours of television” per J.D. Payne.
Even if The Silmarillion were available to Amazon, only two chapters are relevant to the Second Age. Mentions of named characters contain little insight into their daily lives or emotions. How can new material not be invented to fill in the gaps? How many viewers would continue to tune in for multiple seasons of a show that has no depth or breadth?
The posters and released photos reveal nuanced characters and costumes with wonderful details, so I’ll give the show the benefit of the doubt that they will be able to do the same with story. On a side note, I’m pleased to see that most of the costumes don’t have long, draping sleeves. Although Ngila Dickson’s designs for Peter Jackson’s films are gorgeous, after wearing those sleeves for cosplay, I know how impractical they are and always wondered how the actors (and characters) managed.
I’m excited for one possible aspect of the expansion of the story I think the Vanity Fair article indicates -– we will get to see life in the lands to the south of Gondor. The captions under the photos of Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) give a clue. They say Bronwyn lives in the “Southland” in the village of Tirharad (“harad” translates as “south” in Sindarin, and “tir”, “to look or guard”). To me, this means we will get to see Harad from a perspective other than that of a land filled with stereotyped “evil” Haradrim warriors. Harad is a vast land that would have been populated with all kinds of people, and in the Second Age, the Númenóreans mixed with this culture, for both benevolent and selfish purposes.
For myself, I am hopeful that the stories we want to hear will be told, even if the timeline is compressed, and even if they are not exactly as Tolkien might have written them.
It is exciting to FINALLY have a real look at what we’ve been talking about for two years!!
The thing I am most excited about IS the diversity in these characters. Representation matters SO much and seeing such a range brought to Tolkien’s world brings me a great deal of joy. No-one should be offended by seeing a wide array of skin tones, period. A great deal of the initial reaction online deeply disappointed me. Tolkien’s work at it’s core represents UNITY and people coming together from all corners of Middle-earth for the greater good. Inclusion IS the greater good and I’m thrilled to see Amazon doing an apparent good job at that.
The image of Galadriel in the armor I absolutely love, I’m sorry but I do. Ignore how the background looks/color grading/etc. Just her in the armor was exciting to see. We KNOW that Amazon is not strapped to only the materials they have approval to use and that they will be creating new characters, stories and even directions/roles for characters that already exist. I don’t see a negative to making Galadriel have a bad ass warrior queen reality.
Artistic license and creative freedom needs to be allowed. There is no way to make every single person happy, even with the best of intentions. We saw that with PJ’s Middle-earth and we will definitely see it with Amazon. Everyone needs to a deep breath before the plunge (see what I did there?) and reserve judgment until actually seeing an episode. I have a lot of thoughts regarding the images we have been shown, but without more information? I’m keeping my opinions to myself until I understand the breadth of the direction they are taking with this series: both visually and with the stories being told (canon or not).
The love story plot line… I will say my initial reaction is that I’m not too keen on this. I hated it in the Hobbit, but we shall see.
My introduction to Tolkien’s work was through the storytelling of Peter Jackson, the lens of Andrew Lesnie and the talents of every artisan and artist who worked on the film trilogy. I read the books immediately after seeing Fellowship in theaters with my mom (who worked so hard to convince an 11-year-old Potterhead that I would love The Lord of the Rings even more. She was right). When I read the books, I saw Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth. That is what I have seen every re-read since. It will be very hard for me to “see” this series as of the same world that I have been obsessed with for 20 years if it doesn’t look close enough to PJ’s version… but IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THE SAME (I keep telling myself and the world). Different CAN be good. We won’t know until we see it. There can be a place for BOTH in a fan’s heart.
I am cautiously optimistic at this point. I need to see a trailer to form a more informed opinion, but I hear that’s happening soon? 🙂
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…