The initial posters released by Amazon spawned a million questions, and then the Vanity Fair articles explained some things but spurred even more questions. Just before the teaser trailer, we released a staff “what we want to see” post, with some very specific hopes and questions; and now we find out if any of those were answered. Watch the trailer below, and then read on to see what the staff reactions were.
The world felt familiar and in line with my expectations of what Middle-earth and Númenor should look like. I felt there was visual continuity from the films. It’s difficult to tell much about the story, though there are hints, and I’m intrigued to find out more. Especially about the man in the fiery crater. Also, I’m curious what the meeting of the Elves in the golden woods was about.
Specific things I wanted to see that were shown:
Númenor. I also wanted to know what time-period it was, but of this I’m still unsure. In the last days, Ar-Pharazôn makes sacrifices to Melkor, and the skies become blackened with smoke by the unceasing fires. The skies in the trailer are blue, yet there is a tall tower that is sending out flames, yet it is not the domed tower that the Silmarillion mentions. Could this be the temple of Armenelos, indicating the later days? Or is this the port of Rómenna where the Faithful lived? My guess is Rómenna because the capital city was inland.
Khazad-dûm, I think, in the scene where Durin IV breaks the stone, but the background is out of focus, so we don’t get to see the scope of it or the West Gate.
Galadriel and Elrond. Galadriel’s fierceness and athleticism were as I expected from the hints and photos given prior to the trailer, and also in line with how Tolkien described how she acted in her youth. Though the ice wall immediately reminded me of Game of Thrones. Elrond was a surprise because he looks so angry or troubled, and I would not have imagined him having a contest of strength with Durin. What he is wearing is very cool and unexpected.
Gil-galad! His appearance is satisfying because his countenance and clothes are similar to the way he looks in the War of the Last Alliance in the film, so there is continuity.
A Hobbit–Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot. She has the look of a Hobbit, and her rustic clothes seem appropriate. I also wanted to see where the Harfoots lived, but we weren’t shown that. Nori speaks of wandering, so maybe there isn’t a settled community yet.
Weaponry. Arondir’s shooting skills seem in line with what we know of Elves from the films. Though it was too dark to make out his bow clearly, the shape, especially the ends of the bow, are similar to the Bow of the Galadhrim that Galadriel gave Legolas in the film version of FotR, and his arrows are also shaped like Legolas’, so I wasn’t taken out of Middle-earth as it was imagined by Peter Jackson and WETA. We also saw him with some kind of axe. In the battle scene, we got visuals of Elven helmets, armor and shields–gold, as in the Last Alliance in the films, but differently shaped. And we saw Galadriel’s dagger (Who else is waiting for a reproduction?) and the top of her sword slung on her back.
How people will sound. We only heard Nori, and she had a sort of Irish accent. I thought there was a hint of Elvish voices in the music, like in Howard Shore’s score for The Lord of the Rings, so I’m hopeful there will be Elvish/Dwarvish/Númenórean languages spoken at times.
Thoughts from Deej:
I liked what I saw, and it piqued my interest in seeing more, which is the whole point of a teaser trailer. I’ve seen a few responses from fans saying it looked too generic and ‘cheap’ – I could not disagree more. To me, it looked very much like the Middle-earth we’ve become accustomed to, just different locations and characters. I do hope that there are more physical sets and ‘bigatures’ (like The Lord of the Rings) and less CGI (like The Hobbit), but at this point, nothing about the show looks cheap.
From Madeye Gamgee:
My broad desires were to alleviate concern, particularly by demonstrating faithfulness to Tolkien and his source material; and to create a hunger to see more. For me, the teaser trailer was more successful in the latter area. We saw some iconic and exciting moments: our first-ever glimpse of Númenor, with Meneltarma looming in the background; Galadriel in her full Nerwen/Amazonian self (how’s that for an ironic nod to the money behind this project?); some wondrous, ax-swinging (and singing!) dwarves in their halls of stone; and some really beautiful scenic shots once again cementing the convergent glories of New Zealand as Middle-earth. There were snippets of intriguing characters that seem to have stories to tell, starting with the only words spoken in the entire teaser from young “Nori” Brandyfoot/Markella Kavenagh, alluding to “wonders in this world beyond our wandering” (a very pre-Tookish sentiment!). What is Dwarf Queen Disa singing about? Who is Silvan Elf Arondir fighting, and why is he chained? Why does Durin IV weep, and what is Elrond’s mission among the dwarves? Is that an “ice troll”? What in the world does that meteor portend, and who is this “Stranger” that may have emerged from it? This is a world that seems packed with beauty and history, danger and mystery, all waiting to be explored.
But is it true to Tolkien? We don’t know yet, and it’s unfair to expect this from a one-minute teaser that gives us flashes of 20 different scenes. We saw no rings of power. We heard no actual dialog between characters. We have seen some action but know little yet of the forces and passions that are motivating it. We have been teased. There is what could be an aroma of Middle-earth wafting in from some hidden kitchens, and the scents we’re catching seem promising. I’m happy to stick with my spot at the table as we wait for more. With Dwalin, though, I’ll toss in a hopeful, “where’s the meat?!”
WeeTanya’s 2 cents:
The Teaser Trailer’s opening focus on the large statue was probably meant to make us remember the Argonath, setting up the feeling that we were looking at something thematically familiar and different at the same time — a port city of men? Where is it? I loved that we got to immediately see the vast scope of the world, and that the city felt old and abandoned even for a place that should have been thriving. Where is everyone? Are the humans of that port city long fled? The questions started to mount in my head immediately, and I honestly felt as adventuresome as Galadriel climbing up a cliff.
I loved where the Teaser Trailer took us. We saw a bunch of Elves meeting in a place that looked a lot like Lothlorien, rife as it was with all the golden Mallorn trees (Lindon? Eregion?). We saw one very concerned elf staring up at the sky — who is that? Is it Cirdan, is it Gil-galad? Some breakdowns have already named him Gil-galad, but I am leaving room that it could be Cirdan — I’ve always wanted to see my favorite elf on screen.
The Teaser Trailer gave us a glimpse of Arondir — the way he looked and moved made me feel as if he was spiritually akin to Legolas and Tharanduil’s folk. It’s hard to imagine anyone faulting his grace (OK, I can imagine it) or likeness to other Peter Jackson-themed Sindarin elves. I hope we get to see more of his elf eyes tracking foes in the wood.
I enjoyed Galadriel’s adventures tremendously — she’s climbing the side of a mountain in the Northern Wastes, and hanging out near a waterfall that dwarfs the ones we already know (Rauros, Henneth Annun). She’s in a cave, encountering an albino … troll thing. She’s riding a battle-clad horse at the head of an army. I AM PROPERLY TEASED! I want to know more, these are adventures that probably happened between the words in the Unfinished Tales, and I want to know all about it.
Notes from Elessar:
So here we go.
As I stated I in our preview article I wanted to see the world in action. We got that. A lot of it really for a one-minute teaser trailer. What we saw looks really cool and I walked away pleased with what I saw. We didn’t get a lot of dialogue other than the narrator’s voice. So that was a bit of a bummer, but I’m sure we will get a full trailer this summer. So as someone who went in a bit reluctant, I’m pleased for now.
I wanted, first and foremost, to see Elves acting like Elves, which of course, covers many behaviors and actions, but it is the Action I was most interested in. Early in the teaser trailer, we see Arondir in the midst of a battle, arrows in the ground around him. He is seen reaching out to grab an arrow flying towards a second figure lying on the ground, turns it and let’s fly back to where it came. That sealed it, that was the Elven skill with a bow we have become accustomed to, and it made this teaser trailer for me. But then we got more of Arondir being amazing, when near the end he is seen leaping through the air with an odd looking ax in his hands, about to pounce on something or someone, all while having his ankle in chains.
My second point was wanting to see Dwarves, be it miners, builders, fighters, or anything that shows their culture and the realm of Khazad-dûm. We don’t get too much of the scope of their realm, but we do see Durin IV a couple of times. In one scene, he looks rather emotional, but the next time we see him he is splitting a mighty boulder in one blow, sending sparks out. This act is witnessed by at least three, elder looking dwarves with very long, grey beards (Gandalf would be jealous). Finally, we see Disa singing, which turns out to be how the dwarves find out where to dig, and more importantly, where not to dig, which we know they don’t always heed that warning.
There were no answers as to why Galadriel was in the ocean and needed to be pulled onto a raft, but we do see her looking pissed off when the man on the raft touches her hair to reveal her Elven ears. It would be interesting to see what happens next, does she begrudgingly tolerate it, or does she attack him?
As for my wish to see more of Lindon, we got that, with the scene of seeing Gil-galad, looking fabulous, but worried as he watches the meteor shoot through the sky. And later, we see a beautiful gathering area near the edge of a cliff where numerous Elves are meeting, for either a ceremony or a gathering to discuss important matters. Either way, Lindon looks quite lovely, with the golden leaves of white birch trees and waterfalls.
And finally, there was zero information as to why the Two Trees were the first image we saw from the production, but there were indications that there may be flashbacks into the first age, but the writers are walking a tightrope when it comes to that material. This teaser trailer did what it was supposed to, it intrigued me and left me with tons more questions about what we might see next, and that is a very encouraging thought.
Watch TORn Tuesday today at 5pm PT, 8pm ET with special guest Joanna Robinson, the author of many of the articles that announced Amazon Prime’s The Rings of Power to the world.
Writer Joanna Robinson sure has been busy. Over on The Ringer (not actually a Tolkien site, believe it or not), she writes cogently on the commonalities and differences between the “Harfoots” we’ll see in Amazon’s The Rings of Power series, and the Hobbits we know rather better from The Lords of the Rings and The Hobbit.
She muses on how hobbits function as a crucial mediating influence into Tolkien’s milieu — and how that probably serves double for wider audiences outside core Tolkien fandom, a wider audience whose emotional attachment is mostly via Peter Jackson’s films.
And she explores the applicability of Hobbits to the WWI and WWII experiences of J.R.R. and Christopher Tolkien, and of the British folk in general.
Hobbits can be seen as the proxies for Tolkien’s children, but as with all things with the author, there’s also something much darker at play here. Tolkien abhorred any attempts to turn his Middle Earth books into simple allegories for the two world wars he lived and wrote through. Still it’s very hard not to see his hobbits as the “everyman” analogues for the pastoral Brits who were drawn into the horrors of the First World War and then the even greater terrors of WWII, as Tolkien and his sons were, respectively. In that way, Bilbo of The Hobbit—who is press-ganged into leaving his cozy hobbit hole by a wizard and a pack of dwarves—reminds us of the young J.R.R. Tolkien, who was so reluctant to go off to war at the tender age of 22 he used an academic deferral to delay enlisting.
In a 1941 letter to his son Michael, Tolkien recalled: “In those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly. It was a nasty cleft to be in for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage.” A few years later Tolkien did, reluctantly, go to war. He wrote: “Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute. Parting from my wife then … it was like a death.”
DON’T FORGET! 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!
This is High King Gil-galad, played by Benjamin Walker. In the teaser trailer, we see him standing on a stone platform – presumably in Lindon – golden leaves around his feet, staring up into the sky – presumably watching the meteor we saw soaring overhead.
It was clear this would be one of our Harfoots – but we didn’t know which one. She is Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot, played by Markella Kavenagh – who seems to be the narrator of the teaser trailer. Is there some significance to her dwarven style nickname? And a thought about that last name: etymology of ‘Brandywine’ can be from dutch ‘brandwijn’ or icelandic ‘brennevin’ – ‘burn (or distil) wine’; OR it can come from welsh name Branwen, ‘raven fair’. So here it could mean ‘raven foot’ (dark hairs on toes, presumably); or possibly ‘burn foot’ – perhaps foreshadowing the fiery pit she appears to walk into in the teaser trailer…?
Prime video are not giving us much to go on with this one – they call him The Stranger, played by Daniel Weyman. Is this the man we saw in the pit of fire, with one of the Harfoots reaching out to him? It is certainly his hand we see, holding a Harfoot hand, at the end of the trailer. Who is he? Annatar? One of the Istari? Some entirely new character…?
We hope you enjoyed our Official Trailer Watch Party last night – staff and guests went over five hours, poring over every detail of the trailer, wondering what it all might mean, and sharing our hopes and fears. We’ll bring you any more news as soon as we have it!
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…
In a recent interview with the BBC, Lenny Henry dishes on his Harfoot role in the billion-dollar TV series.
Today on BBC Radio, as part of a wide ranging interview about his career, he talked briefly about joining Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” series and might have spilled a bit more than anyone anticipated. Listen to the interview here and skip to 29 minutes for the relevant LOTR part: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0010fk3
TheOneRing.net was first to report on Lenny’s role, with the earliest rumors being someone of short stature (dwarf king? proto-hobbit?) which eventually landed on Harfoots, one of Tolkien’s three “tribes” of early halflings appearing in Middle-earth.
Lenny might have said a bit more than Amazon Studios would have liked, but core fans can appreciate everything he said in which many of the previous rumors are now validated, including potentially Galadriel’s leading role in the overall series:
“For the last two years I’ve been working on Lord Of The Rings and it’s an extraordinary thing, it’s the biggest television show that’s ever been made, in terms of money and head count. Literally, a hundred people on set glaring at you and trying to work out what you’ll look like four feet tall… I’m a Harfoot, because J.R.R. Tolkien, who was also from Birmingham, suddenly there were black hobbits, I’m a black hobbit, it’s brilliant, and what’s notable about this run of the books, its a prequel to the Age that we’ve seen in the films, its about the early days of the Shire and Tolkien’s environment, so we’re an indigenous population of Harfoots, we’re hobbits but we’re called Harfoots, we’re multi-cultural, we’re a tribe not a race, so we’re black, asian and brown, even Maori types within it. It’s a brand new set of adventures that seed some of the origins of different characters and it’s going to take at least ten years to tell the story. Because it’s based on “The Silmarillion” which was almost like a cheat-sheet for what happens next in this world in the Second and Third Ages. And the writers have a lot of fun in extrapolating it all out, and it’s going to be very exciting. There’s a very strong female presence in this, there’s going to be female heroes in this evocation of the story, there’s going to be little people as usual.”
– Lenny Henry, on BBC Radio
Sir Lenny Henry was one of the biggest casting announcements from Amazon as a respected comedian, author and thespian, creator of Red Nose Day and the Comedy Relief charity programs. Sir Lenny holds a doctorate in media representation and is an absolute icon of both the British stage and the world of comedy.
Bringing it back to J.R.R. Tolkien, Sir Lenny’s casting as a Harfoot aligns with the very brief descriptions of the antecedents of those halflings we met during The War of the Ring. Both Tolkiens (J.R.R. and Christopher) acknowledge that while Men & Elves kept records of history, those records were only related to people they encountered, opening the door to halflings or other folk staying “undiscovered” for centuries.
Quite literally; the Professor mentions in Appendix B: The Tale of Years for the Third Age Year 1050: “The Periannath are first mentioned in records, with the coming of the Harfoots to Eriador.” Which immediately begs the question of how many centuries the Harfoots were not mentioned in records, being overlooked by others who took it upon themselves to bother to record any history. To quote our earlier rumored report of Harfoots:
Middle-earth is lucky to have such a high-caliber performer joining the latest adaptation, and there is strong potential he could become a fan favorite in the show. Sir Lenny exactly the right person to expand our knowledge of halflings and bring to life the long (yet shrouded in mystery) history of Shire-folk.
What seems odd at first sight is the mention of “early days of the Shire” because what we learn from the Appendices in the back of ROTK is that King Argeleb II grants the land (that would later become the Shire) to the Periannath in 1601 of the Third Age. This is many thousands of years *after* the events of the Second Age, and the general area was unpopulated (considered the hunting grounds of the King). So it appears we can expect a greater probability of “time crunching” in the narrrative of this new show.
Maybe we should brace ourselves for all kinds of “time crunching.” Working within Tolkien’s given historical timeline is an important aspect of the terms of the deal with the Tolkien Estate: we shall see how fast and loose the Writer’s Room is going to play with the timeline.
It is also quite noteworthy that Sir Lenny spilled the beans about “The Silmarillion” being a source upon which “some” or even “much” of this streaming series is based. Without any other official statements from Amazon Studios on *exactly* what they have licened from, say, “Unfinished Tales” or “The Sil,” now we have it right out in the open. Confirmation keeps coming from various places that matches all those Instagram postings seen from various cast members last year, all of them showing off their copies of “The Silmarillion.” The two late chapters in that book are specifically centered on Second Age concerns; while most of it is quite obviously from the Age of the Lamps, the Trees, and the First Age. It seems Amazon Studios has, per the terms of their deal with The Tolkien Estate, legally licensed material from Tolkien books that have NEVER been licensed before.
It is indeed an unprecendeted time in Tolkien fandom; filled with surprises and much excitement. Small leaks and wild rumors abound – and they will become either quite real or utterly discarded right before our very eyes as we learn more each week.
Amazon Studios’ “The Lord of the Rings” Second Age series has been notoriously secretive during the 18-month production, but inside info is finally trickling out of the billion dollar series thanks to anonymous Spy Reports coming out of New Zealand. We have been able to verify most of today’s report as currently accurate per sources that are involved with the Production.
Most of these Spy Reports have come to us in short form bullet points, and are shared as such below [with additional context and editorial in brackets from Staff Writer and weekly host Clifford Broadway]. Our spy hotline is still the same after 21 years and our DM’s are open on twitter & instagram! To celebrate the hard-working artists and craftspeople working with such passion way down in New Zealand we shed light on their efforts and help include them in the embrace of fan enthusiasm. As with previous intrepid filmmakers tackling a version of Tolkien; the fandom fully indulges our unbridled curiosity with an open hand while shouting support from afar—a grand tradition of an engaged fandom.
Lore, Legal Rights & the Tolkien Estate
First off, we are hearing that the Tolkien Estate is very happy with how things are progressing. Seems they really are more involved in this Production than with any previous LOTR adaptation ever [including the Bakshi version in 1978 and the six Middle-earth films from Peter Jackson; per the terms of the newest deal] and are thus enjoying the creative process. The overall plan for the show has instilled confidence in the Production and more story rights have been assigned to the show.
*CONFIRMED* for the 1st time EVER: elements & passages from “The Silmarillion” and “Unfinished Tales” are licensed by Amazon Studios for this adaptation [we broadly speculate those are sections of the book relative to Númenor and Rings of Power including full rights to stories licensed in the Appendices of “The Lord of the Rings,” which already mention Númenor and much more. Actors had posted instagram pics from Silm over the last 18 months.]
Amazon DOES have merchandising rights
Three lore experts / Tolkien scholars were on set for a time during production
Tolkien Estate is said to be very happy with how things are progressing
Men, Elves and Dwarves have their own sequestered production units for the different Free Peoples [this intriguing bit rather suggests the narrative might be constructed across wide time jumps or told from pockets of different historical viewpoints, perhaps even an anthology approach rotating characters from the various Free Peoples all reacting to the same thing, or just not cooperating with each other in Season 1: but over what timelines we still do not know].
Scripts are only digitally shared among actors and crew under draconian control mechanisms to track any persons who could access them
There is a fake production team shooting decoy footage on fake sets unrelated to the real Production – [thus making some “reports of location sightings” false leads by tricksy hobbitses and we must admit this is very clever indeed! Peter Jackson never used decoys!]
Main unit wrapped shooting in April 2021; while many actors are back in the U.K. or are now on other productions
J.A. Bayona’s episodes are a standalone entry point to the series [like a feature film]
There are more incredible directors and big stars yet to be announced
LOTR & Wheel of Time are sharing crew & directors
They are aiming for a mid-2022 release [that is only one short year away and must mean the pressure on Post Production must be remarkable]
Men, Elves, Dwarves & “Early Halflings”
Welcome to the Second Age of the Middle-earth Cinematic Universe, full of corruption, wandering, and a lack of alliances.
Some Halflings are dark skin precursors to Shire-hobbits quite possibly “one of three somewhat different breeds” maybe Harfoots; [described by Tolkien in the Prologue to LOTR ‘Concerning Hobbits’ pg. 12: “they were browner of skin,” and also “they moved westward early,” alluding to a time in their Wandering Days, or perhaps earlier when they kept no records of their journeys over the Misty Mountains westward (which may explain a little of why any early antecedents of pre-Shire migration hobbits would appear here in the Second Age instead of Third Age narrative)]
Sir Lenny Henry portrays one such early halfling [Harfoot]
Celebrimbor the ringmaker has been recast
Tom Budge was in that role
Certain creatures are referred to as Ice Trolls because they can’t be called Cave Trolls (Warner Bros. licensing restriction)
Nudity is sparse and not sexualized— contrary to earlier concerns: but rather this artistic choice represents very dark thematic material suggestive of concentration camp-type visuals of victims, a harrowing portrayal of the corruption of the Elves by dark powers to ultimately become Orcs Editors note: if this plays out fully it will may well be one of the most ambitious things undertaken by this production and perhaps by anyone attempting to adapt Tolkien
Elves will have short/ shorter hairstyles [cue the Twitter threads, both pro and con, and the voting polls, and endless constellations of lovely fan art, so please bring it fans; I’m here for it]
Sauron/Annatar will not be revealed in Season One [going with the oldest axiom of show business “Always leave them wanting more.”]
Tune into #TORnTuesday as Quickbeam breaks down all these juicy spy reports in detail. Subscribe on YouTube! We still have a long way to go until Amazon’s LOTR TV show releases, so if you hear anything drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org