TheOneRing.net wrapped up San Diego Comic-con with a panel focused on the Second Age of Middle-earth. The panelists wove insights with skill and knowledge into a flowing tapestry to rival those in the halls of Menegroth.
Held in Room 6A of the Convention Center, the panel was moderated by Justin Sewell, host/producer TORn Tuesdays (YouTube), the panel included Matt, host of Nerd of the Rings (YouTube); Anna María, actor and activist (@onlyannamaria/Twitter); Willie Jenkins aka KnewBettaDoBetta (TikTok); Clifford Broadway, writer, actor, host TORn Tuesdays; and Dr. Corey Olsen, founder of SignumUniversity (@TolkienProf).
First discussed was how important maps are to the Tolkien Universe. Willie advised that if you have trouble understanding Tolkien’s work, start with the maps; by studying them, you’ll have an easier time understanding the texts. Corey pointed out that Númenor is so far south on the map, it would be a sub-tropical climate. Anna María explained that Tolkien’s legendarium centers around movement.
The veracity of this point hit home for me. From the time of the birth of the Elves in Cuiviénen, the peoples of Middle-earth are always on the move. When the Elves migrate to Valinor, many were sundered from the larger group along the way forming the different branches of the Elves. The Noldor’s return to Middle-earth had devastating consequences on the people and the land, and this backwards migration formed the various Elvish kingdoms that were scattered throughout Beleriand, the remnants of which formed the population of ME in the Third Age. A Third Age example is when the Rohirrim (then called the Éothéod) living in the northern Vales of Anduin were granted Calenardhon, which became Rohan, for helping Gondor in its time of need. And of course, the story of the Lord of the Rings revolves around the Fellowship’s journey throughout the lands of the Third Age. Much like the world we live in, it is the movement of people that tells the tale of history.
The panel moved on to talk about the Silmarils and the Oath that Fëanor and his seven sons took to recover the gems and how the consequences of those actions impacted all the events that came after, all the way down to the Third Age. Dr. Olsen made the point that the fallout from these events caused the surviving Elves to be predisposed to making the Rings of Power as a means to protect their realms.
Next discussed was which materials Amazon has the rights to develop in the series. The panel drew the conclusion that with Simon Tolkien consulting on the series, nothing is off-limits because the show runners can go to the estate and ask permission if they feel they need to include material that is not in the Appendices.
Justin asked the panelists what they wanted to most see in the 50-hour series. Responses included:
• The War between Sauron and the Elves • The Creation of the Rings • The War of the Last Alliance: “There is so much more to that battle and that war than we saw [in the Peter Jackson’s films.]” –Matt • The Gradual fall of Númenor: “The theme of the inevitability of lovely things that fade…I’m excited to watch the struggle of Númenóreans over time becoming more and more resentful of their mortality. Of longing for the gift of the Elves’ agelessness…Of having the relief of death twisted by Morgoth.” –Anna María
Cliff pointed out how The Second Age is about loss. The Númenórean story is the story of Atlantis with Númenor renamed Atalantë (the downfallen) after it’s fall. He talked about how the Ents in the trailer remind us that Tolkien had ecological interests and suggested that the Ents and Entwives must come into conflict with the Númenóreans because of the island-dwellers’ need for wood to build ships. He said his spirit might break if by the end of season five the Ents have lost the Entwives, but that this could narratively connect with events in the Third Age.
As a fan, Dr. Corey Olsen was reassured by the show runners: “The primary theme of this show is hope. That there is a lot of darkness, there is going to be a lot of grimness in this because Tolkien does not shy away from that, but at the end of the day it is always about hope. Patrick McKay said that the scene with Sam looking up at the star in Mordor was his favorite scene in the Lord of the Rings, I said ‘he’s our people.’”
Matt was hopeful that all the John Howe’s drawings for the show (48 full sketchbooks) might end up in book form on our bookshelves.
Willie was excited about seeing Khazad-dûm and Eregion at its height, and Cliff pointed out that this was a time of cooperation between Elves and Dwarves, unlike in the Third Age. Anna Maria reminded us that the Second Age is actually a post apocalyptic setting.
The discussion moved on to how Tolkien is inclusive and for everybody. The author was opposed to racism in all forms as attested to in many of his writings and letters. Justin asked for us to all keep an open mind and an open heart going into the show, while Matt said he’s just excited to escape to Middle-earth.
Throughout, the audience was enraptured, but proof of the lasting impact of the event is that the panelists have stories about audience members coming up to them after the panel and thanking them for bringing things to light about their favorite characters.
For instance, Anna Maria, Corey and Willie spoke about Isildur and how we only know him from the Peter Jackson LotR prologue where we see him refusing to throw the One Ring into the Cracks of Doom. From this scene, many people took away that Isildur was a fool, if not a villain. But we were assured that Isildur was a hero, one of the Faithful who risked his life to save the White Tree. He was one of the founders of Gondor, a great and wise ruler, and we shouldn’t judge him on his one mistake because there was no one in Middle-earth who could resist the power of the One Ring and throw it in the fire. Certainly not Frodo. Even Galadriel and Gandalf were both afraid to touch it, knowing it would corrupt them.
From the audience reaction, I’d say that everyone’s curiosity about the Second Age has been piqued, and that most people are excited to find out how Amazon Prime Video will handle this less well-known period in Middle-earth’s history.
Last night TheOneRing.net and Amazon Prime Video hosted a “Rings of Power” off-site party at San Diego Comic-con.
The setting was lovely and looked very Middle-earthy with trees growing inside the venue surrounded by moss, rocks, mushrooms, and even a few birds’ nests filled with eggssess, precious. Showrunner Patrick McKay joined the party, and TORN staffer Cliff “Quickbeam” Broadway talked Tolkien lore with him. Jed Brophy stopped by, too.
Golden Mallorn leaf tickets were given out at TORn’s Booth 1220 in the convention center for trivia answers. These ticket holders got to meet 20+ Rings of Power actors and have posters signed by them all. Five Middle-earth costume winners also got Mallorn tickets. Actual set-worn costumes were displayed throughout the venue, and immediately after the party, they were bubble wrapped and crated and flown back to the set.
Highlights of the food and drink that flowed throughout the evening were the blackberry sparkling cocktail and the mini poke ice cream cones surrounding a mountain from which smoke poured out.
An expanded trailer that does not disappoint was played in a separate room on loop.
It was a wonderful evening, and hopefully the first of many ”Rings of Power” parties. (Emmys party perhaps?)
So you wouldn’t think that Galadriel means something similar, like that one time at Aqualondë when Fëanor decided to requisition some boats (or, later, when he decided to use said boats for tinder on the beach at Losgar).
It’s also likely that Elrond was involved in the The War of Wrath and present at Thangorodrim for the defeat of Morgoth at the conclusion of the First Age. It’s implicit in his statement during the Council of Elrond when he speaks of the Last Alliance.
“I remember well the splendour of their banners,” he said. “It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled. And yet not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken…”
The Council of Elrond, The Lord of the Rings
Arguably that’s the defining event of the First Age (even if it’s the most-sketchily recorded). A dragon falls on and destroys a mountain chain. Later, an entire sub-continent sinks as a result. It is, quite literally, a world-changing event.
Let’s say your preferred canon is that Galadriel remained in Doriath into the later stages of the First Age (one option CJRT outlines in Unfinished Tales), the sacking of Menegroth doesn’t remotely meet that benchmark. Even were you to place Galadriel at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad (I wouldn’t), or the Dagor Bragollach (a big stretch, but I do wonder if the showrunners might), it’s just not comparable.
So what’s left?
I broached this with fellow staffers, suggesting that only one thing in Galadriel’s history is truly incomparable: the destruction of the Two Trees by Morgoth and Ungoliant.
But, generally, we agree that the description of that event given in The Silmarillion is a poor match for the imagery from the scenes that Galadriel’s voice-over cuts across in the trailer. The Silmarillion describes that Laurelin and Telperion wither as Ungoliant drains them of life. They do not burn. The assault causes a vast, ever-expanding gloom and darkness, and it is entirely unexpected and unanticipated.
That’s very unlike what we see in the Rings of Power trailer scene. There’s a the red-hued background, flickering embers pass behind Galadriel, and there are bodies that seem to hang in space. Further, whatever Galadriel is looking on seems to centre on something that looks like a tower, or a fortress. Not trees.
If it’s not something in Galadriel’s (distant) past, what is it then?
Perhaps it’s some Second Age event around or during timeline that The Rings of Power covers.
Here, fellow-staffer Garfeimao cleverly suggests that we should keep in mind that Galadriel has powers of foresight. This, after all, is how Sam is able to see a vision of The Shire getting, let us say, redeveloped.
“Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal,” she answered, “and to some I can show what they desire to see. But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold. What you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell. Do you wish to look?”
I could see some pointing out that Elrond also has a mighty foresight. And that’s true.
For example, his concern for welfare of The Shire is not at all misplaced. But he also doesn’t intuit how critical Merry and Pippin would prove to the Quest to destroy the Ring. That’s not to say his foreknowledge is less, it’s more to showcase how imprecise such things can be in Tolkien. No-one ever sees the full picture — even the memories of the Valar of the Music are said to be fuzzy.
And a vision might explain the subtle differences between the two shots: Galadriel is not physically present at the second scene. Instead she’s perceiving it through the lens of vision — just as Frodo and Sam did in Lorien — from somewhere else that is distant in both place and time. Somewhere else that — in a sneaky bit of misdirection — just happens to have endured some sort of fire or assault.
Recall, also, that such visions and dreams in Tolkien can be the cause of great restlessness in the receiver. In The Silmarillion, Turgon and Finrod each receive a vision from Ulmo while resting by the banks of the Sirion.
“Unquiet was upon them ever after, and doubt of what should befall, and they wandered often alone in untrodden lands, seeking far and wide for places of hidden strength…”
Of the Return of the Noldor, The Silmarillion
This might be a key reason why Galadriel is unable to, as Elrond suggests, put down her sword.
A vision opens up possibilities of things that we, as an audience, might not see come to pass in the first season of The Rings of Power.
Staffer Josh suggests that it might just be a vision of The Downfall of Númenor: Akallabêth, and perhaps even the Temple in Armenelos as it sinks below the waves.
Now, that seems appropriately apocalyptic.
It would explain why all the figures look like they’re floating — they are. And it explains the odd ripples through that scene — it’s distortions caused by the surface of the water.
The mist cleared and he saw a sight which [Frodo] had never seen before but knew at once: the Sea. Darkness fell. The sea rose and raged in a great storm. Then he saw against the Sun, sinking blood-red into a wrack of clouds [my emphasis], the black outline of a tall ship with torn sails riding up out of the West.
The Mirror of Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings
There might be powerful reasons for Amazon Studios to tip people to this end-scenario early. The fact is that most viewers won’t know what a Númenor is, let alone that it was an island-continent that was sunk after an entire people went off their collective trolley, implemented a system of human (and, presumably elven) sacrifice, and decided to invade the “land of the gods” out of a misplaced belief that conquering it would confer immortality.
Sure, even the most casual watcher will understand Ring Bad(tm), but this is vastly more tangible and visceral.
This would be one way to drive home the wider audience what’s at stake and, conceptually, I like it a lot.
Unfortunately, neither The Lord of the Rings nor its Appendices mention the “mighty temple” that Sauron has built in Armenelos, nor the sacrifices of the Faithful that are conducted inside. Those details are only found in the Akallabêth story in The Silmarillion.
However, Appendix A and Appendix B do mention that the Faithful are persecuted, and that rebellion and “civil war” occurred in the final years of Númenor.
That may be enough for the purposes of a vision. That may also satisfy a quite accurate objection that Staffer Earl raises — that the scene does have the appearance of being the outcome of battle. In fact, the most prominent floating figure seems to be run through with a spear.
Perhaps it reflects that, in those final, doomed years, “men took weapons … and slew one another for little cause; for they were become quick to anger.” Chaos and violence as the apocalypse literally occurs should not, I think, be unexpected.
But let’s say that’s incorrect and we’re not looking upon a scene of Akallabêth.
Is there something else it might be?
Here, I’m indebted to one of our Discord chatters DrNosy who informed me that the fan hivemind suspects that the trailer aerial of a city at the confluence of two rivers is Ost-in-Edhil, the chief city of Eregion.
“…the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk, and the trees and the grass do not now remember them: Only I hear the stones lament them: ‘Deep they delved us, high they builded us, fair they wrought us, but they are gone.'”
The Ring Goes South, The Lord of the Rings
While not as apocalyptic as the end of Númenor, it is still the end of Eregion. More, it’s the civilisational high mark of the Noldor. Although Elrond establishes subsequently a refuge in Rivendell, never again would they attempt anything on a similar scale.
A vision of the dreams of the Noldor going up in flames might just suffice.
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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The trailer captures in spirit Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle-earth and of other Tolkien artists. I was caught up by it and am curious to see more, but it left me, and probably most viewers, with more questions than answers.
Why would he say this? It means not only literally put down your sword, but give up the fight. He’s asking her to give up everything she has stood for. To give up on what she has so long fought for. Even after Lothlórien is well established, Galadriel never gives up fighting evil in Middle-earth. If I were her, I’d be pretty angry at him for saying this. Could this be a hint of a thread of conflict that will run between the two of them throughout the show?
Galadriel is believable as a younger version of herself who seems capable as one of the Elves who lead the Noldor across the Grinding Ice. Is that a map she is holding? If this is the Helcaraxë, I doubt a map would exist. If she is in the Northern Waste which has been mentioned as a featured location, I wonder what brings her there. It would be interesting to learn more about the Forodwaith, and it opens up the opportunity for dragons who also lived there.
What is Elrond referrring to when he says, “It is over?” Perhaps this scene is taking place after Númenor falls, and Elrond thinks Sauron (and evil) is gone. Or maybe he is talking about Galadriel’s dispute with the heirs of Fëanor because all the Silmaril’s have left Middle-earth.
Galadriel says, “The enemy is still out there. The question now is where.” The trailer then cuts to a city on a river. I wondered if it was Rómenna because Sauron is now on Númenor. Or Ost-in-Edhil in Eregion where Sauron as Annatar, “Lord of Gifts”, is hanging out with Celebrimbor showing him how to make rings of power. My immediate thought was that the location looked like Middle-earth rather than Númenor. I even hoped for a moment it might be Osgiliath which straddled the Anduin River, though it was not at the confluence of two rivers like this appears to be, unless it is a curve in the river. Osgiliath had a great stone bridge, and there is a domed building in this city that could be the Dome of Stars. I doubt it is Osgiliath, but one can hope we will get to see the founding of Gondor and Annúminas.
When Galadriel says she has seen things Elrond has not, we are shown an image that looks like the world is on fire. I first thought this might be the burning of the Teleri ships at Losgar, but because of the tower, I think not. Could it be the destruction of Thangorodrim in the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age? The description in the Silmarillion of the battle says: “all the north was aflame with war” and “…Orcs perished like straw in a great fire, or were swept like shrivelled leaves before a burning wind.” This gives credence to the bodies floating in the air, though they look rather like Elves than Orcs. In that battle, Eärendil slew the mighty dragon Ancalagon the Black, and “cast him from the sky; and he fell upon the towers of Thangorodrim, and they were broken in his ruin.” This would account for the broken tower. Perhaps, but perhaps not. TORn staffer Demosthenes has a more comprehensive post about this scene to come.
Preparing for disaster
In this shot where a huge stone figure reaches out its hand, I wonder if the harbor is Rómenna where the ships of the Faithful are prepared for departure as Amandil, Elendil’s father, instructed. The image depicts nine large ships at anchor. Elendil landed in the north of Middle-earth with four ships. Isildur with three and Anárion with two, ended up in the south at the Mouths of Anduin.
The frontal view of the ship sailing through the gates has the sun symbol on the sails, the same as Elendil’s armor. The ship is a very intriguing design with two large curved and ribbed sails sticking out from the mast and smaller sails in the middle. The ships in the harbor have furled (wrapped up) sails that stick out perpendicular from the boat, the same way the sails on the hero ship would likely be stowed. Later in the trailer we see Isildur on a ship, but is hard to tell if the sails are set the same, though the masts seem to be positioned differently.
There has been speculation that the meteor man could be Sauron because the lantern on the left is reminiscent of the Eye of Sauron. But in Akallabêth, it says Sauron’s spirit came back to Middle-earth “as a shadow and a black wind over the sea” not as a flaming meteor. I am still leaning towards this being an Istari, possibly even Gandalf. Now that we can see the man more clearly, he has similar physicality, hair, mustache, and beard as Gandalf. I know Gandalf is not supposed to come to Middle-earth until the third age, but with time compression, who knows?
Speaking of time compression, one thing that is bothering me is that when the Rings of Power were forged, Tar-Telperiën was the Queen of Númenor, not Tar-Míriel, who we see in the trailer. The Rings of Power are forged in the year 1600 of the 2nd Age, and the downfall of Númenor is in 3319 of the same age. Given the title of the show, it seems that the forging of the rings would be featured. So either the compression is rather severe, or perhaps flashbacks are used extensively. There is a scene of Ar-Pharazôn stirring up a crowd in front of either the King’s Court or the tower where Morgoth was worshipped. It surprises me that the show would already be in his time frame since Ar-Pharazôn’s reign is so close to the fall of Númenor, which seems like a conclusion and not an opening to a series that is supposed to have five seasons.
Another clue the show-runners are not sticking strictly to canon is the character Eärien, sister of Isildur, who does not exist in Tolkien’s work. Elendil had only two children: Isildur and Anárion. I was looking forward to meeting Anárion who we know so little about and who dies in the siege of Barad-dûr. I hope he has not been cut completely.
Durins III & IV
I’m curious what Durin III means when he says, “I am sorry but their time has come.” Is he talking about Durin IV and Disa? Is he telling someone that his reign is over, and that his heirs will be taking the throne? The trailer cuts to Durin IV breaking the rock right after he says this. We later see Durin IV holding a piece of what is most likely mithril (so exciting!) saying that it could be the beginning of new era. Is Durin III stepping aside because his son has discovered the wealth of the Dwarves’ future? Then why does he say he’s sorry? Maybe instead he is implying that Elves will once again have more power than Dwarves in Middle-earth. After the war between Sauron and the Elves begins, Khazad-dûm is closed, and its population dwindles, and the Dwarves became a wandering folk while Elves become established in Rivendell and Lórien.
What is Arondir’s role in the story? Why is Arondir’s costume so different than the other Elves we have seen? In the trailer released in Brazil earlier this month, I noticed Elrond’s and Arondir’s brooches are very similar, both open silver circles but the heads of the fastener pins are different. Is this style a trend? Or does it mean that Arondir is somehow closely connected to Elrond? In his army? A scout for him?
Who is in the pit with Arondir? The scene reminds me of when Sauron cast Beren and Finrod Felagund into the pits of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, and the wolves came and killed their companions one-by-one (Silmarillion, Of Beren and Lúthien). Perhaps this scene takes place after the One Ring is revealed, and the second person in the pit is Celebrimbor who was captured by Sauron and tortured to disclose the locations of the lesser rings. Throwing him into a pit with wargs to extract a confession would fit the dark lord’s style.
The Horse Warriors
We see Galadriel leading a host of horse warriors with Isildur(?) riding beside her. I wonder if they are in Middle-earth during the War of the Elves and Sauron. No major battles are written about that take place on Númenor, but these riders are wearing the scale mail of that culture. [Edit: “The Tale of Years” in Appendix B of “The Lord of the Rings” says in 3175 there is civil war in Númenor, but nowhere is Galadriel mentioned as leading an armed force there.] Possibly they are Isildur’s men that sailed with him, or maybe Númenórian’s who had already settled in Middle-earth.
Númenóreans are not widely known for their horsemanship, but horses were their main mode of transportation while on the island. They had a deep love for and connection with the animals and could communicate with them from afar by whistling or even by thought, much as we see Gandalf doing with Shadowfax.
I have been hoping to see the steel bows of the Dúnedain, but these riders have spears.
“In later days, in the wars upon Middle-earth, it was the bows of the Númenóreans that were most greatly feared. ‘The Men of the Sea,’ it was said, ‘send before them a great cloud, as a rain turned to serpents, or a black hail tipped with steel;’ and in those days the great cohorts of the King’s Archers used bows made of hollow steel, with black-feathered arrows…”
– Unfinished Tales, Part 2, Ch 1, A Description of the Island of Númenor
I like that the Harfoots are portrayed as wanderers. As distant ancestors of Bilbo and Frodo, this explains why the two Shirelings are predisposed to going on adventures. The Harfoots’ role in these tales is not canon but being invented from whole cloth, as they say, yet I am happy they are included and feel the story will be enriched.
There is a lot to unpack with the trailer, but it is definitely intriguing. Looking forward to getting answers once the show airs on Amazon Prime Video.