A “Rings Of Power” Travel Guide To Middle-earth In The Second Age

Middle-earth has been described by some literary critics as a living, breathing character in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and in every adaptation of said writings, one as vividly realized and as crucial to the great tales as Gandalf, Galadriel, Aragorn, or either of the Bagginses; perhaps even more so than any of those characters, as Middle-earth is the sphere in which all of the great tales unfold (well, disc-turned-sphere…long story, we’ll get to that). No character undergoes as much radical development throughout the story as Middle-earth itself, which is altered irrevocably – though sometimes subtly – every time an Age of Middle-earth ends and a new one begins. Tolkien postulated that, sometime long after the events of The Lord Of The Rings, Middle-earth’s history would naturally segue into ancient human history, meaning that Middle-earth is our earth and continues to be a character in our modern-day “great tales”.

Rings Of Power
Romenna | aboutamazon.com

But of course, the version of Middle-earth in which we currently reside hardly resembles the one depicted on most maps of Middle-earth (tucked into most editions of The Lord Of The Rings right between the index and the back cover, which makes it frustratingly inaccessible to readers until after they’ve finished the book), and that version of Middle-earth bears as many distinct differences as it does similarities to the version of Middle-earth described in the written records of the Second Age, which ended roughly three-thousand years before the events of The Lord Of The Rings…the version of Middle-earth that will star in Amazon’s The Rings Of Power, a story of complex human drama immediately preceding the War of the Last Alliance in which the Second Age came to a sudden end.

As the title of today’s post makes clear, this is a travel-guide to Middle-earth of the mid to late Second Age – one which I hope you will bookmark for future reference, so that you never get confused while watching The Rings Of Power. I’ll briefly go over the histories of each new location in season one up to the point where the story opens, and in most cases no further than that, so you won’t get spoiled for events in future seasons if you don’t want to be.

But first, a couple things to keep in mind regarding this version of Middle-earth. When The Rings Of Power opens, Middle-earth is only just starting to heal after centuries of war and its inhabitants are almost single-mindedly focused on rebuilding everything they sacrificed at the end of the First Age to achieve that peace…although a sizable chunk of Middle-earth (encompassing the Elven kingdoms of Gondolin, Nargothrond, and Doriath) is lost forever beneath the seas, having been “rent asunder” by gods and dragons during the War of Wrath. The gods have long ago departed Middle-earth without fixing any of the damage they caused, leaving many Elves, Dwarves, and humans displaced in the wilderness.

Also, the world is canonically flat throughout most of the Second Age. I know, I know, it sounds like such a big deal – but honestly, it’s surprisingly irrelevant. The only instance in which I could see it being brought up in The Rings Of Power is if the characters travel into the furthest eastern, southern, or northern regions of Middle-earth where the sea and land presumably just stops and the void begins (Tolkien was helpfully nonspecific about how any of it worked). Traveling west past the island of Númenor would eventually yield the same result, but is strictly forbidden to all save the Elves; for in that direction lies Valinor, the Undying Lands of the gods. And that is, incidentally, where we start our journey around Middle-earth…

Tirion

Rings Of Power
Tirion | theonering.net

The paradisiacal region of Valinor was once home to the Noldor, High Elves with an innate passion for exerting their mental and bodily capacities to create great works of art. The Rings Of Power looks back to these days of innocence (which some might call ignorance) when the Noldor built a tall and many-towered city named Tirion in the Cleft of Light that cut through the mountains surrounding Valinor, allowing the soft glow of the Two Trees to escape the blessed land and spill out over the ocean. Here, under the leadership of King Finwë, dwelt the three princes of the Noldor, Fëanor, Fingolfin, and Finarfin, and their individual families – including Fëanor’s seven mighty sons, and Finarfin’s daughter, Galadriel.

Sadly, I doubt we’ll spend much time in Tirion outside of a few vague flashbacks establishing Galadriel’s origins and her close relationship with her brother Finrod – Amazon literally can’t go into too much detail regarding any of the characters who make up her extended family without straying into territory covered by The Silmarillion; the rights to which are currently being withheld by the Tolkien Estate. But that’s okay. By the beginning of the Second Age, the only character still living in Tirion worth mentioning by name would be Finarfin, one of a handful of Noldor Elves who didn’t leave Valinor to pursue Morgoth into Middle-earth after the Dark Lord stole the light of the Two Trees.

Forodwaith

Rings Of Power
Galadriel in the Forodwaith | game-news24.com

The vast northern expanses of Middle-earth, between the Grey Mountains and the edge of the world, are a cold and forbidding place unlikely to ever heal from the grievous wounds inflicted upon the land in ages long past by the Dark Lord Morgoth, who built two great underground fortresses, Utumno and Angband, at either end of the Northern Waste and traveled between them frequently until Utumno was destroyed and he was forced to retreat to Angband, where his lieutenant Sauron awaited his arrival. Together, they erected three hollow mountains above the gates of Angband, which issued poisonous gases and foul smoke to burn and degrade the land around Angband for many miles.

During the War of Wrath, dragons falling out of the sky crashed into Angband and destroyed its fortifications, allowing the gods to storm in and capture both Morgoth (whom they promptly tossed into the void, never to be seen or heard from again) and Sauron (whom they offered a pardon, which he refused before fleeing into the east). The remnants of Morgoth’s armies, including orcs, trolls, dragons, and even a couple of Balrogs dispersed across the Northern Waste, and those that did not succumb to the bitter cold and toxicity of the air burrowed into the ground and hid or at last entered Middle-earth and found strange new lands to defile with their presence.

Early in The Rings Of Power season one, Galadriel leads an expedition into the Waste to hunt for traces of Sauron (I’m interested to know whether she’s following a lead or trusting her intuition), and encounters a ferocious ice-troll dwelling in the ruins of a fortress – not Angband, but one of its outposts, I’m sure. She also discovers the mark of the Lidless Eye burned into a room with dead orcs trapped in its walls like flies in amber, implying that Sauron did in fact pass through the fortress on his way out of Angband, although whether he stopped to recruit some orcs in a ritual-gone-terribly-wrong or was ambushed by them is unclear at present.

Lindon

Rings Of Power
Lindon | tomsguide.com

A thin sliver of the old country that had crashed into the sea during the War of Wrath, Lindon in the early Second Age became a haven for displaced Noldor Elves, Silvan Elves, and Dwarves whose cities beneath the Blue Mountains had caved in, all gathered under the guardianship of Gil-galad, a young Elf of Finarfin’s house who unexpectedly became High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth following the deaths of all his close male relatives in rapid succession. Gil-galad had spent most of the First Age on the Isle of Balar, where he and the Elven shipwright Círdan harbored Elves fleeing from the wars with Morgoth, and in Lindon he served much the same function. His realm lay at a pivotal crossroads from which Elves could either return over the seas to Valinor or journey deeper into Middle-earth’s uncharted wilderness.

Many Elves, including Galadriel and Celebrimbor, initially chose the latter option and established kingdoms of their own in Middle-earth after departing Lindon. In The Rings Of Power, however, both characters return to Lindon to join Gil-galad for dinner and to take counsel of him one last time before embarking on adventures of their own…with Galadriel setting sail into the west, and Celebrimbor borrowing Gil-galad’s young herald Elrond to help him broker a treaty with the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm.

Lindon was described in songs as a realm both “fair and free”, and it appears to have never had a capital city in the same way other Elven kingdoms did, nor is Gil-galad ever mentioned as having a throne. Where Galadriel and Celebrimbor actively sought power and dominion over Middle-earth, Gil-galad appears to have sought only to shelter and protect people, regardless of whether they were Noldor or not, and to have never desired the trappings of rulership that were thrust upon him at a young age. I find him a particularly interesting character for that reason.

Eregion

Rings Of Power
Celebrimbor | winteriscoming.net

In the year 750 of the Second Age, Celebrimbor declared himself King of Eregion, a small and at the time sparsely-populated region in the foothills of the Misty Mountains west of Khazad-dûm. It may have seemed a strange decision to Gil-galad, but Celebrimbor had an ulterior motive that he appears not to have disclosed to anyone: like all Noldor Elves (and especially those of Fëanor’s house), he desired to make beautiful things with his hands, and he had heard rumors that the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm were in possession of Middle-earth’s sole vein of mithril, a precious metal that they had used to embellish their deep halls. He therefore befriended the Dwarves, and collaborated with the Dwarven smith Narvi to build a magical gate for Khazad-dûm’s west entrance, inlaid with mithril designs.

The Rings Of Power is probably set a few hundred years after the founding of Eregion, around the year 1600 of the Second Age (although Amazon is compressing the timeline to make it more manageable, so characters born thousands of years later are already alive and characters who ought to be alive are already dead, so don’t read too much into the exact date), at which point Celebrimbor would have built the city of Ost-in-Edhil and established the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, a guild of Elven jewelsmiths who would later go on to forge the Rings of Power with assistance from a stranger named Annatar. We’ve already caught glimpses of Celebrimbor’s study in promotional images; I just hope that before the end of season one, we get to see him and the Gwaith forge something.

Khazad-dûm

Rings Of Power
Khazad-dûm | chicagotoday.news

Roughly four-thousand years before the Fellowship of the Ring entered Khazad-dûm and found themselves hopelessly lost in its dark and unmapped ruins at the end of the Third Age, visitors to the Dwarven kingdom beneath the Misty Mountains would have feared no “holes and pitfalls” after stepping foot through the magical gates; for at the time, darkness had not yet fallen upon Khazad-dûm, nor had it earned the nickname of Moria, meaning “black chasm” in the Sindarin tongue of the Elves (although some may have already been using the moniker in a derogatory context regardless of what truth there was to it).

Khazad-dûm under the reign of King Durin III is a bustling hub of commerce located in the exact middle of Middle-earth with entrances on both sides of the Misty Mountains to allow for easier access to everybody – Noldor Elves from Eregion, Silvan Elves from Greenwood, Dwarves from the Blue Mountains to the Iron Hills, Harfoots from Wilderland, and Men from across the entire southern half of the map as far as the isle of Númenor. Ironically, even after receiving Rings of Power, the Dwarves were never again as powerful as they were in these days. Their reserves of mithril dwindled in the Third Age, prompting the Dwarven miners under the reign of King Durin VI to dig deeper in search of hidden mithril veins that could revitalize Khazad-dûm’s dying economy…but instead they awoke an ancient horror that had long slept coiled around the base of Caradhras, a Balrog of Morgoth known to the Dwarves of later years as “Durin’s Bane”, for it slaughtered the king and most of his people.

Amazon is compressing the timeline to such an extent that these events, which canonically didn’t occur until the year 1981 of the Third Age, might be depicted in a future season of The Rings Of Power, with Prince Durin IV, King Durin III’s son, taking the place of King Durin VI. At any rate, the eventual fall of Khazad-dûm is already being foreshadowed in the show’s trailers, the latest of which included a short sequence of a leaf falling through a series of caves and tunnels lined with mithril-veins before suddenly catching fire and disintegrating…followed almost immediately by a shot of a Balrog, which I guess could be any Balrog but certainly looks a hell of a lot like Durin’s Bane as portrayed in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, with ram horns and a gaping maw emitting heat. All I’m saying is don’t get too attached to the Dwarven characters in The Rings Of Power

Wilderland

Rings Of Power
Wilderland | kpcnews.com

Everything that lies between the eastern foothills of the Misty Mountains and the western eaves of Greenwood (later Mirkwood), including the Anduin river valley, Dimrill Dale, Lórien, and the Gladden Fields, was known to the Hobbits of the late Third Age as “Wilderland” because it was a wild and unkempt corner of Middle-earth, but what they did not know (or no longer remembered) was that in the Second Age their ancestors lived in Wilderland along the west banks of the Anduin at least as far north as Rivendell and probably as far south as Khazad-dûm’s east gate. They were divided into three distinct subgroups, of whom the most numerous were the nimble Harfoots, a southerly subgroup who were friendly with Dwarves in ancient times.

The Rings Of Power follows a tightly-knit nomadic clan of Harfoots as they travel around Wilderland doing their level best to stay out of the affairs of Elves, Dwarves, and Men…which is peculiar for many reasons, one being that the Harfoots were canonically “the most inclined to settle in one place”. Of course, Amazon has been using the term Harfoot rather liberally, as if it applies to any and all prehistoric Hobbits, including the more adventurous Fallohides and the boat-building Stoors, which could be the only explanation we ever get for this apparent discrepancy – although I for one would be slightly disappointed if we never got to meet any true Stoors and Fallohides in future seasons.

I can understand why, in season one, Amazon wouldn’t want to overcomplicate matters by distinguishing between three different groups of Hobbits in a story that’s already straining to include Harfoots in the first place, but if The Rings Of Power follows the Harfoots on their great migration out of Wilderland and over the Misty Mountains (as I strongly suspect will be the case, given that we have to spend five seasons with them and they don’t have any relevance to the War of the Elves and Sauron), then it would make sense for them to run into Fallohides and Stoors at some point on that journey. Heck, throw in a pair of Fallohide brothers named Marcho and Blanco, and you have yourself a whole Shire origin story just waiting to be told…because that’s definitely something people are clamoring to see.

Tirharad

Rings Of Power
Bronwyn and Arondir in Tirharad | syfy.com

The only non-canonical location on this list, Tirharad or “south-watch” in Sindarin, appears to be a small village located somewhere in the Southlands of Middle-earth where humans whose ancestors worshiped Morgoth during the First Age were exiled to live out their days under the surveillance of Silvan Elves. The whole situation is very unusual. For one thing, we don’t know who exiled these people to begin with; I’m assuming they were a Noldor Elf, someone who would bear a grudge against all of Morgoth’s followers, but then who or what gave them the authority to command humans and why would they entrust the responsibility of surveilling these humans to Silvan Elves, those least affected by Morgoth? I’m very confused.

Several-hundred years later, most of the inhabitants of Tirharad have probably forgotten Morgoth’s name entirely, but at least one Silvan Elf, by the name of Arondir, remains in the nearby watch-tower to guard against future threats – although as he falls in love with a human woman named Bronwyn, he begins to realize that the threat to Tirharad is far greater than the threat its people pose to him. Tirharad is the site of several action sequences we’ve seen in the trailer, including a one-on-one fight between Bronwyn and an orc intruder, an epic confrontation between Arondir and a legion of orcs led by the mysterious “Adar”, and what is presumably the climactic battle of season one, in which Galadriel and a Númenórean army led by Tar-Míriel are involved in liberating the village from orcs.

Númenor

Rings Of Power
Númenor | rollingstone.com

Situated in the middle of the Sundering Seas between Valinor and Middle-earth, the star-shaped island of Númenor juts suddenly out of the water, its irregular geography and sheer cliffs a testament to the strange, violent manner of its birth – lifted straight out of the ocean depths by Ulmo, god of the sea, while the earth was still pliable following the War of Wrath, to be a new homeland for humans who had fought alongside the Elves throughout the First Age. Following a star, these “Elf-friends” ventured across the ocean in a fleet of ships to find their island prepared for them, and visitors from Valinor already waiting for their arrival with gifts including plants, flowers, and songbirds.

Over the next thousand years, the Númenóreans enjoyed peace and prosperity under the leadership of wise, long-lived kings and queens who were initially sympathetic to the plight of the Elves in Middle-earth and as resistant to Sauron as their ancestors were to Morgoth. Since they were forbidden to travel west to Valinor and visit their friends, they sailed east and south along the shores of Middle-earth in search of new lands where they could satisfy their thirst for adventure. Along the way, they liberated many humans from the dominion of Sauron and demanded little in return save for wood with which to build larger ships.

But as time went on and the Númenórean mariners found themselves revisiting lands they had already explored, their eyes turned westward once more and they became gradually convinced that something in Valinor was being withheld from them, namely the gift of immortal life that was granted to all Elves. And as their curiosity gave way to wariness and thence to suspicion, they became…less kind. Canonically, it was in the year 1700 of the Second Age, during the reign of Tar-Minastir, that the Númenóreans first sent troops to Middle-earth to aid King Gil-galad in the wars against Sauron and were so impressed by their own military prowess that they began wielding the same violent force on the people under their protection in the hopes it would make them feel powerful.

Amazon is tweaking the timeline so that all of this (and a great deal more) will occur during the lifespan of Tar-Míriel, the last Queen of Númenor, who canonically lived between 3117 and 3319 of the Second Age. Tar-Míriel is still Tar-Míriel, and will still do everything that Tar-Míriel actually did in her lifetime…she just so happens to also fill the role of Tar-Minastir by leading the Númenórean armies to Middle-earth shortly before the forging of the Rings of Power, and I suspect that the characters around her, particularly non-canonical characters, will similarly play a variety of parts that Tolkien assigned to a multitude of thinly sketched-out characters across the sprawling narrative of the Second Age because he was writing a timeline, not a television series.

To cite one example, Isildur is a Númenórean mariner in The Rings Of Power so that we may witness the rapid evolution of the mariners from explorers to colonizers through his eyes, whereas if Amazon had opted to adapt the stories of the Second Age as written, with obligatory time-jumps between seasons to cover the entire three-thousand year period, we’d need to meet several different Númenórean mariner protagonists over the course of five seasons to tell the same story, and I can see where that would get redundant. Personally, I’m still a proponent of the anthology approach and would very much have liked to see that show, but I trust that The Rings Of Power‘s showrunners and writers can convey with a limited number of characters existing simultaneously to each other what Tolkien only managed with multiple characters existing at different points on a timeline of epic proportions.

Armenelos

Rings Of Power
Tar-Míriel | ew.com

I’ve talked about Númenor, but said nothing yet of its capital city – Armenelos, possibly the greatest city in all of Middle-earth at the time, rivaled in size and splendor only by Khazad-dûm. Interestingly, the name Armenelos isn’t written in The Lord Of The Rings or its appendices, so Amazon shouldn’t be able to use it…but they already have, on the official map of Middle-earth they released way back in February of 2019 to promote The Rings Of Power before the series even had a title. It’s not even the only place-name on that map that comes to us from The Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales, but it’s a location we know for a fact we’ll visit in season one because we’ve already seen images of the city, so it would be really weird if Amazon just never uses the name in the show.

In fact, they wouldn’t be allowed to refer to any of the places on their own official map of Númenor by name without apparently overstepping their agreement with the Tolkien Estate, unless (as I’ve long suspected) they got more out of the agreement than just The Lord Of The Rings and its appendices (well, we know they also got The Hobbit, but that’s not gonna be much help to them in this case). Even the map of Númenor that John Howe must have been tracing from when he designed Amazon’s map of Middle-earth is only found in Unfinished Tales. And I promise this is relevant, because there are several stories and characters that Amazon could only use if they had the rights to Unfinished Tales – a notable example being Annatar, a familiar name to many Tolkien fans but one which never appeared in The Lord Of The Rings.

Oddly, a couple of place-names didn’t make it onto Amazon’s map and one of those is Andúnië, the city where Elendil and his family lived near the end of the Second Age – which leads me to believe that they’re being relocated to Armenelos for budgetary purposes in season one. Of the two coastal cities that did make the cut, Romenna is the city I believe was depicted in the opening shot of the first teaser trailer and in many subsequent trailers; it is also the seaport from which Tar-Míriel and her navy will likely set sail for Middle-earth, due to the city’s close proximity with Armenelos and eastward-facing harbor.

Honorable Mentions:

Rings Of Power
Lorien | br.pinterest.com

Amon Lanc, another name from Unfinished Tales that appeared on Amazon’s official map, this one referring to the tall bald hill rising out of southern Greenwood where the Silvan Elves under King Oropher (and later Oropher’s son, Thranduil – yes, that Thranduil) dwelt throughout the Second Age, before a shadow fell upon the forest and forced them to relocate northwards. Amon Lanc then became known as Dol Guldur.

Himling, Tol Fuin, and Tol Morwen, a string of islands off the northwestern coast of Middle-earth that remained above sea-level after Beleriand was submerged. I’m not sure if The Rings Of Power intends to take us to any of these islands, but their presence on Amazon’s official map is intriguing seeing as only Himling has ever previously appeared on maps of Middle-earth included in The Lord Of The Rings. Tol Fuin, the remnants of the Dorthonion highlands where Galadriel’s brothers Angrod and Aegnor dwelt throughout the First Age, could be significant if certain leaks are to be trusted…

Lond Daer, a Númenórean seaport and colony in Middle-earth founded by the great mariner Aldarion sometime between 750 and 800. Pelargir and Umbar, two seaports constructed later in the Second Age which gradually supplanted Lond Daer in significance and were absorbed into the empire of Gondor, do not appear on Amazon’s official map.

Lórien, or Lórinand as it was likely still being called in the Second Age, is the forest east of Khazad-dûm that canonically became Galadriel’s domain during the Second Age, although when exactly and how soon after Celebrimbor founded Eregion remained a mystery even to Tolkien. The conspicuous absence of Galadriel’s husband Celeborn in The Rings Of Power promotional materials has led some to theorize that Celeborn is already settled in Lórien waiting around for Galadriel throughout season one.

Which of these locations are you most excited to see onscreen, either for the first time in years or for the first time ever, when The Rings Of Power premieres next month? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Rings Of Power” 2nd Trailer – It’s A Wandering Day In Middle-earth

“The past is dead. We either move forward, or we die with it.”

So says Elendil in the new full-length trailer for The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power, but for Amazon’s sake, they had better hope the past still has a little bit of life left in it, because if this billion-dollar venture of theirs is going to prove commercially successful, it needs to convince casual fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works and people who have never read his writing or watched the film adaptations of his novels that they could care enough about the events of Middle-earth’s ancient history to sit down and watch roughly eight hours of streaming television based on the Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings. I hope this trailer does the trick, because I don’t know if we’re getting another one before the series premieres in early September.

Rings Of Power
Galadriel | slashfilm.com

The strategy at play in this new trailer is very simple. From the opening shot of Númenor’s coastal capital city viewed through a ravine speckled with seabirds and monuments honoring long-dead kings to the final shot of Sadoc Burrows leading a small group of scruffy yet intrepid Harfoots far afield over rolling green hills in search of a new home, the trailer aims to shock-and-awe its potential viewers with the kind of spectacular visuals that streaming services often struggle to deliver consistently…and very rarely in the first season of a new show. It’s what Middle-earth deserves, of course, but it’s also what will get people talking about The Rings Of Power to their friends and family, because you don’t need to have read the books or seen the movies to know that the show looks incredible.

For anyone wondering why these trailers haven’t given away many story details yet, I think you have your answer – it’s because Amazon believes that such details not only wouldn’t be relevant to anyone who hasn’t read The Lord Of The Rings (and more specifically its Appendices, further limiting the amount of people for whom the content of the story itself would convince them to watch), but could potentially give casual viewers the impression that the show is overly convoluted and inaccessible, which is definitely not what Amazon wants. That’s just my amateur analysis, of course, but in my mind it makes sense to assume you’re losing viewers every time you throw decontextualized pieces of information and unfamiliar names at them in a trailer.

If you’ve read the Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings and are reading this post, I’m going to assume you’re already aware that The Rings Of Power is set during the Second Age and depicts Middle-earth in its heyday – the way it would have appeared before countless wars reduced its fair cities and proud towers to rubble; before Sauron and his orcs pillaged Ost-in-Edhil, before a Balrog stalked the hallways of Khazad-dûm, before the seas rose to swallow Númenor whole, before the Elves allowed the forest to reclaim their homes in Lindon. The question now is whether more casual fans will recognize any of these locations as the same ones they saw ruined or abandoned by the time of Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, or whether they’ll be sufficiently wowed that it won’t matter if they do or not.

Who, indeed, could be unmoved by the sight of Khazad-dûm in the days before its fall, “not darksome but full of light and splendour” as Gimli so eloquently described it in The Fellowship Of The Ring? To be honest, Tolkien left so much unsaid regarding Khazad-dûm that in this case, even the books won’t adequately prepare you for what The Rings Of Power has in store – in a single screenshot from the trailer, we’re instantly transported back three-thousand years to a time when “the light of sun and star and moon” showered down upon the Dwarven city through many vents and windows in the high ceilings and, by means of mirrors mounted on walls and pillars, zig-zagged away into the mines and cavernous places deep beneath the Misty Mountains – nourishing not only the Dwarves, but an entire underground ecosystem including a forest and a hanging garden.

Rings Of Power
Khazad-dum | Twitter @LesbianBoromir

That’s just one example of a location and an entire archaic culture constructed in reverse by The Rings Of Power‘s Emmy-award worthy team of concept artists (headed up by the legendary John Howe), production designers, prop-makers, weapon-smiths, armorers, costume designers, hair and makeup artists, and God (or possibly Jeff Bezos) only knows how many others who must have been involved in helping restore Middle-earth to its former glory with all the delicacy and dedication of archaeologists on a dig-site. I could go on for hours, quite frankly, but I think you get the gist: The Rings Of Power is visually stunning and aesthetically pleasing, and that’s likely to be the show’s main selling-point until Amazon feels they can afford to push the story and characters equally as hard (the way Netflix eventually did with The Witcher).

And that’s not to say they haven’t been marketing the story and characters at all; just that it hasn’t been their top priority. At least this new trailer features actual dialogue from Galadriel, Marigold Brandyfoot, Elrond, Gil-galad, Arondir, Elendil, and Durin IV (this is the first time we’re hearing most of these characters speak, as a matter of fact, and while we’re on the topic I have to mention that Robert Aramayo’s Elrond in particular sounds just right – I still don’t know how I feel about his short tousled hair, but he’s won me over with his voice, poise, and mannerisms). There’s also a much stronger focus on the Elves, Dwarves, and Humans, as opposed to the Harfoot-centric first teaser narrated by Elanor Brandyfoot.

Regarding the Elves, what stood out to most fans were all the flashbacks to events in the First Age – events recounted only briefly in the Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings. Amazon doesn’t have the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s posthumously-published compendium of First Age myths and legends, The Silmarillion, which would have allowed them to go into greater detail on certain subjects like the Years of the Trees, Fëanor, the Silmarils, and the War of Wrath, so I’m still a little wary of getting my hopes up for things I don’t think The Rings Of Power can actually show us, but I can’t deny that every time the trailers slip in a sneaky reference to something covered extensively in The Silmarillion it makes me wish they had those rights so they could show us what they’re just vaguely referring to.

I suspect the Tolkien Estate is clinging onto those rights because they know better than anyone that fans will always want to see more than Amazon is currently able to show, and that as demand for The Silmarillion grows, they can gradually drive up the price and force Amazon to fork over another $250 million before filming on season two gets underway. And The Silmarillion is only the beginning! Imagine what Amazon would be willing to pay for the rights to Unfinished Tales and its references to the mysterious Blue Wizards…

Rings Of Power
Galadriel | theplaylist.net

Anyway, what Amazon has been able to show us – even without needing to draw on The Silmarillion – is the same vista of Valinor under the light of the Two Trees that was first revealed to us in an image released almost one year ago, just from a slightly different angle. Later, when Elrond starts mansplaining to Galadriel that it’s time for her to “put up [her] sword” and relax because the enemy has been defeated, Galadriel’s simple yet chilling response – “you have not seen what I have seen” – is intercut with crimson-tinted images of Galadriel covered in ash and of bodies floating in deep water, meant to look like Amazon’s interpretation of the Sinking of Beleriand and the War of Wrath (not that Galadriel canonically played any part in that war, but I’ll let it slide because that never made sense to me anyway, sorry Tolkien).

We also catch a few more quick glimpses of what each of our Elven protagonists are up to in season one, from Galadriel fighting an ice-troll in the Forodwaith to a captive Arondir wrestling giant wolves in a pit (not entirely sure what that’s about, but I’m assuming the parallels to Finrod’s last fight are intentional?), as well as more Elven cities – including what looks like Ost-in-Edhil, where the Rings of Power will be forged. As a side-note, I’m not sure whether to be amused or frustrated that there’s been no mention of Rings (of Power, or otherwise) in any of the three teasers released. I guess season one is all one long, slow-burn backstory for why the Rings were made, but to not even foreshadow the Rings seems like a missed opportunity.

Well, there is one moment in the trailer that could be interpreted as backstory for the Rings – but it involves Durin IV, a semi-canonical character whom Tolkien probably only bothered naming because he needed to get the total number of Durins to seven. Durin IV probably lived near the end of the Second Age and never had anything to do with the creation or distribution of the Rings of Power, yet his ancestor Durin III was actually a close friend of the Ring-maker Celebrimbor and the only Dwarf-lord to whom Celebrimbor personally gifted one of the Seven Rings (according to the Dwarves)…so naturally, in the show, their roles have been swapped. Durin III is now a peripheral character (albeit played by Westworld‘s Peter Mullan, so he’s sure to be a scene-stealer), while Durin IV is the friend of Celebrimbor.

And it’s Durin IV whom we see holding aloft a chunk of raw mithril and proudly declaring “the beginning of a new era”, heavily implying that this is the first discovery of mithril in Khazad-dûm…which somehow feels like a more significant act of timeline-compression than I think it is. It doesn’t really affect anything; it just means that Celebrimbor must have had a different reason for settling in Eregion outside the west gates of Khazad-dûm besides wanting dibs on all mithril leaving the Dwarven kingdom. I just wonder what this is setting up for the future, because to my mind there’s only two options – one involves the creation of Galadriel’s Ring of Power, Nenya, and the other would necessitate moving the Fall of Khazad-dûm forward by roughly four-thousand years…and that’s what scares me about this change.

Rings Of Power
Durin III | gossipify.com

Just because the writers are already having to compress thousands of years of history into just five seasons of television doesn’t mean they should actively seek out opportunities to do more of that. Timeline-compression works best when it’s helping the story flow more smoothly to its destination (an example of this being Peter Jackson’s decision to do away with the seventeen-year long gap between Bilbo’s birthday party and Frodo leaving the Shire in The Fellowship Of The Ring), not when it’s forcing an epic story to shrink itself down to a more manageable size (like what’s at risk of happening in the case of Númenor).

I still firmly believe Amazon could have left the timeline just the way it was and gotten away with changing out the entire cast of human characters every season to emphasize the fear of mortality and decay prevalent among humans (and to some extent all the Free Peoples) throughout the Second Age, but I respect that, for whatever reason, they wanted a story where Isildur and Ar-Pharazôn are contemporaries of Celebrimbor, and they made the timeline work for them. We’ll have to wait until September to see if it pays off, but right now the sequences in Númenor certainly look compelling; particularly if you’re a fan of political intrigue tropes, as I am.

We see Ar-Pharazôn (still just Pharazôn at this point) riling up a colorfully-dressed crowd of Númenórean citizens with one of his speeches, presumably railing against the Elves and their leaders. Elendil’s daughter, Eärien, a non-canonical character described as politically-minded and opinionated, watches from the sidelines with an unreadable expression (it’s safe to assume that she’ll become one of Pharazôn’s allies, the “King’s Men”, in future seasons…and suffer the same terrible fate as all who join him in defying the Ban of the Valar). Tar-Míriel, the Queen Regent of Númenor, wanders through the streets of Armenelos with eyes fixed on the sky – from which particles of ash appear to be falling.

Elendil and Isildur, though not yet leaders of the Faithful, also appear – and The Rings Of Power foreshadows their future significance in the War of the Elves and Sauron by having them befriend and assist Galadriel after she washes up on the shores of Númenor with Halbrand, a probably non-canonical human character of indeterminate origins (I say probably because there’s a chance he’s the future Witch-king of Angmar or another of the nine Nazgûl, most of whose identities Tolkien never disclosed). Halbrand appears to part ways with Galadriel in Númenor – at one point in the trailer, he stands in the same large room where Ar-Pharazôn has been spotted in other images, and the two could very well become allies or rivals depending on what goes down between them there.

Rings Of Power
Tar-Miriel | ew.com

In the last ten seconds of the trailer, the focus returns to the Harfoots and their discovery of the mysterious Meteor Man – whose crash-landing we’ve now seen from various different angles, but this time we get the view from directly above…and there’s really no denying that, for a moment, as he’s lying there in a fetal position in the middle of a burning crater, he strongly resembles the Eye of Sauron as described by Tolkien in The Fellowship Of The Ring“a single Eye….rimmed with fire, [that] was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing”. Coincidence? Deception? Or a hint that this conveniently amnesiac stranger is in fact Sauron, coming to interrupt Middle-earth’s long peace after centuries in hiding?

Based on their dialogue, Galadriel and Gil-galad at least seem fairly certain that Sauron was not defeated during the War of Wrath, and they warn of a darkness creeping back into the world from the deep woods and waters where it long lurked, as if answer to a summons. Gil-galad’s monologue on the subject accompanies footage of orcs marching in torchlit procession behind a tall, gaunt commander with long black hair and eyes like dark hollows in a pale face – not Sauron, but an original character supposedly named Adar, played by Game Of Thrones‘ Joseph Mawle and rumored to be a High Elf (possibly even one of Galadriel’s brothers) captured and corrupted by the darkness.

So as you can see, there’s actually a good amount of substance to this trailer, more than I think the majority of people will pick up on given that every story detail is intentionally presented without any context in an effort to avoid confusing people that could all too easily backfire if Amazon doesn’t provide viewers enough reasons to watch The Rings Of Power. The cinematic scope of the series and its top-notch production design will lure in folks who might otherwise scoff at fantasy, while its breathtaking CGI will earn high praise from those disillusioned by the shoddy work that Marvel Studios has been rushing out in the past few months (if I were Marvel, I’d be pushing back the release date of She-Hulk because it’s gonna be a bloodbath on Twitter when people start comparing screenshots from both shows).

Nostalgia for the Peter Jackson movies is also an important factor to take into consideration, although I could see it going both ways – on the one hand, there will be fans of the movies who are just happy to revisit Middle-earth even if it looks, sounds, and feels a little bit different…and on the other hand, you’ll have the violently angry stans spamming Amazon’s comments with hate because they can’t accept that Jackson’s interpretation of Middle-earth is not necessarily the definitive one.

Rings Of Power
Elrond and Gil-galad | cnn.com

There’s obviously a lot of overlap between stans of Jackson’s films and fans of Tolkien’s writings, but at this point I think the latter are on average slightly more likely to tune into The Rings Of Power simply because there are a significant number of “purists” who didn’t like the movies and probably won’t end up enjoying the series either, but will either watch it for the sole purpose of complaining, or just to see what all the fuss is about. The upside to there so being so few new adaptations of Tolkien’s work over the past decade is that fans haven’t experienced anything resembling a “fatigue” yet, so we don’t not watch these things.

Will it be enough? I guess we’ll find out soon enough, but right now I want to know whether Amazon’s marketing strategy has been working for you – if so, I’d be interested to hear why, but if not, I’d be equally interested in hearing from my readers what Amazon could and should be doing to hook the hardcore fans, but even more importantly the casual viewers who only know The Rings Of Power through its trailers and promotional materials. Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8.5/10

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

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE RINGS OF POWER AHEAD!

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

Rings Of Power
Galadriel | polygon.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rings Of Power
Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot | arstechnica.com

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

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

Trailer Rating: 9/10

Is Isildur The Star Of “The Lord Of The Rings” Season One?

Amazon Prime’s The Lord Of The Rings is now slightly less than a year away from release, and we still know shockingly little about the most epic (or at the very least expensive) streaming series ever made. Every tidbit of new information we learn seems to point in a different direction, leading fans on wild goose chases as we try to piece together when the series is set in the sprawling chronology of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, how much time and space it will cover over a reported span of five seasons, and whom exactly it will follow.

The Lord Of The Rings
Isildur | looper.com

If you’ve been following my coverage of The Lord Of The Rings for a while, you might know the basics, but here’s a refresher before we get to the latest round of rumors. First of all, despite the fact that it’s still being referred to as The Lord Of The Rings, Amazon’s series is a prequel, not an adaptation of Tolkien’s novel or a remake of Jackson’s trilogy. Up until two days ago, our only certainty was that the series would take place sometime in the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth – which doesn’t exactly narrow it down much, seeing as the Second Age is a period of three-thousand, four-hundred and forty-one years.

Only adding to the confusion, Amazon’s first officially released image from The Lord Of The Rings – purportedly a stunning screenshot from the first episode – depicts a scene from long before the Second Age began, during the Years of the Trees; exponentially widening the scope of the tale.

But perhaps we may finally be able to zero in on a specific character, and a tangible timeframe. New reporting from Fellowship Of Fans suggests that one of The Lord Of The Rings‘ central protagonists, from episode three onwards (presumably to the end of the show), will be Isildur, a Númenórean prince who became the first king of Gondor and played a major role in setting up the events of The Lord Of The Rings proper, when he cut the One Ring from the dark lord Sauron’s hand. Additionally, Redanian Intelligence reports that Maxim Baldry – who was among the first actors rumored to be cast – will portray Isildur.

This won’t be Isildur’s first time appearing onscreen. Both Peter Jackson and Ralph Bakshi’s adaptations of The Lord Of The Rings open with memorable depictions of Isildur defeating Sauron at the end of the Second Age and of Isildur’s own death at the dawn of the Third Age when the One Ring slipped from his finger and betrayed him to the orcs. As far as Second Age characters go, he’s one of the few that casual fans of the franchise might recognize, so it’s not entirely surprising that Amazon would want to establish him early on in the show. But his inclusion in the very first season of Amazon’s series comes as a bit of a surprise.

Isildur was born in Second Age (S.A.) 3209, only two-hundred and thirty-two years before he defeated Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance which concluded the Second Age. Because of his Númenórean heritage, Isildur was extremely long-lived by human standards (he was killed at the age of two-hundred and thirty-four), but his entire lifespan is only a small fraction of the Second Age. By the time he was born, the heyday of the Elves in Middle-earth had ended, the Rings of Power had been forged, the kingdom of Eregion had been sacked and Khazad-dûm had closed its doors to the outside, while Sauron was already wielding the One Ring.

In both Jackson and Bakshi’s adaptations, this nuance is largely lost because the entire Second Age is reduced to just two pivotal events in the history of the One Ring – the forging of the Rings of Power between S.A. 1500 and S.A. 1600, and the War of the Last Alliance in S.A. 3441. Canonically there’s a gap of almost two-thousand years in between these events, but in the films it’s implied that they happen pretty much back-to-back. And now that we have two reliable outlets reporting that Isildur is a protagonist of Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings, I think we can expect to see the timeline of the Second Age similarly tailored to fit the story Amazon is telling.

Some people have come to the conclusion that Amazon is skipping over the forging of the Rings entirely, jumping straight to the end of the Second Age. But I feel very strongly that that’s not the case, and there’s evidence to support my argument. Think back to the very first map of Middle-earth that Amazon released to promote the series – the map that unmistakably showed the kingdom of Eregion and its capital of Ost-in-Edhil still standing. By Isildur’s time, Eregion had been in ruins for over a thousand years. That same map doesn’t depict Barad-dûr at all, though the fortress was completed in S.A. 1600.

Take a look at Amazon’s official synopsis for The Lord Of The Rings, too. Though it’s fairly vague, there’s one significant line that doesn’t support the theory that Amazon’s series takes place after the forging of the Rings. “Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth.” If the series were truly set after the forging at the end of the Second Age, Sauron would already have been at war with the Elves and with the Númenórean empire for centuries.

The Lord Of The Rings
Maxim Baldry | primetimer.com

So no, I don’t think that Amazon is skipping over the forging of the Rings, arguably the single-most significant event in the Second Age. My personal belief is that Amazon will simply move the forging backwards to nearer the end of the Second Age, to around the same point at which Isildur first enters the histories of Middle-earth as a young prince of Númenor navigating an increasingly complex political crisis in the royal court. It would require a lot of reshuffling, but that way a lot of events that canonically took place thousands of years apart will now occur almost simultaneously.

There are several benefits to this approach. It would remove the need for potentially jarring time-jumps between seasons to cover all of the events of the Second Age. We’d have more time to get to know our core group of human protagonists and develop a connection with them, without constantly having to worry that by the next season they’ll be dead and we’ll have moved on to their great-grandchildren. And it makes sense to focus exclusively on what Tolkien wrote about the Second Age, so that the writers don’t have to fall back on entirely original plotlines to fill that three-thousand year period.

On the flip-side, I think there’s something to be said for why the use of time-jumps and a constantly rotating cast could have helped reinforce the primary themes of the Second Age – mainly the growing restlessness amongst humans as they become more and more fearful of their own mortality and begin searching for ways to cheat death. If the showrunners could have made us feel some of the same envy and resentment of the immortal Elves that emboldened the Númenóreans to try and wrest the secret of deathlessness from the land of the gods, that would have been an extraordinary feat.

And I can understand why many fans might feel upset that the timeline is again being tampered with dramatically – not to the same extent of Bakshi and Jackson basically taking the two events they needed and ignoring the rest of the Second Age entirely, but still seemingly prioritizing those same two events. This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for me, because I think it was always clear that there were going to be adjustments to the timeline one way or another simply because Tolkien himself left behind so many versions of the timeline in which there are countless slight variations, but I get where it might be for some.

As for the news that Maxim Baldry is potentially our Isildur – that definitely makes sense. I was rather hoping he’d be revealed to be playing one of the “fair forms” that Sauron took during the Second Age, but he has the build and beautiful flowing hair of a Númenórean prince, and though my only experience with his acting was through a small role in the last season of Doctor Who, I think he could certainly convey Isildur’s best qualities, his valor and selflessness, which the One Ring swiftly manipulated.

Isildur’s appearance strongly suggests that several other members of his family will also show up in the first season – including his father Elendil and younger brother Anárion, who both died during the War of the Last Alliance; his grandfather Amandil, who died at sea on an ill-fated mission to beseech the gods on Númenor’s behalf; and of course his more distant relatives, Ar-Pharazôn and Tar-Míriel, who became the last king and queen of Númenor and perished in the kingdom’s tumultuous downfall. Isildur’s family weren’t the luckiest folks in Middle-earth.

By the end of the Second Age, Isildur, his sons, and his nephew, were the last remnants of the Númenórean royal family in Middle-earth. Three of Isildur’s sons were killed alongside him during the Battle of the Gladden Fields at the start of the Third Age, leaving only the youngest, Valandil, alive. Valandil inherited the kingdom of Arnor from his grandfather Elendil, while Isildur’s nephew Meneldil became king of Gondor. But while Arnor would fall during the Third Age, Valandil’s descendants would include Aragorn – who re-established both kingdoms and reunited them under his rule.

The Lord Of The Rings
Gondor | lotr.fandom.com

All of this makes Isildur a crucial figure in Middle-earth’s history, and a worthy protagonist for Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings to follow across several seasons. However Amazon chooses to solve the timeline problems that they’ll  be creating for themselves, I hope that they’re handled carefully. Basically, what I’m saying is that if there’s anything in this series that’s even remotely evocative of Thranduil telling Legolas in The Battle Of The Five Armies to seek out the ranger Aragorn when he was canonically only ten years old, Amazon will not hear the end of it from me.

But what are your feelings on this decision? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!