Examining the minutiae of Tolkien adaptations has long been a tradition at TheOneRing.net. Staff, message boarders and chatters on our site have regularly picked over scenes and images from the films and this tradition continues with The Rings of Power. Today, however, the discussions take place in multiple arenas all over the internet. Recently, on Twitter, MGCoco* shared an interesting theory about Elrond’s cloak.
Other Tolkien fans loved this theory, with some noting how the cloak is “way more worn than the rest of the clothes” he wears and speculating that we may learn more at a future date.
Others took this theory even further, speculating that Elros may have been buried in his cloak and how Elrond still wears his as a “silent vigil over his brother’s legacy”. They go on to raise an interesting point that the lore never touches on Elrond’s feelings over his twin having chosen mortality and there being no chance of them ever being reunited, not even in the Halls of Mandos.
MGCoco* also noted how Elrond then goes on to watch over the remaining heirs of Elros in Middle-earth, helping to hide the line of Isildur. Other fans stated that:
“It paints a beautiful, if somewhat bittersweet, mental image. Really gives one a sense of the sheer depth of his character too.”
Claiomh Dubh via Twitter
Delving into a closer look of a characters costume, can lead to far more than just an appreciation of a piece of clothing.
Join us on our Discord channel to discuss this and other topics with fellow Tolkien fans.
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The review embargo for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was lifted today and reviews are now coming in fast. The reviews have been generally positive, praising the epic feel and production, with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 93%.
Here’s a growing list of reviews (and spoilers):
Many predicted Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel would be a disaster. It isn’t.
Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a unique take, telling something of its own story using a distant time period of the lore that Tolkien mostly laid out in broad strokes. It’s a bold approach, and here fortune has favored it. The two-episode premiere marks a strong start, with breathtaking cinematography, excellent acting, and a story that – after a somewhat labored set-up – shows some serious promise and intrigue.
There are ways to do a prequel, and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power does them all wrong. It takes six or seven things everyone remembers from the famous movie trilogy, adds a water tank, makes nobody fun, teases mysteries that aren’t mysteries, and sends the best character on a pointless detour.
This is TV that is made for big screens, although surely destined to be watched on smaller ones. It is so cinematic and grand that it makes House of the Dragon look as if it has been cobbled together on Minecraft.
It’s technically impressive, reasonably ambitious, packed with Easter eggs that I’m certain I’m not versed enough to get and, with my interest in different plotlines already varying wildly, it could fall off a precarious cliff at any moment.
I came to this series a skeptic, but after watching the first two episodes, I walk away a believer. What showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne have created is something simply staggering in scope and scale, in raw beauty and magnificence. It is nothing short of a masterpiece—and a welcome return to Tolkien’s legenderium.
Having invested hundreds of millions in mounting a series version of “The Lord of the Rings,” Amazon has gotten its money’s worth in production values but not storytelling, with a handsome prequel that could leave all but the most devoted Hobbits feeling more bored than lord.
Rings of Power is not just good, it’s great: a gorgeously immersive and grandly ambitious spectacle packed with stunning imagery and compelling plot threads. Most importantly, it captures the same sense of awe we felt while watching the Lord of the Rings movies — one we don’t often get to experience on the small screen.
It’s a series that wants dearly to set itself apart as a fresh take on the material, right down to setting itself an entire age before the adventures of Frodo Baggins and his Fellowship. But it also does everything it can to stir our nostalgia for the Jackson films, from costume to music to overall design, which can occasionally make it like a store-brand version of the same.
Though the eight-part debut season portends an imminent war between Elves and orcs — with Dwarves, humans and a precursor to the Hobbit race called the Harfoots in the mix — the copious and choppily edited action in the first two episodes (those screened for critics) is bloodless and computer-effects-driven.
By now you may be wanting to know what The Rings of Power is about. In a way, I feel the same. The first two episodes of the show are full of exposition, unhurried table setting and character introductions but not much else.
On the one hand, The Rings of Power’s unwavering focus on its heroes allows the show to truly spotlight several of its strongest cast members. Clark shines as a version of Galadriel who is more battle-hardened and outwardly headstrong than the older, wiser, and more ethereal iteration Cate Blanchett famously played in Peter Jackson’s movies. Owain Arthur nearly steals the show with his likable, charismatic turn as Durin IV, the dwarven prince of Khazad-dûm.
On the other hand, the lack of a major antagonist in The Rings of Power’s opening installments creates an unfortunate sense of waywardness. At times, the show’s disparate storylines feel like they are only connected by the vague notion that evil may be just around the corner. Consequently, there are moments — especially in The Rings of Power’s second episode — when the series’ continent-spanning structure feels frustratingly unwieldy.
This first quarter of the season is almost entirely setup for what is to follow, so it’s hard to render much of a verdict on the series from relatively unknown showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, who have contributed to movies including “Star Trek Beyond” and “Jungle Cruise.” Through two hours — both nicely directed by the talented J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible,” “A Monster Calls”) — “The Rings of Power” is intriguing but not quite engrossing.
The Fellowship of the Ring is a big influence here, and the characters go off on quests to investigate strange occurrences in the land while dark rumors from the previous war start to circulate again. The episodes do a commendable job of not only showing the enormity of the world and its history, but also giving the feeling of dread weighing down as the clues begin to be revealed.
Adjectives like “bold” and “ambitious” are par for the course when it comes to this franchise, and they absolutely apply to what we’ve seen so far of the show.
Two episodes in, the world-building is just as stunning and intricate as you could hope for. It’s the kind of show that deserves to be seen on the big screen instead of your phone, but that’s not going to stop fans from visiting Middle-earth via a six-inch display
…first-time showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay are content to take their time establishing the characters and laying the groundwork for what’s to come in a measured and deliberate way instead of giving viewers a taste of something and then jumping ahead years into the future by the next episode.
There are great performances throughout, including Clark as a Galadriel, who dances much closer to the darkness than one might expect from the future Lady of Lorien. There’s strong chemistry between Clark and Robert Aramayo as Galadriel’s friend Elrond, who at this point is but an ambitious young politician. However, the dwarves — Owain Arthur as Durin and Sohpie Nomvete as Disa — make the strongest impression.
From the tempestuous Sundering Seas to the glorious halls of the dwarven kings, each location is richly created. It’s clear how much of the budget went into making these places look as magical as imagined. On top of that, composer Bear McCreary’s soundtrack plays off the familiar tunes of Howard Shore’s iconic soundtrack and instantly tugs at the heartstrings of anyone who would find themselves affected by the music of Middle-earth.
Note: The following is an opinion piece written by volunteer staff member Kellie, also known as “Kili” from the YouTube series Happy Hobbit.
In an effort to clear up some misconceptions, I want to tell you my story.
On February 13th, I was invited to participate in a livestream hosted by both TheOneRing.net and Amazon Prime Video to watch and analyze the very first teaser trailer for Amazon’s new series, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. It was my sister’s birthday, so while I was excited for the end of the “Middle-earth dearth,” I only committed to participating for an hour, and I was relieved I had an excuse to slip away after said time, for the initial teaser trailer failed to impress. In fact, it was even worse; it left me confused, worried, and underwhelmed. The visuals were dazzling, but I felt no connection to the imagery on the screen. I was far from alone.
Like many, I feared Amazon was producing the most expensive TV show in history (allegedly around 1 billion) because they saw Tolkien’s work as a cash cow and were going to milk it for all they could.
I am a fiction author (under my pen name K.M. Rice) and a screenwriter with a Master of Fine Arts, so workshopping creative material is second nature, as is finding ways to express what is not working in an articulate manner. “I am not getting the mythic tone I look for in Tolkien,” I remember saying (which is a paraphrase).
A few months later in May, I was invited by Prime Video to a special press event in London, England, as the representative for my sister and my webshow, Happy Hobbit (which strives to bring a dose of Middle-earth to our viewers’ daily lives), and as the co-author ofMiddle-earth from Script to Screen: Building the World of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, which I helped write with Daniel Falconer at Weta Workshop in New Zealand. My fellow Tolkien content creators and I, along with traditional press, were taken on a field trip to Oxford University where we had the pleasure of wandering Tolkien’s old stomping grounds both as a student and as a professor. You can check out what we did and saw by watching the video here.
The following day, we were treated to footage and costumes from Rings of Power (ROP) and a Q&A with the showrunners, John Howe (concept artist), Leith McPherson (dialect coach), and Ramsey Avery (production designer), along with the showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and producer Lindsey Weber.
I once more was not impressed with the footage I saw, for while there was nothing wrong with it, there was no context. I had no idea what had just happened before the scene we were shown, where in the story it fell, and in fact, what the story was at all. It looked and sounded lovely, but there was no beating heart. My own heart sank as I realized I was going to have to just accept that this show wasn’t going to fulfill my expectations.
Once the showrunners spoke, however, I was left with the juxtaposition of hearing from two people intensely passionate about Tolkien (to the point that they opened every day of shooting with a Tolkien quote and discussion) and the marketing that didn’t convey that love and respect.
What I saw in London didn’t raise my excitement level, but hearing from the showrunners and knowing that such a capable team was producing the series did leave me with a sense of cautious optimism.
To reiterate, none of us Tolkien content creators have seen the show. We were not paid or bribed in any way, but rather have been treated as “Tolkien press.” We have no idea if ROP will be good, bad, or somewhere in between. Our opinions are our own, as they should be, and this is just my story.
While attending San Diego Comic-Con International at the end of July to speak on one of TheOneRing.net’s two panels, Prime Video invited me to a luncheon with many of the cast members from ROP. Before sitting down to eat, we were treated to viewing the first official trailer, which finally had some heart and showed a hint of the plot. I am no Tolkien lore expert, but many in the room with me were. They could name things on screen that I couldn’t, nevertheless, I felt excited. In fact, I shed a few tears and I don’t cry easily, especially in public. But being in that room and feeling so much unbridled excitement and joy was deeply moving, especially after having missed that human connection and communitas for so long during the pandemic. When we came out to meet the cast after, I felt a level of energy and anticipation that many of us had not yet felt over the show.
Everyone we met at the lunch was incredibly kind, down-to-earth, and passionate about Tolkien and storytelling. No one had an ego that prevented them from addressing gritty topics with strangers they had just met, and several of our conversations grew deep quickly. I later had an opportunity to converse with Patrick McKay, one of the two showrunners, who shared that they were given complete creative freedom. As such, whether the show does well or poorly, he feels he and his fellow showrunner are to blame. Talk about accountability!
I have a healthy skepticism about Amazon and most major corporations. I am not here to defend a company or TV show that I have yet to see, but I am here to share what I have learned:
Amazon never approached the Tolkien Estate to ask for the rights to make the show. Rather, the Tolkien Estate approached both Amazon and Netflix (and possibly other streaming platforms, as well), asking them if they would be interested. Amazon was.
Christopher Tolkien (the Professor’s son) was in charge of the Estate at the time the deal was made in 2017. He passed away three years later in 2020 after production on the show had already begun, and the directorship was passed on to his son, Simon Tolkien.
What’s more, the production invited Simon Tolkien, the grandson of the late Professor who has a love of cinematic storytelling and is the current director of the Estate, to be involved. For context, no other production has ever given the Tolkien Estate a seat at the table.
Amazon, as a corporation, is also not strapped for cash, which means they could invest whatever was needed to bring the vision of the Second Age to life.
Jeff Bezos is a big Tolkien fan.
One thing that limited them was the rights. They could not touch The Silmarillion or The Unfinished Tales. The rights are only for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. As such, the inclination is naturally to turn to the appendices of Return of the King, but even that is a gray area.
If a plotline smelled too much like it was getting into Silmarillion territory, the Estate didn’t permit it in a script. The production was then pushed into the difficult situation of having to originate their own material.
Knowing this, engage with me in a thought experiment for a moment:
Imagine you, as a Tolkien fan, just heard that this up-and-coming film studio out of New Zealand, the UK, or Colorado received a billion dollars to produce a Tolkien TV show set in the second age using partially original material and that to do so, they not only brought the Tolkien Estate on board, but hired showrunners, writers, and a cast that cared deeply for the source material to ensure fidelity. That sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it?
In many ways, Amazon is fighting against the public image of its own brand. Remove the name “Amazon” from the equation and suddenly many are more forgiving. I know I am. That so many of us have knee-jerk reactions to corporations’ names is worth noting, but the subject of a different conversation.
It all comes down to trust, and anyone who wants to involve our fandom needs to earn it. Some of us are more open than others. Some of us love the Peter Jackson films, while others didn’t enjoy them at all. But remember this: no one is touching the books. They will always be there. Tolkien’s texts are sacred for many, and no one is here to dispute that. But a book is a book. A film is a film. A TV show is TV show. None of these forms of storytelling are the same. And the existence of one does not threaten the other. If anything, they can be a boon. I would never have read Tolkien if not for Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.
No artist considers their art “finished.” There is always room to expand and change as the artist grows and ages as a person. Tolkien himself was a revisionist to the point that his heirs have gone to a great deal of trouble trying to decide which version of a story or piece of Arda’s history should be seen as “canon.” His Middle-earth writing often also contradicted itself. Importantly, he intentionally left bits open to interpretation.
When writing to publisher Wilton Waldman in 1951 about the scope of his literary aspirations to create a body of “more or less connected legend,” Tolkien shared:
I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.
J.R.R. Tolkien, 1951
The Professor’s dream has been fulfilled. His work has inspired artists of all genres and arguably established the Fantasy genre of literature.
Not only are other minds and hands interpreting his work, but adapting it and expanding upon it, thus fleshing out the ideas he left merely “sketched.” Tolkien did not want his life’s work to fade. He wanted it to live and breathe with the generations, even if that meant it arrived with a new twinkle or twist every now and again to suit the era, just as myths have done since the dawn of the human experience.
We have been through some trying times of late. A global pandemic, economic hardship, war, and loss, to say nothing of our more personal struggles. We look to tales like those told by Tolkien to make some sense of it all. I long to return to Middle-earth: a place where, even in the darkest of times, there is still a star shining. Love, hope, courage, and a love of the simple pleasures in life prevail in some form, as does the deep goodness that ties us all together. We don’t all have to agree and entertainment is highly subjective at the best of times, but even the most butchered adaptations cannot shake how at home I feel in the aged pages of my books, nor should they.
We all walk different roads on this Middle-earth, and in times of stress, it is easy to begrudge others their happiness. But life is short, opportunities are rare, and I for one am excited to revisit Tolkien’s world on screen.
Optimism is a choice, a more difficult one than pessimism, and I am choosing to go forth on this journey with an open heart and welcome any and all joy along the way. The same choice is also yours.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
In order to get into Hall H for the Rings of Power panel, which was scheduled to be the first panel on Friday, July 22 at 10:30am, a group of fans needed a plan to camp out in line. Staffers from TORn, members of the Discord community and a bunch of fans from the UK banded together to have group members take turns standing, or sitting, in line, starting at Midnight Wednesday night, all day on Thursday, and overnight into Friday morning.
It was a blast to see the trailer, but the special footage that accompanied some of the cast discussions really showed us what type of show this is going to be, and those subwoofers that blow through the room during the first video emphasized the Power of the Rings.
Here is an accounting for the exclusive scenes shown to the 6500 fans in attendance.
Ring Verse video and sound:
The panel began with Bear McCreary conducting a small orchestra with choral and violin solos of several minutes of his newly created music for the series, which was released a couple of days ago. Once the music ended, Stephen Colbert was introduced as the moderator, and very soon we’ll be giving a rundown of those cast and showrunner Q&A sessions in a separate article. But the first group of guests comprised the show runners and producers of the show. One said that the thing he had most wanted to see on screen was the moment when Sauron puts on the One Ring and invokes the Ring verse for the first time, sending a ripple across all of Middle-earth, a moment when the Elves especially, realized they’d been had.
Shortly after this, we got our first Exclusive video footage, and it is this moment recreated for us in Hall H.
The sequence opens with the image we’ve all seen, of Finrod walking up the grassy hill to see the Two Trees, and at this point the black curtains on the side walls pull back to reveal the screens that stretch more than half the length of the hall (approximately the distance of two semi-trucks back to back). This allows us to see the mountains and valleys to either side of the main image of the city and the Two Trees.
But then we push in closer to see the trees better, and they are fading. As the light begins to dim, and the leaves fall, there is a giant shadowy figure of Morgoth in the sky. We are then transported to a realm of burning ground that seems to be disintegrating, and the Ring Verse appears in a golden circle on a black background.
We hear the first line, read by Morfydd Clark, ‘Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky’, a quick glimpse of an elven realm, and the Ring Verse enlarges and rushes towards us as a giant burst of sound emanates from some very large subwoofers at the front of the stage, the whole room shakes and you can literally feel the blast on your face.
She reads the second line, ‘Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone’ and a quick glimpse of Moria in it’s glory, then the same rush of the Ring verse rushing towards the screen and the burst of sound from the speakers, just a wave of sound rushing the screen.
Next comes the third line, ‘Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die’, and a look at Numenor from above, and again with the Ring Verse and Sound bursting through the room.
And finally, we get the final lines, ‘One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne, In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie’ and a glimpse of destruction before the final burst of sound with the Ring Verse.
And thus, everyone in the audience, and everyone who came back onstage were just dumbstruck by that experience. It was one of the most visceral experiences to ever happen in Hall H.
Elrond and Durin IV’s relationship:
Elrond and Durin IV, set up like a prize fight as Elrond walks past male and female dwarves singing and chanting, but not necessarily in a good way, then big cheers when Durin IV enters. Again, very much like the bravado of two competitors before a big fight.
Durin IV announces the challenge, to break rocks until one or the other cannot. If the Elf loses, he is banned from ALL Dwarven realms, if he wins. . .Durin IV sniggers, as if to say that is very unlikely, and then the big rocks are carted in.
Durin IV gives a big swing and easily splits his rock, Elrond hesitates just a moment and then gives a big swing as well. . .fade to black
Elrond and Galadriel’s relationship:
Elrond greets Galadriel, and then each looks at the tapestry of a ship sailing into the sunset, and mentions in somber tones what it is supposed to be like, of a song welcoming one to this realm. The moment is very contemplative, and almost fearful on the part of Elrond.
Then in a lighter tone, Elrond says he expected Galadriel to be covered in mud and dirt, she replies “more like frost bite and troll blood”
Galadriel and Halbrand saved from the sea:
We got context of that regal ship sailing into the Numenorean port. It is Elendil’s ship, the circular sails have the sunburst sigil on them, and two guests were aboard, the rescued Galadriel and Halbrand. Elendil recognizes Galadriel as one of the Eldar, and she asks what ship this is, he tells her and it does not ease her mind. Halbrand then asks where it is they are going, he doesn’t recognize anything about the port.
But Galadriel does, she recognizes the carved stone faces they sail by, the glorious waterfall next to what may be a statue of Ulmo, and announces to Halbrand that it is the island nation of Numenor. This sequence also gives us a heavy dose of the grandeur of the music Bear McCreary is creating for Numenor.
Arondir in chains:
The Arondir scene where his ankle is chained is an Orc prison gang thing, several elves, and maybe some men are all chained and working at what looks like a quarry. The Orcs have those white membranous cloaks (could it be flesh?) on to protect them from the sun, but they don’t work well
We see one Orc wince from sun exposure and retreat to a covered area made of wooden beams and canvas. Arondir looks at another elf, giving a signal, and they and other prisoners attempt a jailbreak using the long chains to whip the Orcs off their feet.
The prisoners cross their chains and then take turns smashing with their hammers where the chains intersect. One chain breaks and that prisoner takes off running and scales the walls of the pit, until he is shot down.
Thus comes the scene where Arondir pics up an axe and leaps high overhead, but not to attack an Orc. No, he goes for the wooden crossbeam and collapses the structure protecting the Orcs. . . fade to black
Nori and the Stranger
Nori appears at the top of the burning crater and looks down to see the ‘Stranger’ curled up in a fetal position unconscious. Her friend Poppy comes up from behind and tells her to get away from the edge, it’s dangerous. Nori says that they should help the man below, and Poppy says that they can’t, he’s a giant and it isn’t safe.
At that moment, the edge of the crater collapses and Nori falls into the crater, landing amongst the flames. As she scrambles to regain her feet, she realizes the flames don’t burn, they aren’t hot. This gives her enough courage to approach the figure at the center of the flaming crater.
She slowly reaches out to touch him, while Poppy pleads for her to stop. Nori pokes his face and nothing happens, and again Poppy pleads for her to come back. Nori says that we can’t leave him here, not for the wolves to get, and then suddenly he wakes enough to reach out and grab her arm.
Nori turns back to him, stunned and surprised, he looks just as perplexed and starts to cry out, the camera cuts back and forth between them, while the cries of surprise or pain or confusion escalate, the fire goes out. And then, Nori is able to pull away, and the Stranger falls unconscious again, and the flames return.
Poppy urges Nori to get out as fast as she can, and Nori says we have to help him, and Poppy retorts ‘how are we to carry a giant’, but Nori says that they can, that this is who they are, and Poppy reminds her ‘no, this is who you are’.
This last interchange between Nori and Poppy is very much like the Shire we know, where most of the Hobbits never go anywhere and never have any adventures, and then there are the Bagginses and Tooks, who do go places and have adventures.
Thus ends the Dispatches from Hall H at San Diego Comic Con, at least as far as the exclusive video content goes. There will be a synopsis of all the cast and showrunner Q&As forthcoming.
So you wouldn’t think that Galadriel means something similar, like that one time at Aqualondë when Fëanor decided to requisition some boats (or, later, when he decided to use said boats for tinder on the beach at Losgar).
It’s also likely that Elrond was involved in the The War of Wrath and present at Thangorodrim for the defeat of Morgoth at the conclusion of the First Age. It’s implicit in his statement during the Council of Elrond when he speaks of the Last Alliance.
“I remember well the splendour of their banners,” he said. “It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled. And yet not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken…”
The Council of Elrond, The Lord of the Rings
Arguably that’s the defining event of the First Age (even if it’s the most-sketchily recorded). A dragon falls on and destroys a mountain chain. Later, an entire sub-continent sinks as a result. It is, quite literally, a world-changing event.
Let’s say your preferred canon is that Galadriel remained in Doriath into the later stages of the First Age (one option CJRT outlines in Unfinished Tales), the sacking of Menegroth doesn’t remotely meet that benchmark. Even were you to place Galadriel at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad (I wouldn’t), or the Dagor Bragollach (a big stretch, but I do wonder if the showrunners might), it’s just not comparable.
So what’s left?
I broached this with fellow staffers, suggesting that only one thing in Galadriel’s history is truly incomparable: the destruction of the Two Trees by Morgoth and Ungoliant.
But, generally, we agree that the description of that event given in The Silmarillion is a poor match for the imagery from the scenes that Galadriel’s voice-over cuts across in the trailer. The Silmarillion describes that Laurelin and Telperion wither as Ungoliant drains them of life. They do not burn. The assault causes a vast, ever-expanding gloom and darkness, and it is entirely unexpected and unanticipated.
That’s very unlike what we see in the Rings of Power trailer scene. There’s a the red-hued background, flickering embers pass behind Galadriel, and there are bodies that seem to hang in space. Further, whatever Galadriel is looking on seems to centre on something that looks like a tower, or a fortress. Not trees.
If it’s not something in Galadriel’s (distant) past, what is it then?
Perhaps it’s some Second Age event around or during timeline that The Rings of Power covers.
Here, fellow-staffer Garfeimao cleverly suggests that we should keep in mind that Galadriel has powers of foresight. This, after all, is how Sam is able to see a vision of The Shire getting, let us say, redeveloped.
“Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal,” she answered, “and to some I can show what they desire to see. But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold. What you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell. Do you wish to look?”
I could see some pointing out that Elrond also has a mighty foresight. And that’s true.
For example, his concern for welfare of The Shire is not at all misplaced. But he also doesn’t intuit how critical Merry and Pippin would prove to the Quest to destroy the Ring. That’s not to say his foreknowledge is less, it’s more to showcase how imprecise such things can be in Tolkien. No-one ever sees the full picture — even the memories of the Valar of the Music are said to be fuzzy.
And a vision might explain the subtle differences between the two shots: Galadriel is not physically present at the second scene. Instead she’s perceiving it through the lens of vision — just as Frodo and Sam did in Lorien — from somewhere else that is distant in both place and time. Somewhere else that — in a sneaky bit of misdirection — just happens to have endured some sort of fire or assault.
Recall, also, that such visions and dreams in Tolkien can be the cause of great restlessness in the receiver. In The Silmarillion, Turgon and Finrod each receive a vision from Ulmo while resting by the banks of the Sirion.
“Unquiet was upon them ever after, and doubt of what should befall, and they wandered often alone in untrodden lands, seeking far and wide for places of hidden strength…”
Of the Return of the Noldor, The Silmarillion
This might be a key reason why Galadriel is unable to, as Elrond suggests, put down her sword.
A vision opens up possibilities of things that we, as an audience, might not see come to pass in the first season of The Rings of Power.
Staffer Josh suggests that it might just be a vision of The Downfall of Númenor: Akallabêth, and perhaps even the Temple in Armenelos as it sinks below the waves.
Now, that seems appropriately apocalyptic.
It would explain why all the figures look like they’re floating — they are. And it explains the odd ripples through that scene — it’s distortions caused by the surface of the water.
The mist cleared and he saw a sight which [Frodo] had never seen before but knew at once: the Sea. Darkness fell. The sea rose and raged in a great storm. Then he saw against the Sun, sinking blood-red into a wrack of clouds [my emphasis], the black outline of a tall ship with torn sails riding up out of the West.
The Mirror of Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings
There might be powerful reasons for Amazon Studios to tip people to this end-scenario early. The fact is that most viewers won’t know what a Númenor is, let alone that it was an island-continent that was sunk after an entire people went off their collective trolley, implemented a system of human (and, presumably elven) sacrifice, and decided to invade the “land of the gods” out of a misplaced belief that conquering it would confer immortality.
Sure, even the most casual watcher will understand Ring Bad(tm), but this is vastly more tangible and visceral.
This would be one way to drive home the wider audience what’s at stake and, conceptually, I like it a lot.
Unfortunately, neither The Lord of the Rings nor its Appendices mention the “mighty temple” that Sauron has built in Armenelos, nor the sacrifices of the Faithful that are conducted inside. Those details are only found in the Akallabêth story in The Silmarillion.
However, Appendix A and Appendix B do mention that the Faithful are persecuted, and that rebellion and “civil war” occurred in the final years of Númenor.
That may be enough for the purposes of a vision. That may also satisfy a quite accurate objection that Staffer Earl raises — that the scene does have the appearance of being the outcome of battle. In fact, the most prominent floating figure seems to be run through with a spear.
Perhaps it reflects that, in those final, doomed years, “men took weapons … and slew one another for little cause; for they were become quick to anger.” Chaos and violence as the apocalypse literally occurs should not, I think, be unexpected.
But let’s say that’s incorrect and we’re not looking upon a scene of Akallabêth.
Is there something else it might be?
Here, I’m indebted to one of our Discord chatters DrNosy who informed me that the fan hivemind suspects that the trailer aerial of a city at the confluence of two rivers is Ost-in-Edhil, the chief city of Eregion.
“…the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk, and the trees and the grass do not now remember them: Only I hear the stones lament them: ‘Deep they delved us, high they builded us, fair they wrought us, but they are gone.'”
The Ring Goes South, The Lord of the Rings
While not as apocalyptic as the end of Númenor, it is still the end of Eregion. More, it’s the civilisational high mark of the Noldor. Although Elrond establishes subsequently a refuge in Rivendell, never again would they attempt anything on a similar scale.
A vision of the dreams of the Noldor going up in flames might just suffice.
About the author: Staffer Demosthenes has been involved with TheOneRing.net since 2001, serving first as an Associate News Editor, then as Chief News Editor during the making of the Hobbit films. Now he focuses on features and analysis.The opinions in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent those of TheOneRing.net and other staff.
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