Amongst my earliest recollections of being introduced to Tolkien there remains one etched in my memory that I remember so clearly to this day. It was an evening in the fall of 2001. I was accustomed to step out at dusk to catch the sunset near a plumeria tree outside my house which would shed its leaves and yellow flowers around that time of year. I’d watch for the first of the stars to appear, and then head home.

I lived in a little city in India back then, and after a day at college, I was relaxing in my living room watching MTV, when the video for Enya’s “May It Be” happened to come on.

That evening after watching Enya’s video for the very first time, I was ponderous in a way I hadn’t really been before.

Perhaps it was the season, or the stage of life I was at. But something about the visuals, the words, the characters, had touched me, spoken to me; and it set me on a journey of discovery into the Lord of the Rings, Middle-earth, and Tolkien.

It’s been over 20 years now, and though I now live far from that home in a land where the stars are strange (to borrow a Ranger’s phrase) and a lifetime seems to have passed since those days, the music of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films has somehow managed to remain a constant companion through the seasons of my life.

Howard Shore’s score has always been, for me, the singular aspect of those films that contributed immensely in elevating the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.

So when it was announced that the score for Amazon’s The Rings of Power TV series would be scored by Bear McCreary, I was both apprehensive and excited.

My apprehension stemmed from having spent two decades associating Howard Shore’s music with the sound of Middle-earth – how could anyone surpass, or even match, the heights of that achievement?

And yet my excitement was hesitantly brewing, as I had recently watched Apple TV’s Foundation, fallen in love with the soundtrack, and discovered that it was scored by a composer named Bear McCreary. Only time would reveal whether Bear’s music for Middle-earth would move me in the same way Shore’s did 20 years ago.

And so finally last weekend, on a grey and rainy Spring evening in Australia, separated in time and space from the once young college boy who accidentally discovered Middle-earth, I settled in, this time willfully, and with a slight shiver running down my spine, to journey anew, back to that place of wonder.

PROLOGUE: GALADRIEL & FINROD, MORGOTH & SAURON

As the first strains of choral music play over the dark screen and a voice begins to speak, the mood feels aptly Tolkienesque, in an Elvish sort of way – ancient and fair – but also young and fresh, in a manner of speaking, as if the song were newly written, and being newly sung, within the world unfolding before me.

It coalesces in my mind when the Elf-children are revealed – this is the music of the Elves in their youth in Valinor, in a time when their world is still young, their children numerous, their happiness untainted.

The choral music gives way to a subtle thematic melody as a small girl crafts a boat and sets it upon a stream. The music rises delicately as the boat floats downstream, then slowly unfurls to take the shape of a swan, wings outspread, and begins to sail proudly upon the rippling water; before its course is interrupted by a stone pelted by one of the Elf-children.

As a tall, fair Elf comes over and lifts it up out of the water, the theme weaves its way back into the music. It segues from doubtfulness to hope as Finrod the Elf-lord converses with his little sister Galadriel under a tree in a verdant field of grass, counseling her regarding the nature of darkness and light. Then leaving her to ponder his words, he departs homeward; and the theme builds gloriously, reaching a crescendo in a chorus of Elven song as he mounts a hill and gazes upon the fair city of their home, Valinor, whose tall towers and rippling waterways lay bathed in the golden light of the Two Trees.

But soon another theme asserts itself – strident and dissonant. The Two Trees begin to darken as the shadow of the Great Foe, Morgoth, looms over them, and we witness their destruction and the consequent darkening of Valinor.

It made me wonder if this is what Morgoth’s theme might’ve sounded like woven amidst the Music of the Ainur. It is not immediately discordant, but rather rallying, and depending on one’s predisposition could very well induce a desire to ally oneself with it.

Now amid the darkness of their home, the Elf-lords unite to take an Oath in resistance of Morgoth’s evil, and leaving the land of Valinor behind, they sail in legion across the Sundering Seas to Middle-earth, and to war. The soaring music ushers their arrival in this land of untold perils, where battling for centuries against strange creatures beyond count, on land and high in the flaming skies, they witness the ruin of Middle-earth. Galadriel’s theme bears out a sombre tone as she treads the ashen, smoke-filled battleplains in the aftermath of war – laying in reverence the high-helm of a fallen Elf-lord upon a mound of countless others borne by those who fell in battle beside him.

As the Age rolls on, Morgoth’s theme comes to represent the evil that has spread across all Middle-earth. It is soon assumed by Sauron, his most devoted servant, and a choir intones in Black Speech as we see his armoured form in a forbidding Northern fortress commanding forces of Orcs that have multiplied and gathered under him.

We learn now that Finrod was killed in attempting to fulfil his vow to seek out Sauron, and once again, the Galadriel / Finrod theme plays out solemnly, as she weeps over his once-fair body now marred and lying in state.

A mysterious motif interrupts this moment as she looks upon a mark branded cruelly upon his breast. Her theme rises once again as she takes the dagger from Finrod’s hands and claims his vow as her own.

Despite his brief appearance, Finrod’s death felt extremely poignant, and I found I had a lump in my throat when he lay in state. It is clear to see why Galadriel assumed his task to hunt down the Enemy.

Galadriel’s theme now sweeps up dramatically as we are told how the Elves hunted for Sauron to the ends of the earth, over mountains and across seas, as year gave way to year, and century to century. And though for most Elves the pain of those days was all but forgotten, for Galadriel the fight against Sauron had become personal, and so she ever led her company on.

Now far in the Northernmost Waste, the Forodwaith of Middle-earth, menacing vocals sound out as she and her company descry the towers of an ancient fortress rising like black mountain-peaks amidst the frost and bitter snow. Then Sauron’s theme blares out as deep within a chamber they discover an enigmatic sigil – the same mark that once branded Finrod’s body – left here now as a trail for Orcs to follow. They had finally found a trace of Sauron.

RHOVANION: THE HARFOOTS, ELANOR ‘NORI’ BRANDYFOOT

We are now introduced to the Harfoots in the region of Rhovanion, the Wilderland of Middle-earth. They are a simple wandering folk, a little people living in closeness with the earth, never settled in one place but moving their dwellings with the passing of the seasons.

Their music is rustic and sylvan, almost nomadic, like it could precede what later becomes Howard Shore’s themes for the Hobbits and the Shire in their comfortable refinement.

There’s a separate theme for Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot, who along with her companion Poppy Proudfoot, and the other Harfoot younglings are thrilled in their perky-eyed cheekiness to find a blackberry bush. Delighting in simple pleasures seems to be an innate trait of the Little Folk since their beginnings.

Nori’s theme is appropriately lighthearted and sprightly, if tinged with hints of wonder and expectation of something larger than might exist just beyond their horizons. It grows pensive as she asks of her mother Marigold…

Haven’t you ever wondered what’s out there? How far the river flows or where the sparrows learn their new songs they sing in spring?

The music for the Harfoots too takes a poignant turn as Marigold, her deep brown eyes filled with kind understanding, reminds Nori of the simple truths that keep their kind safe.

Elves have forests to protect, Dwarves their mines, Men their fields of grain, even trees have to worry about the soil beneath their roots. But we Harfoots are free from the worries of the wide world. Nobody goes off trail and nobody walks alone. We have each other.

It is a tender moment of motherly wisdom imparted to a daughter, and a reminder that although the Harfoots may be simple, they are not unwise.

I found myself already loving the Harfoot characters, despite their fabrication for this series, and I think it is a testament to the cast, the writers, and everything else that went into making the Harfoots believable within this world.

ELROND

Elrond, the Herald of Gil-galad, is ushered in with strains that seem reminiscent of Howard Shore’s Rivendell theme, as he sits (Frodo-like) quite carefree on a tree-branch in a golden wood.

Here his theme seems to be in its inception still, yet in a reflection of his person, it soars briefly, bordering on aspirational, offering glimpses of greatness.

He greets Galadriel, now returned from her journeying, and as they look upon the tapestry of a ship sailing West to Valinor, a choral motif is briefly heard.

Then as he reflects upon the tapestry while conversing with Galadriel, he wonders aloud…

“I hear it’s said that when you cross over, you hear a song. One whose memory we all carry.”

… and the choir intones a lyric to a different melodic line.

We will later discover that this choral lyric is indeed the very song Elrond is talking about.

LINDON & GIL-GALAD

Now the choral music builds as Elrond, Galadriel, and many other Elves assemble in a court encircled by many golden-leaved trees deep in the heart of Lindon, summoned there by Gil-galad.

The high and lofty vocals might represent a motif not dissimilar to Elrond’s Rivendell theme in The Lord of the Rings; for in this Second Age, Gil-galad is the High King of the Elves in Middle-earth, and though their capital city is in Lindon in the North-west, his authority is acknowledged by all their companies even to the furthest Southern and Eastern lands.

It sounds out victoriously as he declares that their days of war are over – their days of peace now begun.

But now Galadriel’s theme softly presents itself as she kneels ceremoniously before Gil-galad and he lays a circlet upon her head, bestowing upon her and the other Elven heroes of her company the permission to leave his realm and board the ships, to return home once more to Valinor.

Later that night, while the Elves celebrate, Galadriel’s theme plays out in poignant tones as she regards the carven image of Finrod in a forest-glade and converses once again with Elrond about the choice before her – to accept the gift of Gil-galad and depart Middle-earth forever, forsaking her vow, or to refuse his gift and persevere in her search for Sauron.

A LEITMOTIF FOR VALINOR

A subtle rising choral piece plays when Gil-glad mentions the Blessed Realm.

It is the motif briefly heard earlier when Elrond looked upon the tapestry when he greeted Galadriel.

It is also the same melodic line which played at the beginning when we saw Galadriel with the other Elf-children in Valinor and we heard how…

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

THE SOUTHLANDS, BRONWYN & ARONDIR

The theme for the Southlands is bucolic but dismal, as the Men who live here seem to be a rather simple farming folk settled in villages, but it is said their ancestors once sided with Morgoth, and the Elves still distrust them for that treachery.

The theme is shared by the Elves too; for they have established their presence in these regions for decades in their duty to watch over these Men and their lands.

It ushers in two Elves, Arondir and Médhor, who arrive at the village of Tirharad and head to an inn seeking news.

Arondir steps out onto the inn’s backyard to meet a woman, Brownyn, standing there beside a well, and a tender new theme forms as she hands him a bottle containing seeds of alfirin, a flower which he once knew as a child, but whose petals she herself crushes to form a healing salve. The theme continues as she questions him regarding healers among their kind, and he in turn explains the nature of their wounds and the role of Elvish healers.

The theme for the Southlands returns once again as Arondir heads back with his companion Medhor to Ostirith, an Elvish outpost set high upon a cliff-face. Upon receiving news that Gil-galad has declared the days of war ended, and the Elf-watchers free to return home, Arondir looks morosely across the wide vales far below, the theme sounding ever more forlorn.

As Revion the Watchwarden joins him atop the tower and they regard the lush green fields under the golden sunlight, Arondir remarks about the change to this once-barren land, and the Southlands theme brims briefly with new hope; but it returns to grimness as Revion reminds him that although the land may have the changed, the people have not.

The theme for Bronwyn & Arondir returns as he considers their impending separation, and later reminds her that although he seems unable to articulate why he has returned to see her, he has already spoken it in every way but words.

Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of a man who has brought his sick cow to Bronwyn, and Sauron’s theme hints amid the music as they learn the cow has been poisoned from grazing near the neighbouring village of Hordern. The theme rises prominently as Arondir and Bronwyn set out urgently for Hordern.

While Bronwyn is away, her son Theo shows his friend Rowan a mysterious broken sword he had discovered in a nearby shed. It bears the enigmatic sigil of Sauron, and now it holds Theo’s gaze as he holds it up, seemingly alighting in fire as the choir erupts in Black Speech over Sauron’s theme.

Arriving on the borders of Hordern, the theme for Arondir and Bronwyn returns as they share a tender moment when he confesses that hers is the only kind touch he has known in all his days in that land. But dark clouds formed from a rising smoke remind them of their purpose in coming to Hordern, and Sauron’s theme rises in urgency as they run up a hill to look down upon the village all aflame.

CELEBRIMBOR & THE RINGS OF POWER

Meanwhile in Lindon, Elrond and Gil-galad discuss Galadriel’s decision to return to the West, and having passed beyond his sight, Elrond shares his doubts about convincing her to take ship.

But Gil-galad counsels him to look to his own future in Middle-earth now, and thereupon Celebrimbor joins them.

His first appearance is accompanied by a short, rather ominous choral line.

It is the same piece that played over the title card of the show “THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER” (S1E1 at 17:27).

Celebrimbor is of course the primary artificer of the Rings of Power – their threads are bound by this motif.

THE SONG OF THE ELVES

Away upon the Sundering Seas, Galadriel and the Elven heroes gather on deck and prepare in ceremony to pass into the Uttermost West.

The leitmotif for Valinor heralds their arrival to the confines of the Blessed Realm. The choir begins to intone as the dark and forbidding clouds part, permitting the golden light of Valinor to shine forth, and a phalanx of white birds flies out to greet them.

Gazing in wonder at the ever widening cloud-wrack and the light of Valinor blazing forth ever brighter, the Elves in unison begin chanting a verse, almost as if the memory of a song long-forgotten were suddenly wakened fully in them.

It is the choral piece we heard when Elrond conversed with Galadriel by the tapestry in Lindon.

But while the accompanying Elves sing it and begin moving forward to enter into the light, Galadriel remains silent, filled with doubt about her choice to leave Middle-earth, and steps slowly back. Thondir’s call to take his hand grows distant.

The music rises and she recalls her discourse with Finrod when as a child she had questioned him about discerning which lights she must follow – the ones shining in the sky or those reflected as brightly in the dark waters below.

The Galadriel / Finrod theme rises profoundly as she remembers his counsel:

Sometimes we cannot know until we have touched the darkness.

Perceiving now his words and comprehending her choice, she turns away from the light, a tear escapes her, and she leaps from the ship.

The clouds close in again to shut out the light, darkness engulfs the waters, and all music is silenced.

THE STRANGER

Above the lands in Middle-earth the skies have grown strange. The music grows portentous and a queer motif begins to take shape. From Lindon and Eregion in the North, to Rhovanion and as far as the Southlands, Elves, Men, and Harfoots gaze in bewilderment as a star seemingly in flight streaks across the firmament leaving a blazing trail in its wake. The wind picks up and the trees too herd their young nearer to safety.

Gil-galad picks up a leaf that falls before him and regards it questioningly. The motif builds as he turns it over and sees a darkness spreading across its veins. Sauron’s theme interleaves with this new motif.

Away in Rhovanion, Nori approaches the crater where she descried the mysterious heavenly body crashing in an explosion of flame. Sauron’s theme segues into the new theme and the choir erupts as she looks down into the crater in amazement to see a man lying curled up at its center.

I find it interesting how the themes for the Stranger and Sauron seem intertwined. I don’t necessarily think it suggests the Stranger and Sauron are the same person or that they are allied – the Stranger could be one of the protagonists sent to contend with Sauron – but it certainly seems to hint that there is a close connection between them.

WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE

The music for the end credits is strangely ominous, the choir transitioning from deep male guttural voices to high female vocals, culminating on a seemingly unresolved note.

If I may say so, the credits sequence quite gave me Gollum’s Song vibes, and felt very reminiscent of the end credits of The Two Towers, which itself had a powerfully ominous ending complemented by Emiliana Torrini’s haunting vocals.

CONCLUDING NOTES

I am the type of person who likes my first experience of a soundtrack to be within the context for which it was written, and I am refraining from listening to any music until I watch the show. My thoughts here are therefore based on first watching the episode, and then subsequently listening to its accompanying score (Amazon is releasing definitive albums for each episode after their respective airdates; here is the album for Season 1: Episode 1: A Shadow of the Past).

After having watched Episode 1, I feel I can lay aside my apprehensions about Bear’s association with the music for Middle-earth. I was afraid it might’ve sounded like any other “epic” movie music (which my ears have become a little more aware of in things I’ve watched ever since discovering the music of The Lord of the Rings films); but I am so ecstatic that Bear’s score feels uniquely organic to Middle-earth, and evocative of it.

While it is different from Shore’s, it still feels complementary to it, and in the words of Bilbo Baggins, I sheepishly venture to admit that “I think I am quite ready for another adventure”.

About the author

I have been associated with TheOneRing.net since the early 2000s. I consider myself a casual fan of Tolkien, Peter Jackson’s films, and Howard Shore’s scores. I am not a writer or musician, but I enjoy pondering over and talking about the music and songs of these adaptations in my own amateur way; and describing how they make me feel. I am more interested in the thematic and evocative nature of this music than in the analysis of its structure and composition.

Related Content

Here are some interviews I have conducted in the past with vocalists from The Lord of the Rings films.

  • Plan 9 & David Long – Composed and performed diegetic music for Frodo’s “chicken dance” at Bilbo’s Birthday party, Merry and Pippin’s Drinking Song at the Green Dragon Inn, “A Elbereth Gilthoniel” which Frodo and Sam hear when watching the Wood-elves leave Middle-earth, and Éowyn’s Dirge at the burial of Théodred.
  • Miriam Stockley – Performed “The Footsteps Of Doom” in The Fellowship of the Ring.
  • Hilary Summers – Performed “Gilraen’s Song” in The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition).
  • Aivale Cole (nee Mabel Faletolu) – Performed vocals when the Fellowship mourn Gandalf’s fall in The Fellowship of the Ring.
  • Sheila Chandra – Performed “The Breath Of Life“, alternatively titled “The Grace Of The Valar“, in The Two Towers.

TheOneRing.net wrapped up San Diego Comic-con with a panel focused on the Second Age of Middle-earth. The panelists wove insights with skill and knowledge into a flowing tapestry to rival those in the halls of Menegroth.

Held in Room 6A of the Convention Center, the panel was moderated by Justin Sewell, host/producer TORn Tuesdays (YouTube), the panel included Matt, host of Nerd of the Rings (YouTube); Anna María, actor and activist (@onlyannamaria/Twitter); Willie Jenkins aka KnewBettaDoBetta (TikTok); Clifford Broadway, writer, actor, host TORn Tuesdays; and Dr. Corey Olsen, founder of SignumUniversity (@TolkienProf).

Justin, Matt, Anna María, Willie, Cliff, Corey

First discussed was how important maps are to the Tolkien Universe. Willie advised that if you have trouble understanding Tolkien’s work, start with the maps; by studying them, you’ll have an easier time understanding the texts. Corey pointed out that Númenor is so far south on the map, it would be a sub-tropical climate. Anna María explained that Tolkien’s legendarium centers around movement.

The veracity of this point hit home for me. From the time of the birth of the Elves in Cuiviénen, the peoples of Middle-earth are always on the move. When the Elves migrate to Valinor, many were sundered from the larger group along the way forming the different branches of the Elves. The Noldor’s return to Middle-earth had devastating consequences on the people and the land, and this backwards migration formed the various Elvish kingdoms that were scattered throughout Beleriand, the remnants of which formed the population of ME in the Third Age. A Third Age example is when the Rohirrim (then called the Éothéod) living in the northern Vales of Anduin were granted Calenardhon, which became Rohan, for helping Gondor in its time of need. And of course, the story of the Lord of the Rings revolves around the Fellowship’s journey throughout the lands of the Third Age. Much like the world we live in, it is the movement of people that tells the tale of history.

Amazon Prime Video map of Middle-earth in the Second Age

The panel moved on to talk about the Silmarils and the Oath that Fëanor and his seven sons took to recover the gems and how the consequences of those actions impacted all the events that came after, all the way down to the Third Age. Dr. Olsen made the point that the fallout from these events caused the surviving Elves to be predisposed to making the Rings of Power as a means to protect their realms.

Next discussed was which materials Amazon has the rights to develop in the series. The panel drew the conclusion that with Simon Tolkien consulting on the series, nothing is off-limits because the show runners can go to the estate and ask permission if they feel they need to include material that is not in the Appendices.

The Two Trees of Valinor – Laurelin and Telperion

Justin asked the panelists what they wanted to most see in the 50-hour series. Responses included:

• The War between Sauron and the Elves
• The Creation of the Rings
• The War of the Last Alliance: “There is so much more to that battle and that war than we saw [in the Peter Jackson’s films.]” –Matt
• The Gradual fall of Númenor: “The theme of the inevitability of lovely things that fade…I’m excited to watch the struggle of Númenóreans over time becoming more and more resentful of their mortality. Of longing for the gift of the Elves’ agelessness…Of having the relief of death twisted by Morgoth.”
–Anna María

Ents!?!

Cliff pointed out how The Second Age is about loss. The Númenórean story is the story of Atlantis with Númenor renamed Atalantë (the downfallen) after it’s fall. He talked about how the Ents in the trailer remind us that Tolkien had ecological interests and suggested that the Ents and Entwives must come into conflict with the Númenóreans because of the island-dwellers’ need for wood to build ships. He said his spirit might break if by the end of season five the Ents have lost the Entwives, but that this could narratively connect with events in the Third Age.

Dr. Corey Olsen

As a fan, Dr. Corey Olsen was reassured by the show runners: “The primary theme of this show is hope. That there is a lot of darkness, there is going to be a lot of grimness in this because Tolkien does not shy away from that, but at the end of the day it is always about hope. Patrick McKay said that the scene with Sam looking up at the star in Mordor was his favorite scene in the Lord of the Rings, I said ‘he’s our people.’”

Matt was hopeful that all the John Howe’s drawings for the show (48 full sketchbooks) might end up in book form on our bookshelves.

Anna María and Willie

Willie was excited about seeing Khazad-dûm and Eregion at its height, and Cliff pointed out that this was a time of cooperation between Elves and Dwarves, unlike in the Third Age. Anna Maria reminded us that the Second Age is actually a post apocalyptic setting.

The discussion moved on to how Tolkien is inclusive and for everybody. The author was opposed to racism in all forms as attested to in many of his writings and letters. Justin asked for us to all keep an open mind and an open heart going into the show, while Matt said he’s just excited to escape to Middle-earth.

Throughout, the audience was enraptured, but proof of the lasting impact of the event is that the panelists have stories about audience members coming up to them after the panel and thanking them for bringing things to light about their favorite characters.

Isildur from the “Rings of Power” trailer

For instance, Anna Maria, Corey and Willie spoke about Isildur and how we only know him from the Peter Jackson LotR prologue where we see him refusing to throw the One Ring into the Cracks of Doom. From this scene, many people took away that Isildur was a fool, if not a villain. But we were assured that Isildur was a hero, one of the Faithful who risked his life to save the White Tree. He was one of the founders of Gondor, a great and wise ruler, and we shouldn’t judge him on his one mistake because there was no one in Middle-earth who could resist the power of the One Ring and throw it in the fire. Certainly not Frodo. Even Galadriel and Gandalf were both afraid to touch it, knowing it would corrupt them.

From the audience reaction, I’d say that everyone’s curiosity about the Second Age has been piqued, and that most people are excited to find out how Amazon Prime Video will handle this less well-known period in Middle-earth’s history.

For more analysis, check out TORn Tuesdays every Tuesday a 8pm ET/5pm PT. https://www.youtube.com/c/TheOneRingNet/videos

In an exclusive report by Devan Coggan, Entertainment Weekly confirms the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher’s oldest child Simon, as a consultant on AP’s Rings of Power series.

In his very own words to EW: “I have enjoyed assisting Amazon Studios in connection with the series, and in particular providing input to JD Payne and Patrick McKay on matters including my grandfather’s original writing.”

Showrunner Patrick McKay had this to say about Tolkien’s influence on their work: “His insights, attention to detail and passion for both the characters and the overall architecture of The Rings of Power are woven throughout the pages of our story.

Check it out here, and click here for the Comic Con edition.

Editorial comment: Insert <mindblown> emoji!!

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”

As September 2nd draws ever closer, we’re seeing more and more glimpses of what is in store in Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Most fans will already have seen the amazing images, and read the interviews, from the latest edition of EMPIRE magazine – including artist John Howe’s incredible snow troll sketch, which features on the cover of the special subscriber’s edition.

Back in early May, when staffers Justin and greendragon were invited by Amazon to join a group in London, to see footage from The Rings of Power and to talk with showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay, John Howe was also part of the gathering. There were gasps of delight from many in the audience when he was introduced; all were thrilled to have a chance to talk with such a legend. It was also reassuring to hear, from his own mouth, that Howe is actively involved in the design and creation of this new Middle-earth adaptation.

That same day, Prime Video also treated us to a closer look at three costumes from the show. Stay tuned for more from greendragon on what we saw and heard that day; we’ll also share posts from other sites, YouTubers, tiktokers and fans who were there. To start us off, here are Justin’s reflections:

[Continuing the high levels of secrecy around this show, there were no phones or recording devices allowed; therefore all quotations are paraphrased from notes & recollections.]

As the lights came up from the very first sneak peek at The Rings of Power footage (some of which we expect in the first proper trailer releasing at SDCC) the nervousness in the air was thick; not only from the thirty or so fans assembled, but also from showrunners Payne and McKay. Will we like them? Are they two of us?

“We were with you all refreshing TheOneRing.net every day for the latest news on Peter Jackson’s films!” McKay told us. These lifelong fans, Ivy League Yale educated, committed to their church, might be closer in disposition to JRR Tolkien than any filmmaker that has come before. They study every book, revision, note, letter, and interview Tolkien ever shared, to understand his motivations and inspirations. It is this thorough knowledge of the context of Tolkien that has inspired confidence from so many Tolkien influencers.

As the showrunners wrapped up the open-ended Q&A, the biggest surprise of the London trip occurred – artist John Howe walked out with a sketchbook in hand. He explained how he got involved, how much work has been put toward The Rings of Power, and took questions from an awestruck group of scholars, fans and podcasters.

“They just kept asking me to sketch things they were considering. There are 40 sketchbooks full of drawings for this show.” Howe then opened up his sketchbook to the original drawing of the ice troll. I find it very curious that our very first leak from the ROP set were photos of an icy mountain set, then leaks of a snow troll (instead of a cave troll), which carried through to the Super Bowl teaser featuring the troll, and now John Howe’s sketch. Did Amazon leak the icy set pics in the first place, as part of a long marketing game? Or is Prime Video responding to uncontrollable leaks and only revealing what’s already been hinted at? Howe did not turn the page to show any more drawings.

When asked how he keeps this new work separate from the award winning (and trademark protected) work with Peter Jackson, John Howe responded with incredible awareness and insight. “We are all professionals here in the room. You all understand running your business. Whether I’m designing for movies, or book covers, or a streaming show, there are creative briefs to respond to. But the people in charge also know what they are getting from all my previous work.” Howe went on to explain that the true creative separation from Jackson’s films is actually INSPIRATION in the new locations this show visits. “We’ve never seen the oceanic areas of Middle-earth, and it is incredibly exciting for me to discover the great seas and areas that haven’t been explored. That is the true departure from what has come before.”

While John Howe had a plane to catch, showrunners Payne and McKay hung around with fans for some social conversations in the lobby, where three actual costumes were on display. The two guys held their own in deep lore conversations with several Ph.D.s, such as ‘The Tolkien Professor’ Corey Olsen and Dr. Una McCormack. At any fan event full of world-leading-expert-podcasters, there is a tendency to weed out inauthentic creators with deep lore questions. Again, Payne and McKay held their own. There is a reason the reaction a few weeks ago was unanimously supportive of the showrunners: they know their Tolkien, and they know the lore.

The Rings of Power showrunner Patrick McKay suddenly confronted me in the lobby, as his conversation circle moved to catch up. Matt (Nerd of the Rings) was shocked at some of the things we talked about – secret things I’m still hesitant to reveal. McKay wanted to know how I felt about the footage. He was extremely interested in my honest opinion. He cares what we think, what our response is to the hard-earned work over the last three years, if we feel he’s doing right by Tolkien and by fans. My direct response was the footage “looked like it should”, as I wrote a few weeks ago. It wasn’t the overwhelming enthusiasm I think he wanted, but that’s the legacy this entire show is up against: the most awarded films in entertainment history make for a high bar set by New Line Cinema.

To close, here’s one exclusive comment I will share today: McKay was adamant that this sword (below) is NOT Narsil, despite our early spy reports from people who have laid eyes on scenes featuring this sword. We will find out what’s true September 2nd; but I can’t help but remember how adamant JJ Abrams was that Cumberbatch was NOT Kahn. The only job these showrunners had in Hollywood was working for JJ Abrams, before landing this dream gig in Middle-earth… 

Become a Numenorean and sail to Middle-earth with us

After a successful Cruise to Middle-earth in November of 2008, and a sequel cruise in December 2012, it is time to complete the Trilogy. This Journey to Middle earth starts on January 2, 2023, in Sydney, Australia as you board the Celebrity Eclipse, and runs 12 nights long, ending in Auckland, New Zealand on January 14, 2023.  This is not a LOTR convention at Sea, but more of a Mobile Middle-earth Moot where we get to see the real-world Middle-earth while enjoying the benefits of a luxurious cruise ship.

The Celebrity Eclipse comes with a 1/2 acre of live grass called the Lawn Club

This 12-night cruise will take you to such filming locations as Hobbiton and Edoras, with the option to visit the WETA Workshop in Wellington on a private tour. Other ports visited will be Melbourne, Dunedin, and the Bay of Islands. And for those choosing to arrive in Sydney a few days early, you will be able to celebrate the New Year’s Celebration near the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge for fireworks (not included, but I can assist in securing a hotel and flights).

Departs Sydney on January 2, 2023 and ends in Auckland on January 14, 2023

Once the cruise is finished, there will be an optional 2-night post-cruise stay in Auckland so that we can experience WETA Unleashed, and have a farewell dinner in the restaurant at the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland, and have a private tour and dinner in Hobbiton. This allows folks to choose a Cultural or Geological tour option in the port of Tauranga (Rotorua) rather than Hobbiton from the ship, which will be rather short and bunched together with other cruise passengers that might not be as geeky as those in our group. If you choose this post-cruise tour, there will be an additional cost, and you will need to remain in New Zealand at least until January 16, 2023.

Garfeimao and Bella in front of Bagend in 2018

If you choose to arrive on the morning of the cruise, you will have to depart North America on December 31, 2022, to arrive by January 2, 2023, or you can depart earlier and spend a couple of days in Sydney. If you wish to be in Sydney for the actual New Year’s celebration, you will want to depart North America no later than December 29 for a December 31 arrival. For those interested parties in Europe or Down Under, the time difference will affect you differently.

I am arranging an exclusive day tour to visit with WETA in Wellington for us when the ship is in port, which will include a private workshop. There will be a motorcoach to pick us up just outside the port area in the morning and take us over to Miramar to tour the facility, taking in not just LOTR projects, but some of the many other film projects WETA has worked on over the years. This will be topped off with a hands-on workshop on crafting leather and chain maille armor before the motorcoach will take us back to the city center for a self-guided tour inside the Te Papa Museum. You will not want to miss Te Papa, besides it being a world-class museum, there is a Gallipoli exhibit created by WETA that must be seen to believe, and the museum is free. We will then make our own way back to the ship before it departs.  This tour can be purchased as a customized package not included in the cruise fare. A quote will be available shortly.  

The original 2008 Cruise to Middle-earth group, the 5-year-old in the center just finished his first year of college.

On the ship, there will be a few days at sea, with no port stops, so I’ll be planning a few group activities that you can choose to join or not, depending on whether you would prefer to go to the spa or partake in other Ship Hosted activities. There will be a Tolkien Toast on January 3, 2023, to commemorate the Professor’s birthday, and then there will be a few games and group discussions, and maybe singing along to some of Tolkien’s songs found in the books. And this cruise takes place just a couple of months after the Rings of Power airs, so lots to discuss and maybe an additional location or two to be seen. For those of you with Middle-earth costumes, feel free to bring them, especially if they are on the lighter side, for packing purposes. There will be a Costumed Cocktail reception, and for those without costumes, a geeky t-shirt will suffice. The bonus is that you can also wear the costume either in Edoras or Hobbiton or bring two costumes and do both.

Other cruises thought our group were performers and wanted to follow us to our show

The nitty-gritty information for this group is that it has been on sale for several months, so some room types are no longer available. The Cruise pricing fluctuates regularly, based on available discounts for persons who qualify (past passenger, Senior or military rate, etc.) and just what rooms are still open for booking. An interior room right now is starting at $2179 per person, a Balcony room starts at $2429 per person and a Concierge Balcony (more perks) starts at $2869 per person. The private tour to WETA during the ship’s port stop in Wellington will have its own price, to be finalized very soon, and the customized 2-night post-cruise tour in Auckland to Hobbiton and other activities is currently priced at $1170 per person, but that will go down with a few more people booked into the group. There is a small planning fee of $50 per person if booked by May 31, and then it goes up to $100 per person on June 1.

To make an inquiry, please contact me at Garfeimao@TheOneRing.net