“The past is dead. We either move forward, or we die with it.”
So says Elendil in the new full-length trailer for The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power, but for Amazon’s sake, they had better hope the past still has a little bit of life left in it, because if this billion-dollar venture of theirs is going to prove commercially successful, it needs to convince casual fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works and people who have never read his writing or watched the film adaptations of his novels that they could care enough about the events of Middle-earth’s ancient history to sit down and watch roughly eight hours of streaming television based on the Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings. I hope this trailer does the trick, because I don’t know if we’re getting another one before the series premieres in early September.
The strategy at play in this new trailer is very simple. From the opening shot of Númenor’s coastal capital city viewed through a ravine speckled with seabirds and monuments honoring long-dead kings to the final shot of Sadoc Burrows leading a small group of scruffy yet intrepid Harfoots far afield over rolling green hills in search of a new home, the trailer aims to shock-and-awe its potential viewers with the kind of spectacular visuals that streaming services often struggle to deliver consistently…and very rarely in the first season of a new show. It’s what Middle-earth deserves, of course, but it’s also what will get people talking about The Rings Of Power to their friends and family, because you don’t need to have read the books or seen the movies to know that the show looks incredible.
For anyone wondering why these trailers haven’t given away many story details yet, I think you have your answer – it’s because Amazon believes that such details not only wouldn’t be relevant to anyone who hasn’t read The Lord Of The Rings (and more specifically its Appendices, further limiting the amount of people for whom the content of the story itself would convince them to watch), but could potentially give casual viewers the impression that the show is overly convoluted and inaccessible, which is definitely not what Amazon wants. That’s just my amateur analysis, of course, but in my mind it makes sense to assume you’re losing viewers every time you throw decontextualized pieces of information and unfamiliar names at them in a trailer.
If you’ve read the Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings and are reading this post, I’m going to assume you’re already aware that The Rings Of Power is set during the Second Age and depicts Middle-earth in its heyday – the way it would have appeared before countless wars reduced its fair cities and proud towers to rubble; before Sauron and his orcs pillaged Ost-in-Edhil, before a Balrog stalked the hallways of Khazad-dûm, before the seas rose to swallow Númenor whole, before the Elves allowed the forest to reclaim their homes in Lindon. The question now is whether more casual fans will recognize any of these locations as the same ones they saw ruined or abandoned by the time of Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, or whether they’ll be sufficiently wowed that it won’t matter if they do or not.
Who, indeed, could be unmoved by the sight of Khazad-dûm in the days before its fall, “not darksome but full of light and splendour” as Gimli so eloquently described it in The Fellowship Of The Ring? To be honest, Tolkien left so much unsaid regarding Khazad-dûm that in this case, even the books won’t adequately prepare you for what The Rings Of Power has in store – in a single screenshot from the trailer, we’re instantly transported back three-thousand years to a time when “the light of sun and star and moon” showered down upon the Dwarven city through many vents and windows in the high ceilings and, by means of mirrors mounted on walls and pillars, zig-zagged away into the mines and cavernous places deep beneath the Misty Mountains – nourishing not only the Dwarves, but an entire underground ecosystem including a forest and a hanging garden.
That’s just one example of a location and an entire archaic culture constructed in reverse by The Rings Of Power‘s Emmy-award worthy team of concept artists (headed up by the legendary John Howe), production designers, prop-makers, weapon-smiths, armorers, costume designers, hair and makeup artists, and God (or possibly Jeff Bezos) only knows how many others who must have been involved in helping restore Middle-earth to its former glory with all the delicacy and dedication of archaeologists on a dig-site. I could go on for hours, quite frankly, but I think you get the gist: The Rings Of Power is visually stunning and aesthetically pleasing, and that’s likely to be the show’s main selling-point until Amazon feels they can afford to push the story and characters equally as hard (the way Netflix eventually did with The Witcher).
And that’s not to say they haven’t been marketing the story and characters at all; just that it hasn’t been their top priority. At least this new trailer features actual dialogue from Galadriel, Marigold Brandyfoot, Elrond, Gil-galad, Arondir, Elendil, and Durin IV (this is the first time we’re hearing most of these characters speak, as a matter of fact, and while we’re on the topic I have to mention that Robert Aramayo’s Elrond in particular sounds just right – I still don’t know how I feel about his short tousled hair, but he’s won me over with his voice, poise, and mannerisms). There’s also a much stronger focus on the Elves, Dwarves, and Humans, as opposed to the Harfoot-centric first teaser narrated by Elanor Brandyfoot.
Regarding the Elves, what stood out to most fans were all the flashbacks to events in the First Age – events recounted only briefly in the Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings. Amazon doesn’t have the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s posthumously-published compendium of First Age myths and legends, The Silmarillion, which would have allowed them to go into greater detail on certain subjects like the Years of the Trees, Fëanor, the Silmarils, and the War of Wrath, so I’m still a little wary of getting my hopes up for things I don’t think The Rings Of Power can actually show us, but I can’t deny that every time the trailers slip in a sneaky reference to something covered extensively in The Silmarillion it makes me wish they had those rights so they could show us what they’re just vaguely referring to.
I suspect the Tolkien Estate is clinging onto those rights because they know better than anyone that fans will always want to see more than Amazon is currently able to show, and that as demand for The Silmarillion grows, they can gradually drive up the price and force Amazon to fork over another $250 million before filming on season two gets underway. And The Silmarillion is only the beginning! Imagine what Amazon would be willing to pay for the rights to Unfinished Tales and its references to the mysterious Blue Wizards…
Anyway, what Amazon has been able to show us – even without needing to draw on The Silmarillion – is the same vista of Valinor under the light of the Two Trees that was first revealed to us in an image released almost one year ago, just from a slightly different angle. Later, when Elrond starts mansplaining to Galadriel that it’s time for her to “put up [her] sword” and relax because the enemy has been defeated, Galadriel’s simple yet chilling response – “you have not seen what I have seen” – is intercut with crimson-tinted images of Galadriel covered in ash and of bodies floating in deep water, meant to look like Amazon’s interpretation of the Sinking of Beleriand and the War of Wrath (not that Galadriel canonically played any part in that war, but I’ll let it slide because that never made sense to me anyway, sorry Tolkien).
We also catch a few more quick glimpses of what each of our Elven protagonists are up to in season one, from Galadriel fighting an ice-troll in the Forodwaith to a captive Arondir wrestling giant wolves in a pit (not entirely sure what that’s about, but I’m assuming the parallels to Finrod’s last fight are intentional?), as well as more Elven cities – including what looks like Ost-in-Edhil, where the Rings of Power will be forged. As a side-note, I’m not sure whether to be amused or frustrated that there’s been no mention of Rings (of Power, or otherwise) in any of the three teasers released. I guess season one is all one long, slow-burn backstory for why the Rings were made, but to not even foreshadow the Rings seems like a missed opportunity.
Well, there is one moment in the trailer that could be interpreted as backstory for the Rings – but it involves Durin IV, a semi-canonical character whom Tolkien probably only bothered naming because he needed to get the total number of Durins to seven. Durin IV probably lived near the end of the Second Age and never had anything to do with the creation or distribution of the Rings of Power, yet his ancestor Durin III was actually a close friend of the Ring-maker Celebrimbor and the only Dwarf-lord to whom Celebrimbor personally gifted one of the Seven Rings (according to the Dwarves)…so naturally, in the show, their roles have been swapped. Durin III is now a peripheral character (albeit played by Westworld‘s Peter Mullan, so he’s sure to be a scene-stealer), while Durin IV is the friend of Celebrimbor.
And it’s Durin IV whom we see holding aloft a chunk of raw mithril and proudly declaring “the beginning of a new era”, heavily implying that this is the first discovery of mithril in Khazad-dûm…which somehow feels like a more significant act of timeline-compression than I think it is. It doesn’t really affect anything; it just means that Celebrimbor must have had a different reason for settling in Eregion outside the west gates of Khazad-dûm besides wanting dibs on all mithril leaving the Dwarven kingdom. I just wonder what this is setting up for the future, because to my mind there’s only two options – one involves the creation of Galadriel’s Ring of Power, Nenya, and the other would necessitate moving the Fall of Khazad-dûm forward by roughly four-thousand years…and that’s what scares me about this change.
Just because the writers are already having to compress thousands of years of history into just five seasons of television doesn’t mean they should actively seek out opportunities to do more of that. Timeline-compression works best when it’s helping the story flow more smoothly to its destination (an example of this being Peter Jackson’s decision to do away with the seventeen-year long gap between Bilbo’s birthday party and Frodo leaving the Shire in The Fellowship Of The Ring), not when it’s forcing an epic story to shrink itself down to a more manageable size (like what’s at risk of happening in the case of Númenor).
I still firmly believe Amazon could have left the timeline just the way it was and gotten away with changing out the entire cast of human characters every season to emphasize the fear of mortality and decay prevalent among humans (and to some extent all the Free Peoples) throughout the Second Age, but I respect that, for whatever reason, they wanted a story where Isildur and Ar-Pharazôn are contemporaries of Celebrimbor, and they made the timeline work for them. We’ll have to wait until September to see if it pays off, but right now the sequences in Númenor certainly look compelling; particularly if you’re a fan of political intrigue tropes, as I am.
We see Ar-Pharazôn (still just Pharazôn at this point) riling up a colorfully-dressed crowd of Númenórean citizens with one of his speeches, presumably railing against the Elves and their leaders. Elendil’s daughter, Eärien, a non-canonical character described as politically-minded and opinionated, watches from the sidelines with an unreadable expression (it’s safe to assume that she’ll become one of Pharazôn’s allies, the “King’s Men”, in future seasons…and suffer the same terrible fate as all who join him in defying the Ban of the Valar). Tar-Míriel, the Queen Regent of Númenor, wanders through the streets of Armenelos with eyes fixed on the sky – from which particles of ash appear to be falling.
Elendil and Isildur, though not yet leaders of the Faithful, also appear – and The Rings Of Power foreshadows their future significance in the War of the Elves and Sauron by having them befriend and assist Galadriel after she washes up on the shores of Númenor with Halbrand, a probably non-canonical human character of indeterminate origins (I say probably because there’s a chance he’s the future Witch-king of Angmar or another of the nine Nazgûl, most of whose identities Tolkien never disclosed). Halbrand appears to part ways with Galadriel in Númenor – at one point in the trailer, he stands in the same large room where Ar-Pharazôn has been spotted in other images, and the two could very well become allies or rivals depending on what goes down between them there.
In the last ten seconds of the trailer, the focus returns to the Harfoots and their discovery of the mysterious Meteor Man – whose crash-landing we’ve now seen from various different angles, but this time we get the view from directly above…and there’s really no denying that, for a moment, as he’s lying there in a fetal position in the middle of a burning crater, he strongly resembles the Eye of Sauron as described by Tolkien in The Fellowship Of The Ring – “a single Eye….rimmed with fire, [that] was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing”. Coincidence? Deception? Or a hint that this conveniently amnesiac stranger is in fact Sauron, coming to interrupt Middle-earth’s long peace after centuries in hiding?
Based on their dialogue, Galadriel and Gil-galad at least seem fairly certain that Sauron was not defeated during the War of Wrath, and they warn of a darkness creeping back into the world from the deep woods and waters where it long lurked, as if answer to a summons. Gil-galad’s monologue on the subject accompanies footage of orcs marching in torchlit procession behind a tall, gaunt commander with long black hair and eyes like dark hollows in a pale face – not Sauron, but an original character supposedly named Adar, played by Game Of Thrones‘ Joseph Mawle and rumored to be a High Elf (possibly even one of Galadriel’s brothers) captured and corrupted by the darkness.
So as you can see, there’s actually a good amount of substance to this trailer, more than I think the majority of people will pick up on given that every story detail is intentionally presented without any context in an effort to avoid confusing people that could all too easily backfire if Amazon doesn’t provide viewers enough reasons to watch The Rings Of Power. The cinematic scope of the series and its top-notch production design will lure in folks who might otherwise scoff at fantasy, while its breathtaking CGI will earn high praise from those disillusioned by the shoddy work that Marvel Studios has been rushing out in the past few months (if I were Marvel, I’d be pushing back the release date of She-Hulk because it’s gonna be a bloodbath on Twitter when people start comparing screenshots from both shows).
Nostalgia for the Peter Jackson movies is also an important factor to take into consideration, although I could see it going both ways – on the one hand, there will be fans of the movies who are just happy to revisit Middle-earth even if it looks, sounds, and feels a little bit different…and on the other hand, you’ll have the violently angry stans spamming Amazon’s comments with hate because they can’t accept that Jackson’s interpretation of Middle-earth is not necessarily the definitive one.
There’s obviously a lot of overlap between stans of Jackson’s films and fans of Tolkien’s writings, but at this point I think the latter are on average slightly more likely to tune into The Rings Of Power simply because there are a significant number of “purists” who didn’t like the movies and probably won’t end up enjoying the series either, but will either watch it for the sole purpose of complaining, or just to see what all the fuss is about. The upside to there so being so few new adaptations of Tolkien’s work over the past decade is that fans haven’t experienced anything resembling a “fatigue” yet, so we don’t not watch these things.
Will it be enough? I guess we’ll find out soon enough, but right now I want to know whether Amazon’s marketing strategy has been working for you – if so, I’d be interested to hear why, but if not, I’d be equally interested in hearing from my readers what Amazon could and should be doing to hook the hardcore fans, but even more importantly the casual viewers who only know The Rings Of Power through its trailers and promotional materials. Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
In a new, minute-long, sneak peek at the second full-length trailer for Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power, everyone in Middle-earth is looking up to the skies in anticipation of something, be it an answer to their prayers or a reckoning for their misdeeds or divine punishment upon their enemies – but when a meteor actually streaks across the heavens, leaving a trail of blazing flame in its wake as it hurtles toward Wilderland (and straight into the midst of a peaceful nomadic community of Harfoots whose lives will be irrevocably altered by their encounter with the meteor), there’s no telling which of those it will be, or whether it’s something entirely different.
You might be wondering where in all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings does the author mention a meteor striking Middle-earth in the middle of the Second Age, and to that there really is no good answer. Off the top of my head, there’s one reference in The Silmarillion to the swords Anglachel and Anguirel being “made of iron that fell from heaven as a blazing star”, i.e. a meteorite, but one that fell during the First Age, and then there’s the mysterious Stone of Erech in Númenor (later transported by ship to Gondor) which “some believed…had fallen from the sky”. But everything we know about The Rings Of Power‘s “meteor” from leaks and previously released footage suggests that it’s a strange, disheveled man, and not a chunk of rock.
Middle-earth’s skies are conveniently crowded with minor deities and even a couple of stray Elves who could potentially take a tumble, but I feel like The Rings Of Power would be backing itself a corner by trying to insert guest appearances from the likes of, say, Eärendil the Mariner or even Tirion, god of the moon, into a story where neither of these characters had any relevance to begin with, because if they did it would have been a pretty big deal…like a really big deal…like the kind of momentous event that would have warranted at least a footnote in Tolkien’s Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings, I think (although I suppose I ought to note that the Hobbits of the Third Age did have a legend about the “Man in the Moon” coming down to earth one night to get wasted, so, uh, make of that what you will).
The prevailing theory among fans, of course, is that the “Meteor Man” is none other than Sauron, adopting a convincing disguise and putting on a show so he can slither back into Middle-earth after centuries of banishment in desolate lands – but I get the sense that Amazon only wants us to think that, to draw attention away from the other original characters in the sprawling ensemble cast who are just as likely to be Sauron (personally, I’m sticking by this theory, posed a few months back on Reddit by u/TheManFromFarAway, that the Meteor Man is Old Man Willow – specifically, the malicious spirit that will end up trapped in a willow-tree in the Old Forest and eventually become known as Old Man Willow).
What I really like about that theory is that Old Man Willow is only relevant to the Hobbits, so he could stay with the Hobbits (sorry, the Harfoots) for the course of the entire show and it wouldn’t break canon because Old Man Willow is a pretty minor character in the grand scheme of things. Him just being there wouldn’t necessarily cause any glaring plot-holes; at least none that come to mind. But regardless, everyone in Middle-earth saw something fall from the sky – and I’m assuming that while they’ll each have their own interpretation of what it means, it will be widely read as a sign of approaching upheaval, calamity, and changes both great and terrible. They wouldn’t be wrong to think that.
Most of the teaser is just a montage of several noteworthy characters looking up at the sky, stitched together to make it seem as if they’re all watching the meteor fall at the same moment – a few of them clearly are, but some, like Númenor’s Queen Tar-Míriel, the Dwarven prince Durin IV, and the Lady Galadriel, are just as obviously glancing upwards at other things, or at nothing in particular. When the meteor falls, presumably near the very end of episode one just before the cut to credits (I can already envision how it will play out in my head), I assume Galadriel will still be in Lindon, the realm of King Gil-galad. My guess is that in episode two, alarmed by the meteor, Gil-galad sends Galadriel and a crew of seafaring Elves west to Valinor to try and seek answers from the Valar regarding the meteor’s origins.
That, I think, is what we see in this teaser – Galadriel standing on the deck of a small ship carved in the shape of a swan, much like the one she and Elrond sailed into the Uttermost West at the end of the Third Age, with white seabirds spiraling around the mast. I’m also going to hazard a guess that this is the same ship we know for a fact gets wrecked during a storm at some point in the first two or three episodes, resulting in the tragic loss of the entire crew save for Galadriel and a human named Halbrand (whom I now believe is a stowaway trying to sneak into Valinor, which makes a lot of sense given what we know about his character). Of course, mortal men like Halbrand are strictly forbidden from setting foot in Valinor, which is probably the reason for the sudden storm and the failure of Galadriel’s mission.
The leaks, which mostly come from Fellowship Of Fans on YouTube (check out his channel if you haven’t already), indicate that no later than episode three, Galadriel and Halbrand wash up on the shores of Númenor, an island kingdom in the middle of the ocean separating Middle-earth and Valinor, inhabited by humans of unusually tall stature and great strength. Their queen, at the time this story opens, is Tar-Míriel – and yes, canonically, her cousin Ar-Pharazôn usurped the throne before she could ever take up the crown and scepter of Númenor, but The Rings Of Power is playing around with the timeline and giving her a bit more time to rule before that happens, which is actually…not a terrible idea? Hopefully, it allows us to feel the tragedy all the more deeply because by that point we’ll actually understand for ourselves why Tar-Míriel could have been a great leader, instead of having to take Tolkien’s word for it as is the case in the text.
Circling back around to Lindon (only because we know quite a lot about the Numenorean subplot in The Rings Of Power season one, and I’m afraid I’ll give too much away if I keep rambling on), it seems that Gil-galad wants to cover all of his bases and so puts his young herald Elrond in charge of an expedition eastward, perhaps to try and find the crash-site. We know that Elrond will end up in Khazad-dum as a guest of Durin IV and Disa, and he probably spends some time in Eregion with Celebrimbor as well (I can’t explain it, but I have this sneaking suspicion Celebrimbor will try to manipulate Elrond into working for him by reminding him of the debt Elrond owes to Celebrimbor’s family for saving his life as a child – long story, read The Silmarillion), but I haven’t heard any rumors regarding what happens to Elrond after that, whether he returns to Lindon or ventures further into the east of Middle-earth in search of the Meteor Man.
Meanwhile, far southeast of Lindon in a verdant region of Middle-earth soon to be burned unrecognizable by the coming of Sauron, a Silvan Elf named Arondir and village apothecary named Bronwyn – both original characters created for The Rings Of Power – grab for each other’s hand as they watch the meteor descend from the skies, dangerously close to where they’re standing. I’ve previously speculated that the village of Tirharad, where Bronwyn lives, and the ruins of the Elven settlement it’s built on, which used to belong to Arondir’s people, all exist on land that will one day become known as Mordor; around the same time that Bronwyn and Arondir, following in the footsteps of other star-crossed lovers before them, will probably die defending their homes from Sauron’s legions of orcs (that’s purely speculation on my part, not a spoiler, but come on…these two aren’t making it out of the show alive).
The meteor finally zips over Fangorn Forest before crashing in Wilderland, startling a couple of Ents who were just minding their own business – confirmation, if any was needed, that there will indeed be Ents in The Rings Of Power, although I’d recommend keeping your expectations fairly low if you’re going into season one hoping the Ents play a major role…or really, any role except as bystanders…in the narrative. Entwives, on the other hand, might have a little something to do if we ever get to visit their gardens in the south of Wilderland, but I’d be extremely surprised (delighted, mind you, but still surprised) if we got the chance in season one.
By an extraordinary coincidence, the kind that would make even Gandalf take notice, the meteor lands just a mile or two away from a group of Harfoots camping in the woods, and is there discovered by the most unlikely person imaginable: Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot! We’ve talked at length about the identity of Meteor Man already, so there’s no need to rehash any of that, but Elanor is potentially even more interesting because she’s a hobbit, and Amazon is likely to do something important with her character. There’s one itty-bitty little problem, which is that neither she nor any of the Harfoots can do anything too important without breaking canon, or if they do, it must be done in secret and without anyone – specifically Sauron – ever finding out about it.
The reason for this is that Gandalf tells Frodo Baggins in The Lord Of The Rings that, until Sauron first heard the name of Baggins and The Shire from Gollum, the Dark Lord had “entirely overlooked the existence of hobbits”, or so Gandalf believed. One could argue that Gandalf was wrong, and, well, it wouldn’t be the first time, nor would it be entirely implausible in this case – Gandalf wasn’t actually around during the Second Age, having not yet taken a physical form, so he might not have been aware of everything that Sauron knew – and of course, if Sauron knew of hobbits but was mistakenly led to believe that he had killed all of the hobbits for whatever reason, that could work too, but all of these excuses kinda miss the point, which is that Sauron needs to have overlooked hobbits for a very simple thematic reason.
Sauron, gnawed incessantly by his envy of the gods and all of their creations in Middle-earth, seems to have always been hyper-aware of anything he perceived as greater than himself – people, places, inanimate objects – and if he couldn’t improve upon a thing further, as he did with the Rings of Power for probably the last time in his life, then he sought only to destroy it. Anything undeserving of his envy was undeserving of his rage or his attention in general, and that’s exactly why he lost the War of the Ring, because even after learning that a hobbit was in possession of the One Ring and was heading towards Mount Doom with the intention to destroy it, he was still convinced that Aragorn and the Elves were his real enemies, and that something as insignificant as a hobbit wasn’t worth guarding against.
So the only way I’ll accept Sauron learning about the existence of hobbits in The Rings Of Power, potentially even interacting with hobbits if he truly is the Meteor Man, is if we see how this delusion came about, with him immediately abandoning the hobbits once he realizes that he can’t use them to his own gain, even after all that Elanor and the community did for him. It would perhaps be poetic if a hobbit saved his life, seeing as a hobbit also took it away – both times without Sauron ever even registering it.
But now I want to know what you think about Meteor Man, who you think he is and when we’ll find out his true identity – will it be in season one of The Rings Of Power, or will we have to wait even longer? Could all of our questions be answered when the full-length trailer drops on July 14th? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
Empire Magazine’s July issue is currently hitting newsstands all across the country, and those lucky enough to have grabbed a copy already will no doubt be enjoying reading through exclusive interviews with the cast and crew of Amazon’s The Rings Of Power, accompanied by beautiful images from the set – all of which I’ve already seen, mind you, because someone leaked grainy photos of the photos in the magazine a couple days ago, but now that the high-resolution versions of these images are available to us all I figured I ought to share my thoughts and rank the images in order of how much I like them.
I won’t be talking about the interviews in this post, because to be quite honest there’s not a lot of new information contained in the interviews. With the exception of showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay boldly declaring that they have all five seasons of The Rings Of Power mapped out (right down to the final shot of the final episode), most of it is stuff we’ve heard before. There are also one or two images that I’ve left out of my ranking, because they’re behind-the-scenes shots of actors surrounded by cameras and not very indicative of how the scenes will look with finished special effects and proper lighting and everything. With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s get into it!
My favorite of the new images is the one I’ve chosen to position at the top of the post, so that it will be the thumbnail on Twitter and other social media platforms. This is probably a scene from an early episode of season one in which Galadriel (second-from right, with her back to us) is invited to the banquet-table of King Gil-galad of Lindon (seated at the far right), giving her a chance to catch up with old friends like Elrond half-Elven (third-from-left) and Celebrimbor (third-from-right), and make new friends like Durin IV of Khazad-dûm (at the far left). There’s a character seated directly between Elrond and Celebrimbor with their face obscured, which has led to speculation that this is Tar-Míriel of Númenor.
Celebrimbor appears to be leading the attendees in a toast – perhaps in response to Durin IV announcing his betrothal to Princess Disa, or Galadriel reporting on her fight with a snow-troll in the Forodwaith? Note that Gil-galad hasn’t raised his glass, and in fact wears a distinctly dour expression on his face. Maybe Celebrimbor is trying to hog the spotlight? For The Rings Of Power to characterize him as an attention-seeking peacock might seem blasphemous on the surface, but if you think about it, it’s only natural that the last and currently the least-accomplished of the Fëanorians would want all eyes on him. I mean, he falls for Sauron’s flattery, doesn’t he?
The composition of the image is absolutely exquisite – if I didn’t know this was a still from The Rings Of Power, and you told me it was a long-lost pre-Raphaelite painting, I’d believe you. The same can also be said of our next image, which depicts Gil-galad presenting Galadriel with a crown of golden laurel-leaves during some kind of coronation ceremony in Lindon. Canonically, however, Galadriel was already living in Lindon by the time Gil-galad settled there and established his kingdom on her land, and she’s significantly older than him at any rate, so until we know the context of this scene it’s just…amusing, that’s all.
But anyway, if it weren’t for the fanciful Medieval armor worn by Galadriel and the extras surrounding her, and the close-cropped hair on most of the male Elves, this image would probably be my favorite. You know how there are certain photos that just deserve to be made into thousand-piece jigsaw puzzles that you can display on your coffee table to impress house-guests? This is one of them, and I would buy that, Amazon, so…take notes.
If you couldn’t tell, I quite like the look of Benjamin Walker as Gil-galad, High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth. He’s one of the only male Elves in The Rings Of Power with the classic flowing locks that I, at least, still associate with Elves because (a) Peter Jackson’s movies have left me with a clear mental image of how an Elf “should” look, and getting my brain to accept short-haired Elves is gonna take some work, (b) Tolkien described male Elves as having long hair on multiple occasions, and even went so far as to say that High Elves find long hair to be particularly beautiful, so it has a basis in canon, and (c) long hair looks good on guys, obviously.
Another great candidate for a puzzle, but this would be that puzzle that stays unfinished for days because once you got the tower and the panoramic landscape out of the way you’re left with hundreds of identical cloud-colored pieces that nobody wants to take (yes, I will drive the jigsaw-puzzle metaphor into the ground before we’re through with this). In this picture, a character believed to be Ismael Cruz Córdova as the Silvan Elf Arondir stands atop a watchtower and looks out over a mountain valley dotted with farms, croplands, roads, rivers, and little forests.
Tolkien fans are divided over where in Middle-earth this is, with the prevailing theory being that the watch-tower is situated in the southern crook of the Ephel Dúath or Mountains of Mordor, far south of what will one day become the barren Plateau of Gorgoroth. According to this theory, Arondir is looking out eastward across a Mordor not yet ruled by Sauron, one that is still green and fertile and inhabited by both humans and Elves. In the distance, there’s a glimmer of light on a lake that could very well be the inland Sea of Núrnen.
Alternatively, that glimmer of light is the ocean, and this watchtower is just outside of Mordor’s margins in north Harad with the jagged peaks of the Ephel Dúath on the right – which would mean that Arondir is looking west, not east. So confusing. Either way, we know that this is somewhere in the south of Middle-earth because Arondir and his human lover Bronwyn live in a village with the Sindarin name Tirharad, which roughly translates to “south-watch” or “watch over the south”, a name that I now think refers specifically to this tower looming over the village and the surrounding countryside. But who built it, and why?
Despite the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm being the subjects of one of the three Empire Magazine covers released for this issue, there are surprisingly few images of Dwarves in the actual magazine – just one, in fact, but it’s a beautiful close-up on Prince Durin IV and Princess Disa sitting together and staring lovingly into each other’s eyes. Durin holds a distinctive golden leaf, which says to me that the couple are in Lindon – obviously trees with golden leaves could grow elsewhere in Middle-earth, but since we already know Durin will be in Lindon for Gil-galad’s banquet, it’s reasonable to assume Disa joins him. Maybe this is their honeymoon?
Then again, Tolkien wrote of Dwarven women in the Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings that “they seldom walk abroad except at great need” (not that The Rings Of Power should be beholden to that one line, by any means), so perhaps this scene takes place after Durin returns to Khazad-dûm with a small souvenir from Lindon for his wife or wife-to-be. They really seem like a sweet couple, and I’m interested to see what role they have to play in the story of the forging of the Rings of Power, given that it wasn’t Durin IV but Durin III (his father, in the show) who received one of the seven Rings given to the Dwarves by Celebrimbor and Sauron. That means there are plenty of options for where to take this story.
(With that said, I am once again begging The Rings Of Power costume designers to let us see Disa and Durin IV in new outfits. I love these fits, I really do, but this is Dwarven royalty we’re talking about here, and it’s not like Khazad-dûm’s princes and princesses don’t have money or resources to spend on extravagant clothes. I want to see opulence!)
Okay, so Amazon’s cheating a little bit with this one. We’ve already seen this image in the teaser trailer, it’s just been cleaned up a bit. But it’s nearer the top of my list because it’s improved my opinions on the teaser trailer. I didn’t love that whole scene with the snow-troll in the cave when I first saw it, but now I’m actually excited to see more of this grotesque creature with its wicked tusks and its long tangled beard filled with chunks of ice and stone. I feel for that poor Elf played by Kip Chapman who’s probably not going to make it out of the first episode alive, just based on the size of that troll’s claws and the speed with which it moved in the trailer.
You cannot tell me that Markella Kavenagh is not well-cast as a hobbit after seeing this image – I’m sorry, you just can’t. We know next to nothing about her character, Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot, but I would not be surprised if she turns out to be the distant ancestor of one Frodo Baggins, based solely on the striking resemblance between Kavenagh and Lord Of The Rings-era Elijah Wood that becomes almost uncanny when you put Kavenagh in a curly wig, as the Rings Of Power costume designers have done. They already have the same big blue eyes and delicate facial features, now all that Kavenagh’s character is missing is her very own Ring of Power – but who knows, she might get one of those too by the end of this show.
I’m lumping together all of my favorite Harfoot pictures because they’re all sort of similar, and I like them roughly the same amount. I actually adore this picture in particular because it’s just so sweet – we have Dylan Smith as Largo, Markella Kavenagh as Elanor, and Megan Richards as Poppy Proudfellow, and they have all leaves or herbs in their hair and they’re smiling and holding hands, and it’s like something straight out of one of those cheerful 17th Century Dutch paintings portraying the idyllic country life. I don’t know what the Harfoots have to be smiling about, but I’m sorry that they probably won’t be smiling for long, as there’s a rumor floating around that several Harfoots will die before the end of season one.
More Harfoots, and a better look at Sir Lenny Henry as Sadoc Burrows, their leader. In this scene, which presumably follows hard on the heels of Meteor Man crashing to earth and being discovered in the woods by Elanor Brandyfoot, Sadoc takes the initiative and ventures out into the night armed with only a lantern to investigate. Maybe they’ll find evidence of Meteor Man’s crash landing, but Elanor will find the man himself and hide him from her disapproving village elders, or perhaps Sadoc goes to the crash-site after Elanor brings the stranger into their camp to find out where he really came from and what he’s up to – there’s so many possibilities, and absolutely none of this has any basis in canon which unfortunately makes it really difficult to theorize.
Even more Harfoots, and now they’re on the move. I don’t love this image, mostly because it looks very much like a soundstage with fake trees and a forest path that’s slightly too flat and well-tended to be believable. But the Harfoots themselves are impossible to dislike, and I must say, I do think it’s adorable that they all wear odd little bits and bobbins in their hair like small fairy-wings or tiny antlers. It’s Willow by way of Cecily Mary Barker, which is weird when you remember that this is still supposed to be Rings Of Power and not any of those things, but hey, it’s something new at least, so let’s give it a chance. If it works, it works; if it doesn’t, they still have time to change course before season two starts filming.
There’s so much going on in this photo, it’s hard to know what to take away from it, exactly. You’ve got Lenny Henry in the foreground, dancing and wearing a bushel of wheat as a crown….and then you’ve got the Harfoot children’s choir off in the lower left-hand corner but they’re wearing oversized bonnets made of wheat, and I think they’re supposed to resemble corn dollies (it’s a European thing, look it up)…and then up in the top-left corner you’ve got these unspeakably ugly fairy garden lanterns that look like they were bought off Etsy…and the whole scene is illuminated by this unrealistically golden light that makes it look like the cover of Better Hobbit-holes & Gardens.
In this smorgasbord of aesthetics, I’m not seeing any Neolithic or Bronze Age design influences. Now, you could argue that it’s my own fault for expecting those influences to be present when Amazon never actually promised that the Harfoots would be portrayed as a Bronze Age culture, and that was always kinda just me extrapolating on the hints in the character posters and the fact that The Rings Of Power is set over three-thousand years before The Lord Of The Rings so it made sense (and still makes sense) to me that the Harfoots of the mid to late Second Age would be as different from Hobbits of the late Third Age as the Beaker people of 2500 BC were from British people of the late 19th Century…and you’d be right, but I still feel cheated that what I got instead were ghastly fairy garden lanterns.
I’d have put this image much higher in my rankings were it not for those lanterns, because I’m totally onboard with the idea of prehistoric Hobbits worshipping fertility deities like Yavanna in the hopes of more bountiful harvests. That tracks. But now, not only will I be worried for the next few months that the Harfoots don’t belong in The Rings Of Power to begin with (because as much as I’ve tried to suppress that fear and tell myself it’ll all work out in the end, the ominous feeling of dread hasn’t ever fully gone away), now I’ll also be worried about those lanterns popping up and ruining the vibe of otherwise perfect scenes.
Ismael Cruz Córdova is hot enough that him being the only thing in this image isn’t really the problem – rather, the problem is that the photographer has only given me a sliver of Cruz Córdova to admire, and I can’t even see the intricate detail-work on his character’s unique wooden armor, because he has his back partially turned, so I’m left without anything to focus on…except, of course, Ismael Cruz Córdova’s chiseled features and remarkably beautiful eyes, which in this light appear gold. This man’s mere existence is almost enough to convince me that male Elves with short hair aren’t such a bad idea after all.
I’m sorry to have to put Elrond so far down on the list, but this close-up tells me nothing about his character. He’s standing at a window, looking out, and…that’s about it. The most interesting thing about this image isn’t even Elrond, it’s the lighting, which is actually quite atmospheric. But it’s not enough to outweigh the blandness of the outfit, the stiff pose, and the fact that the hairstylist on this show clearly had a personal vendetta against poor Robert Aramayo.
Twitter was not very kind to Charles Edwards when they found out he was playing Celebrimbor, and while I admit that Edwards isn’t anything like the Celebrimbor I envisioned when reading Unfinished Tales, I think there are significantly more nuanced discussions to be had regarding this casting than just “he looks different than how I imagined, therefore he will be a terrible Celebrimbor”. For instance, we could be questioning the logic behind casting a fifty-two year old actor to play Celebrimbor, whose older cousin Galadriel is played by an actress in her early thirties. What’s up with that, anyway?
And even if we try to look past that, the image itself offers nothing of great interest to look at instead. For whatever reason, Celebrimbor is depicted standing in the middle of a sparsely-decorated hallway, wearing a shapeless green garment and a sullen expression. There’s no ornament on his person nor any detail in the set dressing behind him to suggest that the subject of this image is the greatest blacksmith, craftsman, and jeweler of his generation, or that he will soon put an army of like-minded artists to work forging the Rings of Power in Eregion. If he has any Rings on his fingers, even lesser ones, we can’t see them.
Keep in mind that, despite Celebrimbor’s prominent role in the non-canonical but supposedly very entertaining Shadow Of Mordor video games, he’s only mentioned three times in the text of The Lord Of The Rings and not once in Peter Jackson’s films, so most of the people looking at this image won’t recognize his name or remember his role in the story. They’ll just see a regular-looking guy, and that’s what worries me. Forget trying to appease Celebrimbor’s diehard fans, this image really needed to give casual fans something familiar to grab hold of; something that would tell them who this guy is, and why they should care about him. And it doesn’t.
Imagine if we had seen Celebrimbor standing at his anvil in the heat of the forge, surrounded by the jewel-smiths of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, contemplating his next move and perhaps running his hands over a ring mold (I don’t know the first thing about blacksmithing, so forgive me if that’s not the correct term) – or anything, really, that would give casual fans a hint as to Celebrimbor’s importance while reassuring diehard fans that this is still Celebrimbor, despite the new look. There was potential here, but sadly, it was squandered.
I have my suspicions regarding Halbrand, the character depicted in this photo drinking with friends or comrades. We don’t know where he comes from, we don’t know how he and Galadriel end up on a raft in the middle of the ocean, drifting towards Númenor, and we don’t know what happens to him after they arrive on the island (mind you, there have been several detailed leaks concerning Galadriel’s interactions with Tar-Míriel, Ar-Pharazôn, Elendil, and pretty much everyone on Númenor). Halbrand is an enigma, and I believe Amazon wants to keep it that way for at least as long as season one is airing. He’s the original character most widely speculated to be either Sauron in disguise or one of the future Nazgûl.
The image itself, however, is boring. Halbrand is plainly dressed, the background seems deliberately blurred so as to hide what is presumably Númenórean architecture, and the characters sitting around Halbrand are just a bunch of disembodied arms and hands. I feel like this is probably a scene involving some important characters being hidden from us, including Ar-Pharazôn (I have no evidence for that claim, just a gut instinct).
My least favorite image of the lot has to be this one. It’s so overwhelmingly cluttered you’d think that someone or something here would catch my eye, but the composition and lighting ensure that even the main characters are almost indistinguishable from the extras in the background. Bronwyn and her son Theo stand on either side of the Silvan Elf Arondir, placing this scene somewhere in or around the village of Tirharad. It’s hard to make out, but Arondir is holding the hilt-shard of the broken sword featured on Theo’s character poster – he appears to be offering it to someone we can’t see.
Well, what do you know, that’s the last of ’em. At this point, I don’t think anything is likely to keep me from watching The Rings Of Power, but I’ll be honest, I was surprised by how many of these new photos left me a little underwhelmed – and I can’t tell if that’s just Amazon’s marketing team choosing weird stills from the first few episodes to highlight because they’re trying not to spoil later episodes, or if they genuinely have no idea how to sell this show. A lot of these pictures are just close-up images of characters we don’t know yet that tell us little to nothing about who they are or why we ought to care, and if Amazon is worried about saying too much in their marketing campaign they should just focus on blowing fans’ minds with incredible visuals, beautiful scenery, and the kind of big-budget VFX you can’t get from most TV shows.
But now that you’ve seen all the images, I want to hear what you think; which ones got you excited for The Rings Of Power, which ones disappointed you, and which you think are promising or maybe need some time to mull over. Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
Three years ago, in February 2019, the official Twitter account for what was then known merely as ‘The Lord Of The Rings on Prime’ posted their very first tweet, heralding the release of a series of official maps. Three years and one pandemic later, we’re just a few days out from the Super Bowl, and what could potentially be another milestone in The Rings Of Powers‘ long and epic journey – the release of a teaser trailer. And to celebrate the occasion, Amazon dropped twenty-three new character posters on Thursday, each bearing the series’ title and an image of a character’s hands – drawing attention to their respective weapons of choice, various accessories, and of course, lots and lots of rings.
Some would argue that Amazon is just giving us crumbs of content, not even telling us the names of the actors and characters depicted in these posters, but I’ve watched our fandom support itself on literal crumbs throughout most of 2020 (that was a dark time), and this…this is a four-course meal and dessert compared to what Amazon used to post on their social media outlets. I say that as someone who’s had Twitter notifications for The Rings Of Power turned on for the last three years in preparation for a day such as today.
Luckily, I also had Twitter notifications turned on for most of the prominent Tolkien scholars, community leaders, and fan accounts to whom Amazon actually entrusted the task of revealing each new poster. I won’t lie, it was hectic trying to keep up with who was posting what and when, but it was also fun, and I deeply appreciate that Amazon gave the fans a chance to help promote The Rings Of Power and boost their own profiles in so doing instead of releasing these posters through the usual Hollywood trades or through their own social media.
And now we have twenty-three new character posters to pore over, so let’s get into this, shall we? They might not have names attached to them, but the subtle clues and in-universe cultural influences layered into the costuming and accessories make it surprisingly easy to break down the posters into five mostly distinct groups: Elves, Humans, Hobbits, Dwarves, with just one or two outliers that don’t fit neatly into any category. I’ll sprinkle more of my overarching thoughts regarding the costumes and costume design into the post, but if you don’t have any intention of reading further let me just tell you now: the costumes look gorgeous.
If it’s costume designer Kate Hawley who’s the mastermind behind the costumes showcased in these posters, each worthy of being put on display in a museum after their time in the spotlight is done, then Rafe Judkins really needs to hit her up now that The Wheel Of Time‘s costume designer Isis Mussenden has left the series. I had many criticisms of The Wheel Of Time‘s costume design and production design overall, but what disappointed me the most was the lack of richness, patterning, texture, and intricacy that I see in The Rings Of Power‘s costumes (granted, The Wheel Of Time had a much smaller budget).
Something that has been carried over from The Wheel Of Time is a bold approach to color, but the diversity of fabrics and materials (as well as better lighting) makes all the difference. Any crowd scene on the busy streets of Númenor or deep within the echoing caverns of Khazad-dûm is sure to be a treat for the eyes, and I’m very excited to see how these costumes look in action, and how the actors wear them. They make excellent hand-models, but I want to see them swishing and swooshing and strutting their stuff in that trailer, whenever it comes.
With all that out of the way, it’s time to speculate.
Let’s start with an easy one. I agree with the general consensus on Twitter that this poster depicts Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, wearing silver armor over a chainmail shirt and carrying a unique (and instantly iconic) sword, the hilt of which is fashioned to resemble the Two Trees of Valinor that once grew in paradise, welded into one. Its canopy of gold and silver leaves forms the round pommel of the sword. That alone implies that the wielder is one of the High Elves who came out of paradise during the First Age, which would line up with Galadriel’s canonical backstory. She is one of the few Elves left in Middle-earth who remembers Valinor and its glory.
She was also described by J.R.R. Tolkien as a proficient military strategist, and Amazon appears to be expanding on that by giving her a practical suit of armor befitting a commander of troops in the War of the Elves and Sauron. This would seem to confirm one of the earliest rumors regarding The Rings Of Power, that Galadriel would be depicted as a hardened warrior still fighting a war that had ended for most of her comrades, and would lend credence to other character details found in the audition tapes that sparked those rumors.
One last thing before we move on; the silhouette of this armor seems intentionally designed to evoke images of the Second Age Elves seen in the prologue to The Fellowship Of The Ring, which makes sense given that those Elves, with their distinctive cuirasses, helmets, and shields, more effectively convey to the general audience that this is a prequel series than any lengthy explanation of Middle-earth’s timeline could – that and another immediately recognizable ancient suit of armor, which we’ll get to near the end of this post.
Although this character’s heavy robes in dark shades of red and green could be of either Elven or human make, the Tengwar writing on the edge of the scroll gives away a clue that this is most likely an Elf – possibly even Elrond, who was no less bookish and introspective in the Second Age than he was in the latter half of the Third, and lived in King Gil-galad’s court as a royal herald before establishing Rivendell as a safe haven for poets, artists, philosophers and historians. Elrond is believed to be played by Robert Aramayo, and these could certainly be his hands.
I spent an embarrassing amount of time studying hands trying to match the twenty actors in Amazon’s main series cast to the twenty-three pairs of hands we see in these posters, and in only a few cases could I be absolutely certain who I was looking at. I’m not even certain this character is actually an Elf and not simply a human who can read Tengwar, in which case they could very well be a Númenórean Elf-friend – perhaps Elendil or someone of his house.
According to Tengwar Teacher on Twitter, the writing on this scroll translates to “King’s Scroll – View from South“. Above it is drawn a picture of a bridge leading to a door flanked by two trees, presumably viewed from the south. My mind immediately leapt to the famous Doors of Moria, which stood open throughout most of the Second Age to welcome any travelers, and that’s the only location in Middle-earth I can think of that canonically fits this description, so I’m going with the theory that Elrond is busy reviewing a report of what Celebrimbor and his Elves have gotten up to in Eregion.
Speaking of Celebrimbor, there’s no other character in Middle-earth who would wear the eight-pointed Star of the House of Fëanor so proudly (and to be honest, so loudly) on their clothes. The last of Fëanor’s bloodline and second only to Fëanor himself in artistry and craftsmanship, Celebrimbor is a pivotal figure in the Second Age, overseeing the creation of the Rings of Power and many other great works in the city of Ost-in-Edhil and in the neighboring Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dûm, with whose inhabitants Celebrimbor enjoys a mutual friendship.
This character, draped entirely in shimmering gold fabric, wears several golden rings on his fingers – which I’m willing to bet are among the countless lesser rings that Gandalf described in The Lord Of The Rings as “essays in the craft”, being just dangerous enough that you wouldn’t want anyone but an Elf wearing one for any length of time, but not so dangerous that they could possibly cause the end of the world. But it’s the Dwarven runes embroidered on this character’s sleeves that really seal the deal for me. This has to be Celebrimbor.
This is a fascinating poster. The character grips a feathered arrow, the preferred weapon of the Silvan Elves who dwelt in Mirkwood and Lórien, and wears a gray cloak like the ones gifted to the Fellowship of the Ring by the Elves of Lórien. But my eye was immediately drawn to that face – no, not the character’s face, for that is hidden, but the face carved into this character’s black wooden breastplate. With a signature frown, heavy brows, and beard and wild hair inseparable from the swirling leaves surrounding him, this is unmistakably the Foliate Head of the Green Man.
But what is the Green Man, an archetypal character from mythology primarily found carved into the walls of English churches and other old buildings, doing in Middle-earth? I can think of three reasons. If this is indeed a Silvan Elf depicted in this poster, then perhaps the Green Man is merely being used in his original pagan function: as a visual metaphor for the ecstasy and freedom that comes from casting off the constraints of society and achieving equilibrium with nature. The Silvan Elves, particularly those we see in The Hobbit, celebrate their liberated state with banquets and parties in the woods, heavy drinking, and a dismissive attitude towards the rest of the world.
Alternatively, there’s a chance this face represents either Tom Bombadil or an Ent, as both are believed to have been partly inspired by the legends of the Green Man. The Ents, with their long leafy beards and gnarled faces, share obvious similarities with the physical description of this enigmatic mythological figure. As for why one would be carved on a Silvan Elf’s breastplate, the answer lies in Legolas’ comments about the Ents in The Lord Of The Rings, where he talks about how the Silvan Elves have long been reverent of the mysterious shepherds of the trees who successfully withdrew into the depths of Fangorn Forest.
In the early Second Age, Sindarin and Noldorin Elves from Beleriand came to Middle-earth and established kingdoms and cities on lands that had once belonged to the Silvan Elves, leading to some strife and unrest between the two peoples – although most of the Sindarin Kings like Oropher (grandfather of Legolas) and Amdír adopted the Silvan language and culture, and their peoples became one. As no Silvan Elves are named in Tolkien’s chronicles of the Second Age, the figure in this poster could be either Oropher or Amdír, or it may be an original character – a Silvan Elf rebel, perhaps, who wears the Ent face as a symbol of resistance to Sindarin rule?
This poster confused me when I first saw it, and it still confuses me now. The character wears a gray cloak oddly reminiscent of the one worn by Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings, but carries an ornate golden scepter topped with an incredibly detailed sculpture of a city with little towers and turrets and walls. Typically, only a king would carry such a scepter, but this outfit seems too plain for a king’s wardrobe, somehow. The ostentatious kings and queens of Númenor would never be caught dead without some priceless jewels or accessories on their person, and one itty-bitty silver ring isn’t gonna cut it.
But then I saw a post on Reddit from a keen-eyed Tolkien fan pointing out the similarities between the sculpture on this scepter and Alan Lee’s paintings of Gondolin, and now I can’t unsee it. The placement of the towers, the distinctive series of gates and stairs, it all lines up perfectly. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean this character is from Gondolin – after the city was sacked at the end of the First Age, many of its treasures were lost and scattered across Middle-earth by orcs, thieves, and fleeing refugees. Most notably, the swords Glamdring, Orcrist, and Sting turned up thousands of years later in a troll’s cave.
But somehow I doubt this scepter would be put front-and-center in a character poster if it didn’t have meaning to the character holding it, which leads me to my theory that this is either Elrond, whose father Eärendil was born in Gondolin shortly before its fall, or Glorfindel, a warrior prince of Gondolin who actually died defending a group of refugees from a Balrog but was sent back to Middle-earth in the Second Age (long story) to help the Elves fight Sauron. He remained there until the end of the Third Age, although he’s been left out of every film adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings.
In Ralph Bakshi’s animated adaptation, his crucial role in carrying an injured Frodo Baggins to Rivendell was filled by Legolas (which is especially weird given that Legolas isn’t even from Rivendell), while Peter Jackson swapped him out for Arwen, only to sideline her for the rest of the trilogy. But Glorfindel might just get the last laugh, because I could easily envision a scenario where he fills the Gandalf role in The Rings Of Power, organizing the resistance to Sauron, rallying troops, and inspiring a new generation of heroes to take up the fight. The two characters have a lot in common – starting with the fact that they both got killed by a Balrog and resurrected by the gods.
Of all the character posters revealed, and there were a great many, none is more beautiful to me than this one, which gives us our first look at what I believe to be actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Tar-Míriel, the only child of King Tar-Palantir and the last Queen of Númenor. Dressed in a shimmering pearlescent tunic and adorned with gold, the Queen clasps in her hands a small white flower – likely a blossom of the White Tree that grew once upon a time on the palace grounds of Armenelos in Númenor. The flower may have hidden significance, as Tar-Palantir’s Adûnaic name, Inziladûn, translates to “Flower of the West”.
According to a production sheet unearthed back in November, the legitimacy of which is still unproven, Tar-Palantir is alive but very old when The Rings Of Power opens, and I have a strong feeling that Tar-Míriel is already ruling Númenor in his stead as a regent during these final months or years of his life, anxiously waiting for him to pass on and relinquish the throne so she can enact her own plans to prevent the corruption of Númenor by her father’s political advisors, who in full view of Tar-Míriel are gathering support for a coup.
The acceptance of mortality, death, and the eventual decay of all things is an overarching theme of the Second Age and of Middle-earth in general, but to see it through the eyes of a woman torn between her love for her father and her responsibility to her people would be extremely ambitious and impactful. My sneaking suspicion is that the pure white flower Tar-Míriel clasps in her hands in this beautiful image represents her father’s life, which she will hold in her hands at some point in season one.
I believe this character, whom we see with one hand resting confidently on their large golden belt, is most likely Trystan Gravelle as Ar-Pharazôn, whom Fellowship Of Fans exclusively reported back in December would primarily be seen wearing blue and gold, the colors of Númenor. That report provided numerous interesting details about Ar-Pharazôn’s role in The Rings Of Power, including confirmation that in season one he is still referred to simply as Pharazôn, having not yet usurped the throne from Tar-Míriel and declared himself king of Númenor.
Throughout the first season, Pharazôn is rumored to serve as Tar-Míriel’s closest advisor and confidante, which will make his betrayal of her all the more poignant. My guess is that Pharazôn will pretend to help Tar-Míriel deal with her father’s other greedy political advisors, only to secretly form alliances with them behind her back and organize them into a unit actually capable of bringing her down once she finally succeeds to the throne. Time will tell if fans will also be deceived by his lies.
The vivid sea-green fabric beneath this character’s faded golden armor tells me that this is probably a Númenórean, and a high lord at that. Judging by the hands, it’s not Maxim Baldry as Isildur, but it could be Lloyd Owen as Elendil, Isildur’s father and the Lord of Andúnië in the late Second Age. Elendil appeared for just a few seconds in the prologue to The Fellowship Of The Ring, before being slammed in the chest with Sauron’s mace and tossed several feet into the air, dying instantly.
In that scene, the focus wasn’t on Elendil but on Isildur, who famously took up the hilt-shard of his father’s sword that had been crushed beneath him when he fell, and cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand, temporarily defeating the Dark Lord. I assume that sword, Narsil, is what we see in this image – although it looks very different from the version of Narsil designed for Peter Jackson’s films, which strongly suggests that Amazon is moving in their own direction with The Rings Of Power. The blade we see here actually evokes the description of Narsil reforged in The Lord Of The Rings, with “a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun”.
The rayed sun also appears on the pommel of the blade and on Elendil’s breastplate, which might have no significance at all but after writing at length about how Men were born with the first dawning of the Sun I couldn’t help but notice the repetition of this motif and file it away under things that warrant further investigation. It might have something to do with the persecution of Elf-friends like Elendil by other Númenóreans during the late Second Age. Is Elendil trying to say that he is still a human Man first and foremost, despite being the most prominent Elf-friend in Númenor?
I’m still not certain if these are Ema Horvath or Nazanin Boniadi’s hands, but I think what’s obvious from the tidily manicured fingernails and the elegant orange dress is that this character is someone very well-to-do. She carries a journal of some kind with a wavy pattern embossed on the cover, something that we see repeated in the costumes I believe to be of Númenórean make, which leads me to believe this is a Númenórean woman from a noble family, perhaps even Isildur’s sister, Carine – an original character created by Amazon whom we’ve heard about from Fellowship Of Fans.
Ema Horvath is tentatively attached to the role of Carine, who appears to have gone by the code-name “Shay” at one point. It was Shay who was described in character breakdowns obtained by Knight Edge Media as a “pragmatic…studious…politically minded” woman who acts as “a peacekeeper” for her entire family in times of political crisis. She’ll have her work cut out for her in the late Second Age, that’s for sure.
This poster caused a stir on Tolkien Twitter when it was revealed because at a first glance, it instantly conjures up images of Rohan, a kingdom that wasn’t founded in the Second Age and wouldn’t be for another few thousand years. But as my sister pointed out to me first, the horse on this character’s sword is actually a seahorse, implying that they’re Númenórean rather than a member of the Rohirrim. They wear a very similar long-sleeved shirt under their armor to the one Elendil wears under his, even bearing the same rippling pattern, although this character’s clothes are brownish-red.
The muted color palette, especially in comparison to the vivid sea-green worn by Elendil, makes me think this character is lower-ranking than the Lord of Andúnië. The one hand visible looks like it could belong to actor Alex Tarrant, whom Fellowship Of Fans has previously linked to the role of one of Isildur’s close friends. Extrapolating from that, this character could have met Isildur and befriended him if the two were both lieutenants under Elendil. He must be significant, however, if he is deserving of his own character poster.
I love this poster because it gives me the vibes I want from The Rings Of Power. I look at this, and I’m immediately transported back to the Bronze Age, which is exactly what the Second Age should feel like in comparison to the vaguely Medieval aesthetics and technologies of the late Third Age, when The Lord Of The Rings takes place. The vibrant blue dress, the simple golden belt, that wicked looking sickle…it’s just really cool. I’d wager this character is human, most likely a woman from the lands of Middle-earth under Númenórean control.
The one character in The Rings Of Power who would fit that description is known only by the code-name “Kari”, and is believed to be played by Nazanin Boniadi, the highest-profile actress attached to the series (that we know of). Kari is a “self-sufficient single mother” according to the Knight Edge Media character breakdowns, who falls in love with someone from outside her village – someone “who the rest of the community may never accept”. Forbidden love is a classic and slightly overused trope in fantasy, but we’ll have to see if Rings Of Power can put a fresh spin on this story.
I probably would have accidentally categorized this character as a hobbit were it not for another perceptive Reddit user who figured out that the distinctive marks on the back of this person’s hands are shared by actor Maxim Baldry – who is believed to be playing none other than Isildur, the eldest son of Elendil and the man who would go on to establish the kingdom of Gondor in Middle-earth, defeat Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance, and take the One Ring from the Dark Lord’s hand only to lose it in the waters of the River Anduin.
This is a surprisingly humble costume for a character with such an epic destiny, but I’m once again going to credit my sister for laying out the most solid theory I’ve seen yet for why Isildur would be dressed in plain clothes, carrying the kind of rope typically found on sailing-ships. As she explained to me, the first audition tapes for Elendil – code-named “Loda” – actually presented us with all the puzzle-pieces upfront, but without the context that “Loda” is Elendil and his son “Cole” is Isildur (confirmed in circuitous fashion by Fellowship Of Fans and Redanian Intelligence), we couldn’t fit them all together at first.
In case you need a reminder, Elendil’s dialogue in one of those three-year old tapes revealed that he sees Isildur as a lost cause who is “[wasting] the most important years of his life on aimless schemes” and “hasn’t been home in three weeks”, which leads to an argument between him and his daughter – the aforementioned Carine – over which of them will finally reach out to him. In a second tape, Elendil tells an unnamed woman in passing that the “restless youths” of his land, including his eldest son, foolishly go looking for trouble in “the southern reaches” where there are “outlaw tribes”.
I have no idea what he might be referring to specifically, but all these comments taken together paint an interesting picture of a rebellious young Isildur traveling around Númenor looking for adventures, and probably cut off from his family’s fortunes. That would explain the simple clothes, and the ropes suggest to me that Isildur will look for his adventure on the high seas. He could travel east or south to the shores of Middle-earth, but he already seems like the type of guy who might even dare to sail westward, seeking out paradise and coming dangerously close to breaking the Ban.
Put into place at the beginning of the Second Age, the Ban prevents the Númenóreans from sailing “so far westward that the coasts of Númenor could no longer be seen”. This was intended to keep humans out of paradise, which at the time was still a physical place separated from Middle-earth and Númenor only by an ocean. The Númenóreans begrudgingly respected the Ban right up until the days of the last king, but The Rings Of Power would be wise to vividly illustrate the consequences of straying near the limit rather than simply telling the audience about this invisible barrier in the sea and expecting them to retain that information.
The only thing in this poster that gives away any clue as to the character’s identity is the distinctive sword they carry, which takes up most of the image and effortlessly draws attention from their simple brown traveling clothes lined with fur. Amazon clearly wants you to look at this sword, with its broken, gnarled blade inscribed with strange runes, attached to an overgrown hilt like a grasping iron claw with many fingers. They want you to dig out your copies of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales and search for clues.
And that’s exactly what Tolkien fans have done, with one theory quickly emerging that this is Anglachel – the sentient glowing black sword forged by the Dark Elf Eöl from a meteorite in the First Age, given as tribute to King Thingol of Doriath, removed from the treasure-hoards of Menegroth and carried into battle for the first time by Beleg Strongbow, taken from Beleg’s dead body by the tragic hero Túrin Turambar and reforged into Gurthang, and used by Túrin to slay the great dragon Glaurung and to end his own life after discovering that he had accidentally married his sister Nienor, at which point the blade finally broke into a million tiny pieces.
Few swords have as long a history as Anglachel, but The Silmarillion is pretty explicit that the sword’s shards were buried with Turin beneath the Stone of the Hapless, which was itself buried under ocean water when the sea rushed into Beleriand at the end of the First Age and forced Elves, Men, and Dwarves to flee further into Middle-earth. If this is indeed Anglachel, that would imply that someone removed the sword from Turin’s grave before the end of the First Age – and then what? Did they pass it on to their descendants, one of whom we see in this poster? But why?
Not to jump to conclusions or anything, but could this character somehow be a descendant of Túrin himself? Nienor, his sister and wife, threw herself from a cliff into the River Teiglin after learning the truth about their relationship, but although a grave was erected for her alongside Turin’s, her body was not found, and Tolkien notes that it was “[never] known whither the cold waters of Teiglin had taken her”. Could she have survived, and given birth to her child with Túrin? Maybe that’s a reach, but I’m just confused why anyone would willingly choose to carry Anglachel, a sword that was widely believed to have been cursed to bring doom to all its masters.
I haven’t yet seen anyone pose the theory that this could be Anguirel, the identical mate of Anglachel forged from the same meteorite but kept by Eöl in his magical house deep in the woods of Nan Elmoth. It was later stolen by his son Maeglin, who made his way to Gondolin (and later betrayed the city and brought about its downfall), but after that the sword is never mentioned again. Obviously, there is no record of it ever being broken, but during the fall of Gondolin it could have been melted by exposure to a Balrog or a dragon…there’s a lot of possibilities. And as we know, swords from Gondolin pop up in troll-caves and dragon-hoards well into the Third Age.
This character’s handful of cheerful acorns and their proportions in comparison to said acorns indicate that they’re most likely one of the prehistoric hobbits we’ll meet in The Rings Of Power, apparently referred to as Harfoots throughout the series to distinguish them from hobbits. The name is a bit of a cheat. “Harfoot” refers to one of the three main groups of hobbits, along with Fallohides and Stoors – Tolkien never used it as an umbrella term for hobbits in general.
That said, The Rings Of Power may focus exclusively on Harfoots because they were the first hobbits to begin moving westward from their original territories between Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains. About a thousand years into the Third Age, with Sauron gradually regaining his strength in Mirkwood, the Harfoots are believed to have crossed the Misty Mountains into the lands of Eriador where they would later establish the Shire, but Tolkien gives us one or two clues as to their whereabouts in the Second Age; namely, that they “had much to do with Dwarves in ancient times”. That’s it, really.
I’m still wary of how Amazon intends to fit hobbits into this story, seeing as it wouldn’t really make sense to push forward the date of their westward migrations, there are no other hobbit-centric stories to tell from this time period, and Tolkien seems to have been almost purposefully vague, but probably my greatest fear was that, in the interest of fan-service, Amazon would fall back on the aesthetics established for the hobbits in The Lord Of The Rings (both the book and the films).
The whimsical parodies of late 19th century British fashions, technologies, and names that we associate with the hobbits of the Shire work when the rest of Middle-earth seems only a few centuries removed by comparison, but would stick out like a sore thumb in a Second Age setting heavily inspired by Bronze and Iron Age civilizations. All of which is to say that I’m just very happy to see that Amazon is going for that ancient look with the hobbits. Not a waistcoat or pocket-watch in sight.
I had a hard time finding actress Markella Kavenagh in these character posters, because I was still looking out for an Elf. At the time that she was cast in The Rings Of Power, before Morfydd Clark or any other actor, her character – code-named “Tyra” – was widely believed to be Galadriel or another Elf, and many fans got the impression that she was a Silvan Elf based on audition tapes revealed in late 2019. But that was before we knew or could confirm that hobbits would be involved in the series in any capacity, and now that we do I’m locking in my guess that this is Markella Kavenagh’s “Tyra” – not an elf, but a hobbit.
In fact, let’s go back to those audition tapes for a moment. You can’t necessarily trust that the exact dialogue in these tapes is always pulled from the scripts for the show, and there’s a better than even chance that it’s not, but in one of Tyra’s audition tapes she’s seen comforting her younger sister, named “Branna”, who cries that if she “hadn’t run back from the berries we wouldn’t have lost my doll Rosie and had to come all the way out here”. This could be nothing, it might not even be a real scene from The Rings Of Power, but it’s worth noting that the character in this poster is holding some very large berries in her hand.
I’m also convinced, based on the contents of those tapes and the character breakdowns obtained by Knight Edge Media, that Tyra is the oldest daughter of two other hobbits, code-named “Hamsom” and “Cora”, whom I believe are depicted in the next two posters. Let’s move on, then, shall we?
The only character in these posters who matches the description for “Hamsom”, this fellow is dressed like a hobbit, in baggy, drab-colored clothes, and his weathered hands grip the wooden hilt of a short staff topped with some kind of blunt stone instrument – which, judging by the random animal fangs attached to the hilt, has been used as a weapon in the past, perhaps to protect Hamsom’s family and “traveling community” from wolves or wargs on the road.
Only one audition tape for Hamsom was ever discovered by Redanian Intelligence. It paints a vivid picture of a character determined to stay alive through a harsh winter while battling health issues that he’s able to hide from his children, but not from his perceptive wife, who worries that she won’t be able to hold the family together without him. But the information that his wife is code-named “Cora”, and that their whole family lives a “physically demanding” nomadic lifestyle, comes from the Knight Edge Media character breakdowns.
And here we have our “Cora”, most likely played by actress Thusitha Jayasundera. This poster provides very little information about her character, but we know from Knight Edge Media that “Cora” must rise to the occasion and become the matriarch of her entire family, although “the pressure of [Hamsom’s health problems] and their large family can make her seem dismissive and detached”. She is also mentioned to have at least two daughters, which is what links her to Markella Kavenagh’s Tyra, in my opinion, and implies that they’re all hobbits, even though Cora in this poster could be mistaken for a human.
Now, I want to draw your attention to the comment that Cora is a “matriarch”, because while there are very few instances of matriarchal societies or families in Middle-earth, that doesn’t mean there are none. Most notably, the family of the ancient hobbit Sméagol was “ruled by a grandmother of the folk”, according to Gandalf’s research into the subject, and she was “stern and wise in old lore”, as well as very wealthy; wealthy enough that Sméagol had come up with the lie he told Gandalf, that she had gifted him the One Ring as a birthday-present.
Sméagol was a Stoor and born roughly two-thousand, four-hundred years after the end of the Second Age, so although I’m undeniably tempted to imagine a scenario where The Rings Of Power ends on a scene of Tyra cradling baby Sméagol and calling him “her Precious”, I doubt that’s going to happen. I think this is more likely an example of Amazon’s writers building on the little information we do know about the hobbits and their ancient history to create original stories in the spirit of Tolkien’s works.
Sir Lenny Henry already confirmed a long time ago that he would play a Harfoot hobbit in The Rings Of Power, and I think you’re looking at him here – holding a piece of parchment with pictographs similar to those designed by artists John Howe and Alan Lee during their work on the Dunharrow sets in The Return Of The King, and wearing a silver ring on a necklace; which may have no significance to his character whatsoever, but certainly evokes the iconic image from Peter Jackson’s films of Frodo Baggins wearing the One Ring.
I want to mention that this is one of several posters depicting Black characters or characters of color that Amazon released, and the comments beneath every one of these posters are filled with outright racists whining about an insidious liberal conspiracy they’ve made up in their heads to explain why there are Black people – no, scratch that, hands – on their Twitter timeline. Oh, they know that Black people and people of color have always existed, but Black people and people of color in escapist fantasy is a different matter, because the genre has historically been very white and is thus seen as a last bastion for many neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other bigots trying to fence out the world around them.
So when Black actors get cast in fantasy adaptations, it makes them really mad – because suddenly, they can’t hide there anymore. They can’t even like the original story without the caveat that they hate the adaptation for “forcing” them to see Black people in the fantasy world they thought was meant for white people only, because the story itself rarely seems to have any personal meaning to them beyond being interpreted as racist and therefore “safe”. If they no longer feel safe in this fantasy world, then they no longer feel comfortable or happy there either…and that does make me happy.
Hilariously, if these racists even took the time to check Tolkien’s own writings on the subject, they’d find that the Harfoot hobbits specifically were described as being generally “browner of skin” than Fallohides or Stoors. But I’m not gonna sit here and say that The Lord Of The Rings is perfect either. Representation is one of several areas where The Rings Of Power could actually stand to improve on the books with their cast of mostly straight white cisgender male heroes.
Of the twenty-three character posters released by Amazon, just two depict Dwarves…which is a bit of a shame, if you ask me. I still hope that The Rings Of Power will spend a considerable amount of time in the Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dûm at the height of its glory (“not darksome, but full of light and splendour”, as Gimli described it in The Lord Of The Rings), but it might be through the eyes of Elven characters like Galadriel, who canonically visited Khazad-dûm several times before its gates were closed to the outside world and became a friend of the Dwarves.
Here we see a character reported by Fellowship Of Fans to be Durin (probably Durin III), played by Owain Arthur. Little is known about Durin III specifically except that, like all Dwarven kings to bear the name Durin, he would have been believed to be the reincarnation of Durin I, the eldest Father of the Dwarves. Durin III ruled Khazad-dûm during the years in which the Rings of Power were forged and the War of the Elves and Sauron was fought. He received one of the seven Rings around this time, either from Celebrimbor or Sauron – the accounts of Dwarves and Elves differ on this point, and both are biased, giving Amazon plenty of wiggle-room to tell their own story.
Whether Durin III is wearing one of the seven in this picture is unclear, as he seems to have an affinity for rings in general. I love that there’s a residue of gold-dust clinging to his hands, as if he’s been mining or perhaps just lounging amongst the treasures he’s accumulated – it could go either way. There’s something about his orange armor, coupled with the bright red braided beard, that isn’t totally working for me just yet, but I’ll need to see the full look before I can make a proper assessment. Fellowship Of Fans has reported previously that Arthur’s Durin would have “gold feet”, which is something we sadly don’t get to see in this poster.
Dwarven women have only ever existed on the peripheries of Tolkien’s stories, and even in live-action adaptations (ahem, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) they’ve been relegated to background characters in crowd shots. But The Rings Of Power is finally changing the narrative, with this radiant character poster promising a Dwarven queen with an actual role to play in the story, and a costume that already rivals any of those designed for Peter Jackson’s films – and we haven’t even seen it in its entirety.
Fellowship Of Fans reported yesterday that this is actress and singer Sophia Nomvete, which makes a lot of sense as the character of the Dwarven Queen is expected to sing a “sad lament” for fallen Dwarves, according to the same video linked above in which Fellowship Of Fans reported Durin III and his golden feet. Like Durin, Sophia Nomvete’s Dwarven Queen has hands stained with gold-dust. But Nomvete is by far the better-dressed of the two. She wears a jacket made of interlocking golden triangles, massive jeweled bracelets around both wrists, and there are even a couple of tiny gemstones visible within the deep folds of her tunic. She’s only missing one thing, and that is of course a long beard of her own.
It was previously reported by Fellowship Of Fans (same video, linked above) that the Dwarven women in The Rings Of Power would not have beards, but I and many others in the Tolkien community feel very strongly that Amazon has the money and resources to change that before the series releases in September and that they should. I’m prepared to forgive and even defend a lot of controversial changes and writing choices on this show, but this…this irks me. I was really looking forward to seeing all the Dwarven ladies with their beards intricately braided and adorned with precious stones.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m still very excited for Sophia Nomvete in this role, but I want to know why Amazon felt they couldn’t give the Dwarven women any beards. Not even short beards? Not even sideburns? What is this nonsense, Amazon? Explain yourself!
Okay, so my initial theory that this is Tom Bombadil was probably very wrong, and in retrospect makes little to no sense, but it seems I was at least correct in guessing that this character isn’t a human or a hobbit, much less an Elf or a Dwarf. According to Fellowship Of Fans, this is none other than “Meteor Man” – a nickname for an unidentified character who will appear in The Rings Of Power via meteor. I know how weird that sounds without context, so hear me out.
Fellowship Of Fans first broke the news about Meteor Man back in December of last year, but I believe we’ve known about him since 2019 – we just didn’t know we knew about him until the pieces fell into place, the same way they did with Elendil and Isildur. What we’ve known since December is that Meteor Man will fall to Middle-earth and be discovered by Harfoots, and that he suffers from amnesia and “can’t easily communicate” where he comes from, who he is, or what he’s supposed to be doing. Fellowship Of Fans reported yesterday that Meteor Man is who we see in this poster, dressed in ratty clothes and clutching an apple in one gnarled hand. Oh yeah, and he might also be evil?
Now, remember what I said about Markella Kavenagh’s “Tyra”, and how Tolkien fans including myself thought she was an Elf for a long time, before we realized she could be a hobbit? The reason we thought that was because in her very first audition tape, released way back in 2019 before we’d ever heard of Meteor Man, involved her and another character code-named “Hennah” running into a third character specifically described as “a human” on the road – like, literally running into him with their wagon – and arguing over whether to bring him back to their settlement or leave him for the bears.
At the time, I recall thinking that these two were probably Silvan Elves finding a human traveler injured in the woods, but now I can’t help but wonder if this was actually our first glimpse of Meteor Man. If you’re wondering what happens next, well, we don’t know yet because the scene ends there with Tyra saying that she “won’t leave him here”, and that somehow she can feel that “He is important”, which is more ominous with the context that this guy could be evil. For her sake, I hope that she hit him hard enough with her wagon that he completely forgot his villainous intent.
Obviously, none of this helps to answer the main question; who is Meteor Man, really? If he’s evil, that really narrows down the list of potential suspects, but Sauron canonically stayed on the surface of Middle-earth throughout the Second Age (most of his movements are actually surprisingly well-documented), and Melkor was cast into the Void at the end of the First Age, so unless this is an original character or someone totally unexpected, I don’t know what to think. Fellowship Of Fans reports that one version of the trailer for The Rings Of Power does show Meteor Man’s arrival, so hopefully we’ll get more clues before long.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, this looks like Sauron from Peter Jackson’s movies. Except it doesn’t, and it’s not. Amazon definitely wants you to think that, make no mistake, but the similarities between this suit of armor and the one worn by Sauron in the prologue to The Fellowship Of The Ring are surface-level when you actually zoom in and compare the two.
I mean, let’s start with the weapon. Not once in six movies does Peter Jackson’s Sauron ever wield a sword. To be fair, he’s a disembodied eyeball throughout most of the saga, and therefore incapable of wielding any weapon (even his laser-eye is pretty useless), but the one time we do see him take a physical form he uses a mace – a sleek and destructive weapon with angular, yet streamlined barbs of silvery-black metal arranged around a rigid hilt. But the black sword in this picture has a sinuous, almost veiny look to it, as if it’s more liquid than metal.
Moving on to the gauntlet, note that this character’s closed fist is basically just thorns everywhere. Like, you can’t even come close to this person without getting pricked by some part of their armor. The spikes on Sauron’s gauntlets are actually relatively tiny, which makes sense seeing as he needed to be able to wear the One Ring. For whatever reason, I look at this person and my mind immediately goes to the Tomb of the Black Prince at Canterbury Cathedral, and the big impractical spikes on his knuckles (spiked armor in general tends to be impractical, but they’re also cool and this is fantasy).
Finally, although this looks like a full suit of armor from a distance, it’s actually not – they’re wearing a few bits and pieces of armor, but most of their body seems to be protected solely by chain-mail and rough fabric (note the loose strands hanging down below the wrist). For comparison, Sauron wore full-body plate armor in Fellowship Of The Ring despite being a literal Dark Lord and having nothing to worry about. So no, unless Amazon is redesigning Sauron’s armor to give him a scrappy, almost mercenary look, I don’t think this character is Sauron at all.
Fellowship Of Fans reported yesterday that this is in fact an original character named Adar, played by Joseph Mawle, and I have no reason to disagree. Adar is also a villain, according to previous reports, and he does serve under Sauron as a lieutenant throughout season one, but he is an Elf who has been corrupted – and thus, in my opinion, far more likely to carry a sword and wear lighter armor like his Elven kin.
This has nonetheless caused some concern amongst Tolkien fans that we’re going to see a known character from the First Age transformed into a Second Age villain for the purposes of the story. I can understand why that would be upsetting, but this is one of those controversial choices that I think I’ll probably end up defending, because this doesn’t sound awful to me on paper. In execution, maybe, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.
I believe the real Sauron is hiding in plain sight, disguised in the humblest of clothes and wearing not so much as a single ring to give away his true identity. This character, with their gray garments bearing the eight-pointed Star of Fëanor, who indulges in no jewelry or fancy accessories beyond a silver belt-buckle and the barely-visible edge of a red cape or cloak, absolutely screams Annatar to me – Annatar being the Elven name that Sauron took while he went undercover in Eregion as an apprentice of Celebrimbor, quietly gathering information about how to design and forge his own Ring of Power.
Maybe the Star is just a coincidence, but it’s shown up now twice in these posters. Make of that what you will. I’m calling it now, this is Sauron, and when September comes around and this character casts off their plain gray robes to reveal a terrible Dark Lord (in a parallel to Gandalf before the throne of Théoden), you will see. Either that, or this is just an Elf, in which case I never said anything about Sauron and Annatar and epic reveals.
So there you go. Twenty-three character posters, thirty-seven hands, and limitless theories. Until we get that trailer (and I hope we see it very soon), I will continue to be dissecting these posters looking for any clues I might have missed, but now I leave you to share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!