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.]

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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

The Rings of Power at San Diego Comic-Con created a tsunami of cast interviews, video snippets and press write-ups. Unfortunately, they’re scatered all across the internet.

So some of the fine folks on our Discord server have been working assiduously to collate everything for easy reference. Courtesy of their hard work, everything we can find in one place for your reading and viewing pleasure. Big thank-you to Tim B. Ranatuor, WheatBix and Amaurëanna for getting all these links together!

The Colbert-hosted panel

CBR also has a nice write-up on the Colbert-hosted panel if you just want the highlights or prefer to read than watch.

The Q&A session

Part 1 (hosted by Pat Oswalt)

Part 2 (hosted by Tiffany Smith)

Part 3 (hosted by Felicia Day)

Media interviews

Note: outlets are listed in alphabetical order to make it easier to find your fave rave.

Black Girl Nerds

Interviews with Leon Wadham (Kemen), Lloyd Owen (Elendil), Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa), Morfydd Clark (Galadriel), Sara Zwangobani (Marigold), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Tar-Míriel), Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir).

Collider

Group interview with Charlie Vickers (Halbrand), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Sophia Nomvete, (Princess Disa), and Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo).

DEADLINE

Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo) mixed-area short interview

Daniel Weyman (The Stranger) mixed-area short interview

Morfydd Clark (Galadriel) mixed-area short interview

Charlie Vickers (Halbrand) mixed-area short interview

Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir) mixed-area short interview

Nanzanin Boniadi (Bronwyn) mixed-area short interview

Maxim Baldry mixed-area short interview

Den of Geek

E! News

Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn) interview

Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad) interview

Morfydd Clark (Galadriel) interview

ET Canada

Morfydd Clark (Galadriel) interview

Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad) interview

Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir) interview

Robert Aramayo (Elrond) interview

Nanzanin Boniadi (Bronwyn) interview

Entertainment Weekly

Group 1 interview (actual interview starts at 6 mins 17 secs)

Group 2 (actual interview starts at 8 mins 20 secs)

Gamespot

Sophia Nomvete, (Princess Disa) short mixed-area interview

@gamespotdotcom In The Rings of Power, dwarven Princess Disa will have a beard! Watch here.

Key cast individually elevator pitch their characters

@gamespotdotcom Wondering who’s who in The Rings of Power? Let the cast explain. Watch here.

IGN

Group interview with Charles Edwards (Celebrimbor), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Tar-Míriel), Ema Horvath (Eärien), Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir), Daniel Weyman (The Stranger), Maxim Baldry (Isildur), Robert Aramayo (Elrond), Trystan Gravelle (Pharazon), Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow), Sara Zwangobani (Marigold Brandyfoot), and Owain Arthur (Durin IV)

Group interview with Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad), Lloyd Owen (Elendil), Leon Wadham (Kemen), Morfydd Clark (Galadriel), Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn), Charlie Vickers (Halbrand), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa), and Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo).

IMDB

Group interview with Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Ismael Cruz Cordova (Arondir), and Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad).

Click here to watch.

JoBlo Celebrity Interviews

Individual interviews with Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Leon Wadham (Kemen), and Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn).

The LA Times

Behind-the-scenes at SDCC stuff (might be paywalled!)

‘I can’t believe we’re doing this!’ ‘Lord of the Rings’ stars drink in first Comic-Con

The Times tagged along with ‘Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ stars Sara Zwangobani, Tyroe Muhafidin and Owain Arthur at San Diego Comic-Con.

“I have never experienced a Hall H and I’ve been wanting to come to Comic-Con my whole life,” said Sara Zwangobani while riding in a van to the San Diego Convention Center to take part in the Comic-Con 2022 panel for her upcoming show, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” “These are my people! I can’t believe we’re doing this right now.”

Full article and-behind the-scenes video here.

Photos: behind the scenes at Comic-Con with the cast of ‘Lord of the Rings’

LA Times photographer Jay Clendenin embedded in the Rings of Power group for Comic-Con. He captured a full range of images from life inside the Comic-Con bubble, from cast members’ morning glam routine to the mayhem of Hall H to the afterglow of a successful bow at the year’s biggest fan gathering.

Full photo-essay here.

MTV News

Group interviews with Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo), Charlie Vickers  (Halbrand), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa),  Daniel Weyman (The Stranger), Ismael Cruz Cordova (Arondir), Ema Horvath (Eärien), Maxim Baldry (Isildur), Charles Edwards (Celebrimbor), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Tar-Miriel), Trystan Gravelle (Pharazôn), Sara Zwangboni (Marigold Brandyfoot), Owain Arthur (Durin IV), and Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow).

Showbiz Junkies

Ema Horvath (Eärien) interview

Charles Vickers (Halbrand) interview

Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo) interview

Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow)

Owain Arthur (Durin IV)

Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn)

Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad)

Markella Kavanagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot)

Sara Zwangobani (Marigold Brandyfoot)

TV Insider

Group interview with Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo), Charlie Vickers (Halbrand), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), and Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa).

Group interview with Morfydd Clark (Galadriel), Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad), Lloyd Owen (Elendil), Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn), and Leon Wadham (Kemen).

“The set of Númenór, which they’d built on the back lot, is absolutely extraordinary,” Owen said. Wadham, who has worked in the same New Zealand studio on other projects, added, “I thought I knew what I was walking into. I turn up, and there was a city with a wharf with boats in water on the backlot. It was transcendent.”

Watch the full interview here.

Variety

Charles Edwards (Celebrimbor) interview

Robert Aramayo (Elrond) interview

Daniel Weyman (The Stranger) interview

Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Tar-Míriel) interview

Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot) interview

Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot) interview

Charles Vickers (Halbrand) interview

Maxim Baldry (Isildur) interview

Morfydd Clark (Galadriel) interview

Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo) interview

Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa) interview

Nanzanin Boniadi (Bronwyn) interview

Yahoo News

‘Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power’ cast on how they bonded

Watch the interview here.

Transcript

– It is here, Galadriel, the moment we feared.

KEVIN POLOWY: So, huge cast, but you guys spent a year and a half together–

MARKELLA KAVENAGH: Yes.

KEVIN POLOWY: –shooting this in New Zealand. What kind of bonding experience was that? I mean, you hear stories from the original trilogy, the hobbits all got matching tattoos. Did you guys get matching tattoos, by the way?

MARKELLA KAVENAGH: I was really close to getting one. Not that I know of, I don’t think there are any, but I wouldn’t rule it out. I mean, we’ll see. We’ll see.

KEVIN POLOWY: But what was the bonding experience like among you guys?

MARKELLA KAVENAGH: Well, we lived– we lived so close together. We were there for nearly two years. And we’d have dinners together. We’d go around to people’s places. We had karaoke nights. It was really– we had to be each other’s friends, family, and colleagues in a time where we couldn’t get to each our actual real life friends and family and colleagues. So it was quite an experience. Really, really grateful for the camaraderie, for sure.

BENJAMIN WALKER: Because we were kind of stuck together in New Zealand, and I was there with my family, we became the home where everyone came and had Sunday lunch every Sunday. And when other people were away from their families, it was a way to kind of bond with your castmates, but also have that familial attention, and just feel like a person. So that’s an honor to do. I mean, they’re all nice people, and I enjoyed hosting.

NAZANIN BONLADI: To be in New Zealand– if you’re going to be stuck anywhere, let it be New Zealand. And we understand how blessed we are, because we, at one point were the only show in the world that was filming, because we were in the safe haven that was New Zealand at the time there was no COVID there. So we are very, very fortunate.

And because of the pandemic, the island was shut off from visitors. So we didn’t get to leave the Island or come back, you know, or have visitors. So basically we were stuck there for a good part of two years. And we had to lean on each other and depend on each other. So by default we became family. And, you know, and that’s what a fellowship is, is people who have to sort of support each other through an adventure.

TYROE MUHAFIDIN: Every Sunday we’d go for dinners and things like that, and we’d always socialize, because we were sort of the only people we had. And we were all really, really there for each other in times that we needed each other. And it was really great. I was actually quite lucky because under 18 I’m allowed a chaperone, so I brought my mother along with me. And she kind of ended up being everyone else’s mom.

MEGAN RICHARDS: We had to become, not just each other’s colleagues, but friends and family and support systems. And it really did ring true. I have such a love for this cast, and I really hold them deeply within my heart. And we would have, like, dinners together, where like, 20 of us would try and like, get a table, which is impossible in a restaurant. You know, just so many things like that. And, you know, we’d like, go on holidays together or we’d have, like, Sunday lunches. And, yeah, no, we were really, really close.

LEON WADHAM: Yeah, there’s a true fellowship, no question. So many people came from all over the world and spent a lot of time far from their homes to make this. And I think that encouraged a strong bond. They had to create a family. Whereas I am an Aucklander? I was shooting in my home. And I didn’t start until the midpoint because it took the first half of the shoot to build Numenor. So by the time I met everyone, they were already a family, and they invited me in.

BENJAMIN WALKER: This is going to be the most eclectic fellowship we’ve ever seen, right. It feels like the series is progressing, when it comes to ethnicity, when it comes to gender. I mean, how much of a sort of like point of pride was that for you guys, as creators of this series to sort of– to bring new faces and a new world into this world that’s created, that’s existed for so long, but we’ve never seen look quite like this?

CYNTHIA ADDAI-ROBINSON: It’s a huge point of pride. I mean, I think we’re talking about a global show and a global audience. This is now the reality. This is not about taking the narrow view. And, to me, this is about inviting people in and being expansive. And if you’re going to tell this story in 2022, this, to me, feels like the only way to tell it, the only way to represent it. And I think people are going to be really happy.

They’ve been hungry to sort of see full representation in this world. Because at the end of the day, this story is very much about people of all different backgrounds coming together for a common cause, to fight the common enemy, and that very much relates to where we’re at today. So that, to me, is just, like, the natural progression of things. It’s just what I would expect it to be.

MARKELLA KAVENAGH: It’s just, you know, really exciting to have– for it to be more representative of the world that we live in. And I just hope that the industry, not just our show, but the industry just continues to become more inclusive and representative of the world we live in. So I’m really grateful to be a part of that.

NAZANIN BONLADI: Every woman has agency on this show. Every female character has– is not there to serve the male characters around her. But every one of us has autonomy in our storylines. I am not only the mother of a rebellious teenage son or in a forbidden romance with an elf, the very handsome Ismael Cruz Cordova, but I also am a healer and a leader of sorts in my own right.

MEGAN RICHARDS: It’s just nice. It’s just such an inclusive atmosphere. And, I mean, I can’t even– I can’t wait for the time when that’s not even a question anymore, you know. Like, it’s just so nice that the modern world that we’re living in today, it really is reflected within in the world that Jodie and Patrick have created.

NAZANIN BONLADI: I never, in a million years, thought that I would be in something like this. And now we’re hoping that when people watch Arondir and Bronwyn fall in love on screen that they can see a Afro-Latino man and a Middle Eastern woman fall in love and have a love story, and be romantic leads, and in this genre. And that means the world to both of us, and all the people of– marginalized people in our cast.

KEVIN POLOWY: Despite, you know, “Rings of Power” taking place in the Tolkien universe, fantasy world long ago with creatures of all types, there’s a lot of themes that are going to be relevant to what is actually happening in the real world. Like, what can you say about that aspect? Like, what is it about the show that reminds you of the reality that we all live in?

CHARLIE VICKERS: We all live with. Well, I think that’s the beautiful thing about Tolkien is that the essence of his work, sort of will forever be related to what we go through, and what endures in human life. There are stories within the show that are stories of hope and stories of love and stories of loss, and the fight between good and bad. And I think that within this vast world of high fantasy, it’s these human stories that sort bring you in and really make you feel things when you watch the show.

BENJAMIN WALKER: There are a lot of connections you can draw between refugees or the climate crisis. But I don’t– that’s not the intention of the show. It’s just Tolkien. He understood the human experience in a deep way, and that translates into his work.

TYROE MUHAFIDIN: Just sort of those ideas of, like, family, friendship, you know, sticking with the people you know and you love, and no matter what goes on, they’re always going to be there for you.

LEON WADHAM: Certainly in Numenor there is a hunger for legacy at all costs. And I don’t know how much more I can reveal about that, but certainly ambitious to a fault is something that is said about the people of Numenor. They’re really proud. They have big dreams. They want to leave an imprint on this land before their time on Earth is over. And not everyone on that island knows where to draw the line.

– There can be no trust between hammer and rock. Eventually one or the other, or she’ll be back.

Nanzanin Boniadi (Bronwyn) interview

“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” star Nazanin Boniadi teases what fans can expect in her character Bronwyn. May be geo-blocked depending on your location, but you can try watching it here!

Executive Producer Philippa Boyens is pretty pleased with the casting for The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.

“It’s exciting — we’ve been sitting on it for a little bit,” she says. “[But] it all seemed to come together in an organic way, which is what you want, I think. Suddenly, the right people come to the role.”

We’re speaking via a slightly crackly telephone hook-up just a couple days after the voice casting announcement that includes the news that renowned Scottish actor Brian Cox will be Helm Hammerhand, while Miranda Otto makes an unexpected return to Middle-earth as Éowyn in a narrative role.

An oral tradition

Boyens says that bringing in Otto as narrator was not an immediate decision. Rather it was one that gradually emerged.

She explains that Éowyn eventually felt like the natural way into the bloody and grim tale from Rohan’s past.

“Her voice was familiar,” she says. “And then I think it started to come easily for the writers.”

She hopes that it will also help locate the story for film fans who are unfamiliar with deeper cuts from Middle-earth’s history.

Yet that was not the only reason — an oral tradition felt fitting.

“It’s also so fragmentary, what we are dealing with in terms of the source material. It’s little bits of references here and there … so the oral tradition felt kind of right. The oral tradition of her telling the tale, passing the tale on.”

She doesn’t divulge to whom. But one guesses it is likely her grandson, Barahir. Tolkien not only names Barahir in The Lord of the Rings (solving any potential rights-access issues that would arise with her son, Elboron), he is also an in-world scholar and the author of The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen.

Helm Hammerhand concept art for The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim

Helm Hammerhand: a complex and epic role

Boyens says that both the film’s director Kenji Kamiyama, and Warner Bros SVP and producer Jason DeMarco, were well aware of Brian Cox from his recent voice role in the English dub of Blade Runner: Black Lotus.

“They’re huge fans, of course,” she says.

“Weirdly, years ago — and this is me aging myself — I tried to go and see Brian’s performance as Titus Andronicus.”

She describes how this 1987 run of the Shakespeare tragedy directed by Deborah Warner has attained a legendary status.

“It was just one of those ones which was fresh and shocking,” she says.

“And it [the Andronicus role] wasn’t a role — this is from Brian himself — that many of the other actors were interested in taking on. But he connected to it. I couldn’t get a ticket, but I had a couple of friends saw it who were just blown away. And they talked about the way in which his rage was fuelled by this grief. And the underlying horror that was in the storytelling.

“And that kind of resonated with me when we were thinking about the Helm role. Because it just — it spans a lot of different emotions.”

She says the role — and the film — is about delving into Helm’s choices.

“And the mistakes he made as well. And then his acknowledgement of those mistakes. Was there an acknowledgement of those mistakes?” she asks.

At different points she notes Helm’s hot-temperedness, and how he almost certainly under-estimated the Rohirrim lord, Wulf, who after he is outlawed leads the Dunlending invasion of Rohan.

“[Yet], I saw the tales of him slipping out [of the Hornburg] during the siege and attacking the camp for his people as literally someone trying — even with their bare hands – to protect the people as the king should,” she adds.

“So he was a true manifestation of the king-protector.”

Helm’s heirs and the overthrow of Edoras

The grim reality, though, is that Helm is unable to protect his children.

His eldest son, Haleth, is slain when Edoras is overrun and taken by Wulf’s forces while Helm is forced to take refuge in the Hornburg. We touch only briefly on Helm’s other son but I conclude that his Hama’s fate will remain the same tragedy that it is in Appendix A.

Boyens describes the first as a shocking and powerful moment. Powerful, perhaps, for readers, to finally see things they’ve long envisaged through Tolkien’s descriptions; shocking for film fans to see the unexpected — Edoras besieged and overthrown.

On the other hand, Tolkien leaves the fate of Helm’s daughter unclear. In fact, he never names her even though Freca’s bid for her hand in marriage for his son, Wulf, is a key catalyst for war. Boyens concedes that we simply do not know a lot about her.

“Where we turn to, very deliberately, is to Æthelflæd, the Lady of the Mercians. Alfred the Great’s daughter,” Boyens says, and proceeds to provide a rapid-fire education on an era of British history that I’d barely known of until now.

“She never ruled as a queen per se; she’s known as the Lady of Mercians. But she seems to step in when her people needed her.

“Æthelflæd was also really ingenious, which comes into play in the script. [It] was an idea that Kamiyama had, and they (he and the writers) played with that. I can’t tell you too much about it. But it’s about how you save your life when you have very little to work with?”

It’s a statement that seems to suggest that Helm’s daughter – who they’ve chosen to name Héra – will play some key role after the fall of Edoras to Wulf, and the death of Haleth.

“And I really don’t think that Professor Tolkien would hate this,” Boyens says. “Because I always see him as a bit of a Mercian himself being from the Midlands.”

Héra: so named as a nod to the Anglo-Saxon

Unsurprisingly, the name Héra is chosen for alliterative effect: Helm, Haleth, Hama, Héra. Yet Boyens reveals that wasn’t initially the case.

“Someone suggested another name and I went: “Nope, it’s gotta start with “H”, sorry”,” she says.

“Actually, Fran Walsh named her. I told her we were stuck. It’s actually Héra (I get a quick pronunciation lesson and discover the é functions a little like the “ai” in hair) — that’s why it has the accent. Not so much based on the Greek [goddess] Hera, but a nod to the Anglo-Saxon.

“And I like to think she wasn’t a character that [the writers] tried to create wholesale — pulling things out of thin air. Héra is very much drawing from sources that fit with the storytelling that Tolkien himself is drawing on.”

In case you’re wondering, Boyens confirms that neither Fran Walsh nor Peter Jackson have an official production role. It’s more that, since they’re long-time collaborators and have so much experience within Tolkien’s Middle-earth, they’re sometimes just a natural sounding board for ideas.

“I also want to give a shout out to Gaia Wise who voices Héra. I think you guys are going fall in love with her. She is fantastic, she’s amazing. She just had such innate sense of who the character is and how to play her. She was great.

“She had a very natural sense of fiery-ness, but without it being petulance defiance.”

Mûmakil, mercenaries and money

While we’re discussing events at Edoras, conversation inevitably veers toward the Mûmakil that were prominent in the initial concept art released in January.

Boyens agrees with TORn’s suggestions about why Mûmakil might be present at the siege of Edoras.

“A lot of your supposition was right in that article from our viewpoint,” she says. She more or less adds only a single word to that: mercenaries.

“I think it works. I think it’s not against what you could infer from what we know.”

That might perplex some. But Tolkien Gateway seems to provide an element of support: the word “Variag” (as in the Variags of Khand) is a Slavic word derived from the Norse Varingar — “mercenary people”.  Moreover, Tolkien’s notes to translators imagined the Corsairs as “similar to the Mediterranean corsairs: sea-robbers with fortified bases”. During the 16th Century, the Barbary Corsairs of the Mediterranean regularly used wealthy backers to finance their raids, in turn paying them a share of the plunder.

“In order to understand the use of those [ideas],” Boyens says, “you need to understand the character of Wulf and the position that Wulf is in — and had found himself in. And who he would be turning to.”

At this point she pulls in another fact, mentioning the great wealth of Wulf’s father, Freca.

“His father was not an insignificant Lord of Rohan. He had indeed grown fat and prospered,” she says, referencing Helm’s comment in Appendix A about Freca’s large waistline.

Boyens doesn’t expand any further, but my own guess is that The War of the Rohirrim will establish Wulf as the organising mind behind coordinated assaults on Gondor and Rohan, using resources wealth from his father to secure the assistance of Corsairs and Haradrim.

As Appendix A states:

Four years later (2758) great troubles came to Rohan, and no help could be sent from Gondor, for three fleets of the Corsairs attacked it and there was war on all its coasts. At the same time Rohan was again invaded from the East, and the Dunlendings seeing their chance came over the Isen and down from Isengard.

It was soon known that Wulf was their leader. They were in great force, for they were joined by enemies of Gondor that landed in the mouths of Lefnui and Isen.

A human struggle that becomes increasingly claustrophobic

If this sounds like a very human — and political — struggle, Boyens concurs. I suggest the absence of elves, dwarves and hobbits makes it a very different tale to The Lord of the Rings that most know.

She indicates that this was one of the reasons for choosing Helm’s story.

“It’s not about the Ring, it’s not about the Dark Lord. All of that is very peripheral to the story.”

She says it’s also the attraction of examining honour, revenge and familial ties — on both sides.

For Helm, there’s madness born of grief from the loss of the child. With Wulf, there’s his relationship with his father, and with Héra.

“He is his father’s son, but he has a different character. So he does actually offer [to wed] her and the writers asked: ‘Why?’ What was driving him? Was it just his father demanding that he do this? Was it his ambition? What was at play there?”

Even the historical grievances of the Dunlendings — that the lords of Gondor gave what the Dunlendings felt was their land to the Rohirrim — should come through in the film.

She says that all those things are in the Helm tale.

“When I talked to Kamiyama about it, it resonated with him. So that was the genesis,” she says.

“And there’s a moment in the film, which is incredibly gut-wrenching and powerful where Wulf commits himself to a course of action he cannot turn away from. And once he does that, the story darkens.”

She says it was here that the screenwriters Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou really connected with Kamiyama.

“So, yes, it begins with these quite large-scale battles, but it actually becomes more intense and … claustrophobic,” Boyens says.

“And the nature of the film changes almost into a ghost story.

“As the siege takes hold, as the rumours of horror begin to spread. And I can give you a little tease and let you know that, although we said this isn’t about The Ring and this isn’t about the Dark Lord … there are the White Mountains and there are creatures [out there].”

Somewhat to my relief she squashes speculation that she might be referring to the Dead of Erech. Instead, she suggests that orcs inhabited the area — a historically more agreeable inclusion.

“Also, I can just add — and I thought it was, again, really interesting in the way that Kamiyama approached this — this was a long, cold winter that was hurting everyone.”

This suggests that there won’t be space to see Gondor’s own struggles. Gondor may come to the rescue in the end, but it seems the focus will be squarely on a life-and-death struggle within Rohan.

She won’t even confirm or deny the presence of Saruman the White in the film. We’ll just have to wait and see.

War of the Rohirrim title lgo

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.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

Over on Wraith Land, Thomas Kelley has just published the second part of his extended interview with Tolkien artist Jay Johnstone.

Jay’s artwork employs techniques from religious manuscripts, icon and fresco illustrations from the medieval period, and uses a variety of mediums — oils, watercolors, acrylics, egg tempera with gold powder and leaf. Striking detail and traditional techniques give the impression of artwork that could have been produced in the real Middle-earth.

The first part explored how Johnstone’s own dreams influence his art. In this second part, Kelly explores Johnstone’s medieval illumination approach to Tolkien art in detail.

An excerpt:

When I interviewed Jay last year in April, I asked him about this “text within a text” vision in his Tolkien art, which to me are of the same theme as his “dream within a dream” iconographies. Using his painting “Gandalf in the Library of Minas Tirith” as an example, I pointed out how he meticulously detailed the books and scrolls in that image with Tengwar lettering. You can also see this painstaking attention throughout, as in works like “The Dwarves,” which illuminates Thror’s map in Bag End from The Hobbit.

“You know, I can’t remember what it says but there’s two parchments on his desk and both of them are written on and the lettering is about a millimeter high,” he says of the Gandalf in Minas Tirith work, chuckling a bit under his breath. “It’s absolutely tiny. I literally do it with a magnifying glass and a precision brush, a brush with one hair on it. I do that in quite a lot of paintings.”

It’s another level of getting inside Middle-earth, down to the micro. Such works are a celebration of the writers and sages inside that meta world, and of writing and learning itself. Johnstone’s “Círdan the Shipwright” — with its Tengwar and ship schematics on parchment — and his “Bilbo at the Library at Rivendell” — with history flowing from Bilbo’s pen — give us a new window into time.

Visit Wraith Land to read the feature in full.

Cirdan the Shipwright by Jay Johnstone
Cirdan the Shipwright by Jay Johnstone

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

Over on Wraith Land, Thomas Kelley has just published the first part of an extended interview with noted Tolkien artist Jay Johnstone.

Jay’s artwork employs techniques from religious manuscripts, icon and fresco illustrations from the medieval period, and uses a variety of mediums — oils, watercolors, acrylics, egg tempera with gold powder and leaf. Striking detail and traditional techniques give the impression of artwork that could have been produced in the real Middle-earth.

Kelley delves into the goals underpinning Johnstone’s unique approach, and some of the insights into Tolkien’s worksthat Johnstone himself has gained out of it. If the interesection of Tolkien, art, psychology and spirituality is your thing, you’ll find this a very interesting read indeed.

An excerpt:

Johnstone dreams in Tolkien. And through him and his artwork we can perceive anew what it would mean to live in Middle-earth and to create art inside it. While Tolkien himself made “sub-creation” the purview of his own characters, from the creation of the Silmarils by Fëanor to the writing of the Red Book of Westmarch by the hobbits, Johnstone imagines what it would be like to be a painter inside Tolkien’s world, and then paints that world and its history. Reminiscent of the religious medieval icon paintings by Duccio di Buoninsegna and Fra Angelico, Johnstone’s paintings work not just like time portals but dream portals.

Visit Wraith Land to read the feature in full.

Tolkienography: Isildur’s Bane & Iconic Interpretations by Jay Johnstone
Tolkienography: Isildur’s Bane & Iconic Interpretations by Jay Johnstone.

Got Tolkien news? Email us at spymaster@theonering.net.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

The author of A Song of Ice and Fire (I live in hope that there will be more books!), George R. R. Martin spoke to The Independent during the Santa Fe Literary Festival.

During the chat, he spoke dismissively of the supposed rivalry between The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon (TLOTR: ROP is out from September 2 on Prime video, while HOTD debuts on August 21 on HBO).

The battle for fantasy supremacy. It’s The Rings of Power versus House of the Dragon — who will win? I don’t know why they always have to do that.

I hope both shows succeed.

Acknowledging his own competitiveness and desire to hopefully “succeed more”, he nonetheless declared that the existence of both was good for fantasy and science fiction and that he wants to see more such shows on television.

Got Tolkien news? Email spymaster@theonering.net.