Overnight, Amazon Prime Video Brasil used the final episode of the 2022 edition of Big Brother Brasil to show a high-concept teaser ad for their forthcoming series, The Rings of Power.
Subverting expectations, the one-minute teaser eschewed most of the footage we’d already seen via the original teaser released on February 13 during Superbowl LVI. Instead, it deploys a number of highly credentialled Brazillian celebrities to set the scene.
Thanks to the efforts of our fine Discord folks, we have the following text translation of the audio.
Speaker 1 (Thiago Leifert, former-Big Brother host): A powerful force moves our protagonists… a search for a chance to rewrite their own story of being reborn without having to die.
Speaker 2 (Antônio Fagundes, renowned telenovela actor): They heard the call, saw the bars of their imaginary prisons, conquered their fears, and went out into the world.
Speaker 3 (Maria Bethânea, influential Brazillian musician and “Queen Bee of MPB”): But make no mistake, it doesn’t end here. A safe place is, each time, further and further away, and the line between good and evil blurs.
Speaker 4 (Seu Jorge, Samba singer and actor): The fools and the weak spirited are left behind along the way. Those who arrive find in the end a new beginning: redemption. Welcome to the new legend: Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
The choice of voice talent of this calibre has drawn excited approval from Portuguese-speaking fans, who see it as an indication that Amazon will invest resources to create a high-quality localised version. Some fans are already speculating that these four may also be dub actors for the series, but at this point we don’t know for sure one way or the other.
The ad concludes with an abbreviated version of the original teaser, including a Portuguese voiceover of the line from the young Harfoot character, Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot: Wonders exist in our world. I can feel them.
Additional visual easter eggs
The ad also features a number of visual easter eggs for close observers.
Above the fireplace are two lines of text in Portuguese that, when translated, read:
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky.
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone.
Carved into the bookshelf (which also features a copy of The Lord of the Rings, and Homer’s Illiad) another line reads:
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die
The left page appears to be random sentences from the appendices of The Lord of the Rings.
We read “THE CLOSEST THAT HAS EVER (BEEN BETWEEN THE RACES)”, which is in Appendix B (The Second Age), but the sentence immediately below “AFTER THE END OF THE FIRST AGE” does not immediately follow. “OF THE KINGS OF THE NOLDOR IN EXILE” appears two lines later, whereas in the actual appendix it begins at the paragraph before.
The right-hand page indentifiably contains “…DWELT GIL-GALAD, LAST…”, and “…ELVES OF THE WEST”. It may be that it’s meant to portray the following passage from Appendix B, but it’s difficult to tell:
In Lindon north of the Lune dwelt Gil-galad, last heir of the kings of the Noldor in exile. He was acknowledged as High King of the Elves of the West. In Lindon south of the Lune dwelt for a time Celeborn, kinsman of Thingol; his wife was Galadriel, greatest of Elven women. She was sister of Finrod Felagund, Friend-of-Men, once king of Nargothrond, who gave his life to save Beren son of Barahir.
The loose paper reads:
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie
Although dim and hard to read, the wall art concludes the verse:
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
Seu Jorge also wears a large, sapphire pendant. Could it have some prominence?
Finally, the painting that Jorge faces near the conclusion of his spiel bears a close resemblance to the gigantic waterfall streaming off a mountainside that we saw in the teaser trailer — a waterfall that according to Vanity Fair is a Second Age location in Forodwaith.
Acknowledgements. Many thanks to TolkienGuide, our fan community and Discord folks — including Duilo, sigurboy, JJJaded, and DrNosy — for helping to dissect this teaser, and supplying screencaps.
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.
The first-ever reveal of Amazon’s TV series The Lord of the Rings – The Rings of Power via Vanity Fair last week ignited anew the flame of passion for discussing Tolkien’s works, now being adapted for a new medium and in a new format; more so because the showrunners have set out to “come up with the novel Tolkien never wrote“.
For the Second Age of Middle-earth covers a vast period of time spanning over a thousand years, yet Tolkien himself, one might say, for all his numerous writings, both published and unpublished, almost neglected this period of Arda’s history in comparison to the detailed stories he wrote concerning the events and characters from the First and Third Ages of Arda, and indeed even those ages that preceded the First Age, reaching far back in time to the very creation of the World before Time itself began.
Bold yet befitting of this sprawling legendarium is the title of the show, concerning which showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay say, “This a title that we imagine could live on the spine of a book next to J.R.R. Tolkien’s other classics.“
Amazon’s ambition to embark upon crafting such an original story – one that compliments Tolkien’s writings, stays true to the essence of his works, and will be judged critically by millions of hardcore fans, scholars, artists, and the industry itself – must certainly be applauded.
Behind the corporate logo that we are all familiar with are a group of passionate artists – showrunners, writers, production crew, and of course, the cast – many themselves Tolkien fans, who have been working for the past few years, and will continue to do so for the better part of this decade, to bring to life beloved characters and stories that so far have existed only in word.
The weight of responsibility to both honour Tolkien and please his legions of fans must be tremendous… and the initial wave of reactions to Vanity Fair’s first reveal is telling of the enormity of this responsibility.
We finally saw many of the leading cast as the characters they were chosen to portray. While most of the cast, such as Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel, Owain Arthur’s Prince Durin IV, and Robert Aramayo’s Elrond were generally enthusiastically well-received, the reactions to the rest of the diverse cast was rather dismaying, shocking even, and even those might be understatements.
We got to see Sofia Nomvete as the Dwarven Princess Disa standing in her regal garb at the entrance of Khazad-dûm (possessing, in my personal opinion, a rather awe-inspiring bearing), but rather than geek out over the fact we will get to see this fabled Dwarven realm when it was still full of light, food, and music, what many chose to focus on was the colour of her skin.
Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Arondir was likewise ill-received for his ethnicity, skin colour, and hair; rather than through an open-mind for his portrayal of a Silvan Elf, a group of Elves who Tolkien describes in the chapter “Flies and Spiders” in The Hobbit as “not wicked folk. If they have a fault it is distrust of strangers. Though their magic was strong, even in those days they were wary. They differed from the High Elves of the West, and were more dangerous and less wise. For most of them (together with their scattered relations in the hills and mountains) were descended from the ancient tribes that never went to Faerie in the West.”
The character Bronwyn played by Nazanin Boniadi (shown below) and the Harfoot-elder, a Hobbit, played by Sir Lenny Henry (whom we haven’t fully seen yet) have similarly received criticism for no other reason than simply being people of colour.
Having been part of the Tolkien community and TheOneRing.net for more than 20 years, helping moderate discussion forums and social media platforms, I have witnessed the attacks of racists, bigots, and trolls on TORn’s many social platforms, and being a person of colour and finding myself at the receiving end occasionally, I have grown accustomed to ignore, and accept, and move on.
Yet the avalanche of unveiled, blatant, shameless racism that hit our social platforms like a massive wave last week shook me.
According to the Vanity Fair article, Tolkien scholar Mariana Rios Maldonado says, “Obviously there was going to be push and backlash, but the question is from whom? Who are these people that feel so threatened or disgusted by the idea that an elf is Black or Latino or Asian?”
I wondered about this myself… who really are these self-appointed gatekeepers of Tolkien’s works, and what conceit leads them to believe they possess this automatic authority?
For Tolkien’s writings have been translated in numerous languages and read by people of vastly different cultures and backgrounds; and surely their imaginations of the characters and stories are informed and influenced by their background, upbringing, culture, and surroundings?
Here at TORn, I can attest with complete honesty, and without bias, that we have supported a diverse membership for over 20 years. Across our platforms – from the old IRC Chatrooms and our enduring Discussion Forums, to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and most recently on Discord, our volunteer staff have striven to consistently maintain respectful spaces where people of all backgrounds and affiliations can gather together to share our love of Tolkien.
It must also be said that we have never refrained from objectively debating the adaptations of Tolkien’s works, and despite having great relationships with many of the people who worked on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, we have never shied away from being critical in our reviews of these films.
Debate, discussion, and interpretation has always been welcomed at TORn – it is what has kept us going for two decades – but racism, bigotry, and intolerance simply have NO place in our discourse.
So to all those Tolkien fans out there who may be feeling sidelined, belittled, marginalized, or discriminated against for various reasons (not just your race), please know that TORn is your haven. Our staffers are committed to working round the clock, covering most time zones, on all our platforms, to ensure you can feel not just safe but also empowered to join us and others on this new journey back to Arda.
And to the folks at Amazon – we will of course be objectively critical of the show – but we fully support your casting choices, and we can’t wait to see how this ensemble cast you’ve assembled will bring our beloved characters (and then some!) to life.
Bring on Disa, Arondir, Bronwyn, and the Harfoots (or is it Harfeet?)
As we all know, Prime Video’s teaser trailer for The Rings of Power was released on Sunday 13 February, and aired during the Super Bowl. With 257 million views in the first day, the teaser trailer has broken Super Bowl records (as reported by SyFy Wire). TORn’s own Official Trailer Watch Party, in partnership with Prime Video, and with a host of guests, had peak concurrent viewers over 65k. Whether you’re thrilled with the teaser, or skeptical about what’s coming in September, there’s no doubt that fans are interested.
We asked fans to share their reactions with us as they watched the trailer for the first time, tweeting to #LOTRFans. Prime Video have cut together some of these reactions, which you can watch below. And now we wait; what will be revealed next…?
What do we hope for, from tonight’s Teaser Trailer?
Trailers do the heavy lifting in helping get butts in seats in theaters or on the couch watching your big-screen television. A good trailer will indicate what the story is, introduce the main players and toss in some action or comedic dialogue, all depending on the genre. Movie trailers and television trailers are very different simply because a film has one big story arc, while a television show will have many, and the idea is usually to tease your first episode or two and maybe some vague hints for later episodes.
So, what do we all want to see from this trailer running during the Super Bowl today, early in the 3rd quarter? Well, the main consensus is MORE, of everything. More characters than those already introduced in photos, more costumes, more weapons, but especially, more Kingdoms.
Below are the wish lists from a few of our staff members, starting with this writer’s own list.
1. I want to see Arondir, the Silvan Elf, being more Elf-like and to see if he’s mostly alone or part of a community of Elves in the forest. And I especially want to see if that chest plate with the face and leaves is actually made of wood or something else.
2. Dwarves, give us miners, builders, fighters. I just want to see something that indicates the scope of their realm and culture.
3. Why is Galadriel adrift at sea, was she on a ship that sank, or do we start with her in Numenor at the time it of its sinking, and then everything else is a flashback?
4. More Lindon please, and more of the Elves there.
5. How do the Two Trees factor into anything? Will there be any action there, or is it just a short flashback of sorts?
I just want to see things in motion. This will help let us know if what we saw in the photos (quality of things) translates when it moves.
Seeing folks talk and interact will help let us know if they can carry the weight of things or if they just look good in photos.
These things will be important to me as I’ve already folded my cards on one of my big must haves for this show.
I’m going to classify these next two as “the Season/Series aspirations we hope that the Teaser Trailer will hint at”.
Madeye Gamgee’s comments:
Recognizing that this is a “teaser” trailer, and that I’ll likely be left wanting a LOT more under any circumstance, my main interests fall under two main headings. It will be great for the teaser to:
Dispel concerns. My summarizing “angst” may be hard to pin down, but I’d express it as “Tolkien faithfulness.” I’m not looking for elusive adherence to “canon” (there’s precious little, given the paucity of real substantive narrative to draw from — all we’ve really got are timelines and very limited narrative sketches versus the fully developed narratives of The Hobbit and LotR). I also fully appreciate that the visual medium is vastly different from the written form, and must have adaptive room to breathe, both visually and in its development of plot. Dwarves that must be presented with memorable and distinctive personalities and appearances (versus merely polychromatic capes) is an illustration. Visual forms inflexibly enslaved to written source material more often than not simply results in bad storytelling (see the early Potter movies, for example). So what does faithfulness to Tolkien mean? Respect for characters. Resistance toward commercial tropes that became so evident with studio intervention in The Hobbit (like love triangles). No violence and sexuality that is gratuitous. Not failing to integrate the themes that Tolkien really cared about: fellowship, hope, faithfulness, unity and resilience in the face of evil, transcendent sacrificial love, characters infused with honor and history and realism in their struggles. I could go on. I want to see this teaser trailer and, just like when we saw Gandalf riding up to Bag End in Fellowship, feel deeply that, “yes, they’re getting Tolkien right” versus merely, “ok, they’re playing in Tolkien’s sandbox.”
2. Create a hunger to see and hear more. Of course I’ve got lots of specific things I’d like to know about. What’s the target time span within the 2nd age? What’s getting compressed as far as the timeline? Will we see Sauron, and in what guises? Who are the recipients of the rings, and how do those rings affect them? Will we see the some specific characters that we don’t yet know about, like Elros, Erendis, Aldarion, Celeborn, Anárion, etc.? More generally, who will be the protagonists and antagonists? What’s the overarching story arc and how will it be handled (particularly since it’s not likely to be the Quest architecture as with LotR and The Hobbit)? How deftly will new characters be woven in with established, iconic ones? Will we see “payoff” moments this season, like the forging and distribution of the rings, or Elros and the Númenóreans arriving on Elenna-nórë/Andor, or Galadriel and Celeborn planting Mallorn trees in Lórien, or the discovery of mithril and rumblings of the Balrog in Moria, etc., etc.? As a Tolkienite, will these stories both draw from those elements that we know, and build these worlds and characters in ways that we care about (including with screenwriting language worthy of Tolkien, as we almost always received with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens)? Or will the writers be more interested in advancing their own independent narratives, divested from the deep history that Tolkien left us? I’m fine with new stories. But just as we see with Tolkien in LotR, I am eager to see and experience these ancient echos of Middle-earth even in the newest of narratives. Like Tolkien’s extension of the “Man in the Moon” song at Bree, that’s what I long to see and experience: great writing that gives me fresh perspectives and insight and delight in ways that enhance rather than compete, dilute, or distract from Tolkien’s rich world.
Yeah, and all of that in the blink of a teaser trailer, please!
What do I want to see in the trailer? Everything that Madeye Gamgee said, and….
Númenor and when in the timeline it is. I hope in the series we get to see it both before and after the fall. Could we see Elves from Tol Eressëa? Isildur stealing the fruit from the White Tree, Nimloth. Isildur, Elendil, and Anárion together, having a conversation. The 7 Palantíri working as a system of long-distance communication. Though I doubt we’ll see them in the trailer: Annúminas, the building of Minas Anor and Minas Ithil –I’ve long wanted to see Osgiliath’s Dome of Stars.
Gil-galad, the last King of the Ñoldor! Khazad-dûm in its glory when the West-gate is open and Hollin is flourishing with lots of Elves and Dwarves working together. Durin IV and Disa! I’m sure we’ll see Galadriel and Elrond, just curious in what contexts. I want to hear some of the political intrigue Elrond is crafting. And speaking of crafting, Celebrimbor! The greatest craftsman since Fëanor. I want to see him creating something, even if it’s not one of the rings, and possibly some other of the jewel-smiths, the Gwaith-i-Mírdain. So curious to see the fair form that Annatar takes, though I doubt we will, or if we do, we won’t know it’s him.
The “secretive” Hobbits, what their community looks like, do they live in Hobbit holes? Harad and the Southland. Inside Bronwyn’s apothecary–I always like looking at those types of details, jars and bowls filled with native flowers and herbs, potions. A snippet of conversation between her and Arondir. A closer peek at Halbrand who looks like he could be an ancestor of Faramir. Will we find out what he’s running from and how it ties in with the story?
I also want to see more costumes, sets, weaponry…do we get to see the Númenoreans steel bows? And I’m curious about how the actors will sound–will there be different accents? Dialects? Will there be Elvish/Dwarvish/Adûnaic spoken with subtitles in some places? And I’m more than a bit intrigued to see some of the magic the Vanity Fair article mentions. What form will it take? Who will wield it? Could there be Wizards?! Not a lot to ask….
You’ve undoubtedly read Vanity Fair article “Amazon’s Lord of the Rings Series Rises: Inside The Rings of Power” by Anthony Breznican and Joanna Robinson.
If you haven’t, go here now and ogle the series of stunning production photos and get some hints as to what’s in store for us. And then, once you have, hurry back and read on because a selection of our staffers have given their candid impressions on the Vanity Fair revelations.
Quick note: Your first article on Vanity Fair is free to read so you can digest everything in full — there’s no catch. But if you like what you read, and want to support good journalism, a yearly sub is only $15.
Great literature stands on its own merits. But there is so much from Tolkien that is not known by the wider audience, many of whom think Middle-earth is just a story about brave little Hobbits who save the world at the end of the Third Age. The bulk of Tolkien’s lesser-known output concerns the First age, with only cursory information ever written for most of the Second.
Amazon purchased rights to create stories in this little-explored Second Age. By necessity, they need to create storylines and characters from whole cloth. I look forward to seeing these new tales play out. My only personal criteria in judging them are these three:
First, will the series get more people to read the pre-Third Age tales by Tolkien? Second, will it increase the desire of the general public to see adaptations of tales from the First Age? Third, will I smile when I watch it, and want more?
Only the completed first season, indeed, only the completed series will answer these questions. Not photos. Not trailers. I wait, with the same nervous but excited anticipation that I had for the early 2000s Rings trilogy.
The collected fragments of JRRT’s imagination pre-LOTR are scattered and changeable to begin with. To me, this means that any work based on these notes can deviate. Despite Christopher’s attempts to document, footnote, and caveat every single scrap of his father’s writing, the one thing Christopher underlines is that it’s clear that not even Tolkien had one solid timeline in mind for his characters. There is no one, true canon, here.
I am willing therefore to hold off on judgement before viewing the Amazon interpretation of his characters and world. The Vanity Fair article and other evidence indicates that we’ll see a compressed Second age story — from Galadriel adrift in the Sundering Sea after Morgoth’s capture ends the First Age (sure, why not?), all the way through 3441 years to the day Isildur cuts the ring from Sauron’s finger.
Galadriel’s timeline in the Second Age differs depending upon whether you take into account the pre-1960s appendices or the post-1960s one, and her timeline obviously differs in various versions of the notes collected by Christopher.
My initial reaction was to wonder where Celeborn and young Celebrían (born in SA 300) are, because they should be by Galadriel’s side at various points in the Second Age. But given the fact that Galadriel’s journey around Middle-earth looks like a confused yarn tangle as she moves from Lindon to Eregion to Imladris to Dol Amroth to Imladris again… OK sure she probably has some time to float around in the Sundering Sea alone to wreak vengeance upon Morgoth’s minions.
Why not? She really isn’t with Celeborn for some of the time in the Second Age, so I will stop being fussed by it.
I am very excited to see how Amazon will handle the Aulendil plot, where handsome “pupil of Aule” Sauron meets Galadriel and attempts to win her trust before he wiggles into Celebrimbor’s good graces and creates the Rings…
And finally, Elves are imaginary, my friends.
The article confirms that Amazon does not have any rights to the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, Histories of Middle-earth, or any other works outside of the Lord of the Rings and its appendices and the Hobbit. So they are crafting a coherent story from what essentially is a bunch of outlines, brief references, etc. The only way to do that is to create non-canon characters to interact with canon characters in order to move the story forward. The Tolkien Estate has said that Historic events that are known can’t be changed, but the showrunners will be able to decide for themselves how much or how little time they spend on some events over others.
I’m not as concerned about the time compression, because I don’t believe they are compressing the whole of the Second Age. After all, the story is called The Rings of Power, so the story should just be focusing on Sauron, in disguise, shopping the notion of collaborating to make magical rings, being denied here and accepted there, the creation of those rings and possibly the distribution of them, ending with the creation of the One Ring. This event does not encompass the entirety of the Second Age, so less compression than you think, and most likely fewer grand Second Age stories even being told, unless a character actually chooses to talk about something we don’t really see.
I still can’t figure out that first still image we saw a few months back, except that it is probably in a flashback, and that the image is from Galadriel’s point of view, looking at her brother, the city and the Two Trees. Heck, if she’s been shipwrecked and in the water, what better way to get some prologue style flashbacks into the existing story.
I love the diversity in the casting and I’m especially looking forward to seeing more of the Dwarven princess. I was never expecting a beard because my head-canon from 30+ years of reading before the movies never pictured a female dwarf with a beard. It’s fascinating to see this is a deal-breaker for so many. Same for short hair on elves.
I remember all the uproar when the Lord of the Rings movies first came out, that they were not “faithful” to the books. Interesting to see this repeated by movie-firsters, who now deplore that the Rings of Power isn’t “faithful” to the original movies.
I was interested to read that the show plans to compress the hundreds of years of the Second Age. I’m OK with that because there is not enough of Tolkien’s content to pull together a coherent story. I appreciate the point made in the article that the multiple cast changes would be confusing.
I see a similar attention to detail in the pictures released so far that made the original movies so believable. Of course, the costumes, swords, jewelry, etc that we’ve seen so far are different; I still very much like what I have seen so far.
Overall, I’m very intrigued and look forward to more reveals.
I’m really interested to see how the new characters develop. I’m also quite happy to see the greater diversity amongst the various peoples of Middle-earth. This is because, right from the very first time I read The Lord of the Rings, over 40 years ago, I always assumed that’s what the peoples of Middle-earth were like, with just as much diversity as our world has.
I can’t help wondering about the time compression. I can understand the difficulty of trying to show over 3000 years of Middle-earth history, and facing having so many characters dying from old age, but it’s intriguing to figure out how this compression of time is going to work without it becoming a bit messy.
Curious as to where Celeborn is, whilst Galadriel is off hunting orcs. Maybe he became a stay-at-home dad to Celebrían.
I really don’t have a problem with short hair on elves. Tolkien never actually specifies that all of the Eldar have long hair. Someone on Facebook was claiming that Glorfindel’s hair streaming behind him, as he rode his horse, was proof that all elves have really long hair. Well, when I went riding in my teens mine used to do that too, and my hair was only shoulder length at the time.
I can’t wait to see Khazad-dûm in all its glory.
I do still have some reservations about the show, but I’m willing to wait until I’ve actually watched it before I make any judgements. The same as I did with the Peter Jackson movies.
I’ll start with the diversity we saw in the images. I personally loved what I saw. Based on what I’ve read of Tolkien over the years these characters could easily fit into the books. So for me I think that Amazon is doing solid with this. If folks want to get mad then get mad that they made Elrond a blonde. Otherwise getting your knickers in a twist over invented characters and not already established ones seems like a giant waste of energy.
I also love the detailing we see in these photos. If looks like it’s going to be a world that’s actually lived in. The armor looks fantastic as well as the weapons. I’m hoping this means that our friends at Weta Workshop are doing the work. That means these seasons should have some quality items on screen in this regard. This is also good for cos-players as they’ll have some quality items they can work to create.
One of the big things I think is the time compression. I’ve already seen some folks complaining about this. Why? In order to hit the marks for this you were going to have to have this happen. Otherwise this show would have to last well beyond my lifetime. So as long as proper care is taken this should workout and give us something folks can enjoy.
I’m a movie-firster. So based on some of what we’re seeing changes to Elrond and some looks to weapons some haven’t seen yet. This doesn’t appear to be set in the same sandbox as the Peter Jackson films. For me that is a massive disappointment. Why? I find those films to be about as perfect as you can find. They translated the text rather beautifully I find (after having read the books multiple times now). If Amazon didn’t take a page out of the Disney/Marvel playbook and connect everything a-la the MCU, they’ve missed a big chance. PJ already showed you how you could turn out a kick-ass product that is respectful of Tolkien and makes folks happy. Will this show still be good? Maybe. Will I still enjoy it? Maybe. That still doesn’t mean I won’t be disappointed and feel like this was a massive missed opportunity.
Staffer Nancy “Mithril” Steinman
One thing I realize about The Rings of Power is that the show has only the barest of outlines to work with. The Lord of the Rings “Appendix B: The Second Age” is only twelve-and-a-half pages long. These pages hit highlight points only, leaping across huge gaps in time. The sole note about Galadriel is half a sentence long, yet the Second Age lasts 3,441 years, and she is in Middle-earth that entire time. With this information and a few poems, the showrunners have to create “50 hours of television” per J.D. Payne.
Even if The Silmarillion were available to Amazon, only two chapters are relevant to the Second Age. Mentions of named characters contain little insight into their daily lives or emotions. How can new material not be invented to fill in the gaps? How many viewers would continue to tune in for multiple seasons of a show that has no depth or breadth?
The posters and released photos reveal nuanced characters and costumes with wonderful details, so I’ll give the show the benefit of the doubt that they will be able to do the same with story. On a side note, I’m pleased to see that most of the costumes don’t have long, draping sleeves. Although Ngila Dickson’s designs for Peter Jackson’s films are gorgeous, after wearing those sleeves for cosplay, I know how impractical they are and always wondered how the actors (and characters) managed.
I’m excited for one possible aspect of the expansion of the story I think the Vanity Fair article indicates -– we will get to see life in the lands to the south of Gondor. The captions under the photos of Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) give a clue. They say Bronwyn lives in the “Southland” in the village of Tirharad (“harad” translates as “south” in Sindarin, and “tir”, “to look or guard”). To me, this means we will get to see Harad from a perspective other than that of a land filled with stereotyped “evil” Haradrim warriors. Harad is a vast land that would have been populated with all kinds of people, and in the Second Age, the Númenóreans mixed with this culture, for both benevolent and selfish purposes.
For myself, I am hopeful that the stories we want to hear will be told, even if the timeline is compressed, and even if they are not exactly as Tolkien might have written them.
It is exciting to FINALLY have a real look at what we’ve been talking about for two years!!
The thing I am most excited about IS the diversity in these characters. Representation matters SO much and seeing such a range brought to Tolkien’s world brings me a great deal of joy. No-one should be offended by seeing a wide array of skin tones, period. A great deal of the initial reaction online deeply disappointed me. Tolkien’s work at it’s core represents UNITY and people coming together from all corners of Middle-earth for the greater good. Inclusion IS the greater good and I’m thrilled to see Amazon doing an apparent good job at that.
The image of Galadriel in the armor I absolutely love, I’m sorry but I do. Ignore how the background looks/color grading/etc. Just her in the armor was exciting to see. We KNOW that Amazon is not strapped to only the materials they have approval to use and that they will be creating new characters, stories and even directions/roles for characters that already exist. I don’t see a negative to making Galadriel have a bad ass warrior queen reality.
Artistic license and creative freedom needs to be allowed. There is no way to make every single person happy, even with the best of intentions. We saw that with PJ’s Middle-earth and we will definitely see it with Amazon. Everyone needs to a deep breath before the plunge (see what I did there?) and reserve judgment until actually seeing an episode. I have a lot of thoughts regarding the images we have been shown, but without more information? I’m keeping my opinions to myself until I understand the breadth of the direction they are taking with this series: both visually and with the stories being told (canon or not).
The love story plot line… I will say my initial reaction is that I’m not too keen on this. I hated it in the Hobbit, but we shall see.
My introduction to Tolkien’s work was through the storytelling of Peter Jackson, the lens of Andrew Lesnie and the talents of every artisan and artist who worked on the film trilogy. I read the books immediately after seeing Fellowship in theaters with my mom (who worked so hard to convince an 11-year-old Potterhead that I would love The Lord of the Rings even more. She was right). When I read the books, I saw Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth. That is what I have seen every re-read since. It will be very hard for me to “see” this series as of the same world that I have been obsessed with for 20 years if it doesn’t look close enough to PJ’s version… but IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THE SAME (I keep telling myself and the world). Different CAN be good. We won’t know until we see it. There can be a place for BOTH in a fan’s heart.
I am cautiously optimistic at this point. I need to see a trailer to form a more informed opinion, but I hear that’s happening soon? 🙂
My learned colleagues at TORnCentral have weighed in on the 23 images released yesterday by our good friends at Amazomg, but I’m keen to zero in on one and put it under the microscope.
It’s this one — let’s call it Gauntlet and Sword.
Gauntlet and Sword immediately recalls Jackson’s Third Age armoured Sauron. But there are obvious discrepancies when you compare it against the visual aesthetic that the Peter Jackson productions established.
First, at the Last Alliance confrontation between Gil-galad, Elendil and Sauron in the Fellowship of the Ring prologue, the latter bears a gigantic flanged mace, not a sword. (You can rewatch the entire prologue scene here if you like; Sauron appears about two minutes in.)
Gauntlet and Sword, on the other hand, shows, well, a sword. A blackened sword with a remarkably ornate hilt. But, still, a sword.
Second, the Amazon Studios gauntlet does not fully correspond to the one designed by WETA Workshop head Richard Taylor and his staff. The WETA gauntlet is a metal one, with articulated metal plates all the way past the wrist.
Sure, the gauntlet we see in Gauntlet and Sword is black and spiky, but from the promotional image provided, it lacks the articulated and overlapping metal plates that go all the way to the wrist. Instead, the articulation appears to stop at the knuckles. The general effect looks more like a studded, heavy leather gauntlet than one carefully assembled from many metal plates.
Finally, it’s important to note that before the Akallabêth — the period that Rings of Power seems likely to focus on at first, Sauron was not bound to that terrible and intimidating form. Instead:
…in his earlier incarnation he was able to veil his power (as Gandalf did) and could appear as a commanding figure of great strength of body and supremely royal demeanour and countenance.
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Letter #246.
One must conclude that either:
1) This is not actually Sauron 2) It is Sauron, but Amazon Studios is moving away from “the PJ look”
When we have cosplayers doing intensive research and nailing all the details with incredible detailed replica Sauron costumes, it defies logic that Amazon Studios couldn’t do the same with their sky-high budget. If they so desired.
The impression that I have long had is that Amazon Studios has been trying to hew to the aesthetic Jackson created. In itself, choosing New Zealand as the original shooting location fits this thesis — although I am sure financial considerations come into play there, too.
It makes sense — the PJ aesthetic has a lot of penetration through the popular consciousness and pop culture. Leveraging it is a low-effort way to get buy-in from viewers.
And the original Amazon Studios tease image carries a great deal of PJ aesthetic in the architecture of Tirion upon Túna.
So I don’t think Amazon Studios is drifting from the PJ look . Instead, what we have is some artful misdirection — we are being teased with the superficial appearance of Sauron using typical signifiers that we subconsciously associate with the lord of Barad-dûr, but there are enough clues for us to dismiss it.
This is not Sauron.
For similar reasons I would discard the Witch-king of Angmar — the gauntlet doesn’t match (you can get a good look at Wiki’s gauntlet at 1 min and 6 secs in this clip where he confronts Éowyn) , and although Wiki carries a sword (as well as a massive flail), its design is a lot cleaner than the one in Gauntlet and Sword. In fact the swords of all the Nazgul are very minimalist with flat or slightly curved crossguards.
So, who is it?
I’m going to outline a handful of outlandish possibilities. All speculation, of course.
Option 1. Túrin.
Black sword, right? Also, The Silmarillion outlines how the folk of Nargothrond equip Túrin with “dwarf-mail, to guard him”. Further, The Silmarillion describes from the perspective of Tuor and Voronwë the following scene at the Well of Ivrin after the sack of Nargothrond.
But even as they gazed upon it they saw one going northward in haste, and he was a tall Man, clad in black, and bearing a black sword. But they knew not who he was, nor anything of what had befallen in the south; and he passed them by, and they said no word.
Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin
Nevertheless, the other image with a broken black sword somehow seems a better fit for Túrin.
Option 2. Eölor Maeglin.
Gurthang (or Anglachel, if you prefer) is not the only black sword to feature in The Silmarillion. There is another: Anguirel. Eöl, the Dark Elf, forges both as a pair. The former he gave to Thingol, the latter he kept for himself. Anguirel then ends up in the hands of his son, Maeglin, when Aredhel and Maeglin flee Eöl’s controlling nature.
Canonically, both Eöl and Maeglin meet nasty ends in Gondolin; the ultimate fate of Anguirel is unknown. Because Maeglin is tossed over the walls of Gondolin during its sack, it’s only a bit of a stretch that he might have survived (but it is a stretch). And the emblem of Maeglin’s house was a plain black field with no symbol whatsoever.
Could Tolkien Estate be convinced to allow Maeglin to be used as a returning Second Age antagonist? I don’t know. It’s a thought.
Props to posters over on the LOTR on Prime sub-reddit for raising this one. Intriguing.
In The Silmarillion, Beleg also uses the appellation “Black Hand” at one point to describe Morgoth. If we get the Two Trees, we must surely get Morgoth at some point. Right?
The current rumour: Adar
The current suggestion via Fellowship of the Fans is that it corresponds to a character known as “Adar” (originally codenamed “Oren”). Adar is a Sindarin word that translates as “father” and the role is supposedly being filled by Joseph Malwe.
To reprise, Adar is said to be an “corrupted” and “tortured” elf who oversees a group of orcs who see him as a father figure. Hence the name, Adar. Further, the rumour states that this elf is one of the brothers of Galadriel — but not Finrod Felagund. This offers two choices: Angrod and Aegnor, both of whom canonically perished in The Battle of Sudden Flame (Orodreth should properly be considered to be Angrod’s son).
These are choices that seem much more out of canon than, say, the Maeglin option. The Silmarillion’s text declares “the sons of Finarfin bore most heavily the brunt of the assault, and Angrod and Aegnor were slain”.
Could they work? I guess.
There’s this to consider:
But ever the Noldor feared most the treachery of those of their own kin, who had been thralls in Angband; for Morgoth used some of these for his evil purposes, and feigning to give them liberty sent them abroad, but their wills were chained to his, and they strayed only to come back to him again. Therefore if any of his captives escaped in truth, and returned to their own people, they had little welcome, and wandered alone outlawed and desperate.
Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin
Additionally, in the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf says to Frodo:
The Elves may fear the Dark Lord, and they may fly before him, but never again will they listen to him or serve him [emphasis mine].
And service need not be direct, or knowing as in the case of Húrin.
When therefore he judged the time to be ripe, [Morgoth] released Húrin from his bondage, bidding him go whither he would; and he feigned that in this he was moved by pity as for an enemy utterly defeated. But he lied, for his purpose was that Húrin should still further his hatred for Elves and Men, ere he died.
Of the Ruin of Doriath
Placed against that, consider Gwindor son of Guilin. An escaped thrall, he not only assists Beleg and succors Turin at risk to himself, he is also seemingly welcomed back to Nargothrond without suspicion or fear.
Still, there might be a way for Amazon Studios to work a story of pathos and miscalculation, if they can find some subtlety. We’ll see.