Ringquisition — our little segment that takes a slice of The Rings of Power and puts it under the microscope — returns. One this occasion yours truly (Staffer Demosthenes) and TORn Discord Moderator DrNosy turn the lens on the goings-on of the Noldor in the opening two episodes of The Rings of Power.

Editor’s note: this is an edited summary of a live discussion hosted last weekend on our Discord.

Is there truly no evil in the beginning?

DrNosy muses…

Let’s consider Galadriel’s statement that opens the series and its context.

`Nothing is evil in the beginning. And there was time when the world was so young there had not yet been a sunrise. But even then there was light.`

Galadriel, The Rings of Power: S1.E1

A few key observations upon this theme:

A young Galadriel sets sail to an origami Swan Boat in Valinor. This opening scene foreshadows the journey of the Elves from Aman (Valinor) to Middle-earth in the Swan Boats of the Teleri, which were subsequently destroyed.

The Burning of the Ships by Ted Nasmith.

Even in paradise (Valinor), there is discord amongst the children (the innocent) — is there truly no evil in the beginning? This concept is an undercurrent in Tolkienian writings. Arda had been marred by evil (by the actions of Melkor, also named Morgoth (‘Black Foe of the World’) after Manwë cursed him) even before the awakening of the Children of Illuvatar.

The strife among the Elven children is a reminder that ‘evil’ is an inherent aspect of the Children. Therefore, Illuvatar’s decree of the fate of Men and Elves (the acceptance of death and facing the judgment of Mandos) is a personal and spiritual decision made by nearly every character in Arda. (Of the Beginning of Days, The Silmarillion)

elf children
“Don’t you dare sink my battleship.”

Another place this appears is in her dialogue with Elrond:

And in the West, do you think my fate would be better? Where song would mock the cries of battle in my ears? You say I have won victory over all the horrors of Middle-earth. Yet you would leave them alive in me? To take with me? Undying, unchanging, unbreaking, into the land of winterless spring?

Galadriel, The Rings of Power: S1.E1

This dialogue implies that if Galadriel returns to the Far West, the evil within her will live on forever. Yet I feel this dialogue is a slight oversimplification in light of Tolkien’s texts. Specifically:

  • Death was a concept that existed from before the arrival of the Children of Illuvatar. The Elves are immortal, but this does not mean they are eternal beings (`Of the Beginning of Days`, The Silmarillion).
  • Fading, for the Elves, is a process that occurs slowly in Aman, and rapidly in Middle-earth (‘Difficulties in Chronology’, The Nature of Middle-earth). The purpose of the Elven rings (`artificer`) was to slow the effects of fading on Middle-earth.
  • Galadriel, as a bearer of such a ring, is protector of Lothlórien and her continued presence on Middle-earth also meant her inability to accept death and accumulate power to help resist the fading.
  • With this perspective, it is interesting to read these words from The Fellowship of the Ring: I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.’ (The Mirror of Galadriel’, The Lord of the Rings).

Why does Finrod make a vow to pursue Sauron?

Demosthenes explores…

In The Silmarillion, Finrod does make an oath — and remember that oaths are not lightly sworn in the “Tolkienverse”! — but it’s an oath to Barahir. Barahir, of course, saves him from an evil fate during The Battle of Sudden Flame.

Thus Felagund escaped, and returned to his deep fortress of Nargothrond; but he swore an oath of abiding friendship and aid in every need to Barahir and all his kin, and in token of his vow he gave to Barahir his ring. Barahir was now by right lord of the house of Bëor, and he returned to Dorthonion; but most of his people fled from their homes and took refuge in the fastness of Hithlum.

Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin, The Silmarillion

In the Episode 1 prologue, Galadriel’s voice-over tells us that “My brother vowed to seek [Sauron] out and destroy him.” The conflation of dialogue and visuals suggests that’s what we’re seeing in this particular flashback. That — despite superficial appearances — it’s not the Oath of Feanor made in Tirion (as Finrod takes no part in that). Instead, it’s something else; somewhere else.

What might fit is a rough adaptation of Finrod making good on his promise to Barahir. Yet, frankly, this is still not a vow to pursue Sauron. Not even close!

Felagund seeing that he was forsaken took from his head the silver crown of Nargothrond and cast it at his feet, saying: ‘Your oaths of faith to me you may break, but I must hold my bond. Yet if there be any on whom the shadow of out curse has not yet fallen, I should find at least a few to follow me, and should not go hence as a beggar that is thrust from the gates.’ There were ten that stood by him; and the chief of them, who was named Edrahil, stooping lifted the crown and asked that it be given to a steward until Felagund’s return. ‘for you remain my king, and theirs,’ he said, ‘whatever betide.’

Of Beren and Luthien, The Silmarillion

The other point of contention around this whole vows affair, I think, is the choice of the showrunners for Galadriel to take it up. I would ask: is our book-driven understanding that she is the sort of person to take oaths? I think that this suggests no:

Galadriel, the only woman of the Noldor to stand that day tall and valiant among the contending princes, was eager to be gone. No oaths she swore, but the words of Fëanor concerning Middle-earth had kindled in her heart…

Of the Flight of the Noldor, The Silmarillion

Is Galadriel deceiving us by saying it’s a vow? Is she deceiving herself? Is she reliable on this point? I think that Halbrand says something very interesting — and, potentially, very insightful, on the matter:

If you want to murder orcs to settle a score, that’s your affair. But don’t dress it up as heroism.

Halbrand, The Rings of Power: S1.E2.

A simple vendetta isn’t an oath in Middle-earth.

Why did the showrunners make Galadriel Commander of the Northern Armies?

Demosthenes observes…

There’s an interesting section of the History of Galadriel and Celeborn that outlines one scenario for Galadriel’s story. Simply titled “Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn”, it describes how they “did not go West at the Downfall of Melkor, but crossed Ered Lindon… into Eriador … and for a while dwelt in the country about Lake Nenuial (Evendim, north of the Shire)”.

Galadriel as Commander of the Northern Armies, might be an instance of the showrunners cribbing from that concept. She doesn’t merely lead the army (comprised, seemingly, of nine fellow-Noldor). Instead, she serves as a protector for that entire northern area of Eriador. Of course, it also serves as natural way to push her north into Forodwaith on the great Sauron-hunt. It’s her patch; she’s taking care of it.

It also provides an opportunity to evoke a short, but gripping, scene from The Silmarillion (I ask that readers excuse my rather inferior screencap).

Into a blizzard while crossing the Forodwaith. Rings of Power Episode 1.

We’re crossing the grinding ice. In miniature. I think that’s pretty neat. (Aside: Nasmith is underappreciated as a Tolkien artist.)

Fingolfin leads the Host across the Helcaraxe by Ted Nasmith.

The crossing of the Grinding Ice by the Noldor was a rough trip! But The Silmarillion also dispenses with this arduous journey in little more than a paragraph.

The fire of their hearts was young, and led by Fingolfin and his sons, and by Finrod and Galadriel, they dared to pass into the bitterest North; and finding no other way they endured at last the terror of the Helcaraxë and the cruel hills of ice. Few of the deeds of the Noldor thereafter surpassed that desperate crossing in hardihood or woe. There Elenwë the wife of Turgon was lost, and many others perished also…

Of the Flight of the Noldor, The Silmarillion

Galadriel’s journey’s end-point in The Rings of Power is undoubtedly less hospitable than that of the crossing of the Grinding Ice. But at least she has a map to point the way this time!

Why it’s necessary to use a dagger to point at the map I’ll never understand.

And it’s bloody cold! Why? Utumno’s ruins are basically here (probably under the ice-bay of Forochel though there is plenty of debate on that matter) and they continue to exert a localised chilling effect on the climate.

Finally, that mountainous location from the trailer — it’s not Thangorodrim after all. It’s just an evil Disney castle. Bit of a disappointment — who wouldn’t have wanted to see a visualisation of The War of Wrath?

Not!Thangorodrim. We are all sad.

What did the elves (other than Galadriel) think had actually happened to Sauron?

Demosthenes ponders the matter…

This is a key point, since the conflict about the fate of Sauron drives the story.

Galadriel believes he’s alive, out there and doing nefarious things. She states in Episode 1: “Evil does not sleep, Elrond. It waits.” That’s a definite crib from The New Shadow, by the way.

‘Deep indeed run the roots of Evil,’ said Borlas, ‘and the black sap is strong in them. . That tree will never be slain. Let men hew it as often as they may, it will thrust up shoots again as soon as they turn aside…’

The New Shadow, The History of Middle-earth

In fact, the attitude of Borlas is more or less Galadriel’s! That is, unceasing vigilance is required.

On the other hand, Elrond’s opinion is much more lackadaisical in The Rings of Power. He states that “The evil is gone”. This continues to puzzle me on a couple of counts.

Does he mean he believes Sauron is dead? That’s possible in the sense that a Maia can be completely and irrevocably severed from any physical form and unable to assume a bodily shape any longer. We see this both with Sauron and Saruman at the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings.

To the dismay of those that stood by, about the body of Saruman a grey mist gathered, and rising slowly to a great height like smoke from a fire, as a pale shrouded figure it loomed over the Hill. For a moment it wavered, looking to the West; but out of the West came a cold wind, and it bent away, and with a sigh dissolved into nothing.

The Scouring of the Shire, The Lord of the Rings

It seems likely that this was the fate of the Balrogs that Glorfindel and Ecthelion slew at the Fall of Gondolin.

Returning to The Rings of Power, if that had happened to Sauron you would think that such an event would be both marked and known? Or could it just be lost in the general chaos of the War of Wrath? I guess at least one Balrog escaped, so… perhaps.

Once the mark on the anvil at the Evil Disney Castle proves Sauron escaped and still exists in this, the Second Age, they (Elrond and Gil-galad) ought to be rethinking their assumptions. Elrond kinda pushes it with Gil-galad: “Then the shadow she sought… You believe it does exist?” But he also seems unwilling to be truly forceful about it!

What are the Elves up to?

DrNosy analyses…

Elrond: `Galadriel was so certain her search should continue.`

Gil-galad: `We foresaw that if it had, she might have inadvertently kept alive the very evil she sought to defeat. For the same wind that seeks to blow out a fire may also cause its spread.`

Elrond: `Then the shadow she sought, you believe it does exist.`

Gil-galad: `Set your mind at peace about it. What you did was right. For Galadriel and for Middle-earth.`

Elrond: `It is hard to see what is right. When friendship and duty are mingled.`

Gil-galad: `Such is the burden of those who lead and those who would seek to. Galadriel sails to the sunset. You and I must look to the new sunrise. To that end, are you acquainted with the work of Lord Celebrimbor?`

Elrond: `The greatest of the Elven-smiths, of course. I’ve admired his artistry since I was a child. Why do you ask?`

Gil-galad: `He is about to embark on a new project. One of singular importance. And we’ve decided that you will be working with him. But I’ll allow you to explain the details, Lord Celebrimbor.`

lord celebrimbor
Lord Celebrimbor appears from out of the bushes to surprise Elrond in Lindon.

Reading into Gil-galad’s use of “we”, it appears that political decisions in Lindon often involves Gil-galad and a council of other Elven Lords of the realms. We are introduced to Lord Celebrimbor of Eregion. We are yet to be introduced to the other Elven Lords, most notably Círdan of the Grey Havens, Celeborn of Lothlórien (lore: Amdir/Amroth for Lorien), and Elvenking Thranduil of Mirkwood (lore: Oropher as King of the Woodland Realm).

Gil-galad is likely using “we” as a royal we’ but it doesn’t negate the point of an Elven council.

Gil-galad and the Council had determined that Galadriel’s concerns were accurate. Elrond is obviously unaware of the Council’s plans. It could be that the Council has determined that the solution isn’t pursuing an invisible enemy to banish evil.

Instead, it might involve the work of `artificers`, a concept that Arondir explains.

`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.`

Arondir, The Rings of Power: S1.E1

Tolkien mentions the term ‘artificer’ in a letter to Milton Waldman.

But the chief artificer of the Elves (Fëanor) had imprisoned the Light of Valinor in the three supreme jewels, the Silmarilli, before the Trees were sullied or slain.

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

Considering this show is about the Second Age, Celebrimbor, the greatest artificer of that Age, will play a significant role in the creation of the titular Rings of Power. It seems, therefore, that the tactic of pursuing war and battle with the enemy isn’t one that’s viable. Especially since Galadriel has now returned empty-handed from the last known stronghold of Sauron.

the realm of eregion
Actually called Ost-in-Edhil? Rights issues may get in the way.

Consequently, the Elves are more interested in returning to their old ways of smithing and fashioning objects that create great beauty and help slow-down the effects of death and fading on Middle-earth itself. While the pursuit and creation of powerful objects imbue deathlessness into the world around them, it is simply that much evil can also result from things that have a `good root` (Letter #131).

We shall see what is ahead in future episodes.


Our chat participants

DrNosy is a scientist (physical science), scholar, and Tolkien enthusiast. Her primary interests lie in review and analysis of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. She is an active contributor and Moderator on TheOneRing.net Discord where she also hosts live open-forum panel discussions on The Rings of Power, The Silmarillion,  and a variety of Tolkien-related topics. You can reach her on Twitter.

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.

In 1967, Tolkien began writing a letter to his son, Michael, where he shared his perspectives on cultivating faith. Tolkien likened the character of faithfulness (‘loyalty’) to that of a full-grown tree — a living organism that must be tended to by its keepers (Letter 306).

While the reasons for this letter may be forever lost to time, the excerpt reveals a fundamental notion in Tolkien’s mind: The symbolism of great faithfulness with the thriving health of trees

There is no resemblance between the ‘mustard-seed’ and the full-grown tree. For those living in the days of its branching growth the Tree is the thing, for the history of a living thing is pan of its life, and the history of a divine thing is sacred. The wise may know that it began with a seed, but it is vain to try and dig it up, for it no longer exists, and the virtue and powers that it had now reside in the Tree.

Very good: but in husbandry the authorities, the keepers of the Tree, must look after it, according to such wisdom as they possess, prune it, remove cankers, rid it of parasites, and so forth. […] But they will certainly do harm, if they are obsessed with the desire of going back to the seed or even to the first youth of the plant when it was (as they imagine) pretty and unafflicted by evils.

The other motive […] aggiornamento: bringing up to date: that has its own grave dangers, as has been apparent throughout history. 

Letter #306, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

In my previous article, we discussed clues from the trailer and images of Amazon’s The Rings of Power that directly led us to identifying Sauron’s haunting presence on Middle-earth. Here, I will discuss how The Rings of Power might be using trees to illustrate the shrinking faith of the Númenoreans (Men) and the Noldor (Elves).

We begin in the island nation of Númenor. The Númenoreans are Men descended from the line of Elros, brother of Elrond. The line of the Kings of Numenor going back to Lúthien, daughter of the Sindarin King Thingol and Melian the Maiar. Of Lúthien’s descendants, Tolkien writes that ‘her line shall never fail’ (A Knife in the Dark, The Fellowship of the Ring). 

In the King’s Court at Armenelos, Númenor’s capital, a white tree blooms: Nimloth the fair (Nimloth is Sindarin for ‘White Blossom’). Descended from a tree made in the likeness of Telperion for the Noldor of Tirion  (Galathilion, the’White Tree’ of Yavanna, The Silmarillion), Nimloth was gifted as a seedling by the Eldar of Tol Eressëa in Aman. Her white petals gleam with the setting Sun and her scent fills the air of King’s court. Nimloth is the symbol of friendship between Men and Elves. (Cite.) A sign of the Númenor’s faithfulness to Eru and her Elven heritage.

The Númenoreans retained the dedications and order, but altered the fourth day to Aldëa (Orgaladh) with reference to the White Tree only, of which Nimloth that grew in the King’s Court in Númenóreans [my emphasis] was believed to be a descendant.

Appendix D, The Lord of the Rings
Nimloth, the White Tree in the Courts of Armenelos

The significance of the blooming white tree is not lost to readers of Tolkien. Soon after arriving in Gondor, Aragorn discovers the sapling borne from the fruit of Nimloth. The discovery astonishes Aragorn, but Gandalf recalls the significance of the sapling:

Verily this is a sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair; and that was a seedling of Galathilion, and that a fruit of Telperion of many names, Eldest of Trees. Who shall say how it comes here in the appointed hour? But this is an ancient hallow, and ere the kings failed or the Tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here. For it is said that, though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake.

The Steward and the King, The Return of the King

In Gandalf’s words, we see the link between preservation and renewal. The line of Telperion preserved from the days of the Two Trees, and the promise of renewal to its former glory. 

But, alas, our first sight of Nimloth in The Rings of Power is a solemn one. Unlike the  sapling of Gondor emerging from the snow, we instead witness the opposite, the beginning stages of a fully-grown white tree beginning to wither.

Nimloth is weeping.

Her blossoms scatter onto the royal courts as Queen Regent Míriel and her advisor Pharazôn pause to make note of the moment. Míriel’s face flushes with unmistakable desperation.

Nimloth, the White Tree in the Courts of Armenelos

Is this then the first of many signs and warnings of Númenor’s descent to her watery grave? As steward-keeper of Nimloth (Faith), is Míriel’s faith in Eru and Númenor’s alliance with the Elves starting to crumble?

From what we are seeing, Nimloth is shedding her crown; Númenor is dying.

Mortality is, of course, a theme central to Tolkien’s works. Endings are inscribed to the life and stories of every creature on Middle-earth. It is this ill-fate that Tolkien has termed “fading” that the immortal Elves seek to halt. As Tolkien writes of the Second Age in a letter to Milton Waldman: 

All through the twilight of the Second Age the Shadow is growing in the East of Middle-earth, spreading its sway more and more over Men — who multiply as the Elves begin to fade.

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

Following the destruction of the Two Trees, their great Elf-king Finwë’s death at the hands of Morgoth, the theft of the Silmarils, and in defiance of Eru and the Valar, the arrival and lingering presence of the Noldor (tribe of Elves descended from Finwë) on Middle-earth resulted in their inevitable decline as a people. Yet, the hubris, ingenuity, and might of the Noldor also meant they were a great force to be reckoned with.

They are the chief artificers of devices (“rings”) that halt fading in the Second and Third Age.

In The Rings of Power, the fading of the Noldor is discreetly translated through the Tolkienian metaphor of suffering trees. Given their presence on Middle-earth is consequential to their continued defiance to the Valar, the Noldor’s faltering faith is represented in their inability to keep their beloved Mallorn trees (plural Mellyrn) from fading.

Farewell to Lorien by Ted Nasmith
Farewell to Lorien by Ted Nasmith.

We are quite familiar with the description of the Mallorn Tree from several Tolkien texts (Letter to Minchin (1956), The Fellowship of The Ring, Unfinished Tales). It is prominently described as having a single smooth bark (“pillar”) of grey silver whose leaves turn to pale gold in the autumn, which carpeted the forest floor through spring and summer.

Its bark was silver and smooth, and its boughs somewhat upswept after the manner of the beech; but it never grew save with a single trunk. Its leaves, like those of the beech but greater, were pale green above and beneath were silver, glistering in the sun; in the autumn they did not fall, but turned to pale gold.

In the spring it bore golden blossom in clusters like a cherry, which bloomed on during the summer; and as soon as the flowers opened the leaves fell, so that through spring and summer a grove of malinorni was carpeted and roofed with gold, but its pillars were of grey silver. Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale.

A Description of the Island of Númenor, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth

Unlike the description of the Mallorn  given by Tolkien, we instead witness a dark, crudely shaped, and twisted bark of a large, and what we presume is an ancient Mallorn Tree

From stills and footage, we can construct a working hypothesis that the Noldor are experimenting with planting a Mellyrn forest in Lindon. As Gil-galad and Elrond commune among the trees at night, our eyes are drawn to the sharp contrast of the younger Mellyrn (right) and the dark,  brooding, and ancient Mallorn (left). It appears that the ancient Mallorn is fading, albeit gradually. What may have begun as a silver pillar for a bark has gradually twisted unto itself; stopping the Mallorn from growing to its magnitudinous heights. Her golden leaves also appear to be much darker compared to the younger ones.

The Lindon Mallorn forest.

Further evidence for this hypothesis is the telltale presence of a Mallorn sapling in Khazad-dûm. While we cannot confirm why a sapling might be growing in the deep underground caverns of Moria, it is curious that the Elves as keepers of the Mallorn sought the Moria Dwarves as collaborators in testing the  possible thriving conditions for Mellyrn.

A simpler explanation might be that the Mallorn sapling was grown from a seed gifted to the Moria Dwarves in lieu of friendship. A possible callback to Galadriel gifting Samwise Gamgee a single Mallorn nut that was consequently planted in the Shire.

Even so, the fading of the Mallorn will be an ongoing leitmotif that will marshal the Noldor into seeking and creating the Rings of Power as a means to halt the Fading of the Elves and their realms.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerElrond (Robert Aramayo) is pensive during a visit to Khazad-dûm.

Extra

The Mallorn of Lothlórien. 

Source: The Fellowship of the Ring, New Line Cinema.

About the author: DrNosy is a scientist (physical science), scholar, and Tolkien enthusiast. Her primary interests lie in review and analysis of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. She is an active contributor and Reading Room Moderator on TheOneRing.net Discord where she also hosts live open-forum panel discussions on The Rings of Power, The Silmarillion,  and a variety of Tolkien-related topics. You can reach her on Twitter.

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.

Right now, nothing about our shiny, new Rings of Power trailer is exercising my mind more than Galadriel’s statement to Elrond “You’ve not seen what I’ve seen”.

Key teaser discussion image 1: Galadriel gazes on something.

Why?

Well, even by the first year of the Second Age, Elrond had seen and endured quite a bit: extended parental absences and the wholly unwarranted slaughter of family and friends by kinfolk who subsequently adopt him (and his twin brother). Sometime later, said kin, seemingly, abandon him in favour of some shiny gems.

This is some Grave of the Fireflies-scale trauma.

So you wouldn’t think that Galadriel means something similar, like that one time at Aqualondë when Fëanor decided to requisition some boats (or, later, when he decided to use said boats for tinder on the beach at Losgar).

It’s also likely that Elrond was involved in the The War of Wrath and present at Thangorodrim for the defeat of Morgoth at the conclusion of the First Age. It’s implicit in his statement during the Council of Elrond when he speaks of the Last Alliance.

I have seen my share
Elrond declares “I have seen my share” … with some justification.

“I remember well the splendour of their banners,” he said. “It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled. And yet not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken…”

The Council of Elrond, The Lord of the Rings

Arguably that’s the defining event of the First Age (even if it’s the most-sketchily recorded). A dragon falls on and destroys a mountain chain. Later, an entire sub-continent sinks as a result. It is, quite literally, a world-changing event.

Let’s say your preferred canon is that Galadriel remained in Doriath into the later stages of the First Age (one option CJRT outlines in Unfinished Tales), the sacking of Menegroth doesn’t remotely meet that benchmark. Even were you to place Galadriel at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad (I wouldn’t), or the Dagor Bragollach (a big stretch, but I do wonder if the showrunners might), it’s just not comparable.

So what’s left?

I broached this with fellow staffers, suggesting that only one thing in Galadriel’s history is truly incomparable: the destruction of the Two Trees by Morgoth and Ungoliant.

But, generally, we agree that the description of that event given in The Silmarillion is a poor match for the imagery from the scenes that Galadriel’s voice-over cuts across in the trailer. The Silmarillion describes that Laurelin and Telperion wither as Ungoliant drains them of life. They do not burn. The assault causes a vast, ever-expanding gloom and darkness, and it is entirely unexpected and unanticipated.

That’s very unlike what we see in the Rings of Power trailer scene. There’s a the red-hued background, flickering embers pass behind Galadriel, and there are bodies that seem to hang in space. Further, whatever Galadriel is looking on seems to centre on something that looks like a tower, or a fortress. Not trees.

Key teaser image 2: Galadriel seemingly gazes on this scene.

If it’s not something in Galadriel’s (distant) past, what is it then?

Perhaps it’s some Second Age event around or during timeline that The Rings of Power covers.

Here, fellow-staffer Garfeimao cleverly suggests that we should keep in mind that Galadriel has powers of foresight. This, after all, is how Sam is able to see a vision of The Shire getting, let us say, redeveloped.

“Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal,” she answered, “and to some I can show what they desire to see. But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold. What you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell. Do you wish to look?”

The Mirror of Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings

Scholar Michael Martinez suggests that — at that point — Galadriel’s reach may have been increased since she was able to use the Ring of Adamant, Nenya freely. Yet he also clearly believes that Galadriel had always possessed a native foresight of her own.

The Two Trees in Valinor
So … it’s probably not the destruction of the Two Trees.

I could see some pointing out that Elrond also has a mighty foresight. And that’s true.

For example, his concern for welfare of The Shire is not at all misplaced. But he also doesn’t intuit how critical Merry and Pippin would prove to the Quest to destroy the Ring. That’s not to say his foreknowledge is less, it’s more to showcase how imprecise such things can be in Tolkien. No-one ever sees the full picture — even the memories of the Valar of the Music are said to be fuzzy.

And a vision might explain the subtle differences between the two shots: Galadriel is not physically present at the second scene. Instead she’s perceiving it through the lens of vision — just as Frodo and Sam did in Lorien — from somewhere else that is distant in both place and time. Somewhere else that — in a sneaky bit of misdirection — just happens to have endured some sort of fire or assault.

Recall, also, that such visions and dreams in Tolkien can be the cause of great restlessness in the receiver. In The Silmarillion, Turgon and Finrod each receive a vision from Ulmo while resting by the banks of the Sirion.

“Unquiet was upon them ever after, and doubt of what should befall, and they wandered often alone in untrodden lands, seeking far and wide for places of hidden strength…”

Of the Return of the Noldor, The Silmarillion

This might be a key reason why Galadriel is unable to, as Elrond suggests, put down her sword.

Elrond calls on Galadriel to put up her sword but Galadriel is adamant.

A vision opens up possibilities of things that we, as an audience, might not see come to pass in the first season of The Rings of Power.

Staffer Josh suggests that it might just be a vision of The Downfall of Númenor: Akallabêth, and perhaps even the Temple in Armenelos as it sinks below the waves.

Now, that seems appropriately apocalyptic.

It would explain why all the figures look like they’re floating — they are. And it explains the odd ripples through that scene — it’s distortions caused by the surface of the water.

The mist cleared and he saw a sight which [Frodo] had never seen before but knew at once: the Sea. Darkness fell. The sea rose and raged in a great storm. Then he saw against the Sun, sinking blood-red into a wrack of clouds [my emphasis], the black outline of a tall ship with torn sails riding up out of the West.

The Mirror of Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings

There might be powerful reasons for Amazon Studios to tip people to this end-scenario early. The fact is that most viewers won’t know what a Númenor is, let alone that it was an island-continent that was sunk after an entire people went off their collective trolley, implemented a system of human (and, presumably elven) sacrifice, and decided to invade the “land of the gods” out of a misplaced belief that conquering it would confer immortality.

Sure, even the most casual watcher will understand Ring Bad(tm), but this is vastly more tangible and visceral.

This would be one way to drive home the wider audience what’s at stake and, conceptually, I like it a lot.

Unfortunately, neither The Lord of the Rings nor its Appendices mention the “mighty temple” that Sauron has built in Armenelos, nor the sacrifices of the Faithful that are conducted inside. Those details are only found in the Akallabêth story in The Silmarillion.

However, Appendix A and Appendix B do mention that the Faithful are persecuted, and that rebellion and “civil war” occurred in the final years of Númenor.

That may be enough for the purposes of a vision. That may also satisfy a quite accurate objection that Staffer Earl raises — that the scene does have the appearance of being the outcome of battle. In fact, the most prominent floating figure seems to be run through with a spear.

Perhaps it reflects that, in those final, doomed years, “men took weapons … and slew one another for little cause; for they were become quick to anger.” Chaos and violence as the apocalypse literally occurs should not, I think, be unexpected.

But let’s say that’s incorrect and we’re not looking upon a scene of Akallabêth.

Is there something else it might be?

Here, I’m indebted to one of our Discord chatters DrNosy who informed me that the fan hivemind suspects that the trailer aerial of a city at the confluence of two rivers is Ost-in-Edhil, the chief city of Eregion.

This seems to be Ost-in-Edhil, the chief city of Eregion and the place of the forging of (most of) the Rings of Power.

Ost-in-Edhil lies at the joining of the rivers Sirannon and Glanduin. It will be a key location for the series, since it’s where all the rings of power — lesser and greater are created (except the One). And it is beseiged, then destroyed, when Sauron leads a host into Eriador after Celebrimbor refuses to turn over the rings the elven-smiths made.

“…the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk, and the trees and the grass do not now remember them: Only I hear the stones lament them: ‘Deep they delved us, high they builded us, fair they wrought us, but they are gone.'”

The Ring Goes South, The Lord of the Rings

While not as apocalyptic as the end of Númenor, it is still the end of Eregion. More, it’s the civilisational high mark of the Noldor. Although Elrond establishes subsequently a refuge in Rivendell, never again would they attempt anything on a similar scale.

A vision of the dreams of the Noldor going up in flames might just suffice.

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.

The newly released teaser trailer for Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power dropped on July 14 and sent ripples of excitement throughout Tolkien fandom, including through the ranks of TORn staff. Here below is a presentation of spur of the moment reactions; there will be another post soon that delves deep into some of the lore being presented in this teaser trailer. 

But first, if this two and a half minutes is a ‘Teaser Trailer’ in Amazon’s estimation, we can’t wait to see what they consider a full Trailer! Check out our post from Thursday morning about the teaser trailer; and not to be lost in all the flash and bang from the teaser trailer, take a moment to read the official Amazon Press Release at the bottom of the post, and note that when the show debuts on September 2, it will be an 8-part series. It’s still not clear if the episodes will drop all at once or one episode a week. Hopefully we’ll find out that answer during Amazon’s panel at San Diego Comic-con next week, so keep an eye out for our reports from the panel and exhibit hall floor throughout the week. 

Continue reading “Reactions for the new Rings of Power teaser trailer”

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!