Yesterday Amazon Studios premiered their trailer for the Wheel of Time series that’s based on the fantasy novels of the late Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson). You can see it here if you haven’t already.

One notes that the series itself is slated to debut on November 19, 2021 — that’s roughly 10 weeks away.

That got me thinking, and I did a tiny bit of digging.

Turns out that Good Omens — also produced by Amazon Studios — had a roughly 10-week lead time from trailer to series debut.  The first full trailer for Good Omens debuted on March 6, 2019. The series debuted on Prime on May 31, 2019.

Given LOTR on Prime will debut on September 2, 2022, might we then expect a trailer no later than mid-June next year?

However, two data points is a slim thing to build a prediction upon, and I’m just wild-guessing here. (Emphasis and disclaimer: this is speculation based upon publicly available information, not a rumour).

But Amazon loves an algorithm and I feel this coincidence is waggling its eyebrows at me suggestively.

Maybe mark your calendar in pencil, but don’t bet the house.

Wheel of Time Key Art

Here’s a question. If you’re LOTR on Prime, and if your main series material is centered on the Second Age, why tease/lead with an image that show something from a vastly earlier period in the history of Tolkien’s world?

I’ve been pondering this a lot.

Unless LOTR on Prime has gone collectively mad, then there has to be a purpose — some link between that panorama, and the Second Age story that we know is coming.

So, let’s analyse that.

The location itself may offer a link.

Why? Because Númenor — much, much later — tries to invade Valinor. Problem is, that period of Númenor’s history has little to do with the dwarf-elf interactions we seem to be promised if spy reports are correct. So, it’s probably not Valinor itself that’s important, nor the Two Trees in themselves (sorry TREES! fans, I empathise).

That leaves the events that happen in Valinor, and the key protagonists in those events.

Events are — by and large — resolved by The War of Wrath. However, some of those protagonists remain and become involved in the new dramas of the Second Age in Middle-earth (and Númenor).

And I feel this could offer a clue to what’s going on.

Of the chief actors through the events of the Second Age, I can think of four (five, technically) who are also players in during the final Years of the Trees.

Sauron

The first is Sauron. But the link between Sauron and Valinor/The Two Trees is tenuous to non-existent. According to The Silmarillion, he rebelled much earlier and then spent much of Melkor’s imprisonment lurking in and around Angband. He doesn’t really feature strongly in First Age events until Beren and Lúthien’s quest.

Neither the trees — nor any of the events that occur around them — are useful to solidify the background of Sauron for the audience. If you wanted to use Sauron as a link, you’d need to begin somewhere else. For this reason I eliminate Sauron.

Galadriel and Celeborn

The next two come as a pair: Galadriel and Celeborn.

Here, it’s a twofold opportunity.

One, it’s a way to establish Galadriel’s prominence among the Noldor, and the strength of her ambition. Recall Galadriel’s role in the rebellion of the Noldor and their exile. Fëanor is instigator, but in the Silmarillion version she is also involved:

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, for she yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will.

Of the Flight of the Noldor, The Silmarillion.

My thinking is that portraying some of Galadriel’s early life in Valinor could be used as a way to support her desire and capacity to (at least to according one tradition outlined in Unfinished Tales) establish Eregion much later in the Second Age with the assistance of Celeborn.

It would also serve to underpin — whether through continued pride, or Ban (or both) — why she did not return to Valinor for so long. There’s vast amounts of drama to be wrung here should LOTR on Prime do it right. A sort of “How I became a massive troublemaker and learnt to love the Ban” sort of thing.

Galadriel is also LOTR on Prime’s most natural and relatable link to Peter Jackson’s movies: well-liked and well-remembered even among those who aren’t Lord of the Rings aficionados.

Celebrimbor

Next is Celebrimbor. To my surprise (for I wasn’t aware of it until very recently), Tolkien outlined that Celebrimbor was born in Valinor during the Years of the Trees, not in Beleriand during the First Age. That he subsequently followed his father, Curufin, into exile, while his mother remained behind, suggests to me that he was well into adulthood by the time of the Noldor’s rebellion against the Valar.

His identity as the grandson of Fëanor makes him a close witness to events in Valinor while his (presumably) growing talents as a smith and craftsmen can be contrasted against the immense skill of Fëanor (and Galadriel). In particular, Fëanor’s achievements with the Silmarils could be used as a dramatic spur for his own creations.

For Celebrimbor, Eregion is not so much a place to rule but a place where he can be free to create with the ultimate aim of someday surpassing the works of his grandfather. Celebrimbor is also a more natural tie for recent spy reports of dwarves and elves meeting. Unless it’s a very frosty meeting, that’s not very likely to be one involving Galadriel and Celeborn (even if Galadriel is not entirely unreceptive to dwarves).

Glorfindel

Glorfindel is the final option. Also an exile, also born in the Years of the Trees. Coincidentally, also blonde. As The Fellowship of the Ring describes it, “his hair was of shining gold”.

Moreover, Glorfindel returns to Middle-earth sometime during the Second Age to play a role in helping keep Sauron at bay after he forges the One Ring. Tolkien writes that this was probably sometime between SA1200 and SA1600 though, and I wonder whether even the first full season would get that far.

Any other elf is a poor fit.

Cirdan did not make the journey to Valinor. Gil-galad is too young — born near the end of the First Age in Beleriand. Elrond is in the same boat. And the rest of the chief Noldorin exiles either died in the long wars against Melkor, or returned to Valinor at the conclusion of the War of Wrath.

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Over on Twitter, Fellowship of the Fans (FOTF) has posted some new rumours about LOTR on Prime’s series that are sure to provoke head-scratching and even more rampant theorising about the composition of the initial two episodes.

Warning: these are, potentially, spoilers. If that’s important to you, what are you even doing here? Run away!

Photo by Stewart Cook/Variety/Shutterstock (5813163v) Robert Aramayo Discovery’s ‘Harley and the Davidsons’ Party, TCA Summer Press Tour, Day 5, Los Angeles, USA – 01 Aug 2016

According to Fellowship of the Fans’ sources:

  1. Actor Robert Aramayo was on the production’s dwarven sets and filmed scenes with the dwarves.
  2. Actor Owain Arthur plays an important dwarven character in the same scenes.
  3. The dwarves wear “amazing dragon/dragon scale armour”.
  4. The dwarven king is said to look strikingly similar to Tormund from the HBO Game of Thrones telly series.
  5. Scenes in the first two episodes will show dwarves climbing a mountain, or ravine, and there is an “underground pub set piece”.

You can read the full run-down here.

However, dwarven sets? Is this cold water being tipped over the Year of the Trees brigade? Regardless, the Valinor image still exists and it seems beyond belief that the production would lead with an image like that purely as fan catnip.

Keep in mind, this is not confirmed, while the Valinor image is most certainly official.

But it may be that that segment is shorter than we want to believe. Maybe it’s a short PJ-style prologue per Fellowship of the Rings. Because dwarves do not belong in Aman (unless it’s in Aulë’s workshop, or your name is Gimli), and the most natural place for dwarves and elves to be seen together is Eregion and Khazad-dûm, during the Second Age.

If it is Second age, the dwarven king is likely to be Durin III. Owain Arthur might be Narvi. Narvi most famously had a close friendship with Celebrimbor, but I wonder whether Celeborn might fit in there somewhere too.

Food for thought.

Anyone who tells you that they expected the first promotional image for the LOTR on Prime series to reveal an iconic panorama of Valinor — the land of angelic beings of Middle-earth — is either a liar or is inside the production.

Because I’m certain that there was nothing in previously teased material and maps that even hints at Valinor.

What’s more, this single image is as much of a statement as a certain someone recently flying to the very edge of space.

At first, you think: “Well, it’s another Middle-earth city. But, hey, it’s pretty cool.” You’re expecting, perhaps, Armenelos or Rómenna on the island of Númenór. After all, we know the series is supposed to encompass the rise and fall of the island kingdom and there does seem to be a glittering body of water even if it’s a bit small to be a bay, much less the ocean.

Then your eye is drawn inexorably to the background glow and it dawns that what you thought was merely the sun nearly (and neatly) conceals a pair of colossal trees.

And in an instant your whole worldview of the series just … changes.

Because, you know — if you’ve tried your hand at reading The Silmarillion or have delved into the pre-history of The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit — that these aren’t just any pair of trees.

It’s the Two Trees.

The tree of silver and the tree of gold that are the source of all light in Valinor. That provide the light for Fëanor’s Silmarils, and ultimately for the Phial of Galadriel. And whose destruction triggers a cascade of events that stretches all the way to the end of the Third Age.

If anything can be, this is the heart of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth mythmaking.

LOTR on Prime has enormous ambitions and it’s not afraid to declare as much.

It’s declaring that it’s here to challenge the Peter Jackson movies as the definitive visual depiction of Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

It’s declaring that it has the talent, technology and resources, and access to the necessary source material.

I think, above all, LOTR on Prime is declaring to Tolkien fans that it doesn’t want to be underestimated.

It’s declaring that it’s not simply making a Game of Thrones clone for the mass market.

And it’s declaring that they’re going to take us, the readers of Tolkien’s work, to places that we never thought would be possible in a film or a TV series.

Sure, we already knew some of that — intellectually. We knew we were promised 50-odd hours of telly over five seasons. And, we knew that the rights and production investment runs into hundreds of millions of dollars. But you just can’t /feel/ a series of numbers.

This, on the other hand… this is real. Real, tangible proof that we’re on a journey to somewhere special.

Strap in, kids, we’re about to blast off into space.

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.


Add these to your queue for a taste of the creative talent behind Amazon’s $1 Billion LOTR series

Amazon’s billion-dollar Lord of the Rings series is in production but fans want to know what to expect now that Peter Jackson isn’t crafting Middle-earth. Since many are in quarantine and looking for shows to watch, we have put together a comprehensive list of films & TV shows which the current LOTR production team have previously worked on to provide a sense of the talent behind the series. Many of the writers have worked on other book adaptations, sometimes with actors from Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth films!

Note: all watch suggestions are based on U.S. platforms, check your local region for each of these!

Penny Dreadful pilot S1E1 – S1E2

Watch on:
Showtime, Amazon Prime

LOTR Director JA Bayona directed the 2-episode pilot of Penny Dreadful, setting the tone for the entire series. He is currently filming the 2-episode pilot of LOTR.


A Monster Calls

Watch on:
Cinemax

Bayona directed this powerful fantasy drama of loss, despair, love and family – themes familiar to Tolkien’s Legendarium.


Hannibal S3

Watch on:
Amazon Prime

LOTR writer Helen Shang was deeply involved in crafting the Red Dragon storyline for NBC’s Hannibal series, featuring Richard Armitage (Thorin).