Prime Video has announced that new behind the scenes footage from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will be released today, in the form of ‘X-ray’ content, which can be accessed whilst watching the show. To promote the footage, they released this trailer:
Here’s what the official press release tells us:
Prime Video Announces a Spectacular Return to Middle-earthWith X-Ray’s “The Making of The Rings of Power”
Fans of the global hit series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power can get an exclusive look behind the scenes of all eight episodes via Prime Video’s X-Ray feature, pulling back the curtain on the real-life creation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnificent realms like never before
CULVER CITY, California—November 21, 2022—Prime Video’s record-breaking global hit series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has announced that “The Making of The Rings of Power”—a special look at previously unreleased behind-the-scenes content from Season One’s eight episodes—is now available exclusively on X-Ray, via a full-screen experience that can be launched anytime while watching the series. Viewers can also access the X-Ray episodes by scrolling to the Bonus Content section on the series’ main page on Prime Video HERE.
X-Ray’s behind-the-scenes content invites audiences to take a close, personal look at Season One’s production, allowing fans to discover how the series meticulously brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth to life in all of its splendor. These “making of” pieces, each corresponding to one of the first season’s eight episodes, provide a thrilling deep dive into the series, with exclusive access, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with the cast, showrunners, executive producers, directors, and production team.
“The Making of The Rings of Power” gives fans a special inside look at the creation of the unique realms that make up Middle-earth, including Númenor and Khazad-dûm, both shown on screen at the heights of their glory for the first time. These segments also reveal exciting details about the production design, set decoration, costumes, makeup, visual and special effects, stunts, sword fights, horseback riding, and so much more of the intricate preparation involved in creating this very special world.
The first season of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has been an unprecedented global success, viewed by more than 100 million people worldwide, with more than 24 billion minutes streamed. The highly anticipated series attracted more than 25 million global viewers on its first day, marking the biggest premiere in the history of Prime Video, and also debuted as the #1 show on Nielsen’s overall streaming chart in its opening weekend. The show has also broken all previous Prime Video records for the most viewers, and has driven more new Prime sign-ups than any other previous content launched. Additionally, The Rings of Power is the top Original series in every region – North America, Europe, APAC, LATAM and the rest of the world. The season finale also created a global cultural moment, with #Halbrand trending on Twitter for 305 hours.
Watch, listen, and shop more on Prime Video with your favorite show, powered by X-Ray. The technology of showing you who that actor is now includes more—What song is playing? Where can I buy this book? How did they make the scale of the Harfoots and Dwarves? Launch X-Ray to find out more: https://www.amazon.com/adlp/xray
How to Access X-Ray
Via mobile device or web browser on Prime Video, move your cursor, tap the screen, and/or pause the series to reveal on-screen X-Ray controls. X-Ray’s on-screen Quickview mode disappears after a few moments, so to see X-Ray information again, just tap, click or move your cursor again. Click or tap “X-Ray View All” at the top left of the screen to enter full screen X-Ray.
On Smart TVs or streaming media devices: “The Making of The Rings of Power” behind-the-scenes pieces will be available as Bonus Content. Scroll to the Bonus Content section on the show’s main page, where all eight segments will be available to view individually.
Use your remote to activate X-Ray by pressing/swiping up to view on-screen X-Ray controls. Press up on the remote again or select “X-Ray” to access the full screen X-Ray experience
As the long awaited release of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power approaches, the final trailer has been released. Some fans have been lucky enough to see episodes one and two already, at premiere events around the world (and some will watch them in NYC tonight!) Some fans have snagged the very limited tickets to see those episodes screen in cinemas on August 31st. And for the rest, sometime on Sept 1st or 2nd (depending on your time zone), those first two episodes will be available on Prime Video.
But for now, here’s one more official trailer:
And here’s the official press release that goes with it:
The new two-minute-and-36-second trailer highlights the epic expanse of Middle-earth in its Second Age, and reveals how Tolkien’s legendary and beloved characters will come together against all odds and across great distances to guard against the feared reemergence of evil to Middle-earth. Fates collide and disparate characters are tested in the face of impending evil in this glimpse into the long-awaited new series.
The trailer features key cast members Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), Elrond (Robert Aramayo), High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), and Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards); Harfoots Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) and Largo Brandyfoot (Dylan Smith); The Stranger (Daniel Weyman); Númenóreans Isildur (Maxim Baldry), Eärien (Ema Horvath), Elendil (Lloyd Owen), Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle), and Queen Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson); Dwarves King Durin III (Peter Mullan), Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), and Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete); Southlanders Halbrand (Charlie Vickers); Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi); and Silvan-elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova).
The first two episodes of the multi-season drama will launch on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide on Friday, September 1-2 (time zone dependent), with new episodes available weekly.
Have you wondered what a supercut of all the trailer, teaser and ad spot footage that Amazon Studios has released for The Rings of Power would look like?
Wonder no more!
TORn Discord (you should totally come and join us) members WheatBix and DrNosy have been busily slicing and dicing up all the footage and reassembling into a chronological order order based on spy reports, rumours and a bit of theory-crafting and dramatic flair.
Although these clips are sequenced by fans, we believe that they contain significant spoilers. We have arranged footage released by Amazon Studios in a sequence that we believe reflects how season 01 of how The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will unravel.
They’re not kidding about potential spoilers. This super-cut includes all footage available up until August 20, 2022.
Disclaimer: Amazon Studios and their subsidiaries own all footage and audio.
Is The Rings of Power drawing inspiration from Tolkien’s incomplete Fourth Age work, The New Shadow?
Upfront: I’m a big believer in Betteridge’s law of headlines. This maxim states that: any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word “no”. There’s every chance that “no” is the right answer to this lede.
Yet, the idea that Rings of Power — in its use of cults — could be cribbing ideas from Tolkien’s fragmentary Fourth Age story remains an alluring one that my mind keeps circling back to.
In part, it’s because of the creepy and unsettling power of that exchange between the as-yet-unidentified wild-eyed fellow and Theo in the trailer: “Have you heard of him, boy? Have you heard of Sauron?”
What is The New Shadow?
The New Shadow is found in the final volume of The History of Middle-earth amongst a number of essays that Chris Tolkien classified as “Late Writings”. It’s actually quite slim, totalling only 13 pages in my edition — including CJRT’s page-and-a-half introduction and footnotes.
Much of it is a slow-moving philosophical meditation as the two characters — the aging but steadfast Borlas, and the youthful, but seemingly embittered and restless, Saelon — trade barbs about the “roots of Evil”.
Then, in the final few pages this key exchange occurs:
‘You have heard then the name?’ With hardly more than breath he formed it. ‘Of Herumor?’
Borlas looked at him with amazement and fear. His mouth made tremulous motions of speech, but no sound came from it.
‘I see that you have,’ said Saelon. ‘And you seem astonished to learn that I have heard it also. But you are not more astonished than I was to see that this name has reached you. For, as I say, I have keen eyes and ears, but yours are now dim even for daily use, and the matter has been kept as secret as cunning could contrive.’
The New Shadow, The Peoples of Middle-earth
Perhaps it’s mere coincidence. Yet the similarity to the dialogue from the teaser with what Tolkien wrote is startling. There’s also a strong parallel in the visual reaction of Theo and the written one of Borlas: surprise, trepidation, fear.
Who is recruiting whom?
Is Saelon recruiting to a dark cause? Is the wild-eyed crazy fellow in the trailer doing likewise?
While we shall eventually find out the answer to the latter, we’ll never know the answer to the first question for certain.
Saelon certainly seems fishy — and his later invitation to Borlas to attend a shady, night-time rendezvous to learn more about the mysterious Herumor contains the scent of deceit.
But Tolkien never continued the story.
Within his reasons for abandoning the tale are some illuminating nuggets — nuggets that are, I think, relevant to the reasons for Númenor’s ultimate fall, and what Rings of Power may be trying to achieve with its own Sauron cult(s).
Since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless…
I found that even so early [after the death of Aragorn] there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going round doing damage.
Letter #256, Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Discontented and restless: when enough is still not enough
This is the very essence of the Akallabêth tale.
The Dúnedain of Númenor want for nothing, and live long lives in peace and prosperity, yet it’s not enough. They grow increasingly unsatisfied with all that they already have. Then, by gradual steps, they “fall”: transforming from helpers in Middle-earth to colonial conquerors and ultimately embarking on a doomed rebellion against the powers of Valinor in a vain quest for immortality.
Sauron’s presence merely hastens a process that was already occurring. Remember that the White Tree in Armenelos — a metaphor for the spiritual well-being of Númenor — was already in decline during the reign of Ar-Pharazôn’s grandfather.
Restless folk “playing at orcs”
One wonders if that’s exactly what we’re looking at with the trio of dissatisfied-looking folk in white robes in the trailer: “discontented and restless” folk “playing at being Orcs”. Or as Tolkien further outlines in Letter #338: “owing to the (it seems) inevitable boredom of Men with the good: there would be secret societies practising dark cults, and ‘orc-cults’ among adolescents.”
If it looks like a cult…
Can we even be sure these people are part of a cult?
First there’s the implication from the dialogue that, more or less, accompanies those frames: “Evil does not sleep. It waits.”
Consider how that parallels the thrust of the very opening of The New Shadow:
‘Deep indeed run the roots of Evil,’ said Borlas, ‘and the black sap is strong in them. That tree will never be slain. Let men hew it as often as they may, it will thrust up shoots again as soon as they turn aside. Not even at the Feast of Felling should the axe be hung up on the wall!’
The New Shadow, The Peoples of Middle-earth
At a surface level, visual tropes further reinforce that assessment.
Hooded robes. Because every cult needs robes.
The staff and mirror. Every cult also needs its own hermetic symbology and gear.
Scene composition. This suggests both insularity (and groupthink), and an unobserved surveillance of events (ie: panopticon-style powers).
None of these is individually conclusive; together, they are highly suggestive.
Yet there are aspects that depart from the stereotypical visuals that we might expect from a Sauron cult.
Visual oddities: white robes
In particular, Sauron’s minions never use white. In the Lord of the Rings, the Eye is always said to be red. The hand is referred to as the black hand.
‘S is for Sauron,’ said Gimli. ‘That is easy to read.’
‘Sauron does not use the Elf-runes.’
‘Neither does he use his right name, nor permit it to be spelt or spoken,’ said Aragorn. ‘And he does not use white. The Orcs in the service of Barad-dûr use the sign of the Red Eye.’
The Departure of Boromir, the Lord of the Rings
He [Mouth of Sauron] it was that now rode out, and with him came only a small company of black-harnessed soldiery, and a single banner, black but bearing on it in red the Evil Eye [my emphasis].
The Black Gate Opens, The Lord of the Rings
And, in The New Shadow, Saelon suggests that Borlas should wear black robes when he extends an invitation to join one of Herumor’s secret meetings.
One might argue that these are all post-Akallabêth developments — after Sauron loses any ability to assume a fair-hue. In fact, Unfinished Tales describes how in Lindon “Gil-galad shut out Sauron’s emissaries and even Sauron himself”, indicating that Sauron used others to further his long deception of being an emissary of the Valar sent to aid the elves.
Those others would have to appear just as innocent as their master regardless of who they were approaching.
Still, white-robed cultists are a visual contradiction to our textual knowledge. Depending on your attitude to the production, that’s either puzzling or concerning.
Visual oddities: the sigil on the staff
The second conundrum is the design of the staff of the apparent leader of our trio of cultists. This design seems to employ the symbolism of an eye.
Parallels with Peter Jackson’s “The Eye of Sauron” atop the two spires of Barad-dûr are obvious.
One could refer back to Aragorn’s statement that “neither does he use his right name, nor permit it to be spelt or spoken”. But that’s trying to have it both ways: the rune barred to his minions, but white being okay.
Right now, I can’t readily reconcile this.
Cults and “magics” in Middle-earth
Still, between our wild-eyed fellow and Theo and the various appearances of white-robed and hooded individuals, the SDCC trailer feels determined to suggest a dangerous cult with nefarious purposes and uncanny powers.
A glance through the Legendarium reveals fertile ground for cults in Middle-earth.
The very beginning of Akallabêth states:
Men came into the world in the time of the Shadow of Morgoth, and they fell swiftly under his dominion; for he sent his emissaries among them, and they listened to his evil and cunning words, and they worshipped the Darkness and yet feared it.
Akallabêth, the Silmarillion
In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn tells how the folk of Erech refused the summons of Isildur because they had “worshipped Sauron in the Dark Years”.
And, in outlining the origins of the Mouth of Sauron, The Lord of the Rings tells us of Black Númenoreans who “established their dwellings in Middle-earth during the years of Sauron’s domination, and they worshipped him, being enamoured of evil knowledge.”
A Rings of Power cult need not even be inspired by Sauron. In a 1958 letter Tolkien wrote of the Blue Wizards, guessing that they “were founders or beginners of secret cults and ‘magic’ traditions [my emphasis] that outlasted the fall of Sauron.” Something similar could explain the white robes — although such an explanation raises equivalent problems with the “cult leader’s” staff.
Plus, some of those followers are practitioners of dark art.
Mouth of Sauron is said to have learned “great sorcery” as he gained favour. Gandalf describes the Witch King of Angmar as a “great king and sorcerer… of old”, while The Peoples of Middle-Earth briefly describes not only that Sauron enslaved the spirits of some elves to his will, but that he taught the same necromancies to his followers.
Now, this might not seem much like necromancy, but also recall that Sauron’s nature is one of fire and that, until he was seduced by Morgoth, he was a student and follower of Aule.
A final parallel with The New shadow
Returning to The New Shadow, there’s one final — if slight — parallel with Rings of Power. In one of the recent interviews at San Diego Comic-con, Tyroe Muhafidin observes about his character:
“We find Theo — he’s not the most happy-going guy; he’s not living in the greatest circumstances. He’s living in what you could call the slums. So he’s a bit angsty towards the world.
He finds something in the bottom of a barn, and there’s lot of secrets to it – and he’s dying to find out [them].”
Now, that’s not a life of prosperity. Theo is not driven by “boredom of Men with the good”.
But it does sound as though there’s a chip on Theo’s shoulder — and that’s something that is characteristic of Tolkien’s Saelon — embittered as he remains over being accused by Borlas of “Orcs’ work” after stealing fruit as a young child.
That may prove fertile ground for the creepy old guy in the trailer. Theo might not have previously been attracted, as Tolkien describes it in The New Shadow, to “tales of the Orcs and their doings”.
“I had not been interested till then. You turned my mind to them.”
There is one other comparison with these cultists that I simply cannot overlook. But it’s not a Tolkien-based one — it’s one with Mervyn Peake, the famed author of the gothic masterwork, Gormenghast.
Peake was also an impressively talented sketch artist, and a friend pointed out that one of Peake’s sketches of his arch-villain Steerpike bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain cultist. Now, having seen it, I can’t get it out of my head.
Acknowledgements: Many thanks to all the Discord Reading Room mods for their feedback on this piece and especially DrNosy for the structural critique. GIF courtesy of the ever-talented WheatBix.
About the author:Staffer Demosthenes has been involved with TheOneRing.net since 2001, serving first as an Associate News Editor, then as Chief News Editor during the making of the Hobbit films. Now he focuses on features and analysis. The opinions in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent those of TheOneRing.net and other staff.
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Note: The following is an opinion piece written by volunteer staff member Kellie, also known as “Kili” from the YouTube series Happy Hobbit.
In an effort to clear up some misconceptions, I want to tell you my story.
On February 13th, I was invited to participate in a livestream hosted by both TheOneRing.net and Amazon Prime Video to watch and analyze the very first teaser trailer for Amazon’s new series, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. It was my sister’s birthday, so while I was excited for the end of the “Middle-earth dearth,” I only committed to participating for an hour, and I was relieved I had an excuse to slip away after said time, for the initial teaser trailer failed to impress. In fact, it was even worse; it left me confused, worried, and underwhelmed. The visuals were dazzling, but I felt no connection to the imagery on the screen. I was far from alone.
Like many, I feared Amazon was producing the most expensive TV show in history (allegedly around 1 billion) because they saw Tolkien’s work as a cash cow and were going to milk it for all they could.
I am a fiction author (under my pen name K.M. Rice) and a screenwriter with a Master of Fine Arts, so workshopping creative material is second nature, as is finding ways to express what is not working in an articulate manner. “I am not getting the mythic tone I look for in Tolkien,” I remember saying (which is a paraphrase).
A few months later in May, I was invited by Prime Video to a special press event in London, England, as the representative for my sister and my webshow, Happy Hobbit (which strives to bring a dose of Middle-earth to our viewers’ daily lives), and as the co-author ofMiddle-earth from Script to Screen: Building the World of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, which I helped write with Daniel Falconer at Weta Workshop in New Zealand. My fellow Tolkien content creators and I, along with traditional press, were taken on a field trip to Oxford University where we had the pleasure of wandering Tolkien’s old stomping grounds both as a student and as a professor. You can check out what we did and saw by watching the video here.
The following day, we were treated to footage and costumes from Rings of Power (ROP) and a Q&A with the showrunners, John Howe (concept artist), Leith McPherson (dialect coach), and Ramsey Avery (production designer), along with the showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and producer Lindsey Weber.
I once more was not impressed with the footage I saw, for while there was nothing wrong with it, there was no context. I had no idea what had just happened before the scene we were shown, where in the story it fell, and in fact, what the story was at all. It looked and sounded lovely, but there was no beating heart. My own heart sank as I realized I was going to have to just accept that this show wasn’t going to fulfill my expectations.
Once the showrunners spoke, however, I was left with the juxtaposition of hearing from two people intensely passionate about Tolkien (to the point that they opened every day of shooting with a Tolkien quote and discussion) and the marketing that didn’t convey that love and respect.
What I saw in London didn’t raise my excitement level, but hearing from the showrunners and knowing that such a capable team was producing the series did leave me with a sense of cautious optimism.
To reiterate, none of us Tolkien content creators have seen the show. We were not paid or bribed in any way, but rather have been treated as “Tolkien press.” We have no idea if ROP will be good, bad, or somewhere in between. Our opinions are our own, as they should be, and this is just my story.
While attending San Diego Comic-Con International at the end of July to speak on one of TheOneRing.net’s two panels, Prime Video invited me to a luncheon with many of the cast members from ROP. Before sitting down to eat, we were treated to viewing the first official trailer, which finally had some heart and showed a hint of the plot. I am no Tolkien lore expert, but many in the room with me were. They could name things on screen that I couldn’t, nevertheless, I felt excited. In fact, I shed a few tears and I don’t cry easily, especially in public. But being in that room and feeling so much unbridled excitement and joy was deeply moving, especially after having missed that human connection and communitas for so long during the pandemic. When we came out to meet the cast after, I felt a level of energy and anticipation that many of us had not yet felt over the show.
Everyone we met at the lunch was incredibly kind, down-to-earth, and passionate about Tolkien and storytelling. No one had an ego that prevented them from addressing gritty topics with strangers they had just met, and several of our conversations grew deep quickly. I later had an opportunity to converse with Patrick McKay, one of the two showrunners, who shared that they were given complete creative freedom. As such, whether the show does well or poorly, he feels he and his fellow showrunner are to blame. Talk about accountability!
I have a healthy skepticism about Amazon and most major corporations. I am not here to defend a company or TV show that I have yet to see, but I am here to share what I have learned:
Amazon never approached the Tolkien Estate to ask for the rights to make the show. Rather, the Tolkien Estate approached both Amazon and Netflix (and possibly other streaming platforms, as well), asking them if they would be interested. Amazon was.
Christopher Tolkien (the Professor’s son) was in charge of the Estate at the time the deal was made in 2017. He passed away three years later in 2020 after production on the show had already begun, and the directorship was passed on to his son, Simon Tolkien.
What’s more, the production invited Simon Tolkien, the grandson of the late Professor who has a love of cinematic storytelling and is the current director of the Estate, to be involved. For context, no other production has ever given the Tolkien Estate a seat at the table.
Amazon, as a corporation, is also not strapped for cash, which means they could invest whatever was needed to bring the vision of the Second Age to life.
Jeff Bezos is a big Tolkien fan.
One thing that limited them was the rights. They could not touch The Silmarillion or The Unfinished Tales. The rights are only for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. As such, the inclination is naturally to turn to the appendices of Return of the King, but even that is a gray area.
If a plotline smelled too much like it was getting into Silmarillion territory, the Estate didn’t permit it in a script. The production was then pushed into the difficult situation of having to originate their own material.
Knowing this, engage with me in a thought experiment for a moment:
Imagine you, as a Tolkien fan, just heard that this up-and-coming film studio out of New Zealand, the UK, or Colorado received a billion dollars to produce a Tolkien TV show set in the second age using partially original material and that to do so, they not only brought the Tolkien Estate on board, but hired showrunners, writers, and a cast that cared deeply for the source material to ensure fidelity. That sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it?
In many ways, Amazon is fighting against the public image of its own brand. Remove the name “Amazon” from the equation and suddenly many are more forgiving. I know I am. That so many of us have knee-jerk reactions to corporations’ names is worth noting, but the subject of a different conversation.
It all comes down to trust, and anyone who wants to involve our fandom needs to earn it. Some of us are more open than others. Some of us love the Peter Jackson films, while others didn’t enjoy them at all. But remember this: no one is touching the books. They will always be there. Tolkien’s texts are sacred for many, and no one is here to dispute that. But a book is a book. A film is a film. A TV show is TV show. None of these forms of storytelling are the same. And the existence of one does not threaten the other. If anything, they can be a boon. I would never have read Tolkien if not for Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.
No artist considers their art “finished.” There is always room to expand and change as the artist grows and ages as a person. Tolkien himself was a revisionist to the point that his heirs have gone to a great deal of trouble trying to decide which version of a story or piece of Arda’s history should be seen as “canon.” His Middle-earth writing often also contradicted itself. Importantly, he intentionally left bits open to interpretation.
When writing to publisher Wilton Waldman in 1951 about the scope of his literary aspirations to create a body of “more or less connected legend,” Tolkien shared:
I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.
J.R.R. Tolkien, 1951
The Professor’s dream has been fulfilled. His work has inspired artists of all genres and arguably established the Fantasy genre of literature.
Not only are other minds and hands interpreting his work, but adapting it and expanding upon it, thus fleshing out the ideas he left merely “sketched.” Tolkien did not want his life’s work to fade. He wanted it to live and breathe with the generations, even if that meant it arrived with a new twinkle or twist every now and again to suit the era, just as myths have done since the dawn of the human experience.
We have been through some trying times of late. A global pandemic, economic hardship, war, and loss, to say nothing of our more personal struggles. We look to tales like those told by Tolkien to make some sense of it all. I long to return to Middle-earth: a place where, even in the darkest of times, there is still a star shining. Love, hope, courage, and a love of the simple pleasures in life prevail in some form, as does the deep goodness that ties us all together. We don’t all have to agree and entertainment is highly subjective at the best of times, but even the most butchered adaptations cannot shake how at home I feel in the aged pages of my books, nor should they.
We all walk different roads on this Middle-earth, and in times of stress, it is easy to begrudge others their happiness. But life is short, opportunities are rare, and I for one am excited to revisit Tolkien’s world on screen.
Optimism is a choice, a more difficult one than pessimism, and I am choosing to go forth on this journey with an open heart and welcome any and all joy along the way. The same choice is also yours.