TheOneRing.net wrapped up San Diego Comic-con with a panel focused on the Second Age of Middle-earth. The panelists wove insights with skill and knowledge into a flowing tapestry to rival those in the halls of Menegroth.
Held in Room 6A of the Convention Center, the panel was moderated by Justin Sewell, host/producer TORn Tuesdays (YouTube), the panel included Matt, host of Nerd of the Rings (YouTube); Anna María, actor and activist (@onlyannamaria/Twitter); Willie Jenkins aka KnewBettaDoBetta (TikTok); Clifford Broadway, writer, actor, host TORn Tuesdays; and Dr. Corey Olsen, founder of SignumUniversity (@TolkienProf).
First discussed was how important maps are to the Tolkien Universe. Willie advised that if you have trouble understanding Tolkien’s work, start with the maps; by studying them, you’ll have an easier time understanding the texts. Corey pointed out that Númenor is so far south on the map, it would be a sub-tropical climate. Anna María explained that Tolkien’s legendarium centers around movement.
The veracity of this point hit home for me. From the time of the birth of the Elves in Cuiviénen, the peoples of Middle-earth are always on the move. When the Elves migrate to Valinor, many were sundered from the larger group along the way forming the different branches of the Elves. The Noldor’s return to Middle-earth had devastating consequences on the people and the land, and this backwards migration formed the various Elvish kingdoms that were scattered throughout Beleriand, the remnants of which formed the population of ME in the Third Age. A Third Age example is when the Rohirrim (then called the Éothéod) living in the northern Vales of Anduin were granted Calenardhon, which became Rohan, for helping Gondor in its time of need. And of course, the story of the Lord of the Rings revolves around the Fellowship’s journey throughout the lands of the Third Age. Much like the world we live in, it is the movement of people that tells the tale of history.
The panel moved on to talk about the Silmarils and the Oath that Fëanor and his seven sons took to recover the gems and how the consequences of those actions impacted all the events that came after, all the way down to the Third Age. Dr. Olsen made the point that the fallout from these events caused the surviving Elves to be predisposed to making the Rings of Power as a means to protect their realms.
Next discussed was which materials Amazon has the rights to develop in the series. The panel drew the conclusion that with Simon Tolkien consulting on the series, nothing is off-limits because the show runners can go to the estate and ask permission if they feel they need to include material that is not in the Appendices.
Justin asked the panelists what they wanted to most see in the 50-hour series. Responses included:
• The War between Sauron and the Elves
• The Creation of the Rings
• The War of the Last Alliance: “There is so much more to that battle and that war than we saw [in the Peter Jackson’s films.]” –Matt
• The Gradual fall of Númenor: “The theme of the inevitability of lovely things that fade…I’m excited to watch the struggle of Númenóreans over time becoming more and more resentful of their mortality. Of longing for the gift of the Elves’ agelessness…Of having the relief of death twisted by Morgoth.”
Cliff pointed out how The Second Age is about loss. The Númenórean story is the story of Atlantis with Númenor renamed Atalantë (the downfallen) after it’s fall. He talked about how the Ents in the trailer remind us that Tolkien had ecological interests and suggested that the Ents and Entwives must come into conflict with the Númenóreans because of the island-dwellers’ need for wood to build ships. He said his spirit might break if by the end of season five the Ents have lost the Entwives, but that this could narratively connect with events in the Third Age.
As a fan, Dr. Corey Olsen was reassured by the show runners: “The primary theme of this show is hope. That there is a lot of darkness, there is going to be a lot of grimness in this because Tolkien does not shy away from that, but at the end of the day it is always about hope. Patrick McKay said that the scene with Sam looking up at the star in Mordor was his favorite scene in the Lord of the Rings, I said ‘he’s our people.’”
Matt was hopeful that all the John Howe’s drawings for the show (48 full sketchbooks) might end up in book form on our bookshelves.
Willie was excited about seeing Khazad-dûm and Eregion at its height, and Cliff pointed out that this was a time of cooperation between Elves and Dwarves, unlike in the Third Age. Anna Maria reminded us that the Second Age is actually a post apocalyptic setting.
The discussion moved on to how Tolkien is inclusive and for everybody. The author was opposed to racism in all forms as attested to in many of his writings and letters. Justin asked for us to all keep an open mind and an open heart going into the show, while Matt said he’s just excited to escape to Middle-earth.
Throughout, the audience was enraptured, but proof of the lasting impact of the event is that the panelists have stories about audience members coming up to them after the panel and thanking them for bringing things to light about their favorite characters.
For instance, Anna Maria, Corey and Willie spoke about Isildur and how we only know him from the Peter Jackson LotR prologue where we see him refusing to throw the One Ring into the Cracks of Doom. From this scene, many people took away that Isildur was a fool, if not a villain. But we were assured that Isildur was a hero, one of the Faithful who risked his life to save the White Tree. He was one of the founders of Gondor, a great and wise ruler, and we shouldn’t judge him on his one mistake because there was no one in Middle-earth who could resist the power of the One Ring and throw it in the fire. Certainly not Frodo. Even Galadriel and Gandalf were both afraid to touch it, knowing it would corrupt them.
From the audience reaction, I’d say that everyone’s curiosity about the Second Age has been piqued, and that most people are excited to find out how Amazon Prime Video will handle this less well-known period in Middle-earth’s history.
For more analysis, check out TORn Tuesdays every Tuesday a 8pm ET/5pm PT. https://www.youtube.com/c/TheOneRingNet/videos