The Dragon has been sung back into its lair: DragonCon is over for another year. For five remarkable days, geekdom had a chance to gather again and celebrate together – and TORn staffers deej, Madeye Gamgee and greendragon were able to be with them. Read on, for greendragon’s thoughts on the event.

I’m sure the first question on many people’s minds will be, ‘How was the safety of the event?’ My overall impression was very good. At check in, everyone (be they attending fans, professionals, exhibitors, or guests) was required to show either proof of vaccination or of a negative Covid test, before receiving their pass. Masks were required at all venues – and from what I saw, this was carefully enforced. It must be said, I was not at the Con late at night; and some folks reported that ‘DragonCon after dark’, when perhaps drinks had been consumed, saw masks being discarded. But in the High Fantasy Track room, and at An Evening at Bree, I didn’t see anyone unmasked. Masks were even – gasp! – up over noses, as well as covering mouths. Many cosplayers had found fun and creative ways to coordinate their masks with their outfits – and of course masks are an integral part of many costumes anyway.

Numbers were restricted this year – fewer than half the usual attendees were allowed; and it has to be said, it was wonderful to be able to cross the skybridge between hotels, or get in an elevator, without waiting for half an hour. 35,000 is still plenty of people, so the con did not feel empty – and there were still long lines for An Evening at Bree, and full panels at many of the tracks. (Numbers in track rooms were also reduced, to allow more space; and no standing was allowed.) Rooms were carefully cleaned – each track room had an hour of deep cleaning during each day, as well as a deep clean overnight, and between panels mics were given new covers and surfaces sanitized. As Madeye Gamgee put it, ‘…all the pandemic mitigation standards were followed and seemed to work.’

On the downside, the parade seemed strange without the watchers along the street; that is perhaps something which didn’t work so well with reduced crowds. I know lots of folks missed the fan tables – and that’s a good opportunity for me to remind you that there is new TORn merchandise (shirts, socks, bags, masks, waterbottles, etc.) available online!

TORn's design, featuring quotations from Tolkien: 'Shadows are fleeing ... and merry our meeting. Be of good hope!' We see an image of a smoking pipe, and TORn's logo below. The bottom of the design features another quotation - 'Hope is Kindled' - and the date, 2021. The design is show on a pale grey t-shirt.

Do take a look at the various designs available at TORn’s online Spring store – and thanks for supporting the website!

As mentioned above, lines were long and the room (with the limited capacity allowed) full for Friday night’s An Evening at Bree. The Brobdingnagian Bards got us off to a great start, with toe tapping music playing from the very start, as guests arrived. We had wondered if we should try to limit dancing this year – but you just can’t keep the denizens of Middle-earth off their feet, and soon masked folks were swirling and skipping. Others enjoyed sitting in groups at tables, enjoying a drink from the Prancing Pony bar at the back of the room. After the Bards’ rousing set, the costume contest took place. It was a delight to see the usual extraordinary creativity and talent we’ve come to expect from this contest – big thanks to judges Constance and Laura, who had the unenviable task of selecting winners. Best in show was Lacey Santos’ amazing Smaug, Queen under the Mountain – complete with incredible embroidery, and Arkenstone in hand.

An amazing Smaug cosplay - a long, burgundy gown, with train edged with hand embroidered runes in gold. The dress includes scaled 'armour' epaulettes  in gold and burgundy, a flowing cloak, and  horned crown. The cosplayer has an illuminated Arkenstone in her hand, and long 'claw' fingernails.
Lacey Santos’ Best in Show winning costume (photograph by Geek Behind the Lens Photography)
The sash of the Smaug cosplay dress has Tolkien's own sketch of Smaug embroidered onto it. We also see rhinestones and beads hanging from the shoulders of the dress.
Embroidery detail (photograph by Lacey Santos)
Best in Show winner in her Smaug gown is shown with her plaque award from DragonCon. On either side of her are costume contest judges Laura (L) and Constance (R). All are wearing masks over nose and mouth.
Best in show with judges Laura and Constance (photograph by Geek Behind the Lens Photography)

Musician Beth Patterson was new to Bree this year, but we hope she’ll be back – her two sets were wonderful, and kept everyone in high spirits. We ended the night with some recorded music, allowing us to bring fan favourites Emerald Rose back to Bree. TORn is always very glad to host An Evening at Bree for DragonCon’s High Fantasy Track; as Madeye Gamgee said, ‘It felt like a joyful reunion of old friends and fellowships.’ We look forward to next year; meanwhile, you can check out DragonCon TV’s coverage of this year’s event in the video below.

For those of you who couldn’t attend this year – or who did attend, and want to keep the geeky fun going – there are all kinds of panels, geeky fun, and special guests, to be found at dragoncontv.com. You’ll need to pay $10 for access; and that will enable you to watch TORn’s panel celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring. You can find that under Fan Tracks (Saturday), at the 4’59 mark.

All in all, I think a good time was had by all, and I applaud the DragonCon organisers and many volunteers for all their hard work. Going back to that question of safety: I personally stayed away from big crowds, and was on the floor of the con much less than I would usually be, only going to specific events and otherwise staying out of the melee. When I was there, however – at Bree and for panels, as well as catching up with friends – I did not feel unsafe. Of course, when 35,000 people gather in one place, it seems inevitable that some, after the event, will test positive for Covid; but, to quote Madeye Gamgee again, ‘Assuming there aren’t any major super-spreader outbreaks connected to the weekend, DragonCon may have proven that a return to some form of a live convention is possible.’ And that is an encouraging thought.

Yesterday Amazon Studios premiered their trailer for the Wheel of Time series that’s based on the fantasy novels of the late Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson). You can see it here if you haven’t already.

One notes that the series itself is slated to debut on November 19, 2021 — that’s roughly 10 weeks away.

That got me thinking, and I did a tiny bit of digging.

Turns out that Good Omens — also produced by Amazon Studios — had a roughly 10-week lead time from trailer to series debut.  The first full trailer for Good Omens debuted on March 6, 2019. The series debuted on Prime on May 31, 2019.

Given LOTR on Prime will debut on September 2, 2022, might we then expect a trailer no later than mid-June next year?

However, two data points is a slim thing to build a prediction upon, and I’m just wild-guessing here. (Emphasis and disclaimer: this is speculation based upon publicly available information, not a rumour).

But Amazon loves an algorithm and I feel this coincidence is waggling its eyebrows at me suggestively.

Maybe mark your calendar in pencil, but don’t bet the house.

Wheel of Time Key Art

The Dragon awakens! After a Covid-enforced hiatus last year, DragonCon is back in Atlanta this weekend – and TORn will be there!

The organisers of DragonCon are doing their best to keep everyone safe, requiring attendees to show proof of vaccination or of a negative Covid test, and to wear masks. Numbers will be scaled back (though given how massive DragonCon’s crowds usually are, the venues may not FEEL uncrowded), and there are no fan tables this year. This means TORn staffers deej and greendragon will not be in their usual spot, selling shirts and other merch. BUT – you can find them around the Con, and you can find merchandise online!

TORn's design, featuring quotations from Tolkien: 'Shadows are fleeing ... and merry our meeting. Be of good hope!' We see an image of a smoking pipe, and TORn's logo below. The bottom of the design features another quotation - 'Hope is Kindled' - and the date, 2021. The design is show on a pale grey t-shirt.

TORn’s ‘Hope is Kindled’ design, which was revealed at the end of 2020, seeking to cheer us all in the days of pandemic, can be found at our online Spring store. We’ve also brought back fan favourites ‘Keep Calm and Read Tolkien’ and ‘Coexist’ – which you can order on shirts, mugs, masks, and even socks! Check out all the goodies in the store here; and thanks for supporting the website!

Regular DragonCon attendees will be glad to know that Friday night’s ‘Evening at Bree’ is happening this year. Live music will be provided by The Brobdingnagian Bards and Beth Patterson, and there will of course be a costume contest – sign up for it at the High Fantasy Track Room. An Evening at Bree will be in the Hilton Grand West ballroom, 8.30pm, Friday night.

Tolkien panels in the High Fantasy Track include (of course!) TORn’s panel about Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series. What do we know? What spy reports can we share? Friday 2.30pm is the time to discover those secrets, in the High Fantasy Track Room (Marriott L401-403); when staffers deej, greendragon and Madeye Gamgee will share all they know – and speculate about stuff they don’t know…

On Saturday at 5pm there will be a streamed, pre-recorded panel featuring the above staffers, and a rare sighting for TORn founder Calisuri; this panel is a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring. Calisuri spills the beans about a very special invitation he received, to see some amazing footage in Cannes…

At other times during the Con, you can find entertainment such as Madeye Gamgee discussing the Second Age, greendragon talking Arthurian Adaptations, and deej considering Tolkien’s influence on Stephen King’s The Stand. Find full details in the High Fantasy Track’s schedule for the weekend!

We’re excited to see folks at the Con, and to share some Middle-earth fun with you all. We’ll miss those of you who can’t attend; we’ll raise a drink to absent friends! Cheers, Gaffer!

Numenor is a central location in Amazon’s billion dollar Lord of the Rings series, and now we have the first description of the peoples of the island, thanks to the intrepid Fellowship of Fans.

Guilds as Tolkien wrote

According to leaked set reports, Numenorians have trade guilds and wear patches marking their trade allegiance according the extras on the set. This is actually true to the books and maintains #FidelityToTolkien.

This seems to confirm that Amazon has licensed stories from UNFINISHED TALES by J.R.R. Tolkien, a book posthumously edited & published by Christopher Tolkien. If we look at page 170:

Among the wrights of the Edain were weaponsmiths, and they had with the teaching of the Noldor acquired great skill in the forging of swords, of axe-blades, and of spearheads and knives. Swords the Guild of Weaponsmiths still made, for the preservation of the craft, though most of their labour was spent on the fashioning of tools for the uses of peace.

Unfinished Tales
Elves forging

Numenor is like Themyscira?

Further in Unfinished Tales it describes a horse & bow culture similar to what movie audiences have recently seen in Wonder Woman. With lead WW stuntwoman Dayna Grant recently in the news, it’s not too much of a stretch to consider her skillset is perfect for how Tolkien describes Numenorians:

The King and most of the great chieftains possessed swords as heirlooms of their fathers; and at times they would still give a sword as a gift to their heirs. A new sword was made for the King’s Heir to be given to him on the day on which this title was conferred. But no man wore a sword in Numenor, and for long years few indeed were the weapons of warlike intent that were made in the land. Axes and spears and bows they had, and shooting with bows on foot and on horseback was a chief sport and pastime of the Numenoreans.

Unfinished Tales
Stuntwoman Dayna Grant, as she appeared in Wonder Woman - mounted on dark brown horse, wearing a golden catsuit and with a golden bow in her left hand.
Dayna Grant in Wonder Woman

Hobbits are now owned by Amazon, joining all-encompassing TV rights to The Lord of the Rings book and appendices rights.

MGM's famous roaring lion trade mark is seen in front of Bilbo and Gandalf.
The Hobbit films were produced by Warner Bros from rights owned by MGM. img: YouTube

It’s official: Amazon has acquired MGM Studios, including the longtime film and TV rights to The Hobbit and characters related. Within hours, CEO Jeff Bezos announced he is stepping down in July and moving to Hollywood to play with his major studio, of which the crown jewel is The Lord of the Rings.

What this means is that @LOTRonPrime can put Hobbits in their Second Age show, since rights to that class of characters were held by MGM. ‘But timelines,’ you say! Time is just a construct. Amazon needs an Everyman entry point for casual viewers: Hobbits are that. There have been rumors that Harfoots are in the show, a book-sourced compromise from the troublesome Hobbit rights. Amazon can now change all the dialogue in reshoots to call them Hobbits; casual fans will want that familiarity.

Remember the crushing drama of rights issues with MGM on The Hobbit, which caused Guillermo del Toro perhaps the greatest professional loss of his career? Amazon has just resolved all that for the future.

Amazon has full TV rights to The Lord of the Rings full stop – anything mentioned in the books and appendices. Now they have all the rights MGM previously held, from its 45 year old Saul Zaentz deal. Amazon chose not to remake The Lord of the Rings, instead exploring many different options, before settling on Numenor and the Second Age.

Owning MGM means, of course, that Amazon COULD remake The Hobbit into a limited series or a cartoon; many things are possible. All kinds of round doors are now open…

The cartoon Bilbo Baggins in front of Bag End - from the Rankin Bass Hobbit movie.

Amazon officially announces new director for its Lord of the Rings TV series and the cast immediately celebrated online.

Director Charlotte Brändström, drink in hand, is seen with New Zealand scenery behind her and a camera operator on her left - on set for Amazon's Lord of the Rings tv show.
Director Charlotte Brändström on set for Lord of the Rings in New Zealand

Accomplished director Charlotte Brändström, who worked with Amazon’s Man in the High Castle as well as Netflix’s Jupiter Ascending and The Witcher, is the latest addition to the large cast and crew of this huge Second Age show. Actor Nazanin Boniadi, who has a lead role in LOTR, posted, “I can’t think of anyone better to break ground as the first woman director to ever helm Tolkien.”

Quite simply, she. is. AMAZING! Nothing short of a creative genius.

LOTR actor Sophia Nomvete on director Charlotte Brändström

Maze Runner actor Dylan Smith, who is rumored to play a major dwarf character, adds on social “A truly talented director!” While major star-in-the-wings Ismael Cruz Cordova says Brändström is a “A Powerhouse.”

Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV show is currently shooting in New Zealand, with over 200 cast and crew members allowed into the country during quarantine. Brändström is a TV veteran based in LA, and hails from Sweden & France.