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!
So we’ve all seen the first teaser trailer for Amazon’s The Rings Of Power, right? I mean, it was the fourth most-viewed trailer in its first twenty-four hours of release after the first trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home and the first and last trailers for Avengers: Endgame, so I’m just gonna assume we’ve all seen it by this point. I’m also gonna assume that a fair number of the record-breaking 257 million views on that Rings Of Power teaser came from people who aren’t necessarily familiar with the characters, events, and locations being portrayed in this prequel to The Lord Of The Rings.
And that’s totally okay, by the way. I won’t be asking for your signatures in Tengwar script to prove that you’re a “true fan”, because frankly, even if I did, I (*pause for dramatic effect*) don’t know how to read or write Tengwar myself! Heck, I might as well tell you now, I only know, like, ten or fifteen Elvish words in total and virtually none of the grammar that’s supposed to go in between.
Okay, so maybe not the wisest thing to admit while simultaneously trying to position myself as a reliable source of information on the deep lore of J.R.R Tolkien’s legendarium, but (a) my point is that this can be an intimidating fandom but it really doesn’t matter to me whether you’ve read The Lord Of The Rings and its appendices twenty times, or whether you’ve never read a word of Tolkien in your entire life but were intrigued by something in the teaser trailer for The Rings Of Power, because I try to make my content accessible to everyone, and also (b) I actually have read the books and appendices more than twenty times, so please trust me! I absorbed the lore better than I did the languages, I swear.
To prove it, today we’re going to be diving into the nebulous and often contradictory lore surrounding one of the most enigmatic characters in all of Tolkien’s works, and the rumored protagonist of The Rings Of Power – the Lady Galadriel. The marketing for Amazon’s series makes it clear that Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel is, if nothing else, the most competitive of several candidates vying for top-billing in a large ensemble cast rounded out by Robert Aramayo’s Elrond, Maxim Baldry’s Isildur, and Markella Kavenagh’s Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot (each of these characters warrants their own introductory post in good time, but I wanted to start with Galadriel because she just so happens to be my favorite character in Tolkien’s legendarium).
And despite how difficult it is to piece together a clear account of her life from J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings on the subject, Galadriel is the obvious choice to lead. Because if The Rings Of Power, a prequel distanced from the events of The Lord Of The Rings by a span of over three-thousand years, is going to be commercially successful, it needs to provide fans of The Lord Of The Rings (the books and the films) with something they can grab hold of that makes them feel safe and comfortable in this unfamiliar era of Middle-earth’s history.
And amidst all the characters of that era whose names and great deeds had faded into legend by the time of The Lord Of The Rings, characters like Isildur and Elendil and Gil-galad, there is one who stands out from the rest – one whose life-story spans the entirety of Middle-earth’s recorded history, from the literal beginning of time to the very last date etched in the Tale of Years. And that is Galadriel.
Galadriel is approximately 8372 years old by the time of The Lord Of The Rings – technically making her the second-oldest Elf in Middle-earth (at least that we know of) after Círdan the Shipwright, who is somewhere between 10741 to 11364 years old. Characters like Treebeard and Tom Bombadil are significantly older than both of them, though by an indeterminate margin (Treebeard is estimated to be around 30000 years old by fans, while Tom claims to predate the first rivers and trees in Middle-earth, making him roughly 50000 to 60000 years old). But the advantage Galadriel has over all these other characters is that she actually…did stuff.
By that, I mean she’s integral to the story that The Rings Of Power plans to tell over the course of five or more seasons; the story of the Second Age of Middle-earth, beginning with the forging of the Rings of Power and concluding in the tumultuous War of the Last Alliance. I am aware that Círdan also participated in these events, to a slightly lesser extent than Galadriel, but he lacks the name recognition necessary for a protagonist in this case, as well as a clearly defined character arc. Galadriel possesses both.
And yet…there is one itty-bitty problem with Galadriel being the protagonist. You see, even after publishing The Lord Of The Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien couldn’t help but continue altering fundamental aspects of his characters’ backstories, and Galadriel was the victim of some pretty aggressive edits the author made near the end of his life, meaning there is no “canonical” version of her story for Amazon to adapt. Even the stray bits and pieces of Galadriel’s backstory provided in the pages of The Lord Of The Rings subtly contradict details in the book’s own appendices.
Before we go any further, I ought to note that Amazon has the rights to The Lord Of The Rings and its appendices (and The Hobbit), but Rings Of Power showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne have vehemently denied that their deal with the Tolkien Estate granted them access to the author’s posthumously published writings, including The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, which altogether contain the most complete version of Galadriel’s story. We do not know the truth of the matter just yet.
The Silmarillion is a history textbook covering the First Age and Second Age of Middle-earth in great detail and then kinda glossing over the events of the Third Age (the period of time in which The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings take place). J.R.R. Tolkien began writing it in the early 1910’s, and at one point intended to publish it alongside The Lord Of The Rings so that readers would understand the frequent references to in-universe historical events, legendary battles, and tales of ancient heroes. He never finished, leaving his youngest son Christopher with the daunting task of having to compile his notes into a workable narrative.
The published Silmarillion is still regarded as inherently less “canon” than The Lord Of The Rings because it wasn’t ever approved for publication by J.R.R. Tolkien himself and had to be heavily abridged, but the tale it tells of Galadriel is one that many fans – including myself – have fallen in love with and regard as canon because it’s the version of Galadriel’s story alluded to in The Lord Of The Rings, and the only one that makes any sense.
As for Unfinished Tales, the nature of the work (an anthology of stories Tolkien started, but never had the time or inclination to complete) means that it is inherently less cohesive than The Silmarillion, but it also contains a level of detail that The Silmarillion does not possess, and that makes it a rewarding read for anyone interested in the rich lore of Middle-earth. Some of the most well-known anecdotes about Galadriel’s life come from Unfinished Tales, and are fairly easy to superimpose onto the version of her story in The Silmarillion. Nonetheless, I will point out these instances as we proceed.
Per The Silmarillion, Galadriel was born in the Undying Lands of Valinor at a time when the High Elves were still under the protection of Middle-earth’s gods. For the sake of simplification, we’re just going to pretend that time existed as a concept back when Galadriel was born, even though it…didn’t. Middle-earth didn’t have a sun or a moon back then, so there were no days or months or years, but there were these durations of time called Valian Years, which correspond to either nine or 144 of our solar years depending on which of Tolkien’s writings on the subject you regard as more “canon”, and as if that isn’t confusing enough you also have to factor in that the passage of time literally feels slower in Valinor, so 144 solar years might feel like just one solar year to a Valinorean, and…argh, I said we were just gonna pretend that time existed, and I’ve already failed!
Anyway…when Galadriel was born, there was no sun and moon, so the only natural light emanated from the stars (which were created by the goddess Varda), and from two trees planted by the gods in the middle of Valinor, which glowed brightly and bathed the Undying Lands in a warm, purifying light. All of the Elves touched by this light retained a kind of magical residue on their bodies that formed an aura, but Galadriel is the only Elf we know of whose hair, specifically, was believed to have caught this residue and became “lit with gold” as a result. Keep that in mind; it’ll come up again later.
The Silmarillion doesn’t have a whole lot to say regarding Galadriel’s early life in Valinor. Unfinished Tales, however, tells us that when she was still young, “she grew to be tall beyond the measure even of the women of the Noldor; she was strong of body, mind, and will, a match for both the loremasters and the athletes of the Eldar in the days of their youth”. The famous letter in which Tolkien described Galadriel as having once been “of Amazon disposition” is not included in either book, but I’m mentioning it here because The Rings Of Power appears to be extrapolating on that idea.
As she was the granddaughter of the High King Finwë by way of his second marriage, we can safely assume she lived in the capital city of Tirion-upon-Túna – a location that had never appeared in live-action until last year, when the first official image from The Rings Of Power revealed a Valinorean panorama including Tirion, the Two Trees, and an unidentified figure rumored to be Finrod, Galadriel’s eldest brother. They were beloved by their grandfather Finwë, but treated with contempt by Fëanor, Finwë’s eldest son and the only one born to his first wife, Míriel.
Fëanor didn’t approve of his father’s second marriage, and The Silmarillion assures us that, like, a whole bunch of High Elves felt the same way. Names? You’re asking for names? Uh…well, the narrator talked to at least seven people who were definitely not the sons of Fëanor wearing fedoras and fake mustaches. All joking aside, it’s a weird part of the book where it feels like the devoutly Catholic Tolkien really wants to draw some correlation between Finwë’s remarriage and Fëanor being a jerk, but he doesn’t quite manage it and then backtracks to add that it’s a good thing Finwë did have more children, because someone needed to keep Fëanor in check, and it sure as hell wasn’t gonna be any of his kids.
Needless to say, everyone in Valinor was pretty relieved when Fëanor decided to channel his pent-up frustration with his father into seemingly inoffensive pastimes like art and alchemy, but Finwë’s other children and grandchildren were especially happy because it meant that for the greater part of any given Valian Year Fëanor and his sons would be holed up in their forge, and nobody had to interact with them except at dinner parties, and on those occasions you just had to hope that Fëanor would be too busy showing off his new inventions for him to find time to pick on you. Sometimes he’d even invent something useful, like an alphabet, and then other times it would just be weird, like when he designed a bunch of creepy all-seeing orbs that could stare at you from across a continent.
Most people would choose to rest on their laurels after creating the alphabet, but Fëanor wanted to one-up himself and the gods at the same time, because what could possibly go wrong with a plan that involves potentially incurring the wrath of a pantheon of omnipotent deities on whom you and your people rely for literally everything, including protection from a Dark Lord who wants to turn you all into orcs for his nihilistic amusement?
Fast-forward a few Valian Years, and Fëanor emerges triumphant from his forge with three jewels called Silmarils (hence The Silmarillion). These jewels, these Silmarils, were imbued with some of the precious light of the Two Trees, making them eerily similar to NFTs in that they served no real purpose except to give the possessor (i.e. Fëanor) a false sense of ownership over something he did not create and which was already freely accessible to everyone in Valinor; the only difference being that the Silmarils actually turned out to be worth something in the end. In Unfinished Tales, it’s even suggested that the idea for the Silmarils came to Fëanor after studying Galadriel’s hair, and that he begged her three times for a sample to use in his experiments, but “[she] would not give him even one hair”.
The gods decided to let Fëanor keep his NFTs as long as he shut up about the limitless potential of cryptocurrency, but the Dark Lord Morgoth was obsessed with the idea of taking them for himself (which should tell you something about the type of people who want to own NFTs), and he quickly realized that while Fëanor’s covetous attitude toward the Silmarils meant they were kept closely-guarded at all times, it also meant the Elf would walk blindly into any trap if he felt his Silmarils were threatened. Morgoth laid the groundwork for his trap by traveling among the Elves and regaling them with tales about the lands in Middle-earth they could rule if only the gods would allow them to leave Valinor.
It’s safe to assume that Galadriel was one of the Elves on whom Morgoth’s words made a strong impression. Because when the Dark Lord finally stole the Silmarils and fled to Middle-earth, leaving a trail of dead bodies (including poor old Finwë’s) for Fëanor to follow, Galadriel unexpectedly joined Fëanor in calling for a man-hunt to find the Dark Lord and bring him to justice. She didn’t particularly care about reclaiming the Silmarils, but “she yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will”, in stark contrast to her father Finarfin and brother Orodreth, who “spoke softly” in an effort to cool Fëanor’s hot temper, and to her brother Finrod, who hated Fëanor’s guts and made no secret of it.
Something that nobody seems to have considered while arguing over whether or not to leave Valinor was whether or not they could leave Valinor. No one had ever tried before. The Undying Lands were separated from Middle-earth by a wide ocean at the time, and the only land-bridge connecting the two continents lay somewhere in the uttermost north. So for a while, everybody just kinda walked aimlessly along the beach while they waited for somebody at the front of the line to settle on a direction. The House of Finarfin, including Finrod, is said to have been at the rear – “and often they looked behind them to see [Tirion]“.
It would seem out-of-character for Galadriel to be one of those glancing over her shoulder at the home she was about to leave behind, considering how eager she was to leave, but it would probably make even less sense for her to be amongst Fëanor’s folk at the front of the line; the reason being that Fëanor actually had a destination in mind – Alqualondë, the coastal port-city of the Sea-elves, Galadriel’s family on her mother’s side. He had assumed the Sea-elves would just give him all of their ships for free (reasonable dude, Fëanor), and was stunned speechless when they essentially told him to bugger off. So he killed them and took their ships by force.
The Elves who arrived late to the battle didn’t know what the hell was going on, and just started stabbing people randomly, turning the harbor of Alqualondë into a bloodbath. The Silmarillion simply never tells us whether Galadriel, Finrod, and Finarfin took part in this “Kinslaying”, and avoids implicating any of them in the atrocity at all – an imperfect solution on Christopher Tolkien’s part to a problem that J.R.R. Tolkien appears to have encountered every time he rewrote Galadriel’s story and reached this pivotal moment; how to get Galadriel to Middle-earth with only a medium-sized blemish on her reputation for goodness?
A manuscript published in the Unfinished Tales tells us that Galadriel indeed took part in the Kinslaying, but “fought fiercely against Fëanor in defence of her mother’s kin”, and this is the idea that Tolkien seems to have been the most stubbornly satisfied with…for a little while, at least. In recent months, this passage has been quoted and discussed at length, as it provides textual evidence for The Rings Of Power‘s interpretation of Galadriel as a warrior, and paints a pretty epic picture of her.
It’s unfortunate, then, that this passage doesn’t fit comfortably within the broader narrative and never has, because Tolkien still needed Galadriel to continue following Fëanor after the Kinslaying – and whether or not it makes sense for her to do so after Fëanor killed many of her people, it’s completely unlike Fëanor to allow her to do so after she had presumably killed or injured some of his. Even though he eventually chose to leave Galadriel and most of the House of Finarfin stranded in the far north (taking with him to Middle-earth only those “whom he deemed true to him”), to argue that that was his plan all along and that he was playing the long game requires a leap in logic I’m not willing to make.
Unfinished Tales contains a rapid, fascinating summary of another version of Galadriel’s story that Tolkien had sketched out shortly before his death in 1973. In this rewrite, he did what most writers do at least once when confronted with a case of characters not doing what they’re supposed to do, and started over from scratch. Galadriel abruptly ceased to be a member of Fëanor’s rebellion and became thoroughly independent from him, with her own goal of sailing to Middle-earth as an adventurer. She just happened to choose a really bad day to set out from Alqualondë, and had to fight Fëanor and his people as they tried to board her ship. This version still gives us a warrior Galadriel (and a seafaring warrior Galadriel at that), but it does remove a layer of complexity from the character that I would have missed.
To recap, the published Silmarillion doesn’t mention Galadriel in connection with the Kinslaying at Alqualondë. By the time we catch up with her again, four whole pages have passed since the Kinslaying and a lot has happened. The gods finally got involved by sending a message to Fëanor (“accidentally” blind-CCing all the Elves in the process) to tell him that he could go to Middle-earth and get swallowed by a dragon for all they care, but that anyone who followed him would be banished from Valinor forever, and when Morgoth inevitably killed them all, even their souls would be forbidden from entering the halls of the dead.
Finarfin didn’t need to be told twice to get the hint, and chose to return to Tirion and become High King of the twenty or so Elves left in Valinor. Fëanor and the rest of the Elves continued northward, following the coast of Valinor on land in their ships – until at some point, Fëanor decided that it would be easier to just steal the ships and set sail for Middle-earth, leaving the other Elves stranded in the frigid wastelands north of Valinor. Galadriel finally reappears, and along with her brother Finrod heroically takes command of the dire situation and leads the Elves across the icy land-bridge connecting Valinor to Middle-earth.
This is probably as good a time as any to point out that Galadriel and a group of Elves can be seen traversing an icy landscape in the first teaser trailer for The Rings Of Power, although this scene is said to take place in Middle-earth and not in Valinor, as some had hoped. The giveaway is the bright sunlight beaming down on Galadriel in those shots in the trailer – at the time that Galadriel led the Elves across the Grinding Ice in pursuit of Fëanor, the sun and moon had still not been created.
Unfortunately, Tolkien wrote very little about the crossing in The Silmarillion, and even less in Unfinished Tales. Many Elves died, whether by starving to death or drowning under the ice, but enough survived and were hardened by the experience that their army still made for a fearsome and awe-inspiring sight when they came down from the north into the lands of Middle-earth at the very moment that the sun arose. Morgoth cowered in his fortress under the earth, and his orcs fled before the Elves and permitted them to march straight up to Morgoth’s front gate and beat upon the doors, and Galadriel was probably there but Tolkien doesn’t tell us exactly what she was doing.
With the dawn of the sun, the First Age of Middle-earth officially began. Oh, you thought we were in the First Age already? Haha, no, all of that was just the Years of the Trees. The First Age, however, only lasted about six-hundred years (the Second and Third Ages, for comparison, span over three-thousand years each), and for most of this time Galadriel stayed in the forest realm of Doriath. She and Finrod were invited there by King Elu Thingol (who was the brother of their maternal grandfather), and Galadriel fell in love with an Elven prince named Celeborn whom she met there.
If you thought Galadriel’s backstory was complex, don’t even get me started on Celeborn. In The Lord Of The Rings and the published Silmarillion, it’s mentioned that he’s a “kinsman of Thingol”, which sounds about right…until you remember that Galadriel is also a kinswoman of Thingol, and before you know it you’re poring over fictional family trees desperately trying to prove that Galadriel and Celeborn are not first cousins, they can’t possibly be first cousins…right? Well, yes and no. It depends on which version of Galadriel’s story you’re reading. They’re only first cousins in the version where she sets sail from Alqualondë on her own ship. Before that, they were just second cousins.
While Finrod went off and established his own kingdom in Nargothrond, Galadriel remained in Doriath with Celeborn, learning magical arts and lore from Elu Thingol’s wife, Melian, a minor goddess. As far as we know, she took no active part in the wars against Morgoth or in the later efforts by Fëanor’s sons and other heroes to reclaim the Silmarils, nor did she immediately seek power for herself – probably because she understood just by looking around that until Morgoth was defeated and Fëanor’s family were dead, the Elves would have little peace in Middle-earth. Also, Finrod had once prophesied that Nargothrond would fall, which can’t have filled Galadriel with much confidence for her own prospects.
Finrod’s prophecy came to pass (prophecies have a way of doing that), but neither he nor Galadriel was there to witness the Sack of Nargothrond and the slaughter of Finarfin’s folk. Finrod died in the year 465 of the First Age, and sometime between then and 495, Galadriel packed her things and left Doriath, crossing the Blue Mountains into the unoccupied lands of Eriador. She is sometimes said to have done so alone, but Celeborn probably joined her no later than 506, when he is said to have fled the Sack of Doriath.
Less than a hundred years later, the War of Wrath happened (in which Morgoth was finally vanquished by the gods, and the last of Fëanor’s seven sons either died or disappeared), and at this point The Silmarillion completely loses track of Galadriel in all the chaos and Unfinished Tales picks up their plot-thread in a short text which Christopher Tolkien described as “almost the sole narrative source for the events in the West of Middle-earth up to the defeat and expulsion of Sauron from Eriador in the year 1701 of the Second Age”. These are the events that The Rings Of Power hopes to adapt across its first season.
In this story, Galadriel and Celeborn cross the Blue Mountains into Eriador after the War of Wrath and settle at various locations between Lake Nenuial in the north-west and Eregion in the east, under the shadow of the Misty Mountains and close to the Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm. At some point during their travels, Galadriel gave birth to a daughter, Celebrían (and for the first and only time is mentioned as having a son, Amroth, but this detail is never reflected in The Lord Of The Rings, so I don’t regard it as canon).
Celeborn had no affection for Dwarves, but Galadriel is said to have “looked upon the Dwarves also with the eye of a commander, seeing in them the finest warriors to pit against the Orcs”. When she was ousted from Eregion in a coup led by the craftsman Celebrimbor and a mysterious stranger named Annatar, the Dwarves allowed her safe passage through Khazad-dûm to the woodland realm of Lórinand on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains.
Celeborn “remained behind in Eregion, disregarded by Celebrimbor”.
It soon became apparent to all that the stranger named Annatar was none other than Sauron, formerly the lieutenant of Morgoth, and that he had planned to manipulate the Elven craftspeople of Eregion into forging Rings of Power with which to ensnare the free peoples of Middle-earth. Celebrimbor therefore crossed the Misty Mountains and took counsel from Galadriel, who advised him to give her one of the Rings (no ulterior motive there, that’s for sure!) and to hide the others far from Eregion.
Of the nineteen Rings of Power forged by Celebrimbor and Sauron, sixteen came into Sauron’s possession when he attacked Eregion – but three eluded him forever, and these were the three given to the Elves; one to Galadriel in Lórinand, and two to Galadriel’s young cousin Gil-galad in the realm of Lindon. Sauron considered attacking Lórinand, but the doors of Khazad-dûm were shut and he could not cross the Misty Mountains. Instead, he went after Gil-galad, because there were only so many Elves to whom Celebrimbor would have entrusted a Ring of Power and their identities weren’t exactly secret.
Sauron came very close to defeating Gil-galad and capturing his Rings, but was foiled at the last moment by a Númenórean fleet out of the west, who drove him out of Eriador and back to the shadowed realm of Mordor. “For many years the Westlands had peace”, and in this time Galadriel and Celebrían returned over the Misty Mountains and reunited with Celeborn in the haven of Imladris. Gil-galad joined them for a war-council in which it was decided that he should give one of his Rings of Power to the young lord Elrond of Imladris – who by an extraordinary coincidence had just fallen in love with Galadriel’s daughter, Celebrían (nothing suspicious about that, that’s for sure!)
For more context on Elrond and the Númenóreans, I suggest you check out some of my earlier posts, namely this one and this one – although I will be continuing this series soon with a post about the Númenórean prince Isildur. It should be a lot easier to write than this one, which required me to have several books and literally dozens of search-tabs open simultaneously.
As for Galadriel, well, that’s her entire story through The Rings Of Power season one, at least based on what we currently know. I can’t promise that everything you’ve read in this post will make it into the show, but I do believe that having this context will help a lot of people – particularly new fans – better understand the characters who inhabit Middle-earth, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Be sure to share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
Taking advantage of the Super Bowl’s audience of millions, Amazon Prime used last night’s game to launch the first teaser trailer for The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power into the world. It was brief, just about a minute long, and more evocative than it was revealing – purely designed to get audiences, particularly more casual fantasy fans, excited to be back in the world of Middle-earth after almost a decade. But if the trailer seems light on story details and you’re still confused as to what’s going on, I want you to go check out Fellowship Of Fans on YouTube, because you will find many of the answers you are looking for there.
In fact, let me just put a pause on the trailer breakdown for a moment and invite you to marvel along with me at Fellowship Of Fans’ impeccable track record, because this teaser trailer officially confirms at least four exclusive story leaks and a character leak released by Fellowship over the past year – and a recent Vanity Fair article with accompanying promotional images confirmed several more of their exclusive character leaks, including Maxim Baldry as Isildur and Charles Edwards as Celebrimbor (sadly, I did not have the time to cover the contents of that article in the depth and level of detail that I wanted before the trailer dropped).
Knowing the context behind a lot of the split-second images in last night’s teaser trailer was immensely helpful to me, even as a long-time reader of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, because The Rings Of Power isn’t a straightforward adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings, where knowing the source material forwards-and-backwards is enough to fully grasp what’s going on. It’s an adaptation of Tolkien’s accounts of the Second Age of Middle-earth, which he left only partially completed at the time of his death, scattered like broken shards of a narrative across heaps of disorganized notes, rough drafts of stories that never went anywhere.
A relatively brief synopsis of the Second Age did find its way into the appendices to The Lord Of The Rings and is included in most editions of The Return Of The King, but it’s written in the style of a historical text and spans over three-thousand years. Amazon has opted to construct their own largely original narrative around the main events of the Second Age, which will be squeezed into a much smaller timeframe coinciding with the lives of the Númenóreans Elendil and Isildur – which is either the safer approach, the riskier approach, the right approach or the wrong approach depending on who you ask.
So anyway, while there are a number of characters in this trailer that come to us directly from Tolkien’s writings on the Second Age (Galadriel and Elrond being the most notable), there are just as many original characters pulled from the corners of Middle-earth that Tolkien left largely unexplored – including a Silvan Elf protagonist and a Dwarven princess. Obviously, most of their scenes and storylines are wholly original as well, but even the canonical characters have been placed in unfamiliar settings and situations, with Galadriel embarking on a mission into the Forodwaith to hunt orcs while Elrond mingles with the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm.
I’m sure a book purist will inform me in the comments below that that’s exactly why The Rings Of Power will suck, because it’s “fan-fiction” and not “canon”. Regardless of the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien would first have to rise from the grave to write any adaptation of his works that wouldn’t inherently be a piece of “fan-fiction”, and that no adaptation – bad or good – will ever have any bearing whatsoever on the original work if you don’t let it, I’m frankly confused as to how purists thought a Second Age show was ever going to work without at least a couple of original characters and storylines. I mean, did you not want any dialogue, either?
What concerns me slightly about all of the original characters and storylines packed into this teaser trailer is not that they exist in the first place, but that general audiences trying to get a handle on what The Rings Of Power is really about won’t be able to find that information easily – because it’s not in the teaser trailer itself, and it’s not in the source material that most journalists will point you towards. It’s in Fellowship Of Fans’ archives, mostly, and if you don’t mind a few minor potential spoilers, I highly suggest you check out all of their videos regarding The Rings Of Power as well as their Second Age breakdown posts and my own.
I know a few people who don’t like to come across anything even remotely spoiler-y before watching a film or series they’re excited for, so I’ll give you this one last chance to leave before we jump into the actual trailer breakdown you’ve all been waiting for, and some minor potential spoilers for season one. See you in seven months! The rest of you, follow me.
Although there’s nothing in this teaser that shocked me while watching, I feel like it still might surprise some folks to learn that the meteor streaking across the night sky at around the 0:35 mark is actually a person, whose true identity will be a running mystery throughout season one. Fellowship Of Fans reports that this character, dubbed “Meteor Man”, will crash into Middle-earth (sustaining severe memory loss in the process), where a group of Harfoot hobbits will discover him and adopt him into their traveling community at the behest of one Elanor Brandyfoot, the inquisitive young hobbit girl who narrates the trailer.
We catch a brief glimpse of Elanor holding the Meteor Man’s bloodied hand (it’s the trailer thumbnail, embedded above), but I doubt that’s immediately clear to anyone who hasn’t been watching Fellowship Of Fans’ videos religiously. This teaser trailer could have used slightly more footage of Meteor Man’s crash-landing and his discovery by the hobbits – just something to get casual fans talking and theorizing the same way they did with Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time, which had everyone wondering who the Dragon Reborn would turn out to be.
The difference is that the identity of the Dragon Reborn was common knowledge to anyone who had read Robert Jordan’s books, and the answer was easily available on Google anyway. Meteor Man’s identity is a genuine mystery, but Amazon is holding their cards so close to their chest that most fans don’t know that there’s a mystery here to be solved…yet. I don’t know when we can expect to see our next trailer, but I hope it shows more of this character and the bizarre circumstances of his arrival. Did I mention he might also be evil?
Amazon has officially nicknamed this character “The Stranger”, which is definitely more ominous and creepy than Meteor Man but somehow doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, either. It’s like how Disney wanted us to call Baby Yoda “The Child” at first. Not gonna happen. Don’t try to make it happen. And please let his actual name be something better than Grogu.
On the subject of names, we have to talk about Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot, Markella Kavenagh’s hobbit character. Elanor in this case is clearly a reference to Elanor Gamgee, the eldest daughter of Samwise Gamgee – born shortly after the events of The Lord Of The Rings. The name is Sindarin Elvish, and in the case of Sam’s daughter it was derived from the golden flower elanor that once grew in the forests of Lórien. It’s a beautiful name, and creates a powerful link to the hobbit characters of the Fourth Age, but I really do hope there’s an explanation for how Elanor’s parents came across the flower and discovered its Elvish name.
In the one clear shot we see of Elanor, she wears a sprig of yellow flowers in her curly hair – which I would have thought were just wildflowers were it not for her peculiar name. What we can extrapolate from this is that Elanor and her family must live somewhere near Lórien, which more or less lines up with Tolkien’s account of the late Second Age and early Third Age hobbit territories being situated in Wilderland, between the Misty Mountains and Greenwood. The Harfoots specifically “long lived in the foothills of the mountains” and “had much to do with Dwarves”, theoretically placing them somewhere in the vicinity of Khazad-dûm’s eastern gates and Lórien. This works out!
Markella Kavenagh’s Elanor is the only character to speak in the trailer, and she gets just a single line – “Haven’t you ever wondered what else is out there? There’s wonders in this world beyond our wandering. I can feel it.” Presumably, she’s talking to someone else in her hobbit traveling community, although I take it from this dialogue that these hobbits must never stray from their well-worn paths, or else why would Elanor be unsatisfied with her life? Fellowship Of Fans has previously reported that The Rings Of Power will follow the Harfoot hobbits on their westward migrations into Eriador.
Assuming the hobbits reach the Misty Mountains by the end of season one (and if they truly live next-door to Khazad-dûm, it might not even take them that long), it will only be the second perilous mountain journey in The Rings Of Power after Galadriel’s adventure in the Forodwaith. Here, in the bitterly cold wastelands once occupied by the Dark Lord Melkor, we’ll meet up with Galadriel and another Elf played by Kip Chapman as they seek out orcs, trolls, and other monsters left over from the First Age. Galadriel is out for vengeance, and she won’t rest until all of Melkor’s minions are wiped off the face of Middle-earth – including, and perhaps especially, Sauron.
I unironically love this whole concept, so much so that I’m not even disappointed to learn that is the Forodwaith and not the Helcaraxë, as some fans had hoped. I mean, I would have been happy either way, and the crossing of the Helcaraxë in the First Age by the Elven rebels leaving Valinor would have made for an even better parallel to the hobbits crossing the Misty Mountains looking for a new home, but whatever, I’m cool with it if it means we get to see Galadriel scaling an ice-wall using her Valinorean sword. Also, the Forodwaith is one of those wide empty areas on Tolkien’s map of Middle-earth where Amazon can play around as much as they like.
My early prediction is that something will happen up north that puts the fear of god in Galadriel. She’ll learn that Sauron is rising again (The Hobbit kinda did this storyline already, but badly, so we’ll let it slide), and she’ll quickly return home to Lindon, where King Gil-galad and Elrond will be unreceptive to her warnings and try to ease her fears instead of preparing for the inevitable. Fed up, Galadriel will leave again, this time on a sea-voyage. I don’t know why, but we’ve learned via Vanity Fair that Galadriel somehow ends up shipwrecked by episode two, and has to work together with a mysterious man named Halbrand to survive a storm at sea.
At some point during this sequence, probably after the storm has settled down a bit, Halbrand discovers that Galadriel is an Elf and pulls her hair aside brusquely to reveal her leaf-shaped ears. The audacity! My only takeaway from this is that Halbrand needs to get pushed off the boat or whacked in the head with an oar or something.
All signs point to Galadriel and Halbrand washing up somewhere on the shores of Númenor, where Elendil will find Galadriel. The trailer opens on an establishing shot of a Númenórean port-city, presumably the westward-facing city of Andúnië where Elendil and his family lived during the late Second Age. The camera follows a cargo-laden ship through a sea-gate painted blue and gold, and lifts over the archway to reveal a wide harbor crowded with fishing-boats, over which loom the palatial estates of the lords, and Tolkienesque interpretations of the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Colossus of Rhodes. Further in the distance stands the great peak of the Meneltarma.
It’s a beautiful sight, but it’s gone almost before you have time to register that you’ve just beheld the shores of Númenor. The rest of this trailer is Elf-centric and focuses primarily on Middle-earth, with no human characters besides Halbrand even appearing. I suspect we’ll see plenty more of Númenor in trailers, TV spots, and promotional images closer to release, but for now Amazon just wants to get the message across to people that this is Middle-earth, and Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits do a better job of conveying that than humans.
And based on the fan reaction to Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Silvan Elf protagonist Arondir in last night’s trailer, I can absolutely understand why the Elven characters will dominate the marketing for The Rings Of Power. They’re just neat. Arondir catching an arrow in mid-air, flipping it around and firing it in one fluid motion (all in the dark, mind you) is cool the same way that Legolas swinging across the front of a moving horse was cool in The Two Towers, before Peter Jackson decided he needed to top that scene every five minutes, using increasingly implausible CGI to do so.
The one shot in this trailer that gives me Hobbit vibes, in a bad way, is right near the end. An Elf wielding a giant battle-axe leaps in slow-motion across the screen, with a chain attached to his ankle unfurling behind him in the sky. It’s clearly supposed to be an awesome action beat, but I don’t know what’s going on here and it doesn’t look like it was achieved using practical effects, which is why it falls flat for me. If we learn that it is practical and that this is actually a really raw and visceral action scene, that’s interesting, but the character looks as weightless and removed from reality as Legolas when he was gliding up a falling staircase in The Battle Of The Five Armies, and I’m not feeling it.
Happily, this awkward moment is counterbalanced just a second later by a quick shot of an Elven character played by Will Fletcher standing in the rain, screaming soundlessly while a swarm of orcs presses against him from all sides – and not only is Fletcher clearly real and present in this scene, but the orcs are as well. I can’t begin to express how relieved I am that both of Amazon’s biggest fantasy series’ are committed to using practical effects wherever possible, and this one shot has me longing for the Wheel Of Time finale we could have had, were it not for COVID-19.
According to Fellowship Of Fans, this Elven character is Galadriel’s brother Finrod – and yes, he has short hair. It’s a tragedy, although perhaps not quite as tragic as what’s about to happen to Finrod in this scene. I know that canonically, he dies wrestling a werewolf in the dungeons of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, which as far as death scenes go is unparalleled in Tolkien’s works, but that happens in The Silmarillion and the rights situation is complicated, so maybe Rings Of Power Finrod will have to die in battle instead. I just hope it’s epic…well, that, and I hope Amazon gives him long hair in post-production. That’s where the CGI budget should be going!
You know who is actually rocking the short hair? Elrond, shockingly. His hair, while several shades lighter than I would have liked, looks a lot better in motion than it did in the Vanity Fair photos, and Robert Aramayo makes the absolute most of his one shot in the trailer by hitting the audience with a smoldering gaze that could melt a Ring of Power. It’s never not gonna be vaguely annoying to me that so many of the male Elves – and only the male Elves – are sporting short hairstyles, but it looks good on Elrond, I won’t lie.
Also, I love that he’s an accidental heartthrob; he’s not just smoldering for the sake of it, he actually seems to be glowering at a group of Dwarves partying in the background, who are breaking his concentration on whatever old artifact he’s studying. Aramayo’s Elrond is an ambassador from Gil-galad to the Dwarves, according to Vanity Fair, and at some point early in the season he will be sent to Khazad-dûm to try and repair the old alliances between Elves and Dwarves that existed sporadically throughout the First Age and almost invariably ended in one side betraying the other.
Fellowship Of Fans has previously reported that the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm will be reeling from the sudden collapse of a mining-shaft in the first few episodes, probably just before Elrond’s arrival in the city. Vanity Fair pointedly describes Elrond as an “architect”, implying that he puts his skills to good use at some point in the three episodes their writers have seen – perhaps literally helping the Dwarves rebuild and thereby strengthening the bonds of friendship between their peoples? I’m down for that.
A few quick shots of Dwarven characters pass by in this trailer – mostly from what is believed to be the funeral ceremony for the Dwarves killed in the mining-shaft collapse. Prince Durin IV and Princess Disa, the latter a new character and the first Dwarven woman with a major role in any adaptation of Tolkien’s works, are both in attendance. Disa leads a song of lament in a scene first described by, you guessed it, Fellowship Of Fans. We don’t get to hear any of it, unfortunately, but Sophia Nomvete’s physical performance tells me that this is gonna be an impactful moment.
A few moments later, Durin IV reappears wielding a hammer, and strikes swiftly at a large block of stone in a dark chamber. He’s being observed silently from the corners of the room by three or four older Dwarves, which almost makes me think this is some kind of time-honored ritual in which he must partake before he can become King Durin IV. Of the Dwarven characters in Tolkien’s works, those with whom we’ve spent the most time were either exiles or travelers long away from home, so to see Dwarven culture on display – and not through an intermediary character like Bilbo – is actually quite rare and exciting.
That’s what I love most about the direction The Rings Of Power is taking: it’s giving us a unique opportunity to explore the regions and peoples of Middle-earth that only ever existed on the peripheries of Tolkien’s most well-known stories. By the end of the Third Age, Khazad-dûm is in ruins, Númenor lies under the waves, Lindon is virtually uninhabited, and paradise has been removed from the world entirely – but in the Second Age they’re all alive, vividly alive, and The Rings Of Power lets us imagine what Middle-earth was before its decline.
And yes, it’s fan-fiction, all of it, but that’s…okay with me? I’ll still be interested to see where and why it deviates from Tolkien’s writings, and when it crosses a line for me I’ll voice my frustration, but it’s just one adaptation of many that have been, and many that have yet to be. It’s never gonna “ruin the books”, because the books will always be there – no matter what.
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!