When Miranda Otto scored the coveted and contested role of Éowyn in The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers back in 1999, she probably didn’t anticipate that twenty-three years later she’d be asked to reprise the role once more – and that this time around, Éowyn wouldn’t just be a supporting character in someone else’s story, but the star and selling-point of a completely new story set in Middle-earth hundreds of years before the events depicted in The Lord Of The Rings.
For better or worse, we live in a wild world where both Warner Brothers and Amazon Prime have the ability to tell new stories set in Middle-earth (the rest of us will have to wait until sometime around 2050), but as long as they continue to use this power responsibly by fleshing out the stories of Middle-earth’s ancient history found in the Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings, you won’t see me complaining. And that is exactly what Warner Brothers is aiming to achieve with their upcoming feature-length anime film, War Of The Rohirrim, which has just today enlisted Miranda Otto to narrate the epic tale of one of Éowyn’s ancestors, King Helm Hammerhand.
Helm (who will be voiced by Succession‘s Brian Cox in the anime), lived about two-hundred and fifty to three-hundred years before Éowyn, roughly. He was the ninth King of Rohan, and of all the Kings after Eorl the Young by far the most belligerent. In the eighteen years he reigned, he managed to alarm or offend most of his relations, ultimately incurring an invasion of Rohan in the year 2758 that inconveniently coincided with a blight and a resulting famine brought about by the Long Winter, the effects of which were felt all across Middle-earth. Rohan’s enemies took control of the city of Edoras and the golden hall of Meduseld, while Helm and the Rohirrim were forced to retreat to the fortress of the Hornburg in the White Mountains, where they endured a terrible siege for at least five months, probably six or seven. Friends and foes alike froze to death in the heavy snow, people started eating each other to survive – it was not a happy time.
Both of Helm’s sons died in the war, one while defending the doors of Meduseld and the other during the Long Winter…but Helm also had a daughter, and we don’t know anything about her besides the fact that she existed and that four years prior to the invasion of Rohan she was the subject of a brawl between Helm and a local baron named Freca, who unwisely suggested marrying her off to Freca’s own son Wulf (voiced by Luke Pasqualino of Shadow And Bone), at which point Helm “smote Freca such a blow with his fist that he fell back stunned, and died soon after”, which in turn led Wulf to seek vengeance for his father’s death by joining forces with the Dunlendings and planning the assault on Edoras.
The Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings aren’t devoid of female characters entirely, but they’re filled with women like Helm’s daughter who aren’t so much characters as they are placeholders for characters – and even that is a generous description, when you take into consideration all the blank spaces on the family trees where there ought to be women’s names, the dates of their births and deaths, the details of their lives alongside those of their husbands, brothers, and sons (all of whose exploits Tolkien recorded in occasionally excessive detail). These women are implied to have existed…Tolkien just didn’t care enough about any of them to give us more information than that.
But this new generation of writers entrusted with adapting his work do care, or at the very least everything I’ve seen so far from both The Rings Of Power and War Of The Rohirrim gives me the impression that they care about expanding and diversifying the world of Middle-earth to include more women (and not just white women, either) and therefore create more opportunities for actresses in this franchise who might otherwise have a total of three or four roles to choose from. Helm’s daughter, now named Hera (and voiced by Gaia Wise of A Walk In The Woods), will apparently play a major role in War Of The Rohirrim as she leads a resistance movement opposed to Wulf.
Additionally, Bridgerton‘s Lorraine Ashbourne – the wife of Peter Jackson’s close friend and frequent collaborator Andy Serkis – has been cast in a supporting role in the film, although we don’t have any details regarding her character. Serkis may or may not have been involved in getting her the part, but regardless her casting forms another link between War Of The Rohirrim and Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy that now includes Miranda Otto, Jackson’s co-writer Philippa Boyens, and concept artists Alan Lee and John Howe, who probably won’t stray too far from the aesthetics they established for Rohan over twenty years ago that have remained iconic and beloved.
None of this is all that surprising, seeing as Warner Brothers has probably had the entire cast and crew of Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy on speed-dial for the last two decades waiting for just such an opportunity to present itself, but if nostalgia for Jackson’s trilogy is what both Warner Brothers and Amazon will be trying to elicit from audiences throughout their respective marketing campaigns for War Of The Rohirrim and Rings Of Power (and that certainly seems to be the case), then Warner Brothers will have the upper hand in that fight as long as they own the rights to the trilogy and can continue to use all the same imagery and all the same actors without needing to worry about accidentally benefiting their competitors.
Leaving all that aside, who else is just excited to hear Miranda Otto as Éowyn again? I know I am. 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!
Sorry, Kenobi, but my priorities have shifted – because Empire Magazine just dropped new Rings Of Power-themed covers for their July 2022 issue featuring interviews with the cast and crew of the show, word is that we might even be due for another trailer around the same time, and I am once again begging Amazon on my hands and knees to please, please, please just warn me before dropping new Rings Of Power content out of the blue. Like, I get that this was technically Empire Magazine’s doing, not Amazon’s, but it was the Twitter notification from The Lord Of The Rings on Prime that nearly gave me a heart-attack so it’s still their fault, as far as I’m concerned.
Three new magazine covers, one for each of the Free Peoples we’ll be following throughout The Rings Of Power season one – Elves, Dwarves, and Harfoots (proto-Hobbits). Humans didn’t get a separate cover, oddly. I guess “Humans” wouldn’t have made for a catchy title, “Men” would have provoked the kind of discourse that Amazon can’t afford, and “Númenóreans” was probably too obscure? Well, whatever the reason, still no sign of Isildur, Elendil, Ar-Pharazôn, Tar-Míriel, or any of the other human characters Tolkien actually wrote about on any of these covers.
That said, I can’t be too mad when we got Galadriel looking like this.
She’s got a point(y sword), she’s an icon, she is a legend, and she is the moment. I don’t have much to say about this cover, but what I will say is that Morfydd Clark has the stance of a warrior, and I cannot wait to see her action scenes. Her heavy suit of pseudo-Medieval plate armor, which looked a bit clunky in the first-look photos provided by Vanity Fair, has here been stripped back a little, leaving only the ornate vambraces, gauntlets (which have fake fingernails, by the way; so Medieval), and greaves – perhaps not the most practical choice in reality, but if I’m right, and the location depicted on this magazine cover is supposed to be the same cave in the Forodwaith where Galadriel and her Elves encountered a ghastly snow-troll in the teaser trailer, then she probably removed some layers so she can run, jump, and climb in the mountainous environment.
I also want to draw attention to the chainmail tunic Galadriel is wearing here. It’s the same one we saw her wearing in the teaser trailer, when she was scaling an ice-wall using a Valinorean knife as an ice-pick, although if you compare the two images you’ll notice that Empire’s photographers have done away with the chainmail coif and cloth cap she was wearing in the trailer. But of course, we have to talk about the big eight-pointed star enmeshed in her tunic, because fans are once again demanding to know why Galadriel is proudly wearing the symbol of her cousin Fëanor, who slaughtered her mother’s kinfolk at Alqualondë and left her in the Helcaraxë to die, and once again I’m at a loss for how to answer.
My best guess is that Amazon was trying to recreate the six-pointed star of Eärendil, who was only distantly related to Galadriel but played an integral role in bringing about the end of the wars with Morgoth, in which Galadriel had participated (well, kind of; more on that here). The six-pointed star represents the Silmaril jewel which Eärendil wore on his brow into battle with the dragon Ancalagon the Black, and a remnant of this Silmaril’s light was later captured by Galadriel in a vial which she gifted to Frodo Baggins in The Lord Of The Rings. But I don’t know why Amazon wouldn’t recreate the symbol more faithfully if that was the intention – especially since, if you look very closely at the tunic, some of the smaller stars surrounding the big eight-pointed star of Fëanor do appear to have only six points arranged like the star of Eärendil, so it’s not like they weren’t allowed to.
Anyway, let’s move on to the second of the three magazine covers; this one depicting Prince Durin IV and Princess Disa of the Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dûm attending a banquet.
Both of these characters were created for The Rings Of Power, although we know that at the very least, a Durin IV must have existed because there was a Durin III in the Second Age of Middle-earth and a Durin VI in the Third Age, several centuries later. We know nothing about Durin IV, specifically, except that he must have lived and died sometime between Second Age (S.A.) 1697 and Third Age (T.A.) 1731 and been a lot like Durin I because J.R.R. Tolkien explicitly writes in the appendices to The Lord Of The Rings that “five times an heir was born…so like to his Forefather [Durin I] that he received the name of Durin”. Durins II through VII were even believed to be reincarnations of Durin I, which works in the books because there are a few generations between each Durin.
As for Disa…well, as the spouse of Durin IV she too must have existed, but Tolkien never gave her a name, so Amazon has simply gone ahead and given her a name of their own creation – albeit clearly inspired by Dís, the name of the only Dwarven woman in the entirety of Tolkien’s works. Dís, the younger sister of Thorin Oakenshield and mother of Fíli and Kíli, lived in Erebor in the late Third Age. We know nothing about her beyond that, so we have no way of knowing whether the parallels between the two characters begin and end with their names, but I do quite like the idea of Dwarves inheriting the names of their ancestors based on how closely they resemble them in appearance and temperament. We’ll revisit this topic when Amazon adapts The Hobbit and gives Dis the subplot she deserves.
In the image of Durin IV and Disa, they sit together at a banquet (possibly their wedding banquet?), hands clasped over the table in a gesture of unity, wearing the same clothes we’ve now seen in the character posters, Vanity Fair images, and teaser trailer. I’m not complaining, because the clothes are beautiful, but surely the Prince and Princess of Khazad-dûm, the “many-pillared halls of stone with golden roof and silver floor” so eloquently described by Gimli in the Third Age, can afford a single costume change?
Gracing the third and last of the new Empire Magazine covers with their presence are three characters who probably can’t afford a costume change, but wear their burlap like it’s Balenciaga – give it up for the Harfoots from Wilderland!
Man, I love this cover. Of the three, it’s by far my favorite. And not because I know any of these characters, or have any reason to care about them just yet (they’re all original), but because The Rings Of Power’s costume designers and production designers have clearly put a lot of thought and effort into designing an aesthetic for the Harfoots of the Second Age that feels both fresh and familiar at once, by starting with what we know from The Lord Of The Rings, which is that the Hobbits of the late Third Age are heavily inspired by late 19th Century England’s patchwork of rural communities, and then working backwards from that point.
The result is these Neolithic or Early Bronze Age Hobbits (referred to as Harfoots to drive home the point that they’re different from the Hobbits we know), and I’m in love with this whole concept because it feels so very Tolkienian to use real-world history in this way as a guideline for how to construct a fantasy civilization. It also reminds me of how concept artist Paul Lasaine described Frodo’s journey in The Lord Of The Rings films as taking him further and further backwards through stages of England’s ancient history to an “almost primordial situation” represented by Mordor. The Rings Of Power is taking that same journey backwards, the only difference being that we’re starting out a hell of a lot further back in time already.
That said, I can’t help but cringe a little at the names chosen for these three original Harfoot characters, which are so obviously supposed to sound “hobbity” that they accidentally work against the costume designers and production designers’ best efforts to achieve that immersive effect. I mean, Elanor Brandyfoot? Poppy Proudfellow? I can maybe excuse Sadoc Burrows, because it sounds somehow more natural to my ear, but these names sound like they were plucked at random from a Hobbit name-generator that’s only taking into consideration the naming conventions of late Third Age Hobbits of the Shire, not mid to late Second Age Harfoots of Wilderland. You’re telling me that their language and naming conventions never changed in a span of over three-thousand years? I don’t buy it.
Just to add to the confusion, Elanor’s name is Sindarin Elvish, and while there is one notable example of a Hobbit named Elanor, that Hobbit was the eldest daughter of Samwise Gamgee, who encountered the golden flower which the Elves called elanor (“sun-star”) in Lórien, after being granted safe passage through the guarded realm by Galadriel herself. Hardly a regular occurrence, I’d imagine! But it’s important to remember that The Rings Of Power is set in the Second Age, and we don’t know exactly when in the Second Age, either (except that it’s sometime prior to S.A. 1600, the year the Rings of Power were forged) – so it’s entirely possible that when the show opens, Galadriel might not yet have entered Lórien, and the realm might not be closed-off to the outside world.
One could also argue that elanor flowers pop up on the margins of Lórien’s forests, and that’s where Elanor Brandyfoot’s parents found them. Doesn’t explain how they learned the flower’s Elvish name, however. Tolkien tells us in the prologue to The Lord Of The Rings that Harfoots weren’t overly friendly with Elves in ancient times, much preferring the company of the Dwarves who lived in the Misty Mountains. Elanor’s parents must have been exceptional Harfoots indeed, then, if they were willing to venture close enough to Lórien to not only encounter Elves but actually speak with them and learn flower-names from them. Something tells me Elanor’s parents are dead or missing in the current day, she wants to explore “what else is out there”, as she says in the trailer, and her community disapproves which is why she’s so drawn to the mysterious Meteor Man…oh yeah, it’s all coming together now.
I don’t have much to add regarding Poppy or Sadoc, since we don’t know all that much about either of them just yet. Sadoc, played by British comedian Lenny Henry, is rumored to be the leader of the Harfoots; he was also shown holding a scroll in his character poster, which implies to me that he’s the keeper of some secrets – the truth about the origins of Harfoots, perhaps? I don’t know why the murky subject of Hobbit prehistory is so fascinating to me, but if The Rings Of Power gives us even a stupid explanation for where they came from, I will be so happy.
Anyway, which is your favorite of these three magazine covers, and when do you hope to see another trailer for The Rings Of Power? Can’t be long now! Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
SPOILERS FOR THE WHEEL OF TIME, BOOKS TWO THROUGH FOUR, AHEAD!
Did you know that JordanCon is a thing? Founded in 2009 to honor the life and legacy of fantasy author Robert Jordan, the convention has been held in the state of Georgia every year since (except for 2020, but as many appear to have forgotten, there was a global pandemic that year). Fans of The Wheel Of Time, the fourteen-volume fantasy series started by Jordan in 1990 and posthumously completed by Brandon Sanderson in 2013, flock to the convention in the hundreds to discuss the series with other fans and to attend lectures and panels by Jordan scholars on subjects ranging from the themes of his work to the Wheel Of Time adaptation which recently premiered on Amazon Prime’s streaming service.
Notable guests and speakers at JordanCon have included Jordan’s successor Brandon Sanderson, widow and editor Harriet McDougal, illustrator Michael Whelan, and a number of Jordan’s peers and proteges, including Patrick Rothfuss and Saladin Ahmed. But this year, excitement was through the roof, as the cast and crew of Amazon Prime’s The Wheel Of Time hosted a hotly-anticipated Q&A panel to talk about the high points of season one – and the direction of the series going forward.
The biggest announcement, which trended on Twitter for a while and received attention from mainstream media outlets, was the casting of Killing Eve‘s Ayoola Smart as Aviendha of the Nine Valleys sept of the Taardad Aiel. You can immediately tell which professional journalists covering this story didn’t read the books or do any research into the books by skimming through their eerily similar descriptions of Aviendha. If they refer to her by a certain title she doesn’t actually acquire until book twelve, you can bet your bottom dollar they just copied-and-pasted the very first Google search result for Aviendha into their articles without worrying about how much of her character development they were unintentionally spoiling for new readers.
When we first meet her in The Dragon Reborn, three books into the series, Aviendha is merely one of many Aiel warriors sent over the Spine of the World to find Rand al’Thor and inform him that he is the Car’a’carn, a prophesied “chief of chiefs” who is supposed to unite the scattered clans of the Aiel and lead them into a new age (what Rand himself wants is as irrelevant to the Aiel as it was to the Aes Sedai). Aviendha follows Rand to the city of Tear, where she and the Aiel joins forces with Rand’s army to help him defeat Be’lal, one of the thirteen Forsaken, and recover the legendary sword Callandor from the Stone of Tear so that Rand can complete a totally unrelated prophecy.
As inspiring as Jordan’s description of this battle is, I wouldn’t get my hopes up for a live-action adaptation just yet. The second season of Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time is expected to condense the events of The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn into roughly eight hour-long episodes, which means that at least one of those seven-hundred page novels is inevitably going to be prioritized while the other is only mined for its important character introductions and necessary story beats. And showrunner Rafe Judkins has done what I think any writer would do in that situation, prioritizing The Great Hunt over The Dragon Reborn. It has a clean and cohesive narrative, excellent character development, and an aerial battle over the city of Falme.
Judkins excitedly confirmed at the JordanCon presentation that The Wheel Of Time will be heading to Falme in season two, so we can probably rule out the possibility of the characters visiting Tear in the same season – unless by some miracle there’s enough time, space, and money left over to justify building sets for a second massive fictional city, populating it with extras and designing new costumes for all of them, choreographing a second elaborate city-wide battle, etc. Keep in mind that season one could only afford three main locations, leading to the characters and cameras bypassing the cities of Baerlon and Caemlyn entirely. Expect similar situations going forward.
That’s not to say that a lot can’t still be done on a $80M+ budget, and honestly the bigger problem is Amazon’s refusal to order the ten or twelve episode seasons we deserve from a show of this sprawling scope, but I’m getting off-topic now. To sum up everything that we’ve learned; we’re going to Falme in season two, not to Tear, but Aviendha has also been cast, which probably just means that she and the other Aiel will be involved in the battle of Falme rather than the siege of the Stone of Tear (curiously, that also means the Aiel scouts in the show will have traveled over two-thousand miles further west than the Aiel scouts in the books).
Without spoiling too much of book four, The Shadow Rising, I’ll just say that Aviendha plays a major role in the story going forward, and that despite her humble beginnings she quickly becomes a power player on the same level as Egwene al’Vere and Nynaeve al’Meara, with abilities beyond just her physical strength and prowess in combat that come to light gradually. I’m very excited to see her character come to life onscreen, and I trust Ayoola Smart to do a fabulous job.
What do you think of the casting? Was Aviendha one of your favorite characters in the books, and if so, how do you hope to see her adapted for Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!