It seems like Middle-earth March Madness 2022, A Battle of the Ages has only just begun, and already we’re down to the Sweet Sixteen round! To make it to Round Three, the events in our four brackets have had to win two duels thus far.

12,000 folks voted in Round Two; we’ll take a look at how those match ups played out, below.

Round Three Sweet Sixteen voting is open now until the end of the day Tuesday 29 March. Below is the updated bracket, and the buttons for voting.

Instructions: Click on one of the orange division buttons above. Then click the ‘Vote Now’ option that appears above the divisional bracket. This year you get to vote in each divisional match-up in one convenient and visual interface. Note – you need to click each division to vote in their respective brackets. So let’s get voting!

Continue reading “Round 3, Fight! Vote Now! Middle-earth March Madness 2022”
Minas Tirith

At the outset of the Second Age all of the peoples of Middle-earth had to start over, after their kingdoms and homes were lost in the destruction of Beleriand. Entire rivers, coastlines and regions were gone forever. Moreover, most of the great leaders of Elves and Men perished or left Middle-earth during the First Age. Fingolfin, Fingon, Beren, Lúthien, Húrin and Eärendil were all gone. The ‘baddies’ also lost many of their greats, including Morgoth, Gothmog, and most of the Balrogs and dragons.

Those filling the void of leaders and heroes in the Second Age included Elrond and his brother Elros, Celebrimbor the Elven smith, Gil-Galad, now High King of the Noldor, and Númenorean faithful, Elendil. On the side of evil, any remaining Balrogs and dragons had gone into hiding, so that particular void was primarily filled by Sauron and his legions of orcs and corrupted men. Sauron’s forging of the One Ring in the Second Age and his powers of persuasion also managed to blur the lines of good and evil that were so easily delineated during the First Age. The One Ring’s power over lesser rings to turn once good and noble men to evil, and Sauron’s powers of persuasion, corrupted Elves, men and Kings of men.

Suffice it to say that the events of the Second Age are no less dramatic and compelling than those of the First Age. So, with that let’s delve into 16 of the most important events of the Second Age of Middle-earth, shall we?

Elros & the Edain reach Númenor (SA 32): Given the choice of the halfelven by the Valar, Elros chose to be counted among the race of Men. As such, he led the Edain (Men) to the island of Elenna, a gift of the Valar for the help the Edain provided to defeat Morgoth in the First Age. The Valar wanted to provide a special place for the Edain separate from Middle-earth and closer to Valinor, though the Edain were strictly prohibited from going far enough west that they lose sight of Elenna. The name of the realm Elros founded, which became synonymous with the name of the island, was Númenor. As king, Elros took the Quenya name of Tar-Minuyatur setting a tradition for all the kings of Númenor to follow.

Migration of dwarves to Moria & Khazad-dûm (c. SA 40): Moria’s origins began prior to the First Age when Durin awoke. Looking into the lake of Kheled-zâram, he saw a crown of stars reflected in its waters and took it as a sign to stay. In the caves above the lake, Durin and his folk delved from the east side of the Misty Mountains eventually reaching the west side, and Moria became one of the greatest strongholds of the Dwarves. Unique among its natural resources was the rare metal Mithril. After the destruction of Beleriand at the end of the First Age, many Dwarves migrated to Moria, making it possible to mine more Mithril, and making the caverns even greater and more beautiful.

Moria

Sauron builds Barad-dûr in Mordor (c. SA 1000): Sauron, originally a Maia of Valinor, was among the servants of Morgoth who escaped the wrath of the Valar and the destruction of Beleriand. Thinking that the Valar had once again forgotten Middle-earth, he began ensnaring Men and orcs alike to his service. Alarmed by the growing power of the Númenorean visitors to Middle-earth, he decided to hedge his bets and construct his own fortress. To that end, he constructed the fortress of Barad-dûr near Mount Doom in the land of Mordor. To complete it, Sauron eventually used the power of the One Ring, making it impregnable as long as the One Ring existed.

Celebrimbor crafts the Rings of Power (c. SA 1500): Celebrimbor, a grandson of Fëanor, founded the realm of Eregion on the west side of the Misty Mountains around SA 750. Its proximity to Moria was no accident, as the Elves were drawn by the availability of Mithril, and they traded freely with the Dwarves of Moria. Around SA 1200, Sauron began visiting Eregion in fair form under the name of Annatar, ‘Lord of Gifts.’ Imparting some of his knowledge of magic, he assisted Celebrimbor’s smiths in creating a number of rings of power.

The Three Elven Rings are completed (c. SA 1590): After Sauron/Annatar left, Celebrimbor created the three great Elven rings of power: Vilya and Narya (made of gold), and Nenya (made of Mithril). As they were forged without the knowledge of Sauron, they weren’t subject to his will.

Sauron forges the One Ring (c. SA 1600): During his time with the Elven smiths and Celebrimbor, Sauron took as much knowledge as he gave regarding the forging of rings of power. Having left Eregion, he returned to Mordor and forged the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, putting a large amount of his own power into the Ring. Celebrimbor immediately realized he had been betrayed, and a war between Sauron and the Elves ensued, leaving Eregion destroyed. Celebrimbor was captured by Sauron. Under torture and before he died, he revealed the location of all the rings of power except the three Elven rings. Sauron eventually used the power of the One Ring to dominate and control the owners of all the lesser Rings of Power, save the Three which were hidden from him.

Elrond builds the refuge of Imladris/Rivendell (SA 1697): After the fall of Eregion, Elrond founded the refuge of Rivendell, or Imladris, near the western slopes of the Misty Mountains. Rivendell became a shelter for the Elves fleeing the destruction of Eregion by Sauron’s forces, and would also become a safe haven for many a traveler throughout both the Second and Third Ages. Elrond had received the Elven Ring, Vilya, from Gil-Galad, and it was partially through its power that he was able to protect Rivendell throughout the Second and Third Ages. At the end of the Second Age, Rivendell served as a gathering point for the forces of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, prior to crossing the Misty Mountains to eventually confront Sauron.

The Ringwraiths arise (SA 2251): After sacking Eregion, Sauron gave nine rings of power to mortal men. As with many of the rings of power, the life of the ringbearers was prolonged and they enjoyed great power while it lasted, but being mortal men they eventually turned into shadows of their former selves, or wraiths. The recipients of the nine rings are referred to in Tolkien’s writings as nine kings of men. However, only one of the Ringwraiths was ever named. Khamûl was a king of the Easterlings during the Second Age, and one of the wraiths to enter the Shire in search of the bearer of the One Ring in the Third Age. The Witch-king was the greatest of the Nine, but Tolkien never revealed his origins or his name. Nevertheless, the Ringwraiths, or Nazgul, were Sauron’s most terrible servants, and turned the tide of many future battles to Sauron’s benefit.

Ringwraiths

Sauron is “defeated” & brought to Númenor (SA 3262): After destroying Eregion, Sauron and his forces continued westward with the goal of dominating all of Middle-earth. At the request of the Elves, the Númenoreans came to their aid, eventually driving Sauron and his forces back. When Sauron realized he was losing, he allowed himself to be taken as a prisoner to Númenor by King Ar-Pharazôn. Using his considerable powers of persuasion, he converted many Númenoreans to the worship of darkness, and convinced Ar-Pharazôn that the Valar were selfish to retain immortality only for themselves. At Sauron’s urging, Ar-Pharazôn eventually decided to openly attack Valinor, convinced that in doing so he would become immortal.

Ar-Pharazôn builds the Great Armada & assails Valinor (SA 3319): Ar-Pharazôn the Golden was the twenty-fifth and last King of Númenor. In a bid to wrest the gift of immortality from the Valar, Ar-Pharazôn gathered a mighty armada with which to sail to Valinor and assail the Valar. The fleet eventually sailed far enough that they could no longer see Númenor on the horizon, which was strictly forbidden. When the fleet passed the island of Tol Eressëa and anchored near the coast of Valinor, the Valar called upon Eru for aid. Eru then changed the shape of the world, making it round so that Men could never again sail to Valinor.

Destruction of Númenor (SA 3319): In the turmoil caused by Eru changing the shape of the world, Ar-Pharazôn’s fleet was pulled into the chasm that opened between the Blessed Realm and mortal lands, and Númenor sank beneath the Sea. All of its inhabitants were killed. However, Elendil, his sons Isildur and Anárion, and others who had not been swayed by Sauron, realized that Ar-Pharazôn’s assault on Valinor could be disastrous. Just before the island was destroyed, they set sail for Middle-earth in nine ships. Reaching Middle-earth, they founded the kingdoms of Arnor in the north and Gondor in the south. Sauron’s body was destroyed, but he was still in possession of the One Ring – and his spirit also escaped to Middle-earth.  

Destruction of Númenor

Arnor & Gondor are formed; the White Tree is replanted (SA 3320): Nimloth, the White Tree of Númenor (and a descendant of Telperion), had been destroyed by Sauron. However, Isildur had planted a seedling in secret, and carried the sapling to Middle-earth during his escape from the destruction of Númenor. It was planted in Minas Ithil. When Sauron took Minas Ithil (which became known as Minas Morgul), he again burned the white tree. However, Isildur once again rescued a sapling, and early in the Third Age, planted it in Minas Anor (later, Minas Tirith).

Isengard & Orthanc are built by Númenorian exiles (SA 3320): The Ring of Isengard and the tower of Orthanc were built by the Dúnedain, Númenor exiles. The fortress and tower provided protection for the northwesternmost region of the kingdom of Gondor. Its imposing tower and encircling, rocky walls were almost impregnable, having only one entrance to gain access. During his escape from Númenor, Elendil brought with him the palantíri, the seven seeing stones, and one was placed in Orthanc. It was used to communicate with other stones in various places around the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor.

The Last Alliance of Elves & Men is formed (SA 3430): With the One Ring and the Ringwraiths at his disposal, Sauron’s strength grew to be almost insurmountable by the end of the Second Age. It became apparent to the leaders of the free people that only through their combined strength could they hope to stop the Dark Lord. To that end, an alliance was formed between Elendil and Gil-galad. After gathering and making plans in Rivendell, the armies made their way to the plains of Dagorlad outside of Mordor. Forcing their way into Mordor, they besieged Barad-dûr for seven years. Elendil’s son, Anárion, perished during the siege.

The Last Alliance of Elves and Men

Sauron overthrown by Elendil & Gil-galad, who both perish (SA 3441): In a desperate attempt to end the siege of the Last Alliance, Sauron sent out his host once more to confront the forces of the enemy. To bolster his forces and intimidate the enemy, Sauron himself left Barad-dûr to engage in direct combat. After a long battle, Sauron was felled by Gil-galad and Elendil, who both perished in the attempt.

Isildur cuts the One Ring from Sauron’s finger (SA 3441): As Elendil died, he fell on his sword, Narsil, which broke under him. Immediately thereafter, to help ensure Sauron’s power was truly ended, Isildur took the hilt shard of his father’s sword and cut the One Ring from Sauron’s finger. Without the power of the One Ring, Sauron’s spirit dissipated and disappeared from Middle-earth until later in the Third Age. Elrond and Círdan, lieutenant of Gil-galad, urged Isildur to destroy the Ring once and for all. Instead, Isildur claimed it for himself as wergild for the deaths of his father and brother. Thus, both the One Ring and Sauron survived to wreak havoc once again in the Third Age.

Isildur takes the One Ring

P.S. a word about Galadriel!

Given the important role she played in the events of the Third Age, the absence of Galadriel as a player in the important events of the history of Arda is noticeable. It’s not that we’re ignoring her, it’s just that Tolkien didn’t write her into many, if any really, of the large events, such as the founding of kingdoms and the great battles. From sources like The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, we know that she was born in Valinor, made her way to Middle-earth by crossing the Ice of the ice of the Helcaraxë, and spent much of the First Age living in Doriath with Thingol and Melian.

At the beginning of the Second Age, she and her husband Celeborn led many of the Noldor who lived in Eriador, eventually settling in Eregion, ruled by Celebrimbor. When Annatar/Sauron came among the Elves of Eregion, it was Galadriel who was mistrustful of him. She counseled Celebrimbor to keep the Three Elven Rings safely hidden from Sauron, which he did, sending Vilya to Gil-galad, Narya to Cirdan the Shipwright, and giving Nenya to her. After living in various places throughout the rest of the Second Age, she and Celeborn finally settled in Lórien.  

So, Galadriel was always in the picture, just not as closely involved in the ‘greatest’ events as others were. Her time to shine would, of course, come in the Third Age and the War of the Ring.

Refresh your memory on Pre-First and First Age events in our previous posts! Ready to VOTE? Click here! You have until end of day Thursday 24th March to vote in Round One; winners will be declared and Round Two launched on Friday 25th. Which event is THE crucial one in the history of Middle-earth? You decide!

There’s a particular letter in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien where Tolkien writes about his experience of dealing with a proposal from Forrest J. Ackerman to make an animated film of The Lord of the Rings.

Within that letter, there’s one revealing sentence.

Stanley U. &: I have agreed on our policy : Art or Cash. Either very profitable terms indeed ; or absolute author’s veto on objectionable [my emphasis] features or alterations.

Letter #202, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

The deal never happened, though Tolkien did subsequently sell film rights in 1969 to United Artists under the looming pressure of inheritance taxes.

These days, I suspect there’s no such pressure. More, the “Middle-earth universe” is seen as a proven starter for the world’s media companies. I think that has given Tolkien Estate leverage: the power to demand not just Cash, but Art as well.

In the context of the recent Vanity Fair feature, this explains not just the starting price for the Tolkien Estate’s rights auction a “gobsmacking” $200 million, but the documented demand for input into the direction of the series. In an early, seemingly unauthorised, interview, Tom Shippey described this “input” as a “veto power”.

It also says something about the power of Middle-earth that even with that eye-watering starting price and the attachment of certain pre-conditions, Netflix, HBO and Amazon all put their hand up and bid.

Still, even if Tolkien Estate was willing to put its foot down to get that capital-A Art, it was always going to take an equally ambitious (and well-resourced) studio to come through with the goods.

Despite Vanity Fair’s assurances (it’s pretty stunning that they’ve seen the first three episodes already), it’s too early for us ordinary punters to declare The Rings of Power a sure bet — in either the commercial sense, or the Art sense.

However, Vanity Fair’s first look under the bonnet shows there’s no lack of promise: the images are intriguing and suggestive, sets and costumes look suitably spectacular, and the production staff are making the right sort of noises about respecting the integrity of the source material.

But a show with the resources of The Rings of Power should (by default) have stunning production values and a real, lived-in feel. That’s just a given.

And it’s politic for showrunners to make the right noises (I would, too). The question is, can we identify instances of real substance to back those noises? Has the objectionable — as Tolkien might have seen it — been excised?

An Atlantis-like Númenor, the full glory of Khazad-dûm —- that vast dwarven metropolis carved out of the bones of the Misty Mountains, the puissance of the elven smith Celebrimbor, whose skills with metals and magic are crucial to the forging of the rings are all lore-friendly inclusions.

They’re also easy wins.

In a way, so too is the centrality of Galadriel.

Galadriel is a key player in the Second Age (fighting the long defeat, as she expresses in The Lord of the Rings). After the publication of that book, Tolkien increasingly came to view her as one of the most remarkable elves to play a role in Middle-earth’s history, and his later essays and notes paint her as an increasingly exceptional individual. She’s also incredibly peripatetic throughout the Second Age — wandering from Lindon, into Eriador and eventually south to Eregion, under the Misty Mountains to Lórien, back across to Imladris (Rivendell) and finally the south coasts of what would later become Gondor.

During all that, she’s a key participant in events. She joins Gil-galad to reject the approaches of Annatar, alternately collaborating and at loggerheads with Celebrimbor (and later advising him to hide Nenya, Vilya and Narya), before strengthening then-Lórinand (later Lórien). Unfinished Tales states that she views the dwarves of Khazad-dûm “with the eye of a commander”.

That bespeaks a driven individual — and this is something that the teasers from Vanity Fair support. I want to see lots of ambition from Galadriel — someone with just as much inner-belief and determination to make things happen as Fëanor, but with (even at the start of the Second Age) a touch more wisdom. I think you should too.

As showrunner McKay Patrick tells Vanity Fair: “This young hot-headed Galadriel… how did she ever become that elder stateswoman [who we meet in Lórien in The Lord of the Rings]?” The awareness of that difference is present; if the show is able to intelligently show this change, it will have taken a large step toward something that accords with J.R.R. Tolkien’s own musings.

Galadriel, commander of the Northern Armies. Matt Grace/Amazon Studios.

Reassuring also is the gradual emergence of the Second Age threat — one that’s recognised by some, but not by others. After all, up until the forging of the One, Sauron (as Annatar) uses the velvet glove, not the iron fist. Very late writings recently published in The Nature of Middle-earth even suggest that his minions mocked him behind his back for this.

Again, direct statements from the McKay seem to back this: “We didn’t want to do a villain-centric thing. We wanted it [the first season] to be about introducing these worlds and the peoples who dwell in them and the major heroes and characters.”

And what is potentially one of the most contentious decisions — to include Hobbits as “Harfoots” — accords somewhat with both Gandalf’s description of Gollum’s folk (yes, I know those are, more correctly, Stoors): “a clever-handed and quiet-footed little people.”

And a note in the prologue chapter of The Lord of the Rings, “Concerning Hobbits” details that “even in ancient days [Hobbits] were, as a rule, shy of ‘the Big Folk’, as they call us, and now they avoid us with dismay and are becoming hard to find … [and] they possessed from the first the art of disappearing swiftly and silently, when large folk whom they do not wish to meet come blundering by…”

Is this one decision Tolkien Estate has weighed in on? Regardless, much will hinge on the execution of the concept.

Set against the above is the compression of the timeline that the showrunners discuss. First, kudos to the production staff for being clear on this. In fact, it recalls Peter Jackson’s bald statements that his films would include no Scouring of the Shire — a very real cause of fan angst at the time. (I still think that writing decision undersold some of the character development of the four key hobbits, but, weighing in at 201 minutes, PJ’s The Return of the King is already very long.)

I get the fact that it’s probably really difficult for any television series to traverse a 2,500-year history in a way that is not choppy and disjointed, and remains compelling viewing. Being able to see characters such as, say, Isildur and Ar-Pharazôn across a span of 5 seasons allows a great deal more screentime (and thus development and insight) than would be possible in a couple of seasons. A strictly linear structure would introduce them only at near the very conclusion of the entire series.

Still, I would have liked (as many speculated before the Vanity Fair article came out) to have seen Amazon be really daring and attempt to run two split, simultaneous timelines — one leading up to the forging of the One (and Sauron’s defeat by the elves and Númenor’s fleet), and another focused on Akallabêth and, perhaps, the War of the Last Alliance (also culminating in Sauron’s defeat, this time by the elves and the Dúnedain of Arnor and Gondor).

Doubtless, it would be demanding on the audience. But if it worked, it would have been amazing.

It’s worth noting, though, that J.R.R. Tolkien in his appraisal of the Morton Grady Zimmerrnan’s 1958 script made specific reference to his displeasure with time contraction of events.

There he states that:

I fail to see why the time-scheme should be deliberately contracted. It is already rather packed in the original, the main action occurring between Sept. 22 and March 25 of the following year. The many impossibilities and absurdities which further hurrying produces might, I suppose, be unobserved by an uncritical viewer; but I do not see why they should be unnecessarily introduced.

Letter #210, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Does that make this particular contraction objectionable?

In Letter #210, Tolkien points out that he doesn’t want to see “his work treated as it would seem carelessly in general, in places recklessly, and with no evident signs of any appreciation of what it is all about.” He does not want the tone lowered “towards that of a more childish fairy-tale.” Lastly, he does not wish for deliberate alteration of the story, in fact and significance, without any practical or artistic object [my emphasis].”

At least, those are my key takeaways.

Now, one observes that if the time scheme of The Lord of the Rings is packed, the precis account of the Second Age in The Tale of Years is most certainly not.

Tolkien also notes in Letter #210 that he closely observed the passing of seasons in The Lord of the Rings. He suggests that such pictorial representations could be used to non-explicitly indicate the passage of time. Similar effects might be employed for The Rings of Power series. Maybe not the thousands we are familiar with from “The Tale of Years”, but certainly dozens — or even the 100 to 200 that might encompass the lifespan of a Dúnedain of Númenor, or a dwarf of Durin’s line.

How much time is being contracted? Vanity Fair is not precise: the writers say that events are compressed “into a single point in time.” That might mean a span of a generation.

Here is where it would have been fascinating to be a fly on the wall in the discussions between Amazon Studios and Tolkien Estate.

Finally, keep in mind J.R.R. Tolkien’s letter to Milton Waldman outlining his artistic vision:

I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd.

Letter #131. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Absurd. Yet, here we are.

With this in mind, I think there are promising signs that Tolkien Estate (and indeed, Amazon Studios) is seeking Art, not just Cash. Early shoots with the promise of beautiful spring, you might say.

But there’s still an awfully long way to go.

As Galadriel says in The Lord of the Rings: “hope remains while all the Company is true.” We’ll see in September how true this particular company has been.

About the author: Staffer Demosthenes has been involved with TheOneRing.net since 2001, serving first as an Associate News Editor, then as Chief News Editor during the making of the Hobbit films. Now he focuses on features and analysis. The opinions in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent those of TheOnering.net and other staff.

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

I’ve read a lot of responses to, and hot takes on, The Rings of Power in the last 24 hours (you can check some of them out here if you’ve missed our roundup). But, without a doubt, this is the most insightful and useful one so far.

In it, Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson puts 10 key questions about Amazon’s Rings of Power production to showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and adds her own lore-based thoughts on their answers.

It’s just a terrific read, chock-full of amazing details.

An excerpt:

In studying the language from the first three episodes Amazon let Vanity Fair screen, we found a mix of cleverly repurposed lines of Tolkien’s dialogue as well as a few snatches of Biblical text. “Both Patrick and I have religious backgrounds,” Payne says. “I spent a lot of time just reading those sacred texts. I was an English major at Yale and loved Shakespeare at the time and still go back and reread the various plays. I’ve also spent a lot of time studying Hebrew poetry and parallelism and inverted parallelism and chiasmus and all these cool rhetorical strategies that poets and prophets from thousands of years ago would use to communicate sacred material. And Tolkien, sometimes, will play in that kind of a sandbox.”

McKay explains that they tailored the dialogue to fit each kind of character. The harfoots speak with an Irish lilt whereas the elves speak in elevated British phrases. “We even came up with hero meters for each different race in Tolkien,” Payne says. “Some of them will speak in iambs. Some of them will speak in dactyls. Some of them will speak in trochees.” That in-depth approach might please Professor Tolkien, whose specialty was philology, a.k.a. the history of language.

One of the best revelations is clear, direct confirmation on the rights situation simply because it immediately clears away so much fan debate:

So what did Amazon buy? “We have the rights solely to The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, the appendices, and The Hobbit,” Payne says. “And that is it. We do not have the rights to The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth, or any of those other books.”

So if you’ve been wondering (as I have), everything in the trees image must be explained by LOTR and The Hobbit alone. And if you can’t find it in those books, don’t expect to see it in The Rings of Power.

Read Vanity Fair’s “10 Burning Questions”.

BOOTNOTE: Writer Joanna Robinson will be joining TORn Tuesday tomorrow from 5pm PT, 8pm ET to discuss her Rings of Power experience with Staffers Quickbeam and Justin. Join us then, and be sure to bring your own burning questions!

Galadriel, commander of the Northern Armies. Matt Grace/Amazon Studios.
Galadriel, commander of the Northern Armies. Matt Grace/Amazon Studios.

What do we hope for, from tonight’s Teaser Trailer?

Middle-earth and Numenor

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.

Garfeimao’s comments:

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. 

Silvan Elf Arondir

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? 

Our first glimpse of The Rings of Power, but not in the 2nd Age

Elessar’s comments:

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:

  1. 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.”

Durin IV

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.  

Bronwyn’s Apothecary

Mithril’s comments: 

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….

Join us and a hosts of guests at the #LOTRTrailer Official Watch Party, from 5.15pm PT today, Feb 13th. Share your reactions to the trailer at #LOTRFans. So it begins!

Here’s what Vanity Fair’s article reveals (or confirms, or in some cases, suggests…) about those 23 character posters we saw last week. (All quotations are from VF’s ‘First Look’ article.)

This is Owain Arthur as Prince Durin IV, ‘prince of the bustling subterranean realm of Khazad-dûm’. As we noted, his hammer hilt reads ‘Awake Sleeping Stone’.

Dwarf princess Disa, played by Sophia Nomvete. Durin’s wife?

Galadriel, played by Morfydd Clark, and described in Vanity Fair as ‘Commander of the Northern Armies’. There had been rumours of short hair for Galadriel – the Vanity Fair images show us otherwise! We also see an eight pointed, Feanorian star on her chest. Significant…?

Elrond, played by Robert Aramayo. Vanity Fair describes him as, ‘a politically ambitious young elven leader’ – and he does have short(ish) hair.

This is silvan elf Arondir, a newly created character, who is played by Ismael Cruz Cordova. His closely cropped hair is the shortest of the lot; his earthy, rugged attire sets him apart from the other elves we have seen. Clearly silvan elves are not quite like their high elven kin…

This is Bronwyn, a created human character, and Arondir’s ‘forbidden love’. She is described as a ‘single mother and healer’ – we see her apothecary’s sickle in this image. She’s played by Nazanin Boniadi.

The Rings of Power includes ‘Two lovable, curious harfoots, played by Megan Richards and Markella Kavenagh’. The two character posters above seem most likely to be them.

As we already knew, ‘Brit of Jamaican descent, Sir Lenny Henry, plays a harfoot elder’. Could this image show him? Perhaps the clutched scroll is an indication of his elder wisdom?

From VF: ‘Another story line will follow a sailor named Isildur (Maxim Baldry) years before he becomes a warrior and cuts the soul-corrupting ring off Sauron’s hand, then falls victim to its powers himself.’ Could the rope here suggest a sailor?

The Rings of Power will feature ‘the elven smith Celebrimbor ([played by] Charles Edwards)’. Could either of these seemingly elvish characters be Celebrimbor? Most likely not the one all in gold; this is rumoured to be Gil-galad, and certainly he seems kingly. So do we see Celebrimbor in red?

(My original thinking was this – but see below for an update!)

This one is total guesswork… VF says we encounter, in the ‘Sundering Seas … a mortal castaway named Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), who is a new character introduced in the show. Galadriel is fighting for the future; Halbrand is running from the past. ‘ There aren’t many of the character posters which look like they might be from the world of men. Could THIS be Halbrand? Could the evil looking, broken blade be part of the past from which he is running? (We do see a wooden chest on the raft, when he and Galadriel meet at sea – so it’s possible he bears with him artefacts from his past…)

UPDATE – VF reached out to let us know that this image in fact shows Bronwyn’s (seen above with sickle) son, and the hilt he is holding is hers. But WHY would she have such a sinister looking object…? Some interesting backstory to come there, methinks, about this ‘broken heirloom’…

Finally, VF tells us that our two Harfoots ‘encounter a mysterious lost man whose origin promises to be one of the show’s most enticing enigmas’. Of all the character posters, this to me is the most enigmatic. So I’m putting my money on this dishevelled, grubby character being our mysterious being…

Don’t forget to join us to watch and discuss the trailer this Sunday!