Ayoola Smart Cast As “Wheel Of Time” Fan-Favorite Aviendha

SPOILERS FOR THE WHEEL OF TIME, BOOKS TWO THROUGH FOUR, AHEAD!

Did you know that JordanCon is a thing? Founded in 2009 to honor the life and legacy of fantasy author Robert Jordan, the convention has been held in the state of Georgia every year since (except for 2020, but as many appear to have forgotten, there was a global pandemic that year). Fans of The Wheel Of Time, the fourteen-volume fantasy series started by Jordan in 1990 and posthumously completed by Brandon Sanderson in 2013, flock to the convention in the hundreds to discuss the series with other fans and to attend lectures and panels by Jordan scholars on subjects ranging from the themes of his work to the Wheel Of Time adaptation which recently premiered on Amazon Prime’s streaming service.

Wheel Of Time
Tigraine Mantear, an Aiel spear maiden | pajiba.com

Notable guests and speakers at JordanCon have included Jordan’s successor Brandon Sanderson, widow and editor Harriet McDougal, illustrator Michael Whelan, and a number of Jordan’s peers and proteges, including Patrick Rothfuss and Saladin Ahmed. But this year, excitement was through the roof, as the cast and crew of Amazon Prime’s The Wheel Of Time hosted a hotly-anticipated Q&A panel to talk about the high points of season one – and the direction of the series going forward.

The biggest announcement, which trended on Twitter for a while and received attention from mainstream media outlets, was the casting of Killing Eve‘s Ayoola Smart as Aviendha of the Nine Valleys sept of the Taardad Aiel. You can immediately tell which professional journalists covering this story didn’t read the books or do any research into the books by skimming through their eerily similar descriptions of Aviendha. If they refer to her by a certain title she doesn’t actually acquire until book twelve, you can bet your bottom dollar they just copied-and-pasted the very first Google search result for Aviendha into their articles without worrying about how much of her character development they were unintentionally spoiling for new readers.

When we first meet her in The Dragon Reborn, three books into the series, Aviendha is merely one of many Aiel warriors sent over the Spine of the World to find Rand al’Thor and inform him that he is the Car’a’carn, a prophesied “chief of chiefs” who is supposed to unite the scattered clans of the Aiel and lead them into a new age (what Rand himself wants is as irrelevant to the Aiel as it was to the Aes Sedai). Aviendha follows Rand to the city of Tear, where she and the Aiel joins forces with Rand’s army to help him defeat Be’lal, one of the thirteen Forsaken, and recover the legendary sword Callandor from the Stone of Tear so that Rand can complete a totally unrelated prophecy.

The Wheel Of Time
Rand al’Thor | leisurebyte.com

As inspiring as Jordan’s description of this battle is, I wouldn’t get my hopes up for a live-action adaptation just yet. The second season of Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time is expected to condense the events of The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn into roughly eight hour-long episodes, which means that at least one of those seven-hundred page novels is inevitably going to be prioritized while the other is only mined for its important character introductions and necessary story beats. And showrunner Rafe Judkins has done what I think any writer would do in that situation, prioritizing The Great Hunt over The Dragon Reborn. It has a clean and cohesive narrative, excellent character development, and an aerial battle over the city of Falme.

Judkins excitedly confirmed at the JordanCon presentation that The Wheel Of Time will be heading to Falme in season two, so we can probably rule out the possibility of the characters visiting Tear in the same season – unless by some miracle there’s enough time, space, and money left over to justify building sets for a second massive fictional city, populating it with extras and designing new costumes for all of them, choreographing a second elaborate city-wide battle, etc. Keep in mind that season one could only afford three main locations, leading to the characters and cameras bypassing the cities of Baerlon and Caemlyn entirely. Expect similar situations going forward.

That’s not to say that a lot can’t still be done on a $80M+ budget, and honestly the bigger problem is Amazon’s refusal to order the ten or twelve episode seasons we deserve from a show of this sprawling scope, but I’m getting off-topic now. To sum up everything that we’ve learned; we’re going to Falme in season two, not to Tear, but Aviendha has also been cast, which probably just means that she and the other Aiel will be involved in the battle of Falme rather than the siege of the Stone of Tear (curiously, that also means the Aiel scouts in the show will have traveled over two-thousand miles further west than the Aiel scouts in the books).

Without spoiling too much of book four, The Shadow Rising, I’ll just say that Aviendha plays a major role in the story going forward, and that despite her humble beginnings she quickly becomes a power player on the same level as Egwene al’Vere and Nynaeve al’Meara, with abilities beyond just her physical strength and prowess in combat that come to light gradually. I’m very excited to see her character come to life onscreen, and I trust Ayoola Smart to do a fabulous job.

Wheel Of Time
Ayoola Smart | everymanplayhouse.com

What do you think of the casting? Was Aviendha one of your favorite characters in the books, and if so, how do you hope to see her adapted for Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Rings Of Power” – Introducing Galadriel

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE RINGS OF POWER AHEAD!

So we’ve all seen the first teaser trailer for Amazon’s The Rings Of Power, right? I mean, it was the fourth most-viewed trailer in its first twenty-four hours of release after the first trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home and the first and last trailers for Avengers: Endgame, so I’m just gonna assume we’ve all seen it by this point. I’m also gonna assume that a fair number of the record-breaking 257 million views on that Rings Of Power teaser came from people who aren’t necessarily familiar with the characters, events, and locations being portrayed in this prequel to The Lord Of The Rings.

Rings Of Power
Galadriel | polygon.com

And that’s totally okay, by the way. I won’t be asking for your signatures in Tengwar script to prove that you’re a “true fan”, because frankly, even if I did, I (*pause for dramatic effect*) don’t know how to read or write Tengwar myself! Heck, I might as well tell you now, I only know, like, ten or fifteen Elvish words in total and virtually none of the grammar that’s supposed to go in between.

Okay, so maybe not the wisest thing to admit while simultaneously trying to position myself as a reliable source of information on the deep lore of J.R.R Tolkien’s legendarium, but (a) my point is that this can be an intimidating fandom but it really doesn’t matter to me whether you’ve read The Lord Of The Rings and its appendices twenty times, or whether you’ve never read a word of Tolkien in your entire life but were intrigued by something in the teaser trailer for The Rings Of Power, because I try to make my content accessible to everyone, and also (b) I actually have read the books and appendices more than twenty times, so please trust me! I absorbed the lore better than I did the languages, I swear.

To prove it, today we’re going to be diving into the nebulous and often contradictory lore surrounding one of the most enigmatic characters in all of Tolkien’s works, and the rumored protagonist of The Rings Of Power – the Lady Galadriel. The marketing for Amazon’s series makes it clear that Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel is, if nothing else, the most competitive of several candidates vying for top-billing in a large ensemble cast rounded out by Robert Aramayo’s Elrond, Maxim Baldry’s Isildur, and Markella Kavenagh’s Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot (each of these characters warrants their own introductory post in good time, but I wanted to start with Galadriel because she just so happens to be my favorite character in Tolkien’s legendarium).

And despite how difficult it is to piece together a clear account of her life from J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings on the subject, Galadriel is the obvious choice to lead. Because if The Rings Of Power, a prequel distanced from the events of The Lord Of The Rings by a span of over three-thousand years, is going to be commercially successful, it needs to provide fans of The Lord Of The Rings (the books and the films) with something they can grab hold of that makes them feel safe and comfortable in this unfamiliar era of Middle-earth’s history.

And amidst all the characters of that era whose names and great deeds had faded into legend by the time of The Lord Of The Rings, characters like Isildur and Elendil and Gil-galad, there is one who stands out from the rest – one whose life-story spans the entirety of Middle-earth’s recorded history, from the literal beginning of time to the very last date etched in the Tale of Years. And that is Galadriel.

Galadriel is approximately 8372 years old by the time of The Lord Of The Rings – technically making her the second-oldest Elf in Middle-earth (at least that we know of) after Círdan the Shipwright, who is somewhere between 10741 to 11364 years old. Characters like Treebeard and Tom Bombadil are significantly older than both of them, though by an indeterminate margin (Treebeard is estimated to be around 30000 years old by fans, while Tom claims to predate the first rivers and trees in Middle-earth, making him roughly 50000 to 60000 years old). But the advantage Galadriel has over all these other characters is that she actually…did stuff.

By that, I mean she’s integral to the story that The Rings Of Power plans to tell over the course of five or more seasons; the story of the Second Age of Middle-earth, beginning with the forging of the Rings of Power and concluding in the tumultuous War of the Last Alliance. I am aware that Círdan also participated in these events, to a slightly lesser extent than Galadriel, but he lacks the name recognition necessary for a protagonist in this case, as well as a clearly defined character arc. Galadriel possesses both.

And yet…there is one itty-bitty problem with Galadriel being the protagonist. You see, even after publishing The Lord Of The Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien couldn’t help but continue altering fundamental aspects of his characters’ backstories, and Galadriel was the victim of some pretty aggressive edits the author made near the end of his life, meaning there is no “canonical” version of her story for Amazon to adapt. Even the stray bits and pieces of Galadriel’s backstory provided in the pages of The Lord Of The Rings subtly contradict details in the book’s own appendices.

Before we go any further, I ought to note that Amazon has the rights to The Lord Of The Rings and its appendices (and The Hobbit), but Rings Of Power showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne have vehemently denied that their deal with the Tolkien Estate granted them access to the author’s posthumously published writings, including The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, which altogether contain the most complete version of Galadriel’s story. We do not know the truth of the matter just yet.

The Silmarillion is a history textbook covering the First Age and Second Age of Middle-earth in great detail and then kinda glossing over the events of the Third Age (the period of time in which The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings take place). J.R.R. Tolkien began writing it in the early 1910’s, and at one point intended to publish it alongside The Lord Of The Rings so that readers would understand the frequent references to in-universe historical events, legendary battles, and tales of ancient heroes. He never finished, leaving his youngest son Christopher with the daunting task of having to compile his notes into a workable narrative.

The published Silmarillion is still regarded as inherently less “canon” than The Lord Of The Rings because it wasn’t ever approved for publication by J.R.R. Tolkien himself and had to be heavily abridged, but the tale it tells of Galadriel is one that many fans – including myself – have fallen in love with and regard as canon because it’s the version of Galadriel’s story alluded to in The Lord Of The Rings, and the only one that makes any sense.

As for Unfinished Tales, the nature of the work (an anthology of stories Tolkien started, but never had the time or inclination to complete) means that it is inherently less cohesive than The Silmarillion, but it also contains a level of detail that The Silmarillion does not possess, and that makes it a rewarding read for anyone interested in the rich lore of Middle-earth. Some of the most well-known anecdotes about Galadriel’s life come from Unfinished Tales, and are fairly easy to superimpose onto the version of her story in The Silmarillion. Nonetheless, I will point out these instances as we proceed.

Rings Of Power
Galadriel | newsweek.com

Per The Silmarillion, Galadriel was born in the Undying Lands of Valinor at a time when the High Elves were still under the protection of Middle-earth’s gods. For the sake of simplification, we’re just going to pretend that time existed as a concept back when Galadriel was born, even though it…didn’t. Middle-earth didn’t have a sun or a moon back then, so there were no days or months or years, but there were these durations of time called Valian Years, which correspond to either nine or 144 of our solar years depending on which of Tolkien’s writings on the subject you regard as more “canon”, and as if that isn’t confusing enough you also have to factor in that the passage of time literally feels slower in Valinor, so 144 solar years might feel like just one solar year to a Valinorean, and…argh, I said we were just gonna pretend that time existed, and I’ve already failed!

Anyway…when Galadriel was born, there was no sun and moon, so the only natural light emanated from the stars (which were created by the goddess Varda), and from two trees planted by the gods in the middle of Valinor, which glowed brightly and bathed the Undying Lands in a warm, purifying light. All of the Elves touched by this light retained a kind of magical residue on their bodies that formed an aura, but Galadriel is the only Elf we know of whose hair, specifically, was believed to have caught this residue and became “lit with gold” as a result. Keep that in mind; it’ll come up again later.

The Silmarillion doesn’t have a whole lot to say regarding Galadriel’s early life in Valinor. Unfinished Tales, however, tells us that when she was still young, “she grew to be tall beyond the measure even of the women of the Noldor; she was strong of body, mind, and will, a match for both the loremasters and the athletes of the Eldar in the days of their youth”. The famous letter in which Tolkien described Galadriel as having once been “of Amazon disposition” is not included in either book, but I’m mentioning it here because The Rings Of Power appears to be extrapolating on that idea.

As she was the granddaughter of the High King Finwë by way of his second marriage, we can safely assume she lived in the capital city of Tirion-upon-Túna – a location that had never appeared in live-action until last year, when the first official image from The Rings Of Power revealed a Valinorean panorama including Tirion, the Two Trees, and an unidentified figure rumored to be Finrod, Galadriel’s eldest brother. They were beloved by their grandfather Finwë, but treated with contempt by Fëanor, Finwë’s eldest son and the only one born to his first wife, Míriel.

Fëanor didn’t approve of his father’s second marriage, and The Silmarillion assures us that, like, a whole bunch of High Elves felt the same way. Names? You’re asking for names? Uh…well, the narrator talked to at least seven people who were definitely not the sons of Fëanor wearing fedoras and fake mustaches. All joking aside, it’s a weird part of the book where it feels like the devoutly Catholic Tolkien really wants to draw some correlation between Finwë’s remarriage and Fëanor being a jerk, but he doesn’t quite manage it and then backtracks to add that it’s a good thing Finwë did have more children, because someone needed to keep Fëanor in check, and it sure as hell wasn’t gonna be any of his kids.

Needless to say, everyone in Valinor was pretty relieved when Fëanor decided to channel his pent-up frustration with his father into seemingly inoffensive pastimes like art and alchemy, but Finwë’s other children and grandchildren were especially happy because it meant that for the greater part of any given Valian Year Fëanor and his sons would be holed up in their forge, and nobody had to interact with them except at dinner parties, and on those occasions you just had to hope that Fëanor would be too busy showing off his new inventions for him to find time to pick on you. Sometimes he’d even invent something useful, like an alphabet, and then other times it would just be weird, like when he designed a bunch of creepy all-seeing orbs that could stare at you from across a continent.

Most people would choose to rest on their laurels after creating the alphabet, but Fëanor wanted to one-up himself and the gods at the same time, because what could possibly go wrong with a plan that involves potentially incurring the wrath of a pantheon of omnipotent deities on whom you and your people rely for literally everything, including protection from a Dark Lord who wants to turn you all into orcs for his nihilistic amusement?

Fast-forward a few Valian Years, and Fëanor emerges triumphant from his forge with three jewels called Silmarils (hence The Silmarillion). These jewels, these Silmarils, were imbued with some of the precious light of the Two Trees, making them eerily similar to NFTs in that they served no real purpose except to give the possessor (i.e. Fëanor) a false sense of ownership over something he did not create and which was already freely accessible to everyone in Valinor; the only difference being that the Silmarils actually turned out to be worth something in the end. In Unfinished Tales, it’s even suggested that the idea for the Silmarils came to Fëanor after studying Galadriel’s hair, and that he begged her three times for a sample to use in his experiments, but [she] would not give him even one hair”.

The gods decided to let Fëanor keep his NFTs as long as he shut up about the limitless potential of cryptocurrency, but the Dark Lord Morgoth was obsessed with the idea of taking them for himself (which should tell you something about the type of people who want to own NFTs), and he quickly realized that while Fëanor’s covetous attitude toward the Silmarils meant they were kept closely-guarded at all times, it also meant the Elf would walk blindly into any trap if he felt his Silmarils were threatened. Morgoth laid the groundwork for his trap by traveling among the Elves and regaling them with tales about the lands in Middle-earth they could rule if only the gods would allow them to leave Valinor.

Rings Of Power
Galadriel | tvinsider.com

It’s safe to assume that Galadriel was one of the Elves on whom Morgoth’s words made a strong impression. Because when the Dark Lord finally stole the Silmarils and fled to Middle-earth, leaving a trail of dead bodies (including poor old Finwë’s) for Fëanor to follow, Galadriel unexpectedly joined Fëanor in calling for a man-hunt to find the Dark Lord and bring him to justice. She didn’t particularly care about reclaiming the Silmarils, but “she yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will”, in stark contrast to her father Finarfin and brother Orodreth, who “spoke softly” in an effort to cool Fëanor’s hot temper, and to her brother Finrod, who hated Fëanor’s guts and made no secret of it.

Something that nobody seems to have considered while arguing over whether or not to leave Valinor was whether or not they could leave Valinor. No one had ever tried before. The Undying Lands were separated from Middle-earth by a wide ocean at the time, and the only land-bridge connecting the two continents lay somewhere in the uttermost north. So for a while, everybody just kinda walked aimlessly along the beach while they waited for somebody at the front of the line to settle on a direction. The House of Finarfin, including Finrod, is said to have been at the rear – “and often they looked behind them to see [Tirion].

It would seem out-of-character for Galadriel to be one of those glancing over her shoulder at the home she was about to leave behind, considering how eager she was to leave, but it would probably make even less sense for her to be amongst Fëanor’s folk at the front of the line; the reason being that Fëanor actually had a destination in mind – Alqualondë, the coastal port-city of the Sea-elves, Galadriel’s family on her mother’s side. He had assumed the Sea-elves would just give him all of their ships for free (reasonable dude, Fëanor), and was stunned speechless when they essentially told him to bugger off. So he killed them and took their ships by force.

The Elves who arrived late to the battle didn’t know what the hell was going on, and just started stabbing people randomly, turning the harbor of Alqualondë into a bloodbath. The Silmarillion simply never tells us whether Galadriel, Finrod, and Finarfin took part in this “Kinslaying”, and avoids implicating any of them in the atrocity at all – an imperfect solution on Christopher Tolkien’s part to a problem that J.R.R. Tolkien appears to have encountered every time he rewrote Galadriel’s story and reached this pivotal moment; how to get Galadriel to Middle-earth with only a medium-sized blemish on her reputation for goodness?

A manuscript published in the Unfinished Tales tells us that Galadriel indeed took part in the Kinslaying, but “fought fiercely against Fëanor in defence of her mother’s kin”, and this is the idea that Tolkien seems to have been the most stubbornly satisfied with…for a little while, at least. In recent months, this passage has been quoted and discussed at length, as it provides textual evidence for The Rings Of Power‘s interpretation of Galadriel as a warrior, and paints a pretty epic picture of her.

It’s unfortunate, then, that this passage doesn’t fit comfortably within the broader narrative and never has, because Tolkien still needed Galadriel to continue following Fëanor after the Kinslaying – and whether or not it makes sense for her to do so after Fëanor killed many of her people, it’s completely unlike Fëanor to allow her to do so after she had presumably killed or injured some of his. Even though he eventually chose to leave Galadriel and most of the House of Finarfin stranded in the far north (taking with him to Middle-earth only those “whom he deemed true to him”), to argue that that was his plan all along and that he was playing the long game requires a leap in logic I’m not willing to make.

Unfinished Tales contains a rapid, fascinating summary of another version of Galadriel’s story that Tolkien had sketched out shortly before his death in 1973. In this rewrite, he did what most writers do at least once when confronted with a case of characters not doing what they’re supposed to do, and started over from scratch. Galadriel abruptly ceased to be a member of Fëanor’s rebellion and became thoroughly independent from him, with her own goal of sailing to Middle-earth as an adventurer. She just happened to choose a really bad day to set out from Alqualondë, and had to fight Fëanor and his people as they tried to board her ship. This version still gives us a warrior Galadriel (and a seafaring warrior Galadriel at that), but it does remove a layer of complexity from the character that I would have missed.

To recap, the published Silmarillion doesn’t mention Galadriel in connection with the Kinslaying at Alqualondë. By the time we catch up with her again, four whole pages have passed since the Kinslaying and a lot has happened. The gods finally got involved by sending a message to Fëanor (“accidentally” blind-CCing all the Elves in the process) to tell him that he could go to Middle-earth and get swallowed by a dragon for all they care, but that anyone who followed him would be banished from Valinor forever, and when Morgoth inevitably killed them all, even their souls would be forbidden from entering the halls of the dead.

Rings Of Power
Galadriel | winteriscoming.net

Finarfin didn’t need to be told twice to get the hint, and chose to return to Tirion and become High King of the twenty or so Elves left in Valinor. Fëanor and the rest of the Elves continued northward, following the coast of Valinor on land in their ships – until at some point, Fëanor decided that it would be easier to just steal the ships and set sail for Middle-earth, leaving the other Elves stranded in the frigid wastelands north of Valinor. Galadriel finally reappears, and along with her brother Finrod heroically takes command of the dire situation and leads the Elves across the icy land-bridge connecting Valinor to Middle-earth.

This is probably as good a time as any to point out that Galadriel and a group of Elves can be seen traversing an icy landscape in the first teaser trailer for The Rings Of Power, although this scene is said to take place in Middle-earth and not in Valinor, as some had hoped. The giveaway is the bright sunlight beaming down on Galadriel in those shots in the trailer – at the time that Galadriel led the Elves across the Grinding Ice in pursuit of Fëanor, the sun and moon had still not been created.

Unfortunately, Tolkien wrote very little about the crossing in The Silmarillion, and even less in Unfinished Tales. Many Elves died, whether by starving to death or drowning under the ice, but enough survived and were hardened by the experience that their army still made for a fearsome and awe-inspiring sight when they came down from the north into the lands of Middle-earth at the very moment that the sun arose. Morgoth cowered in his fortress under the earth, and his orcs fled before the Elves and permitted them to march straight up to Morgoth’s front gate and beat upon the doors, and Galadriel was probably there but Tolkien doesn’t tell us exactly what she was doing.

With the dawn of the sun, the First Age of Middle-earth officially began. Oh, you thought we were in the First Age already? Haha, no, all of that was just the Years of the Trees. The First Age, however, only lasted about six-hundred years (the Second and Third Ages, for comparison, span over three-thousand years each), and for most of this time Galadriel stayed in the forest realm of Doriath. She and Finrod were invited there by King Elu Thingol (who was the brother of their maternal grandfather), and Galadriel fell in love with an Elven prince named Celeborn whom she met there.

If you thought Galadriel’s backstory was complex, don’t even get me started on Celeborn. In The Lord Of The Rings and the published Silmarillion, it’s mentioned that he’s a “kinsman of Thingol”, which sounds about right…until you remember that Galadriel is also a kinswoman of Thingol, and before you know it you’re poring over fictional family trees desperately trying to prove that Galadriel and Celeborn are not first cousins, they can’t possibly be first cousins…right? Well, yes and no. It depends on which version of Galadriel’s story you’re reading. They’re only first cousins in the version where she sets sail from Alqualondë on her own ship. Before that, they were just second cousins.

While Finrod went off and established his own kingdom in Nargothrond, Galadriel remained in Doriath with Celeborn, learning magical arts and lore from Elu Thingol’s wife, Melian, a minor goddess. As far as we know, she took no active part in the wars against Morgoth or in the later efforts by Fëanor’s sons and other heroes to reclaim the Silmarils, nor did she immediately seek power for herself – probably because she understood just by looking around that until Morgoth was defeated and Fëanor’s family were dead, the Elves would have little peace in Middle-earth. Also, Finrod had once prophesied that Nargothrond would fall, which can’t have filled Galadriel with much confidence for her own prospects.

Finrod’s prophecy came to pass (prophecies have a way of doing that), but neither he nor Galadriel was there to witness the Sack of Nargothrond and the slaughter of Finarfin’s folk. Finrod died in the year 465 of the First Age, and sometime between then and 495, Galadriel packed her things and left Doriath, crossing the Blue Mountains into the unoccupied lands of Eriador. She is sometimes said to have done so alone, but Celeborn probably joined her no later than 506, when he is said to have fled the Sack of Doriath.

Less than a hundred years later, the War of Wrath happened (in which Morgoth was finally vanquished by the gods, and the last of Fëanor’s seven sons either died or disappeared), and at this point The Silmarillion completely loses track of Galadriel in all the chaos and Unfinished Tales picks up their plot-thread in a short text which Christopher Tolkien described as “almost the sole narrative source for the events in the West of Middle-earth up to the defeat and expulsion of Sauron from Eriador in the year 1701 of the Second Age”. These are the events that The Rings Of Power hopes to adapt across its first season.

In this story, Galadriel and Celeborn cross the Blue Mountains into Eriador after the War of Wrath and settle at various locations between Lake Nenuial in the north-west and Eregion in the east, under the shadow of the Misty Mountains and close to the Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm. At some point during their travels, Galadriel gave birth to a daughter, Celebrían (and for the first and only time is mentioned as having a son, Amroth, but this detail is never reflected in The Lord Of The Rings, so I don’t regard it as canon).

Celeborn had no affection for Dwarves, but Galadriel is said to have “looked upon the Dwarves also with the eye of a commander, seeing in them the finest warriors to pit against the Orcs”. When she was ousted from Eregion in a coup led by the craftsman Celebrimbor and a mysterious stranger named Annatar, the Dwarves allowed her safe passage through Khazad-dûm to the woodland realm of Lórinand on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains.

Celeborn “remained behind in Eregion, disregarded by Celebrimbor”.

It soon became apparent to all that the stranger named Annatar was none other than Sauron, formerly the lieutenant of Morgoth, and that he had planned to manipulate the Elven craftspeople of Eregion into forging Rings of Power with which to ensnare the free peoples of Middle-earth. Celebrimbor therefore crossed the Misty Mountains and took counsel from Galadriel, who advised him to give her one of the Rings (no ulterior motive there, that’s for sure!) and to hide the others far from Eregion.

Of the nineteen Rings of Power forged by Celebrimbor and Sauron, sixteen came into Sauron’s possession when he attacked Eregion – but three eluded him forever, and these were the three given to the Elves; one to Galadriel in Lórinand, and two to Galadriel’s young cousin Gil-galad in the realm of Lindon. Sauron considered attacking Lórinand, but the doors of Khazad-dûm were shut and he could not cross the Misty Mountains. Instead, he went after Gil-galad, because there were only so many Elves to whom Celebrimbor would have entrusted a Ring of Power and their identities weren’t exactly secret.

Sauron came very close to defeating Gil-galad and capturing his Rings, but was foiled at the last moment by a Númenórean fleet out of the west, who drove him out of Eriador and back to the shadowed realm of Mordor. “For many years the Westlands had peace”, and in this time Galadriel and Celebrían returned over the Misty Mountains and reunited with Celeborn in the haven of Imladris. Gil-galad joined them for a war-council in which it was decided that he should give one of his Rings of Power to the young lord Elrond of Imladris – who by an extraordinary coincidence had just fallen in love with Galadriel’s daughter, Celebrían (nothing suspicious about that, that’s for sure!)

For more context on Elrond and the Númenóreans, I suggest you check out some of my earlier posts, namely this one and this one – although I will be continuing this series soon with a post about the Númenórean prince Isildur. It should be a lot easier to write than this one, which required me to have several books and literally dozens of search-tabs open simultaneously.

Rings Of Power
Elrond and Galadriel | slashfilm.com

As for Galadriel, well, that’s her entire story through The Rings Of Power season one, at least based on what we currently know. I can’t promise that everything you’ve read in this post will make it into the show, but I do believe that having this context will help a lot of people – particularly new fans – better understand the characters who inhabit Middle-earth, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Be sure to share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

It’s Been 4 Years But “The Rings Of Power” 1st Trailer Is Finally Here

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE RINGS OF POWER AHEAD!

Taking advantage of the Super Bowl’s audience of millions, Amazon Prime used last night’s game to launch the first teaser trailer for The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power into the world. It was brief, just about a minute long, and more evocative than it was revealing – purely designed to get audiences, particularly more casual fantasy fans, excited to be back in the world of Middle-earth after almost a decade. But if the trailer seems light on story details and you’re still confused as to what’s going on, I want you to go check out Fellowship Of Fans on YouTube, because you will find many of the answers you are looking for there.

Rings Of Power
Galadriel | polygon.com

In fact, let me just put a pause on the trailer breakdown for a moment and invite you to marvel along with me at Fellowship Of Fans’ impeccable track record, because this teaser trailer officially confirms at least four exclusive story leaks and a character leak released by Fellowship over the past year – and a recent Vanity Fair article with accompanying promotional images confirmed several more of their exclusive character leaks, including Maxim Baldry as Isildur and Charles Edwards as Celebrimbor (sadly, I did not have the time to cover the contents of that article in the depth and level of detail that I wanted before the trailer dropped).

Knowing the context behind a lot of the split-second images in last night’s teaser trailer was immensely helpful to me, even as a long-time reader of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, because The Rings Of Power isn’t a straightforward adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings, where knowing the source material forwards-and-backwards is enough to fully grasp what’s going on. It’s an adaptation of Tolkien’s accounts of the Second Age of Middle-earth, which he left only partially completed at the time of his death, scattered like broken shards of a narrative across heaps of disorganized notes, rough drafts of stories that never went anywhere.

A relatively brief synopsis of the Second Age did find its way into the appendices to The Lord Of The Rings and is included in most editions of The Return Of The King, but it’s written in the style of a historical text and spans over three-thousand years. Amazon has opted to construct their own largely original narrative around the main events of the Second Age, which will be squeezed into a much smaller timeframe coinciding with the lives of the Númenóreans Elendil and Isildur – which is either the safer approach, the riskier approach, the right approach or the wrong approach depending on who you ask.

So anyway, while there are a number of characters in this trailer that come to us directly from Tolkien’s writings on the Second Age (Galadriel and Elrond being the most notable), there are just as many original characters pulled from the corners of Middle-earth that Tolkien left largely unexplored – including a Silvan Elf protagonist and a Dwarven princess. Obviously, most of their scenes and storylines are wholly original as well, but even the canonical characters have been placed in unfamiliar settings and situations, with Galadriel embarking on a mission into the Forodwaith to hunt orcs while Elrond mingles with the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm.

I’m sure a book purist will inform me in the comments below that that’s exactly why The Rings Of Power will suck, because it’s “fan-fiction” and not “canon”. Regardless of the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien would first have to rise from the grave to write any adaptation of his works that wouldn’t inherently be a piece of “fan-fiction”, and that no adaptation – bad or good – will ever have any bearing whatsoever on the original work if you don’t let it, I’m frankly confused as to how purists thought a Second Age show was ever going to work without at least a couple of original characters and storylines. I mean, did you not want any dialogue, either?

What concerns me slightly about all of the original characters and storylines packed into this teaser trailer is not that they exist in the first place, but that general audiences trying to get a handle on what The Rings Of Power is really about won’t be able to find that information easily – because it’s not in the teaser trailer itself, and it’s not in the source material that most journalists will point you towards. It’s in Fellowship Of Fans’ archives, mostly, and if you don’t mind a few minor potential spoilers, I highly suggest you check out all of their videos regarding The Rings Of Power as well as their Second Age breakdown posts and my own.

I know a few people who don’t like to come across anything even remotely spoiler-y before watching a film or series they’re excited for, so I’ll give you this one last chance to leave before we jump into the actual trailer breakdown you’ve all been waiting for, and some minor potential spoilers for season one. See you in seven months! The rest of you, follow me.

Although there’s nothing in this teaser that shocked me while watching, I feel like it still might surprise some folks to learn that the meteor streaking across the night sky at around the 0:35 mark is actually a person, whose true identity will be a running mystery throughout season one. Fellowship Of Fans reports that this character, dubbed “Meteor Man”, will crash into Middle-earth (sustaining severe memory loss in the process), where a group of Harfoot hobbits will discover him and adopt him into their traveling community at the behest of one Elanor Brandyfoot, the inquisitive young hobbit girl who narrates the trailer.

We catch a brief glimpse of Elanor holding the Meteor Man’s bloodied hand (it’s the trailer thumbnail, embedded above), but I doubt that’s immediately clear to anyone who hasn’t been watching Fellowship Of Fans’ videos religiously. This teaser trailer could have used slightly more footage of Meteor Man’s crash-landing and his discovery by the hobbits – just something to get casual fans talking and theorizing the same way they did with Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time, which had everyone wondering who the Dragon Reborn would turn out to be.

The difference is that the identity of the Dragon Reborn was common knowledge to anyone who had read Robert Jordan’s books, and the answer was easily available on Google anyway. Meteor Man’s identity is a genuine mystery, but Amazon is holding their cards so close to their chest that most fans don’t know that there’s a mystery here to be solved…yet. I don’t know when we can expect to see our next trailer, but I hope it shows more of this character and the bizarre circumstances of his arrival. Did I mention he might also be evil?

Amazon has officially nicknamed this character “The Stranger”, which is definitely more ominous and creepy than Meteor Man but somehow doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, either. It’s like how Disney wanted us to call Baby Yoda “The Child” at first. Not gonna happen. Don’t try to make it happen. And please let his actual name be something better than Grogu.

On the subject of names, we have to talk about Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot, Markella Kavenagh’s hobbit character. Elanor in this case is clearly a reference to Elanor Gamgee, the eldest daughter of Samwise Gamgee – born shortly after the events of The Lord Of The Rings. The name is Sindarin Elvish, and in the case of Sam’s daughter it was derived from the golden flower elanor that once grew in the forests of Lórien. It’s a beautiful name, and creates a powerful link to the hobbit characters of the Fourth Age, but I really do hope there’s an explanation for how Elanor’s parents came across the flower and discovered its Elvish name.

In the one clear shot we see of Elanor, she wears a sprig of yellow flowers in her curly hair – which I would have thought were just wildflowers were it not for her peculiar name. What we can extrapolate from this is that Elanor and her family must live somewhere near Lórien, which more or less lines up with Tolkien’s account of the late Second Age and early Third Age hobbit territories being situated in Wilderland, between the Misty Mountains and Greenwood. The Harfoots specifically “long lived in the foothills of the mountains” and “had much to do with Dwarves”, theoretically placing them somewhere in the vicinity of Khazad-dûm’s eastern gates and Lórien. This works out!

Markella Kavenagh’s Elanor is the only character to speak in the trailer, and she gets just a single line – “Haven’t you ever wondered what else is out there? There’s wonders in this world beyond our wandering. I can feel it.” Presumably, she’s talking to someone else in her hobbit traveling community, although I take it from this dialogue that these hobbits must never stray from their well-worn paths, or else why would Elanor be unsatisfied with her life? Fellowship Of Fans has previously reported that The Rings Of Power will follow the Harfoot hobbits on their westward migrations into Eriador.

Assuming the hobbits reach the Misty Mountains by the end of season one (and if they truly live next-door to Khazad-dûm, it might not even take them that long), it will only be the second perilous mountain journey in The Rings Of Power after Galadriel’s adventure in the Forodwaith. Here, in the bitterly cold wastelands once occupied by the Dark Lord Melkor, we’ll meet up with Galadriel and another Elf played by Kip Chapman as they seek out orcs, trolls, and other monsters left over from the First Age. Galadriel is out for vengeance, and she won’t rest until all of Melkor’s minions are wiped off the face of Middle-earth – including, and perhaps especially, Sauron.

I unironically love this whole concept, so much so that I’m not even disappointed to learn that is the Forodwaith and not the Helcaraxë, as some fans had hoped. I mean, I would have been happy either way, and the crossing of the Helcaraxë in the First Age by the Elven rebels leaving Valinor would have made for an even better parallel to the hobbits crossing the Misty Mountains looking for a new home, but whatever, I’m cool with it if it means we get to see Galadriel scaling an ice-wall using her Valinorean sword. Also, the Forodwaith is one of those wide empty areas on Tolkien’s map of Middle-earth where Amazon can play around as much as they like.

Rings Of Power
Kip Chapman’s Elven character | cbr.com

My early prediction is that something will happen up north that puts the fear of god in Galadriel. She’ll learn that Sauron is rising again (The Hobbit kinda did this storyline already, but badly, so we’ll let it slide), and she’ll quickly return home to Lindon, where King Gil-galad and Elrond will be unreceptive to her warnings and try to ease her fears instead of preparing for the inevitable. Fed up, Galadriel will leave again, this time on a sea-voyage. I don’t know why, but we’ve learned via Vanity Fair that Galadriel somehow ends up shipwrecked by episode two, and has to work together with a mysterious man named Halbrand to survive a storm at sea.

At some point during this sequence, probably after the storm has settled down a bit, Halbrand discovers that Galadriel is an Elf and pulls her hair aside brusquely to reveal her leaf-shaped ears. The audacity! My only takeaway from this is that Halbrand needs to get pushed off the boat or whacked in the head with an oar or something.

All signs point to Galadriel and Halbrand washing up somewhere on the shores of Númenor, where Elendil will find Galadriel. The trailer opens on an establishing shot of a Númenórean port-city, presumably the westward-facing city of Andúnië where Elendil and his family lived during the late Second Age. The camera follows a cargo-laden ship through a sea-gate painted blue and gold, and lifts over the archway to reveal a wide harbor crowded with fishing-boats, over which loom the palatial estates of the lords, and Tolkienesque interpretations of the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Colossus of Rhodes. Further in the distance stands the great peak of the Meneltarma.

It’s a beautiful sight, but it’s gone almost before you have time to register that you’ve just beheld the shores of Númenor. The rest of this trailer is Elf-centric and focuses primarily on Middle-earth, with no human characters besides Halbrand even appearing. I suspect we’ll see plenty more of Númenor in trailers, TV spots, and promotional images closer to release, but for now Amazon just wants to get the message across to people that this is Middle-earth, and Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits do a better job of conveying that than humans.

And based on the fan reaction to Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Silvan Elf protagonist Arondir in last night’s trailer, I can absolutely understand why the Elven characters will dominate the marketing for The Rings Of Power. They’re just neat. Arondir catching an arrow in mid-air, flipping it around and firing it in one fluid motion (all in the dark, mind you) is cool the same way that Legolas swinging across the front of a moving horse was cool in The Two Towers, before Peter Jackson decided he needed to top that scene every five minutes, using increasingly implausible CGI to do so.

The one shot in this trailer that gives me Hobbit vibes, in a bad way, is right near the end. An Elf wielding a giant battle-axe leaps in slow-motion across the screen, with a chain attached to his ankle unfurling behind him in the sky. It’s clearly supposed to be an awesome action beat, but I don’t know what’s going on here and it doesn’t look like it was achieved using practical effects, which is why it falls flat for me. If we learn that it is practical and that this is actually a really raw and visceral action scene, that’s interesting, but the character looks as weightless and removed from reality as Legolas when he was gliding up a falling staircase in The Battle Of The Five Armies, and I’m not feeling it.

Happily, this awkward moment is counterbalanced just a second later by a quick shot of an Elven character played by Will Fletcher standing in the rain, screaming soundlessly while a swarm of orcs presses against him from all sides – and not only is Fletcher clearly real and present in this scene, but the orcs are as well. I can’t begin to express how relieved I am that both of Amazon’s biggest fantasy series’ are committed to using practical effects wherever possible, and this one shot has me longing for the Wheel Of Time finale we could have had, were it not for COVID-19.

According to Fellowship Of Fans, this Elven character is Galadriel’s brother Finrod – and yes, he has short hair. It’s a tragedy, although perhaps not quite as tragic as what’s about to happen to Finrod in this scene. I know that canonically, he dies wrestling a werewolf in the dungeons of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, which as far as death scenes go is unparalleled in Tolkien’s works, but that happens in The Silmarillion and the rights situation is complicated, so maybe Rings Of Power Finrod will have to die in battle instead. I just hope it’s epic…well, that, and I hope Amazon gives him long hair in post-production. That’s where the CGI budget should be going!

You know who is actually rocking the short hair? Elrond, shockingly. His hair, while several shades lighter than I would have liked, looks a lot better in motion than it did in the Vanity Fair photos, and Robert Aramayo makes the absolute most of his one shot in the trailer by hitting the audience with a smoldering gaze that could melt a Ring of Power. It’s never not gonna be vaguely annoying to me that so many of the male Elves – and only the male Elves – are sporting short hairstyles, but it looks good on Elrond, I won’t lie.

Also, I love that he’s an accidental heartthrob; he’s not just smoldering for the sake of it, he actually seems to be glowering at a group of Dwarves partying in the background, who are breaking his concentration on whatever old artifact he’s studying. Aramayo’s Elrond is an ambassador from Gil-galad to the Dwarves, according to Vanity Fair, and at some point early in the season he will be sent to Khazad-dûm to try and repair the old alliances between Elves and Dwarves that existed sporadically throughout the First Age and almost invariably ended in one side betraying the other.

Fellowship Of Fans has previously reported that the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm will be reeling from the sudden collapse of a mining-shaft in the first few episodes, probably just before Elrond’s arrival in the city. Vanity Fair pointedly describes Elrond as an “architect”, implying that he puts his skills to good use at some point in the three episodes their writers have seen – perhaps literally helping the Dwarves rebuild and thereby strengthening the bonds of friendship between their peoples? I’m down for that.

A few quick shots of Dwarven characters pass by in this trailer – mostly from what is believed to be the funeral ceremony for the Dwarves killed in the mining-shaft collapse. Prince Durin IV and Princess Disa, the latter a new character and the first Dwarven woman with a major role in any adaptation of Tolkien’s works, are both in attendance. Disa leads a song of lament in a scene first described by, you guessed it, Fellowship Of Fans. We don’t get to hear any of it, unfortunately, but Sophia Nomvete’s physical performance tells me that this is gonna be an impactful moment.

A few moments later, Durin IV reappears wielding a hammer, and strikes swiftly at a large block of stone in a dark chamber. He’s being observed silently from the corners of the room by three or four older Dwarves, which almost makes me think this is some kind of time-honored ritual in which he must partake before he can become King Durin IV. Of the Dwarven characters in Tolkien’s works, those with whom we’ve spent the most time were either exiles or travelers long away from home, so to see Dwarven culture on display – and not through an intermediary character like Bilbo – is actually quite rare and exciting.

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Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot | arstechnica.com

That’s what I love most about the direction The Rings Of Power is taking: it’s giving us a unique opportunity to explore the regions and peoples of Middle-earth that only ever existed on the peripheries of Tolkien’s most well-known stories. By the end of the Third Age, Khazad-dûm is in ruins, Númenor lies under the waves, Lindon is virtually uninhabited, and paradise has been removed from the world entirely – but in the Second Age they’re all alive, vividly alive, and The Rings Of Power lets us imagine what Middle-earth was before its decline.

And yes, it’s fan-fiction, all of it, but that’s…okay with me? I’ll still be interested to see where and why it deviates from Tolkien’s writings, and when it crosses a line for me I’ll voice my frustration, but it’s just one adaptation of many that have been, and many that have yet to be. It’s never gonna “ruin the books”, because the books will always be there – no matter what.

Trailer Rating: 9/10

“The Rings Of Power” Unveils New Title In Epic 1st Teaser

I still find it hard to believe that all of this is actually happening. Just over four years ago, when Amazon Prime Studios bought the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings and announced their intention to tell never-before-seen stories in the world of Middle-earth, I had no way of imagining what the streaming service had in store. At the time, I had no real interest in the entertainment industry and Amazon Prime was therefore still just a shipping company in my mind.

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The Rings Of Power | empireonline.com

It was largely because of my growing excitement for what, three years ago, I and many others in the Tolkien community still believed to be the story of a young Aragorn’s adventures, that writing about film and TV became a passion of mine. The revelation in early 2019 that Amazon actually planned to tackle the sprawling Second Age of Middle-earth in their massive series was the tipping-point, finally convincing me to start a blog where I could talk about The Lord Of The Rings – and all my favorite films, TV shows, and franchises, but first and foremost, it’s always been about The Lord Of The Rings for me.

Over the past two years, I’ve followed this series’ long and tumultuous production every step of the way, going over each new casting announcement and filming delay with all of you. Together, we’ve rejoiced over Howard Shore’s return to Middle-earth, discussed Amazon’s controversial decision to move production to the United Kingdom, and had great fun exploring all the nooks and crannies of the Second Age in preparation for a series that is somehow too far away and yet scarily too close. Today, it feels closer than ever, and…I’m not prepared. Not physically, not mentally, certainly not emotionally. I’m a wreck, that’s all there is to it.

As you might have heard, or guessed, or realized from the video embedded at the top of this post, the cause of my emotional distress is the first brief teaser for Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings – or should I say, The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power. It shows not a single frame of footage from the series, which premieres on September 2nd. Trailers and such are still many months away (and please, Amazon, I beg of you, warn us all beforehand when the first trailer is about to drop, because I can’t just randomly wake up to that one day).

So what is this teaser, then? Well, simply put, it’s a title reveal. But it’s also quite literally a work of art. What at first appears to be a compilation of wholly CGI shots of molten metal flowing through spidery grooves in a wooden background, bubbling and cooling into the forms of thin silver letters (forming the title) is in fact actual footage of the actual forging of this piece at an actual blacksmith foundry by an actual blacksmith, named Landon Ryan. Members of TheOneRing.net’s staff were invited to witness the forging of the title, and shared details of their behind-the-scenes experience on their website.

The teaser is enhanced by what may be our first taste of Howard Shore and Bear McCreary’s score for The Rings Of Power, and by voice-over narration from Morfydd Clark, who recites the iconic verse of poetry inscribed on the One Ring, greatest of all the Rings of Power. I doubt I need to remind you of what it says, but I can’t help myself because I get chills even typing out the words; “Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky; seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone; nine for Mortal Men doomed to die; one for the Dark Lord on his dark throne; in the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie”.

Rings Of Power
Three Rings for the Elven-kings… | winteriscoming.net

Clark is all but officially confirmed to be playing Galadriel, so her narration here establishes a clear link with Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, which also began in the Second Age with voice-over from Cate Blanchett’s version of Galadriel. As one of the oldest Elves in Middle-earth, and certainly among the most active in all three Ages of the world, she’s simply the ideal choice for a narrator. Elrond and Gil-galad are too young, nobody knows Círdan (to be fair to Círdan, that was by choice; dude’s most notable accomplishment was giving his own Ring of Power to Gandalf the first chance he got), and Glorfindel is still dead…for now.

Of course, the flashbacks to the Second Age in Peter Jackson’s films were necessarily brief, condensing thousands of years worth of lore from J.R.R. Tolkien’s appendices to The Lord Of The Rings into a short and succinct prologue sequence. But The Rings Of Power, according to showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, “unites all the major stories of Middle-earth’s Second Age”, including “the forging of the rings, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the epic tale of Númenor, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men”.

Their words would seem to indicate that, despite mounting evidence that Isildur and his family are major characters in season one of The Rings Of Power, events long before their time – such as the actual forging of the Rings in Eregion and the war of the Elves and Sauron – will also be adapted in great detail and depth. Unless The Rings Of Power jumps across timelines in the style of The Witcher‘s first season, what we might be seeing is a case of a compressed timeline; all the major events of the Second Age happening roughly simultaneously, instead of spaced out across 3,441 years.

I know that would be divisive with some fans, but unless the rumors of Isildur are all baseless (which at this point seems highly unlikely), it’s the only scenario I can see where the forging of the Rings isn’t squeezed into the first two episodes, which apparently form a roughly three-hour long prologue to the main events of the series (at least according to TheOneRing.net). And given that the Rings of Power now feature in the title, it’s difficult to believe that their creation will again be abbreviated for a prologue – even a supersized one – when the series could easily dedicate multiple episodes to their forging.

There are very few other clues in this teaser as to what stories will be adapted in season one, although the wave of water that floods the screen just as Galadriel reaches the line in the Ring Verse that talks about “Mortal Men doomed to die” is a nice bit of foreshadowing for one of the cataclysmic events that brought the Second Age to its end. If you know, you know.

Rings Of Power
Sauron | comingsoon.net

Honestly, none of us really know what to expect from The Rings Of Power. We have this one teaser, one screenshot from the first episode that is more confusing than illuminating, and a vague synopsis. But the marketing campaign has officially begun, and a full-length trailer, first look photos, interviews with the cast and crew, and plenty of other goodies are coming. The months between now and September 2nd will fly by as swiftly as the four years we’ve spent waiting for this exhilarating moment, and I can only hope that when that day arrives, I will be ready.

Because right now, as I finish off this review and think about how I’m going to dissect and examine this minute of footage for the next month, how it is literally going to consume my life until I get another crumb of content and make that my new obsession, one thing is for sure; I’m not ready yet.