October? Yep.

Those of you fortunate enough to get your “sticky paws” on the October issue of Smithsonian are in for a HUGE treat. John Garth, acclaimed author of The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth, Tolkien and the Great War, and others, has penned (pixelled?) a phenomenal read for the complete Tolkien newbie as well as the Tolkien-lifers of the world.

Garth’s exposition provides the reader an important contextualization to better understand and appreciate Tolkien’s writing, and more specifically, the stories behind Prime Video’s Rings of Power. Part abbreviated biography, part history of Tolkien’s writing and publication journeys, and part Númenorian exposé, this essay covers a vast amount of ground with precision, passion, and poignant prose.

The author fused his inspirations into an alloy that he could shape freely. He also generated multiple stories from a single inspiration. What he called his “feigned history” lives on its own terms. 

John Garth, Smithsonian

Coupled with Garth’s authorship are Kieran Dodd’s inspiringly rich photos. Dodd’s talents underscore and punctuate Garth’s narrative with stunning images of architecture and locations frequented by Tolkien. And yes! For those of us not fortunate to get our handses on this publication, the article is also available right here. Enjoy your read!

Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, inspirational to Tolkien’s concept of a Morgothian temple. Courtesy of Smithsonian. Photo by Kieran Dodds.

Bravo gentlemen! And thank you, Smithsonian.

Just six weeks ago, it felt like a Rings of Power drought. Now every day there’s a new batch of interviews and reveals. These are via Time Magazine writer Eliana Dockterman. Dockterman was able to shadow and interview the showrunners and key cast at San Diego Comic-Con.

Below are summaries and links to four articles that emerged from that for your reading pleasure.

The Secretive, Extravagant, Bighearted World of The Rings of Power, the Most Expensive Show Ever Made

Tears are streaming down Ismael Cruz Córdova’s chiseled cheekbones. Somehow, hardly anyone notices. I’m at San Diego Comic-Con, halfway through 96 hours spent shadowing the cast and creators of The Rings of Power, Amazon’s highly anticipated Lord of the Rings prequel series. Tomorrow, franchise superfan Stephen Colbert will debut a trailer for the series to 6,500 screaming attendees, many wearing pointy wizard hats. But tonight, at a private dinner, journalists are getting an early preview of the video in a golden faux forest constructed by Amazon for the occasion.

After a day spent among the convention crowd in 80-degree heat, sweaty, sneaker-clad members of the press mingle with actors dressed in cocktail attire: Córdova has chosen a sharp suit with a black leather harness pulled tight across his chest. A 16-person choir and 25-piece orchestra—fronted by a violinist decked out in Middle-earth regalia—perform music from the series.

Read More

11 Rings of Power Secrets We Learned From the Cast and Creators

Spend some time in Middle-earth and you’ll learn a lot of secrets. I shadowed the cast and creators of the much-anticipated Lord of the Rings prequel series, The Rings of Power, for four days at San Diego Comic-Con in July. During my conversations with the showrunners, executive producer, and several members of the cast, I did my best to pick up clues about where the series may be headed—along with details about the immense production behind the epic saga.

and…

If you want to watch the series without knowing anything about what might happen in the show, know that this story contains minor spoilers. Stop reading now. But if you want some background on the series and how Payne and McKay cooked up a story from Tolkien’s notes, forge ahead. I’ve seen two episodes of the show, and the information in this story comes primarily from the appendices.

[Editor’s note: Having read the article, I don’t consider any of this to be much of a spoiler for anyone who’s been casually following press reports and has a passing knowledge of Middle-earth’s Second Age.]

Read More

The Rings of Power Exclusive: Producer Says Fan Theories About Sauron Are Wrong

Fans have spent months speculating when and how he might appear in the show. They’ve combed the various trailers and publicity shots. Some theorize that fans have already seen his image—or at least his Annatar guise. But executive producer Lindsey Weber told TIME the prevailing fan theories may be on the wrong track.

[Editor’s note: This is potentially a spoiler, though I think fandom very quickly discarded the Sauron identity theory that Weber discusses with Time. It would have been much more interesting to address the other (much more compelling) rumour that’s doing the rounds right now. Unfortunately, they don’t even touch on it.]

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This Fan-Favorite Character Is Joining the Second Season of The Rings of Power

McKay and Payne leaned heavily on the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, which trace the rise of Sauron, the creation of the one ring, and the battle between Sauron and the last alliance of elves and men for the soul of Middle-earth. Elves are immortal in Tolkien’s world, so Lord of the Rings fans can expect to see familiar faces like Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Elrond (Robert Aramayo). (Both characters also appeared in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.) But a fan-favorite character has been missing…

[Editor’s note: I guess this could be a minor spoiler for some so I’ve hidden the character’s name behind the link below just to be safe!]

Read More

TIME Rings of Power cover

Entertainment Weekly is handing out a Comic-Con 2022 print edition exclusively at SDCC with The Rings of Power on its cover. Per their website, this special edition cover has a first look at Númenor, “the legendary island kingdom that’s never before been depicted on screen.”

Rings of Power

More from EW:

Númenor looms large in Tolkien’s legendarium, and EW’s cover introduces four key residents who will play a major role in The Rings of Power.

Cynthia Addai-Robinson stars as the queen regent Míriel, who descends from a long line of royal leaders. Her closest advisor is Pharazôn (far right), played by Welsh actor Trystan Gravelle. Rounding out the cover are seafarer Elendil (center right), played by Lloyd Owen, and Elendil’s son Isildur (far left), played by Maxim Baldry.

EW’s full issue includes exclusive interviews with the cast, as well as key creatives like Payne and McKay, director Wayne Che Yip, and production designer Ramsey Avery.

Additional images with character insights and an interview with production designer Ramsey Avery are also up on EW.com with more to come.

Check out our detailed write-up on everything you need to know about the panels, booths and events for Middle-earth fans going to San Diego Comic-Con 2022.

EW has shared an exclusive look at The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, featuring the characters Kemen, Miriel, Pharazon, Elendil, Eärien and Isildur.

These six characters were all featured in the posters of hands that were released a few weeks ago.

The EW article discusses the upcoming series with show runners, J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay and what was involved with bringing Númenor to life and how they hope to please the legion of Tolkien fans.

That devoted fandom is why Payne and McKay pondered every tiny detail on The Rings of Power — right down to each stone in Númenor. “It was one place that we were just laser-focused on saying, ‘We need to get this right,'” Payne explains. “It’s never been seen before. People have some ideas of what elves look like or what dwarves look like and what those kingdoms might look like. But Númenor was, in some ways, a blank canvas.”

(Coggan, 2022)
EW image of Ema Horvath as Earien

Director, Wayne Che Yip, describes walking onto the set of Númenor, stating that it was “just breathtaking”. How every week they were filming on this set he would discover something new, some detail he hadn’t seen before.

We are introduced to Elendil’s daughter, Eärien, who is played by Ema Horvath and Pharazon’s son, Kemen, played by Leon Wadham. Both are new characters, so it will be interesting to see how their stories unfold.

Further in the EW article Payne shares some personal insights into his own reactions to their portrayal of Middle-earth and how the reaction of some of the fans at a recent viewing affected him.

“If people come out of this feeling like they’ve gone to Middle-earth, that’s such a special thing,” Payne adds. “Middle-earth fills us with hope, and it inspires us. There’s a reason why people reach to Middle-earth when they’re going through hard times.”

(Coggan, 2022)

Amazon recently screened about 20 minutes of the show for a group of Tolkien superfans. As Payne and McKay hid in the back, they overheard one audience member say that the show “felt like Middle-earth.” “As he said that, I was surprised by my own reaction,” Payne says, laughing. “I spontaneously burst into tears. I was like, ‘That’s all I wanted to have happen!'”

(Coggan, 2022)

You can read the full article here and join in discussions about the latest revelations on our message boards and discord chat.

As September 2nd draws ever closer, we’re seeing more and more glimpses of what is in store in Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Most fans will already have seen the amazing images, and read the interviews, from the latest edition of EMPIRE magazine – including artist John Howe’s incredible snow troll sketch, which features on the cover of the special subscriber’s edition.

Back in early May, when staffers Justin and greendragon were invited by Amazon to join a group in London, to see footage from The Rings of Power and to talk with showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay, John Howe was also part of the gathering. There were gasps of delight from many in the audience when he was introduced; all were thrilled to have a chance to talk with such a legend. It was also reassuring to hear, from his own mouth, that Howe is actively involved in the design and creation of this new Middle-earth adaptation.

That same day, Prime Video also treated us to a closer look at three costumes from the show. Stay tuned for more from greendragon on what we saw and heard that day; we’ll also share posts from other sites, YouTubers, tiktokers and fans who were there. To start us off, here are Justin’s reflections:

[Continuing the high levels of secrecy around this show, there were no phones or recording devices allowed; therefore all quotations are paraphrased from notes & recollections.]

As the lights came up from the very first sneak peek at The Rings of Power footage (some of which we expect in the first proper trailer releasing at SDCC) the nervousness in the air was thick; not only from the thirty or so fans assembled, but also from showrunners Payne and McKay. Will we like them? Are they two of us?

“We were with you all refreshing TheOneRing.net every day for the latest news on Peter Jackson’s films!” McKay told us. These lifelong fans, Ivy League Yale educated, committed to their church, might be closer in disposition to JRR Tolkien than any filmmaker that has come before. They study every book, revision, note, letter, and interview Tolkien ever shared, to understand his motivations and inspirations. It is this thorough knowledge of the context of Tolkien that has inspired confidence from so many Tolkien influencers.

As the showrunners wrapped up the open-ended Q&A, the biggest surprise of the London trip occurred – artist John Howe walked out with a sketchbook in hand. He explained how he got involved, how much work has been put toward The Rings of Power, and took questions from an awestruck group of scholars, fans and podcasters.

“They just kept asking me to sketch things they were considering. There are 40 sketchbooks full of drawings for this show.” Howe then opened up his sketchbook to the original drawing of the ice troll. I find it very curious that our very first leak from the ROP set were photos of an icy mountain set, then leaks of a snow troll (instead of a cave troll), which carried through to the Super Bowl teaser featuring the troll, and now John Howe’s sketch. Did Amazon leak the icy set pics in the first place, as part of a long marketing game? Or is Prime Video responding to uncontrollable leaks and only revealing what’s already been hinted at? Howe did not turn the page to show any more drawings.

When asked how he keeps this new work separate from the award winning (and trademark protected) work with Peter Jackson, John Howe responded with incredible awareness and insight. “We are all professionals here in the room. You all understand running your business. Whether I’m designing for movies, or book covers, or a streaming show, there are creative briefs to respond to. But the people in charge also know what they are getting from all my previous work.” Howe went on to explain that the true creative separation from Jackson’s films is actually INSPIRATION in the new locations this show visits. “We’ve never seen the oceanic areas of Middle-earth, and it is incredibly exciting for me to discover the great seas and areas that haven’t been explored. That is the true departure from what has come before.”

While John Howe had a plane to catch, showrunners Payne and McKay hung around with fans for some social conversations in the lobby, where three actual costumes were on display. The two guys held their own in deep lore conversations with several Ph.D.s, such as ‘The Tolkien Professor’ Corey Olsen and Dr. Una McCormack. At any fan event full of world-leading-expert-podcasters, there is a tendency to weed out inauthentic creators with deep lore questions. Again, Payne and McKay held their own. There is a reason the reaction a few weeks ago was unanimously supportive of the showrunners: they know their Tolkien, and they know the lore.

The Rings of Power showrunner Patrick McKay suddenly confronted me in the lobby, as his conversation circle moved to catch up. Matt (Nerd of the Rings) was shocked at some of the things we talked about – secret things I’m still hesitant to reveal. McKay wanted to know how I felt about the footage. He was extremely interested in my honest opinion. He cares what we think, what our response is to the hard-earned work over the last three years, if we feel he’s doing right by Tolkien and by fans. My direct response was the footage “looked like it should”, as I wrote a few weeks ago. It wasn’t the overwhelming enthusiasm I think he wanted, but that’s the legacy this entire show is up against: the most awarded films in entertainment history make for a high bar set by New Line Cinema.

To close, here’s one exclusive comment I will share today: McKay was adamant that this sword (below) is NOT Narsil, despite our early spy reports from people who have laid eyes on scenes featuring this sword. We will find out what’s true September 2nd; but I can’t help but remember how adamant JJ Abrams was that Cumberbatch was NOT Kahn. The only job these showrunners had in Hollywood was working for JJ Abrams, before landing this dream gig in Middle-earth… 

Maybe it’s the time zones, but I really thought that John Howe’s interview with Empire about The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was coming out tomorrow. Instead, if you’re keen (and an Apple News subscriber), you can read it right now over on Apple News.

The interview expands on the teaser Empire provided the other day, that “this is not the Middle-earth you remember”. Instead, it’s a story of a different time (the Second Age), when Middle-earth was visually and politically a different place.

An excerpt:

Howe can’t elaborate on what that tale may be, but does hint that it takes place against a backdrop of “Sauron’s rise to power, the forging of the Rings of Power and the epic tale of [human city] Númenor” — all events with important repercussions for Middle-earth.

“I was convinced the Hobbit trilogy would be the last we’d see of Middle-earth on film,” Howe admits, explaining that it took an exciting new approach to Lord Of The Rings lore to unlock a story worth telling.

Read the full interview with John Howe on Apple News.