A second round of new casting for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has been announced by Prime Video. Eight new cast members – mostly stalwarts of British television and theatre and with impressive credentials – have been revealed. Previous appearances by these actors include shows such as Game of Thrones, Bodyguard, Versailles, The Sandman, Bridgerton, and The Crown.

Here’s the official press release:

The One Ring
Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Announces Additional New Cast Members for Season Two
Eight additional new actors join the existing cast of the global hit series in recurring roles for the forthcoming second season, currently in production in the UK.

CULVER CITY, California—December 7, 2022—The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which has been viewed by over 100 million people worldwide and has been an unprecedented global success as the top Original series for Prime Video in every region in its first season, has announced an additional eight new recurring cast members for the forthcoming second season, currently in production in the UK. 

The new cast members are Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Stuart Bowman, Gavi Singh Chera, William Chubb, Kevin Eldon, Will Keen, Selina Lo, and Calam Lynch.

OLIVER ALVIN-WILSON
OLIVER ALVIN-WILSON

OLIVER ALVIN-WILSON

Oliver Alvin-Wilson’s television credits include The Bay (ITV), as “Guy Townsend,” Murder in Provence (ITV) as “Luc Martinez,” Collateral (BBC) as ”Chips Benson” and Lovesick (Netflix) as “Alex.” In film, Oliver has been seen in HarknessWonder Woman 1984, and The Huntsman. He has appeared on stage in All of Us (National Theatre), Henry VI Rebellion/War of the Roses (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Twilight Zone (Almeida Theatre/Ambassadors Theatre), The Doctor (Almeida Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Young Vic Theatre) and Nine Night (National Theatre/Trafalgar Studios) among many others.

STUART BOWMAN
STUART BOWMAN

STUART BOWMAN

Stuart Bowman can currently be seen in the television series The Pact (BBC), Karen Pirie (ITV), and The Control Room (BBC). He has previously played recurring roles in Alex Rider (Prime Video), Guilt (BBC), Bodyguard (Netflix), Versailles (Netflix), Grantchester (ITV), and Deadwater Fell (Channel 4) opposite David Tennant. Stuart’s work in film includes Man and WitchThe CursedSunset Song, and Slow West. His recent theatre credits include Macbeth (Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre) as “Macduff.”

GAVI SINGH CHERA
GAVI SINGH CHERA

GAVI SINGH CHERA

Gavi Singh Chera was most recently seen in the television series The Undeclared War (Channel 4) and The Lazarus Project (Sky). Other television credits include Vera (ITV) and Doctors (BBC). On stage, Gavi has appeared in productions including The Cherry Orchard (The Yard Theatre), Our Generation, Behind the Beautiful Forevers (National Theatre), Duck, 1922: The Waste Land (Jermyn Street Theatre) and Pygmalion (Headlong).

WILLIAM CHUBB
WILLIAM CHUBB

WILLIAM CHUBB

William Chubb is a prolific actor whose television credits include Vampire Academy (Peacock), The Sandman (Netflix), Pistol (Hulu), QuizJonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (BBC), Law & Order: UK (ITV)and House of Cards (BBC). On stage, William has appeared in numerous productions including The Tempest (Theatre Royal Bath), The Taxidermist’s Daughter (Chichester Festival Theatre), Witness for the Prosecution (County Hall, London), Othello (Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Old Vic). His film credits include Sam Mendes’ Empire of LightA Week in Paradise, and Adrift in Soho.

KEVIN ELDON
KEVIN ELDON

KEVIN ELDON

Kevin Eldon is a well-known performer in television, film and theatre. On television, Kevin has starred in Game of Thrones (HBO), Shadow And Bone (Netflix), Inside Number 9 (BBC) and has had recurring roles in Trigger Point (Peacock) and Dad’s Army. He also appeared in The Crown (Netflix), Criminal: UK (Netflix) and Doctor Who (BBC). In film, he has been seen in Martin Scorsese’s HugoHot FuzzFour Lions and Set Fire to the Stars opposite Elijah Wood.

WILL KEEN
WILL KEEN

WILL KEEN

Will Keen will soon start production on Prime Video’s My Lady Jane. He most recently wrapped the indie feature Borderland opposite Felicity Jones and Mark Strong, as well as the TV series The Gold (BBC1/Viacom). He was most recently seen in Ridley Road (BBC) and The Pursuit of Love (BBC) opposite Andrew Scott and Emily Beecham. His other TV credits include His Dark Materials (HBO), The Crown (Netflix), Genius: Picasso (National Geographic), Wolf Hall (BBC) and The Musketeers (BBC). Stage credits include Patriots (Almeida Theatre), Ghosts (Almeida Theatre), Waste (Almeida Theatre), Quartermaine’s Terms (Wyndham’s Theatre), The Arsonists (Royal Court) and The Coast of Utopia (National Theatre).

SELINA LO
SELINA LO

SELINA LO

Selina Lo is a British-Asian actress and former martial arts champion, whose film credits include starring in Boss Level (Hulu) as “Guan Yin” and Hellraiser (Hulu) as “The Gasp.”  Her work in television includes a recurring role in One Child (BBC) as “Xu Lian.”

CALAM LYNCH
CALAM LYNCH

CALAM LYNCH

Calam Lynch was most recently seen in Bridgerton (Netflix) as “Theo Sharpe.” Other television credits include Derry Girls (Channel 4) as “John Paul O’Reilly” and Mrs. Wilson (BBC) as “Gordon Wilson.” In film, Calam starred in Black Beauty (Disney+), Benedictionopposite Jack Lowden, and Dunkirk. He has appeared in theatre in productions including Much Ado About Nothing (The Rose Theatre) and Wife (The Kiln Theatre).

The One Ring

All eight first season episodes are now available to stream exclusively on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories in multiple languages. 

The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared reemergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the farthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.  

The first season of The Rings of Power has been an unprecedented success, viewed by more than 100 million people worldwide, with more than 24 billion minutes streamed. The highly anticipated series attracted more than 25 million global viewers on its first day, marking the biggest premiere in the history of Prime Video, and also debuted as the No. 1 show on Nielsen’s overall streaming chart in its opening weekend. The show has also broken all previous Prime Video records for the most viewers, and has driven more Prime sign-ups worldwide during its launch window than any other previous content. Additionally, The Rings of Power is the top Original series in every region—North America, Europe, APAC, LATAM, and the rest of the world. The season finale also created a global cultural moment, with multiple series-themed hashtags, including #TheRingsofPower and others, trending in 27 countries across Twitter for over 426 cumulative hours throughout the weekend.

Season Two of the series is produced by showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay. They are joined by executive producers Lindsey Weber, Callum Greene, Justin Doble, Jason Cahill, and Gennifer Hutchison, along with co-executive producer Charlotte Brandstrom, producers Kate Hazell and Helen Shang, and co-producers Andrew Lee, Matthew Penry-Davey, and Clare Buxton.  

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Filming for Season Two of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is already underway, and today new casting was revealed.

Of particular note is the recasting of the role of ‘Adar’ – Joseph Mawle will not be back for the second season. (One has to assume this is because he is not available; he was so great in the role that I can’t imagine the showrunners wanted to replace him.) Given some of the speculation about whether this is a ‘winning team,’ it’s also worth noting that JD Payne and Patrick McKay are still at the helm.

Here’s the full press release:

The One Ring

Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Announces New Cast Members for Season Two

Seven new actors join the existing cast of the global hit series in recurring roles for the forthcoming second season, currently in production in the UK

CULVER CITY, California—December 1, 2022—The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has announced seven new recurring cast members for the forthcoming second season, currently in production in the UK.

“Since its premiere, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has been bringing audiences together to experience the magic and wonder of J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnificent Middle-earth. To date, season one is the top Original series for Prime Video in every region and has been viewed by over 100 million people worldwide, a truly global hit that speaks to the universal nature of powerful storytelling. We welcome these wonderful actors to our ‘fellowship’ and look forward to telling more incredible Second Age stories in season two,” said Vernon Sanders, Head of Global Television, Amazon Studios.

The new cast members are: Gabriel Akuwudike, Yasen ‘Zates’ Atour, Ben Daniels, Amelia Kenworthy, Nia Towle, and Nicholas Woodeson. The role of Orc leader “Adar” has been recast for Season Two, and will be played by Sam Hazeldine.

Biographies and headshots for the newly announced cast are featured below.

GABRIEL AKUWUDIKE
GABRIEL AKUWUDIKE

GABRIEL AKUWUDIKE

Gabriel Akuwudike is a British-Nigerian actor who has appeared in the acclaimed series Hanna (Prime Video). Other TV credits include Ridley Road (BBC) and War of the Worlds (FX/Disney+). He has appeared in films including Sam Mendes’ 1917, and HBO’s Brexit directed by Toby Haynes.

YASEN ‘ZATES’ ATOUR
YASEN ‘ZATES’ ATOUR

YASEN ‘ZATES’ ATOUR

Yasen ‘Zates’ Atour is most known for his role as “Coen” in Season Two of The Witcher (Netflix). He was also a series regular in Young Wallander (Netflix), playing the role of “Reza Al-Rahman.” He directed the film Good Intentions and was an executive producer and star of the film When the Screaming Starts.

Ben Daniels
Ben Daniels

BEN DANIELS

Ben Daniels has had recurring roles in television including Jupiter’s Legacy (Netflix) as “Walter Sampson,” The Crown (Netflix) as “Lord Snowdon,” The Exorcist (Hulu) as “Father Marcus Keane,” House of Cards (Netflix) as “Adam Galloway,” and Law & Order: UK (ITV) as “James Steel.” Film credits include roles in BenedictionCaptive StateRogue One: A Star Wars Story, and The Exception. Ben is an award-winning stage actor who has appeared in numerous productions including The Normal Heart (National Theatre – Olivier Award Nomination – Best Actor, Critics’ Circle Theatre Award – Best Actor), All My Sons (National Theatre – Olivier Award – Best Supporting Actor), and Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Broadway – Tony and Drama Desk Nominations – Best Actor). Ben trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.

Sam Hazeldine
Sam Hazeldine

SAM HAZELDINE

Sam Hazeldine’s credits include Peaky Blinders (BBC), Slow Horses (Apple TV+), The Huntsman: Winter’s WarMechanic: Resurrection, and Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel.  He currently appears in The Sandman (Netflix) and The Playlist (Netflix), and will next be seen in the upcoming Band of Brothers sequel Masters of The Air (AppleTV+) opposite Austin Butler and Callum Turner, and starring alongside Jonah Hauer-King and Dar Zuzovsky in the Casanova drama feature, A Beautiful Imperfection.

AMELIA KENWORTHY
AMELIA KENWORTHY

AMELIA KENWORTHY

Amelia Kenworthy is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.  While at RADA, she performed in numerous stage productions including Spring Awakening as “Anna,” A Midsummer Night’s Dream as “Puck,” Two Gentlemen of Verona as “Julia,” Pomona as “Ollie” and Against as “Shiela.”  She has also appeared in short films IRL and Messenger.  She will make her television debut in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

NIA TOWLE
NIA TOWLE

NIA TOWLE

Nia Towle was most recently seen in the Netflix film Persuasion. On stage, Nia debuted Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane at both the National Theatre and Duke of York Theatre. During her studies at Guildhall School of Drama, from which she graduated in 2021, Nia played leading roles in plays including YermaA Streetcar Named Desire, and Medea.

NICHOLAS WOODESON
NICHOLAS WOODESON

NICHOLAS WOODESON

Nicholas Woodeson is a veteran English performer of television, film, and theatre. In television, his credits include Silent Witness (BBC), Baptiste (BBC), The Honourable Woman (BBC), Poirot (ITV), and Rome (HBO / BBC). He can also be seen in films including The HustlePaddington 2The Danish GirlSkyfall, and Conspiracy. His most recent theatre performances include The Two Popes, “The Duke of Norfolk”in The Mirror and The Light, “The Mayor” in The Visit, “Pope Francis” in The Pope, “Mr. Kidd” in The Room, and “Willy” in Death of a Salesman. Nicholas is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

***

All eight first season episodes are now available to stream exclusively on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories in multiple languages.

The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared reemergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the farthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone. 

The first season of The Rings of Power has been an unprecedented success, viewed by more than 100 million people worldwide, with more than 24 billion minutes streamed. The highly anticipated series attracted more than 25 million global viewers on its first day, marking the biggest premiere in the history of Prime Video, and also debuted as the No. 1 show on Nielsen’s overall streaming chart in its opening weekend. The show has also broken all previous Prime Video records for the most viewers, and has driven more Prime sign-ups worldwide during its launch window than any other previous content. Additionally, The Rings of Power is the top Original series in every region—North America, Europe, APAC, LATAM, and the rest of the world.  The season finale also created a global cultural moment, with multiple series-themed hashtags, including #TheRingsofPower and others, trending in 27 countries across Twitter for over 426 cumulative hours throughout the weekend.

Season Two of the series is produced by showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay. They are joined by executive producers Lindsey Weber, Callum Greene, Justin Doble, Jason Cahill, and Gennifer Hutchison, along with co-executive producer Charlotte Brandstrom, producers Kate Hazell and Helen Shang, and co-producers Andrew Lee, Matthew Penry-Davey, and Clare Buxton. 

Prime Video are today revealing new behind the scenes footage for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power; and to celebrate, they’ll have live interviews happening with cast throughout the day.

TORn staffer greendragon will be chatting with Markella Kavenagh (Nori) and Sara Zwangobani (Marigold) of the Brandyfoot family. Join us LIVE today at 11.30am PT/ 2.30pm ET, on Twitter Space.

https://twitter.com/i/spaces/1ypKddenLVaKW

Here’s the trailer for the ‘X-Ray’ footage:

Prime Video has announced that new behind the scenes footage from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will be released today, in the form of ‘X-ray’ content, which can be accessed whilst watching the show. To promote the footage, they released this trailer:

Here’s what the official press release tells us:

Prime Video Announces a Spectacular Return to Middle-earth With X-Ray’s “The Making of The Rings of Power

Fans of the global hit series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power can get an exclusive look behind the scenes of all eight episodes via Prime Video’s X-Ray feature, pulling back the curtain on the real-life creation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnificent realms like never before

CULVER CITY, California—November 21, 2022—Prime Video’s record-breaking global hit series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has announced that “The Making of The Rings of Power”—a special look at previously unreleased behind-the-scenes content from Season One’s eight episodes—is now available exclusively on X-Ray, via a full-screen experience that can be launched anytime while watching the series. Viewers can also access the X-Ray episodes by scrolling to the Bonus Content section on the series’ main page on Prime Video HERE.

X-Ray’s behind-the-scenes content invites audiences to take a close, personal look at Season One’s production, allowing fans to discover how the series meticulously brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth to life in all of its splendor. These “making of” pieces, each corresponding to one of the first season’s eight episodes, provide a thrilling deep dive into the series, with exclusive access, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with the cast, showrunners, executive producers, directors, and production team.

“The Making of The Rings of Power” gives fans a special inside look at the creation of the unique realms that make up Middle-earth, including Númenor and Khazad-dûm, both shown on screen at the heights of their glory for the first time. These segments also reveal exciting details about the production design, set decoration, costumes, makeup, visual and special effects, stunts, sword fights, horseback riding, and so much more of the intricate preparation involved in creating this very special world.

The first season of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has been an unprecedented global success, viewed by more than 100 million people worldwide, with more than 24 billion minutes streamed. The highly anticipated series attracted more than 25 million global viewers on its first day, marking the biggest premiere in the history of Prime Video, and also debuted as the #1 show on Nielsen’s overall streaming chart in its opening weekend.  The show has also broken all previous Prime Video records for the most viewers, and has driven more new Prime sign-ups than any other previous content launched.  Additionally, The Rings of Power is the top Original series in every region – North America, Europe, APAC, LATAM and the rest of the world.  The season finale also created a global cultural moment, with #Halbrand trending on Twitter for 305 hours.

About X-Ray

Watch, listen, and shop more on Prime Video with your favorite show, powered by X-Ray. The technology of showing you who that actor is now includes more—What song is playing? Where can I buy this book? How did they make the scale of the Harfoots and Dwarves? Launch X-Ray to find out more: https://www.amazon.com/adlp/xray

How to Access X-Ray

Via mobile device or web browser on Prime Video, move your cursor, tap the screen, and/or pause the series to reveal on-screen X-Ray controls. X-Ray’s on-screen Quickview mode disappears after a few moments, so to see X-Ray information again, just tap, click or move your cursor again. Click or tap “X-Ray View All” at the top left of the screen to enter full screen X-Ray.

On Smart TVs or streaming media devices: “The Making of The Rings of Power” behind-the-scenes pieces will be available as Bonus Content.  Scroll to the Bonus Content section on the show’s main page, where all eight segments will be available to view individually.

Use your remote to activate X-Ray by pressing/swiping up to view on-screen X-Ray controls. Press up on the remote again or select “X-Ray” to access the full screen X-Ray experience

You can listen to TORn’s live chat with Markella Kavenagh and Sara Zwangobani (aka Nori and Marigold Brandyfoot) on Twitter Space today, 11.30am PT/2.30pm ET. https://twitter.com/i/spaces/1ypKddenLVaKW

Robert Aramayo as Elrond, The Rings of Power, Amazon Prime

Examining the minutiae of Tolkien adaptations has long been a tradition at TheOneRing.net. Staff, message boarders and chatters on our site have regularly picked over scenes and images from the films and this tradition continues with The Rings of Power. Today, however, the discussions take place in multiple arenas all over the internet. Recently, on Twitter, MGCoco* shared an interesting theory about Elrond’s cloak.

Twitter post by MGCoco*. Used with permission.

Other Tolkien fans loved this theory, with some noting how the cloak is “way more worn than the rest of the clothes” he wears and speculating that we may learn more at a future date.

Others took this theory even further, speculating that Elros may have been buried in his cloak and how Elrond still wears his as a “silent vigil over his brother’s legacy”. They go on to raise an interesting point that the lore never touches on Elrond’s feelings over his twin having chosen mortality and there being no chance of them ever being reunited, not even in the Halls of Mandos.

Tweet reply to MGCoco*. Used with permission.

MGCoco* also noted how Elrond then goes on to watch over the remaining heirs of Elros in Middle-earth, helping to hide the line of Isildur. Other fans stated that:

“It paints a beautiful, if somewhat bittersweet, mental image. Really gives one a sense of the sheer depth of his character too.”

Claiomh Dubh via Twitter

Delving into a closer look of a characters costume, can lead to far more than just an appreciation of a piece of clothing.

Join us on our Discord channel to discuss this and other topics with fellow Tolkien fans.

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 scene above is not an original idea, but is imitative of an essay on fantasy writing that is almost fifty years old.

Lord Celebrimbor, The Rings of Power
Lord Celebrimbor, The Rings of Power

In 1973, Ursula K. Le Guin published From Elfland to Poughkeepsie, in which she argued for the importance of style in writing, and especially in the writing of high fantasy. Elfland is the name she used—following Lord Dunsany—for what Tolkien called Faerie: it is Middle-earth, Prydain, and many other locales; as for Poughkeepsie, she offered a comparison to national parks.  As these became more popular tourist venues, more people would travel to these parks, fully equipped with enough modern conveniences that they never really go anywhere.   They can feel at home, “just as if they were back in Poughkeepsie.”

She lamented that at the time of her writing, too many new fantasy writers were building the equivalents of trailer parks with drive-in movies.  “But the point about Elfland is that you are not at home there.  It’s not Poughkeepsie.  It’s different.”  If anything, in this post-Dungeons-and-Dragons and post-video-game world, things have not improved.

She then offered a passage from a then-recent fantasy novel—the sort with twentieth-century people wearing 14th-century clothes and doing magic—and then, by only changing a few names and locations, showed that the same passage would be just as familiar in a modern political thriller, similar to our opening scene above.

“Now, I submit that something has gone wrong. The book from which I first quoted is not fantasy, for all its equipment of heroes and wizards. If it was fantasy, I couldn’t have pulled the dirty trick on it by changing four words. You can’t clip Pegasus’ wings that easily—not if he has wings.”

From Elfland to Poughkeepsie, Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin’s argument is that, in fantasy writing, style is not merely an ingredient of a book, something added on, but it is the book.  “If you remove the style, all you have left is a synopsis of the plot.”   In a cinematic drama1, of course, there is more than verbal style at play.  The visual arts—sets, costumes, location photography, props, music, and so on—are very important stylistic components.  Still, in another sense they are just illustrations that support, but cannot replace the style of the words.   “Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative,” as Pooh-bah said. 

If the script is good, it should be just as good as a radio drama, perhaps with some well-written narration to replace those illustrations.  I will refer to “the reader” in this article; this may be considered shorthand for “the reader or audience.”

Tolkien himself had much to say about the craft of transporting the reader to Faerie in his important essay On Fairy-stories.  He proposed that any good story (of any genre) must be capable of creating actual belief in the world it creates, not merely suspension of disbelief:

What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful “sub-creator.” He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is “true”: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside.  The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside.

On Fairy-stories, J.R.R. Tolkien

He then discussed Fantasy, the creation of images of a world unlike ours, with things that cannot be found in our world at all.  He gave an example, saying that the fantastic device of language lets us say things like, “the green sun,” but that:

To make a Secondary World inside which the green sun will be credible, commanding Secondary Belief, will probably require labour and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft.

On Fairy-stories, J.R.R. Tolkien

But what is the realm of Elfland, and why does it take such extraordinary artistry to bring a reader into that world?  Tolkien tells us:

The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveler who would report them.

On Fairy-stories, J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien portrayed this idea in his poem The Sea-bell and in his last book, Smith of Wootton Major; do read these.   Le Guin said much the same thing but takes it a step further:

It is a different approach to reality, an alternative technique for apprehending and coping with existence. It is not antirational but pararational; not realistic, but surrealistic, superrealistic, a heightening of reality. In Freud’s terminology, it employs primary, not secondary process thinking. It employs archetypes, which, Jung warned us, are dangerous things. Dragons are more dangerous, and a good deal commoner, than bears. Fantasy is nearer to poetry, to mysticism, and to insanity than naturalistic fiction is. It is a real wilderness, and those who go there should not feel too safe. And their guides, the writers of fantasy, should take their responsibilities seriously.

From Elfland to Poughkeepsie, Ursula K. Le Guin

Thus, if we are to avoid leaving the reader in the Primary World, the language itself, that “fantastic device”, must act as the cicerone for this dream journey.  Le Guin gave examples of appropriate prose: from Eddison‘s The Worm Ouroboros with its carefully-crafted Elizabethan prose; Kenneth Morris, with his less ornate but still mannered dialogue in Book of the Three Dragons; and Tolkien. 

“Who can tell?” said Aragorn, “But we will put it to the test one day.” 
“May the day not be too long delayed,” said Boromir. “For though I do not ask for aid, we need it. It would comfort us to know that others fought also with all the means that they have.” 
“Then be comforted,” said Elrond.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

It is important to notice that Tolkien does not use especially archaic speech here.  Le Guin described the speech as, “a less extraordinary English; or rather an English extraordinary for its simple timelessness…it is the language of men of character.”  She did not argue for archaic speech, but for speech that is appropriate to the subject matter, and indicative of the character of the speakers, who should not think like accountants and video-gamers.

Tolkien had much to say on this link between language, thought, and character.  In a letter to Hugh Brogan (Letter #171, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien) he responded to that reader’s criticisms of the archaic narration in The Two Towers, which Brogan had described as “tushery”.

This letter is worth reading in its entirety, but Tolkien addressed “tushery” as the “bogus ‘medieval’ stuff with … expletives, such as tush, pish, zounds, marry, and the like,” and observes that real archaic English is more concise than “our slack and often frivolous idiom”. 

In doing so, he examined the specific case of Théoden’s conversation with Gandalf (“Nay, Gandalf! You do not know your own skill in healing” et seq.).

First pointing out that it is actually “moderated or watered archaism” compared to a more authentically antique diction (“Nay, thou n’wost not thine own skill in healing,”2), he then added that even though much of the speech could be translated to a modern idiom, “Not at all my dear Gandalf…” the thought that ends it , “Thus shall I sleep better,” would not translate well to the modern idiom because a king who speaks in a modern idiom would simply not think in terms of sleeping quietly in his grave.

We see a similar disconnect in the Rings of Power speech with which we began.

Lords of Elfland do not think of expanding work-forces and project deadlines, and for them to speak of such matters is a disunity of language and character.   The spell has broken, and the art has failed: we are back in Poughkeepsie.  There are many examples of modernisms that have crept into the dialogue: hobbits who say, “Okay,” “It means, like, what we do,” and, “That’s not who we are.”  Númenoreans who say, “Nah,” and, “Míriel has her up for tea?”  Elves who say “conflicted”. Dwarves who say, “Yeah.” Even grade-school grammatical errors, “Your people have no king, for you are him,” (a sentence that was walking along just fine before it fell on its face at the last word). 

There are almost too many examples to count, and they pop up at random in the midst of more timeless speech.  Some are more jarring than others—especially the name-calling like “Elf-lover!”—but none of them belong in a tale of the fantastic, except perhaps as Orc-talk. 

Overcompensating for modernism is, of course, an equally dangerous trap.  Le Guin and Tolkien both objected to “tushery” and pseudo-archaic speech.  Imitating the elevated register of dialogue from Tolkien’s writing is perilous. 

Le Guin noted that young fantasy writers sense that their language must distance the tale from the ordinary, but don’t know how to do it, fumbling with “thee” and “thou” and overusing words like “mayhap”.  To their credit, the writers of The Rings of Power, do not fall into this trap. 

Instead, however, these Elves too frequently lapse into High Aphorism.  “It is said the wine of victory is sweetest for those in whose bitter trials it has fermented.”  You have to read that twice to figure out what it is saying.  “Most wounds to our bodies heal of their own accord, so, it is their labor instead to render hidden truths as works of beauty. For beauty has great power to heal the soul.”  All right, if you say so; but it doesn’t sound helpful for a broken leg. And of course:

Do you know why a ship floats and a stone cannot? Because the stone sees only downward. The darkness of the water is vast and irresistible. The ship feels the darkness as well, striving moment by moment to master her and pull her under. But the ship has a secret.  For unlike the stone, her gaze is not downward but up. Fixed upon the light that guides her, whispering of grander things than darkness ever knew.

The Rings of Power, Amazon Studios
Young Galadriel with Finrod, The Rings of Power.

Not only is this pretentious and sententious (if lovely), but it forgets that the Noldor know more about the natural world, about the forces of gravity and buoyancy and density and displacement, than we do.  Their “magic” comes from this deeper understanding.  Instead of knowledge (which is what the word Noldor means!) we get fortune-cookie philosophy that sounds like we just need better-trained stones. 

Compare:

‘Are these magic cloaks?’ asked Pippin, looking at them with wonder.

‘I do not know what you mean by that,’ answered the leader of the Elves. ‘They are fair garments, and the web is good, for it was made in this land. They are Elvish robes certainly, if that is what you mean. Leaf and branch, water and stone: they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lórien that we love; for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make. Yet they are garments, not armour, and they will not turn shaft or blade.’

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

There is a fine line between elegant speech and pretentiousness.  The Rings of Power stumbles across that line too often; and perhaps without knowing exactly why, we are jerked back to the Primary World, because we know, somehow, that Elves don’t really talk like that.

Such considerations, of course, apply to any genre, such as real-world historical stories—at least, those taking place in a setting in which fairly modern English is spoken. 

If I were writing a novel or screenplay taking place at, say, a New England boys’ prep school in 1905, I would not only have to take into account things like clothing, music, technology, or the rules for football, but I would have to give the boys speech appropriate to the time, with usages like “kick” for “complain”, “bully” for approval, or, “You make me tired!” for disapproval.  And I would also have to assiduously avoid letting the boys say anachronistic things like, “epic”, “iconic”, “I’m still processing this”,  “cool”, or…  “That’s not who we are.”

If I were particularly careful, I would research then-new usages like, “Okay,” “Yeah,” or “Wow,” before putting them into the mouths of my characters. 

It takes real work to get such things right.  Without that work, even a non-specialist reader might sense that something is off-pitch, without knowing why, and will not believe in the story.

But such a story is not required to transport us to Elfland; only to (historical) Poughkeepsie.  Elfland is a far more perilous realm, with deeper delights and dangers for both the reader and writer.  Surely, then, a well-paid script editor can be employed to apply at least as meticulous a reading to the dialogue of a drama taking place in such a well-known and well-loved corner of Elfland as Middle-earth?

FOOTNOTES

[1]: It is not at all clear that there is any longer a useful distinction between “movies” and “television” and “streaming” in such discussions.

[2]: Incidentally, this is very similar to the writing of early fantasist William Morris.

Editor’s note:

In the above essay, Staffer Ostadan references a number of key early fantasists whose works pre-date and influenced Tolkien. Some of these works now exist freely in the Public Domain. Interested readers who might care to explore these works further can find and enjoy them as free downloads on Project Gutenburg.

Kenneth Morris’s Book of the Three Dragons was published in 1930 and is not yet available in the Public Domain. Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series was published between 1964 and 1968. Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay From Elfland to Poughkeepsie seems to be available through Amazon in limited quantities, but it is very expensive.

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.