Empire’s forthcoming “Summer Preview” issue is set to include an interview with John Howe about his role as concept artist for Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV series.

They’ve posted an enticing preview snippet of Howe sharing his thoughts about we ought to expect from the series in which he empahsises just how different Second Age Middle-earth is from the Third Age world that many are more familiar with.

“This isn’t the Middle-earth you remember,” he says.

“This is a world that’s very vibrant. The elves are not hidden away in Mirkwood or lingering in Rivendell. They’re busy constructing kingdoms. The dwarven kingdom of Moria is not an abandoned mine and the Grey Havens is not yet an abandoned city. I loved having the opportunity to explore that unseen history.”

He also talks about how this story is also taking to the seas.

“We’re finally sailing on the oceans of Middle-earth,” teases Howe, promising a set of sea-faring elves. “They’re daunting and enterprising and are almost colonising the world. They were a lot of fun to imagine. It’s something neither Lord Of The Rings nor Hobbit movies went anywhere near.”

Empire’s Summer Preview issue is on sale from Thursday, May 12.

Rings of Power Numenor

Last week, staffers greendragon (writing here) and Justin from TORn were delighted to join a merry band, invited by Amazon to a The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power sneak peek event. The group, made up of YouTubers, TikTokkers, podcasters and more from across the Tolkien fandom, enjoyed a day in Oxford, walking in the footsteps of the Professor. They were then treated to a viewing of footage from Season One of the show, complete with music and visual effects. This was all topped off with a chance to meet the showrunners, and hear some of their insight into the show they are bringing to life.

Pinned to a noticeboard is a map of Merton College, Oxford.
Visiting Tolkien’s old haunts

It was wonderful to see some finished footage; and even more wonderful to hear the enthusiasm and passion of the two folks in charge. There will no doubt be many varied opinions on the details of The Rings of Power when finally we all get to watch it this Fall; but anyone who hears the showrunners speak could not doubt their respect for the writings of Tolkien, their in-depth knowledge of the legendarium, and their desire to do justice to the Middle-earth we all know and love. It seemed like everyone in attendance was impressed and excited by what they heard. Alas, we can’t share any details right now – but we can tell you there are wonders being crafted, to bring to the small screen this September and beyond. And we hope you’ll find that an encouraging thought. 

Read on for Justin’s thoughts on the experience:

A group of lucky folks, invited to London by Amazon, gathered in the Crown and Anchor pub for a TORn hosted party. Here we see them all, drinks in hand!
TORn hosted a party to end the trip in style; at The Crown and Anchor, London
Continue reading “The Vibes of Power: Amazon shares exciting Rings of Power insight”

Theo, played by Tyroe Muhafidin, has joined the list of characters now confirmed as denizens of the Second Age of Middle-earth in Prime Video’s upcoming Rings of Power series. Living with his mother, Bronwyn, in the village of Tirharad, we still know little about Theo’s story or character. We do know, though, that whatever is to come will be entwined with one of the more menacing weapons that Amazon has also revealed: a broken sword and possible family heirloom.

Tyroe Muhafidin as Theo. Credit: Ben Rothstein, Amazon Prime Video

We have seen this sword before, revealed in a series of hands-centric posters that Prime Video released in February. We are still left to speculate about the origin and nature of this broken heirloom – possibly marked by Black Speech – and how Theo and his mother come to possess it. Could this have been crafted by Sauron/Annatar during his seductive stay on Númenor? A remnant of a past migration of Black Númenoreans as they colonized Haradwaith to the south of Gondor? A family heirloom from an absent father, now consumed by a piece of jewelry more powerful than he bargained for?

Credit: Amazon Prime Video

With Theo’s arrival, we are beginning to see some facets of a fuller family in this branch of the storyline that the Rings of Power writers have been crafting. Bronwyn, played by Nazanin Boniadi, is a single mother and village healer, living in apparently rustic conditions with her son well to the south of more familiar Lord of the Rings landscapes. But we know there must be more, even without that broken sword. Bronwyn has a romantic connection with the Sylvan Elf Arondir, played by Ismael Cruz Córdova. (How does Theo feel about that?) And now we also know that Nazanin Boniadi can strike a classic “New Zealand is Middle-earth” pose with the best of our Second Age heroines.

Nazanin Boniadi as Bronwyn. Credit: Ben Rothstein, Amazon Prime Video

And again, we’re left with more questions than answers. Where is Bronwyn headed? Does her regal robe reveal that “village healer” is only a part of her story? Can we get some GPS coordinates for this shooting location? How many cosplay homages will this photo inspire?

Tyroe Muhafidin is a 16-year old Australian actor who has appeared in an array of short films and television series, including Dusk (2018) and Caravan (2019). This will be his first appearance in a major role.

Tyroe Muhafidin

Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. The series will launch on September 2, 2022.

In a spy report for the ages, we’re excited to reveal Amazon is already planning an animated spin off from their Rings of Power series.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS (1978)

Anticipating the success of the show, premiering September 2nd on Prime Video, the creative team at Amazon are working on a children’s cartoon series. Here’s what our inside source told us:

The inspiration for the show came from the opening of The Hobbit, when Bilbo first encounters Gandalf. He remarks that the wizard ‘was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures. Anything from climbing trees to visiting Elves ­ or sailing in ships, sailing to other shores!’ We thought it would be great to hear the stories of the other Hobbits, who had been on adventures with Gandalf in the past.

With this new series, we’re hoping to make ‘Saturday Morning Cartoons’ exciting, educational and fun again, with wholesome entertainment that is both silly, yet meaningful for the whole family. We’re delighted that Sir Lenny Henry, an actor with a well-known pedigree in comedy and family entertainment, has agreed to voice one of the main characters of the show. With such a distinguished performer already on board, we’re hoping to persuade Sir Ian McKellen to voice Gandalf for us. You really can’t have Gandalf without Sir Ian.

There hasn’t been a final title decision yet. ‘Adventure Hobbits’ was our first thought, but because The Rings of Power is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, we’re featuring Harfoots in that series. So then we wanted to go with ‘Adventure Harfoots’; but of course the Istari didn’t arrive in Middle-earth until early in the Third Age – so can we blur the lines and have Gandalf and Harfoots together? Then of course there is the additional dilemma about whether it should be ‘Adventure Harfoots’ or ‘Adventure Harfeet’… It’s still a work in progress.

Here at TORn we’re speculating that Amazon may also have wanted to create something to go up against Warner Bros.’ animated Middle-earth tale, The War of the Rohirrim, which is slated for release in April 2024. Now Amazon will have their own animated adventure from Arda. There hasn’t been a cartoon Hobbit since the days of the Rankin/Bass movies; we can’t wait to see the first images from this upcoming show.

Bilbo as he appeared in the Rankin/Bass ‘The Hobbit’ animated film (1977)

Staff from TheOneRing.net will be at Wondercon this weekend in Anaheim and this project is one of many we will be discussing in our Middle-earth! Coming to your TV this Fall presentation. Look for us tonight in room North 200A at 4:30 pm, tickets are still available online and at the door. 

According to Variety, Amazon has finally completed its $8.5 billion acquisition of MGM.

It was MGM’s precarious financial situation in the mid-2000s that delayed The Hobbit film series and contributed to the departure of Guillermo Del Toro from the production. Peter Jackson subsequently assumed the directorial role.

Amazon says it’s acquisition of “the storied, nearly century-old studio … will complement Prime Video and Amazon Studios’ work in delivering a diverse offering of entertainment choices to customers.”

Variety reports that the buy followed merger approval by the European antitrust regulator. That body’s review decided that overlaps between Amazon and MGM were “limited”.

Readers may recall that the Saul Zaentz Co. also recently announced the sale of its entire holding of Middle-earth IP, and that there is an ongoing legal stoush over whether Warner Bros./New Line Cinema still retains its LOTR/Hobbit film adaptations license. Given the above, it’s not impossible (though the chance is, perhaps, remote) that Amazon could eventually unite all the currently available Middle-earth film and television IP under its own banner.

MGM logo

You’ve probably noted that in the various promo imagery we’ve seen, Galadriel bears a star-shaped emblem. It’s most prominent on her breastplate, but in the teaser trailer we also see the device used as shoulder pins.

The device that Galadriel bears upon her plate armour (left), and on either shoulders in the teaser trailer.

Is it some sort of heraldic device? If so, is it meant to be a personal device? Is it one for elves in general? Specifically for Noldorin elves? Or a particular branch of Noldor?

Let’s examine.

As I noted in my analysis of the Rings of Power Sun Sword poster, Tolkien developed a codified system of heraldic devices — examples of which can be found on the covers of the first UK edition of the Silmarillion. Many key characters involved in events of the First Age have their own associated device that they — and those of their house — employed.

Galadriel is not among those, though. We have no Galadriel device for direct comparison. Instead we must look at those of her near — and far — relatives.

Tolkien’s elven heraldry. Redrawn by Elenyanar and arranged by FromMidworld.

Finarfin’s eight-rayed lozenge-shaped device (see above middle-left) offers a lot of similarity. However, the rays do not taper in the same way as the devices Galadriel bears in The Rings of Power material. That being said, there is an intriguing note that “this device was also used by Finarfin’s heirs, and apparently especially Finrod (though he was also given another device).”

This becomes more curious since in The Rings of Power teaser trailer we see Finrod wearing the exact same device as Galadriel in a scene where he and other elves battle desperately against a host of orcs. Could this device be a House of Finarfin thing?

Well, we also see in the same scene that some of Finrod’s equally embattled retinue sport the self-same device. Now, one might observe that folk of Finrod’s own house might bear the same device. Absolutely, they might.

Both Finrod and his embattled retinue bear the same sigil on their armour in the flash scene we see near the end of the first teaser trailer. I’ve brightened this screenshot to make the sigils more visible.

The same device is also present on the shoulder of the as-yet-unidentified fellow caught up in an unfortunate encounter with some kind of troll in the Amazon teaser trailer. Is that another member of Finarfin’s house? Could it be Angrod, or Aegnor? As yet, we don’t know for sure.

This unknown person — clad in a similar maille outfit as Galadriel in the teaser trailer — bears the same symbol pinned on the shoulder in the exact same position. Again, this image is slightly brightened for better visibility although it’s tricky to get a crisp focus.

One also observes the exact same device on the waist of the attire of an individual dressed in gold on one of the The Rings of Power teaser posters and in the teaser trailer. We believe this individual to be Gil-galad.

Now, Gil-galad is not of Finarfin’s house; he wouldn’t wear Finarfin’s device. In fact, Tolkien gives Gil-galad his very own device — one of white stars set on a blue field (or sky). This seems to be a strong argument against any conclusion that it’s Finarfin’s device. It seems we must search elsewhere for better answers.

UPDATE: please check the bootnote at the end for an addendum on Gil-galad’s parentage.

Gil-galad bears the exact same symbol at the waist of his attire in both teaser poster, and teaser trailer.

Arguably, Eärendil’s sign might be something they could all unite under — if it matched. The Silmarillion recounts how he become a symbol of hope for all:

Now when first Vingilot was set to sail in the seas of heaven, it rose unlocked for, glittering and bright; and the people of Middle-earth beheld it from afar and wondered, and they took it for a sign, and called it Gil-Estel, the Star of High Hope. And when this new star was seen at evening, Maedhros spoke to Maglor his brother, and he said: ‘Surely that is a Silmaril that shines now in the West?’

Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath, The Silmarillion

Some support for this perspective can be gleaned from one of the Vanity Fair “First Look” images. In the one that seems to show Galadriel and Elrond re-uniting in Lindon, there is a large tapestry in the background. This tapestry shows a stylised rayed star very similar to those worn by Galadriel, Gil-galad, Finrod and others.

Elrond and Galadriel are reunited in the majestic elven kingdom of Lindon. Courtesy of Amazon
Studios. Note the the ship on the background behind them and the eight-rayed star at the very top of image.

This tapestry also depicts a ship or a boat, seemingly travelling toward, or guided by, the rayed star. Although probably a representation of a ship of the elves taking the journey to Valinor (it’s not yet the Straight Road because this is still the Second Age), the effect of the tapestry still feels evocative of the Star of High Hope mentioned above.

However, the heraldry of Eärendil is a six-pointed star, not one with eight points. I guess elven representations of Gil-Estel could be different — but the fact remains that what we see is just not Eärendil’s emblem.

There is one star that does seem a better visual fit: the Star of Fëanor that we encounter in the Lord of the Rings on The Doors of Durin at the west-entrance to Khazad-dûm.

‘There are the emblems of Durin!’ cried Gimli.
‘And there is the Tree of the High Elves!’ said Legolas.
‘And the Star of the House of Fëanor,’ said Gandalf.

A Journey in the Dark, The Lord of the Rings
The Doors of Durin from The Lord of the Rings as sketched by J.R.R. Tolkien. The Star of Fëanor can be seen at the centre of the image.

Like the emblem of Finarfin, there is a resemblance: eight rays and a distinct tapering. Perhaps more resemblance because of the tapering. Yet, it is also not exact: the four ordinal points are noticeably shorter than those we see on the device Tolkien created for The Doors of Durin.

There are additional (non-visual) contradictions.

Galadriel wouldn’t wear a symbol of the House of Fëanor. First, she’s of Finarfin’s house and would use his badge first. Second, Tolkien observes in Unfinished Tales that Galadriel had an abiding dislike of Fëanor. It’s that simple.

Just as importantly, Gil-galad wouldn’t either — not even as some symbol of solidarity. That’s because, throughout the Second Age, Gil-galad is the (undisputed) high-king of the Noldor in Middle-earth. The House of Fëanor is subsidiary to him in the Noldorin hierarchy.

Maedhros begged forgiveness for the desertion in Araman; and he waived his claim to kingship over all the Noldor, saying to Fingolfin: ‘If there lay no grievance between us, lord, still the kingship would rightly come to you, the eldest here of the house of Finwë, and not the least wise.’ [and] even as Mandos foretold the House of Fëanor were called the Dispossessed, because the over-lordship passed from it, the elder, to the house of Fingolfin, both in Elendë and in Beleriand.

Of the Return of the Noldor, The Silmarillion

Unfortunately, none of the options above fits neatly — every option creates unsatisfactory questions.

If this is the case, this prompts the question: why the lack of a good match?

Likely, the answer simply boils down to the intellectual property rights that Amazon holds for its TV series. (You might note that PJ’s Gil-Galad actually bears his Tolkienian heraldic symbol. The reason is probably down to a difference in the rights available.)

The showrunners have clearly stated (via Vanity Fair) that Amazon bought rights “solely to The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, the appendices, and The Hobbit.” Nothing else.

That would place all the heraldic devices that Tolkien crafted out of reach — except the Star of Fëanor. But the showrunners are likely well-aware of the lore-clash of directly applying the Fëanorian star unilaterally.

Instead, it appears they’ve opted for something similar, but not exact — a generic derivation that they hope is symbolically evocative of elven heraldry and the elven reverence for Varda as the Lady of the Stars without directly contradicting one of the more obscure parts of the Legendarium (I love this stuff, but let’s face it — it is super-obscure).

That’s what I suggest is most likely occurring here.

Have they succeeded with that? On this point, I’m not convinced. Yes, it’s evocative — without a doubt. Yet the design still seems a little too similar to Fëanor’s star. I think it also leaves their hands tied when it comes to Celebrimbor. Because Celebrimbor should be the one using the Fëanorian star. Now, if they do try to replicate that, precisely as shown in The Lord of the Rings, will it even look different enough for us to notice?

BOOTNOTE: AlexP reminded me of something that I’d forgotten: Gil-galad’s parentage is complicated. The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales as edited by Christopher Tolkien state that Gil-galad is the son of Fingon. Later, in preparing The History of Middle-earth, CJRT decided this was an editorial error and that his father’s final decision was that Gil-galad was a son of Orodreth. At the same time, Tolkien switched Orodreth to being a son of Angrod.

What does that mean?

Well, if Amazon were to leave the parentage of Gil-galad implied rather than stated (CJRT himself felt he should have, in retrospect left it obscure in The Silmarillion), then maybe Tolkien Estate would allow it. All three wearers of the badge — Galadriel, Gil-galad and, we presume, our unknown troll fighter — become Finarfin’s heirs. As such it could be argued that it’s fitting for them to use his symbol for the reasons discussed above. It could be a gesture of family solidarity. Even the star we see in the tapestry in the Gala-Elrond image is a fit, because Lindon is the heart of Gil-galad’s kingdom.

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.

Acknowledgements: I got a lot of assistance from keen-eyed folks on our Discord in pulling this together. So in no particular order (and apologies to anyone else who contributed that I’ve missed), many thanks to DurinDeathless, LadyNico, Lasswen, AlexP, SirSquatch, Sid and Sir Skrilldor.

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.