Hot Take: Sauron Is More Than Just A Floating Eyeball, OK?

Peter Jackson did a lot of things right when he adapted J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings to the big screen. That’s not up for debate, at least not to me. The simple way in which he empowers Frodo on Mount Doom? Flawless. The additional scenes that enrich Boromir’s character? Impeccable. The lighting of the beacons? Unsurpassable. Jackson gave us probably the best adaptation we could have asked for: a masterpiece of modern cinema that honored the already legendary source material, while making it accessible to general audiences.

Sauron
Eye of Sauron | slate.com

But then he goes and turns Sauron into a giant floating eyeball, and it’s like: seriously, PJ? You were doing so well! I mean, you butchered Faramir…and Merry…and Gimli, and Treebeard, and nearly Théoden too, but other than that you were doing so well!

On paper, this decision probably seemed like a great way to very literally interpret Tolkien’s repeated references to the malevolent, all-seeing Eye of Sauron. But in execution (and perhaps especially in hindsight, now that the sheer spectacle of a fiery CGI eyeball isn’t enough on its own to distract from the inherent silliness of that idea), Jackson’s Sauron comes across as underwhelming and unscary. He’s inspired a great many memes (most of which ask, quite profoundly I might add, what the CGI eyeball planned to actually do with the One Ring when he had obtained it, seeing as Jackson’s version seemed to lack any fingers), but fear and awe: not so much.

Yet unfortunately, it’s that image of Sauron as an eye suspended between the prongs of Barad-dûr that has become embedded in the public consciousness, supplanting both Tolkien’s own written words, and the works of countless Tolkien artists and illustrators who preceded Jackson. And the fact that Jackson’s Sauron is so borderline cartoonish has only made it easier for people to claim that Sauron is a “one-dimensional” villain and that therefore The Lord Of The Rings is a shallow “good vs. evil” fantasy. I can understand why: if I only knew Sauron as a floating eye, I too would have a hard time believing he has one of the most fascinating character arcs in all of Tolkien’s legendarium.

But Amazon Prime’s The Lord Of The Rings finally has an opportunity to change the public perception of Sauron. I’m not saying I want people to think of him as a misunderstood antihero or anything like that, but it would be nice to finally give general audiences a clearer idea of his nuances, and the layers to his motivations beyond just wanting to “cover all the lands in a second darkness”, than they would necessarily get from watching Jackson’s movies or even from reading The Lord Of The Rings itself.

The bare bones of Sauron’s backstory are covered in The Silmarillion, a compendium of tales and legends from Middle-earth’s prehistory. It’s very briefly explained there that Sauron was once a Maia – which in Tolkien’s universe means that he was something like an angel; very powerful, but a lesser spirit compared to the archangels, or Valar, who answered directly to “God”, Eru Ilúvatar. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that before he was known as Sauron, this particular Maia went by the name of Mairon (which translates to The Admirable). He was a craftsman and artisan for the Valar…until he was seduced to the darkness by the fallen angel, Morgoth.

As Morgoth’s most trusted lieutenant, Mairon’s power only increased – and he became known as Sauron (The Abhorred). Throughout The Silmarillion, he and Morgoth are depicted as being largely of the same mind: and even after Morgoth’s downfall (and I mean that in the most literal sense of the word), Sauron rejects the mercy of the Valar and chooses to hide in Middle-earth, seemingly to continue Morgoth’s agenda of chaos. When he conquers the kingdom of Númenor from within, he sets up temples to Morgoth and establishes a death-cult around his former master. It’s easy to see why many fans ship the two: they’re cute in a…toxic, vicious, self-destructive sort of way.

Sauron
Sauron the Ring-Maker | quora.com

But in my opinion, even The Silmarillion strips away many of Sauron’s fascinating layers – understandably, because in its published form its basically an abridged version of a much larger and more intricate epic. Tolkien’s most concise and insightful exploration into the psyche of Sauron (again, just my opinion; feel free to disagree) comes from Morgoth’s Ring, one of many posthumously published texts on Middle-earth:

“[Sauron] did not object to the existence of the world, so long as he could do what he liked with it. He still had the relics of positive purposes, that descended from the good of the nature in which he began: it had been his virtue (and therefore also the cause of his fall, and of his relapse) that he loved order and coordination, and disliked all confusion and wasteful friction….his capability of corrupting other minds, and even engaging their service, was a residue from the fact that his original desire for ‘order’ had really envisaged the good estate (especially physical well-being) of his ‘subjects'”

I’ve referred back to this idea a number of times, and I’ve used the term “perfectionist” to describe Sauron because that’s basically what he was, before, you know…the business with the Ring. Unlike Morgoth, Sauron didn’t want to destroy Middle-earth, and Tolkien himself points out the differences between the two, writing elsewhere in Morgoth’s Ring that Morgoth represents “sheer nihilism, and negation its one ultimate object”. Morgoth wanted to literally unmake the universe; but Sauron genuinely wanted to improve upon it. And he wanted to rule the universe he fashioned in his own “perfect” image.

We can see some of that still in the Second Age of Middle-earth, following Morgoth’s downfall. He never repented of his heinous deeds, but motivated by his jealousy of the Valar and their paradise he did genuinely want to redesign Middle-earth into something beautiful – more beautiful than anything the Valar could boast of in their Blessed Realm across the sea. As Tolkien writes above, he wanted to be a tyrant, but a “good” one, one worthy of the worship and reverence he would demand and receive from his subjects regardless. One could say there’s a desperate need for self-validation in that motive; a need to prove to himself that he was still good, that Morgoth had not corrupted him entirely.

But by joining Morgoth and turning away from true perfection (i.e. Eru Ilúvatar, who made the universe and all things in it), Sauron’s noble motives were perverted and distorted to suit his master’s nihilistic goal. In Tolkien’s legendarium, only Eru is capable of creation – Morgoth, Sauron, and all those who try to imitate Eru out of spite or jealousy, are at best only capable of copying the things Eru has created, or at worst of corrupting those things. For example, Morgoth’s trolls were his inferior copies of the Ents, while his orcs were Elves and Men whose bodies and souls he had mutilated. Sauron in turn became incapable of creating anything truly beautiful or perfect.

Now imagine how that must torture a perfectionist! Did it pain him to know that everything he touched would ultimately be corrupted, that his grand aspirations were literally unachievable? Or did it only further fuel his violent envy of the Valar and of Eru? Did he become a nihilist like Morgoth before him, convinced that if he could not fix the world because he himself stood in the way of that goal, he could at least tear everything down? Sauron would make a fascinating subject for a character study.

And with Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings, that could finally happen – at least in some form. Amazon’s show is set during the Second Age, right at that crucial midpoint in Sauron’s journey where the best and worst of his qualities are in play, warring for control over him. Morgoth is out of the picture, yet still wields power over his lieutenant’s heart. Sauron is free to be good, even perhaps desires to be good, but cannot bear the humiliation of surrendering to the Valar. Ah, the inner turmoil!

Sauron
Sauron | looper.com

If Amazon pulls this off, it would be extraordinary. Some people will probably complain about how it’s unnecessarily overcomplicating a straightforward villain, and I get all that, but also…I just want people to know that there’s more to Sauron than a giant eyeball! Is that really so wrong?

Anyway, what do you want to see from Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings? Feel free to share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Amazon Unveils 1st Look At “The Lord Of The Rings”, And It’s Stunning

As chance would have it, I was out today when Amazon decided to drop a first look at The Lord Of The Rings. My timing, as always, was truly impeccable. But at this point, I’ve given up trying to figure out Amazon’s schedule – they seem to have a pattern of completely ignoring all the biggest and most significant dates in Tolkien lore, and instead choosing to release massive news on random days. Take today’s first-look image, for example. August 2nd, today’s date, has no significance as far as I can tell, either in J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe, or in a meta context, as the date of any one of his major publications. Considering how Amazon paired this first-look image with a caption reading “a new journey begins”, this reveal might have been better suited for July 29th, just a few days ago – the date on which The Fellowship Of The Ring was published, sixty-seven years ago.

The Lord Of The Rings
Behold, Valinor | theverge.com

But then, look at the release date Amazon has finally chosen for The Lord Of The Rings – September 2nd, 2022. Nope, I’m not missing a two. Amazon is passing over September 22nd (arguably the single-most important date in Tolkien fandom, the date of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins’ dual birthdays and Hobbit Day to fans around the world) in favor of a completely random premiere date for their series*. I’ll give you that choosing Hobbit Day would only further blur the lines between Amazon’s prequel series and The Lord Of The Rings proper, but hey, Amazon seems to be blurring the lines between their series and The Silmarillion anyway, so what’s a little more blurriness if it means getting to celebrate Hobbit Day with a massive Lord Of The Rings event next year?

What’s not blurry is the crisp, clean image that Amazon has provided us today, on this most random of days. It’s so exquisitely detailed that you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s only a promotional photo or even a piece of concept artwork – but what we’re seeing here is apparently our very first official still from the premiere episode of The Lord Of The Rings…and reader, I’m a bit overwhelmed with emotion at the beautiful sight.

To say I cried is a bit of an understatement. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time, you know. But thankfully, I’ve had a moment to compose myself, I’ve taken a deep breath, I’ve relaxed, and ERU ABOVE ARE THOSE THE TWO TREES OF VALINOR?!?!?

The image in question is deceptive in that at first glance it could be any city in the heyday of the Second Age of Middle-earth, when Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings is set (roughly three-thousand years before The Lord Of The Rings trilogy). My initial impression was that it had to be Ost-in-Edhil, the capital of the Elven kingdom of Eregion where the Rings of Power were forged during the Second Age – I saw a city sprawling across the foothills of some mountains, a figure clad in white who I assumed was Lady Galadriel, and a pretty sunset. And then I zoomed in and realized that the sunset was in fact not a sun – but an explosion of light emanating from the silhouette of a towering tree in the far distance, with another one just behind it.

“Stunned speechless” is probably the best way to sum up my reactions to this image, then. Seeing Ost-in-Edhil and Eregion would no doubt have been cool, and would have tied in very nicely with The Lord Of The Rings, giving general audiences a hook; remember that place in the prologue to Fellowship, where the Rings were made? This is that! But seeing what I now have to believe is the Blessed Land of Aman (better known as Valinor) and the Elven city of Tirion upon the green hill of Túna, illuminated by the light of the Two Trees in the dawn of the First Age before there even was a dawn, or a sun – that’s something beyond cool. Never in our lifetimes have we seen any part of The Silmarillion adapted for the screen because access to the book and its treasure trove of iconic imagery and arcane lore was famously off-limits to filmmakers. Now, as TheOneRing.net recently reported, everything is on the table.

The Lord Of The Rings
The Killing Of The Trees by John Howe | pinterest.com

So what does that mean for the show? Well, it’s still going to be set in the Second Age, so it makes sense why this beautiful shot of a First Age landscape is drawn from the first episode. It looks like TheOneRing.net was also ahead of the curve when they revealed that the first two episodes of The Lord Of The Rings, both directed by J.A. Bayona, will form an epic feature-length film – an introduction of sorts to this new version of Tolkien’s universe. I speculated that this film would be set during the beginning of the Second Age, but it seems the story will begin even earlier in Tolkien’s timeline, during the height of Valinorian culture under the watchful eyes of the Valar, Middle-earth’s pantheon of god-like deities. This film will set up the story and our major players, and then we’ll jump into the rest of the series.

But why set the first episode so far back in the First Age? And why is Amazon concealing the identity of the white-clad figure standing near the bottom of the frame – most people think it’s Galadriel, and it very well could be (she was alive during the First Age, and lived in Valinor), but what if it’s not? Again, I think back to TheOneRing.net’s recent leaks: they revealed that neither the dark lord Sauron nor his alter ego of Annatar would be revealed in this first season of The Lord Of The Rings, but they said nothing of his original form as Mairon. My casual readers probably already abandoned this post when I started ranting about glowing trees, but hear me out: Sauron was once an angelic being named Mairon, basically a craftsman of the gods. During the First Age, Mairon lived in Valinor and would likely have traveled to and from the Elven city of Tirion to help build its towers and palaces.

The Lord Of The Rings might give us a glimpse of this pure, uncorrupted version of Sauron before his fall into darkness – precipitated, like most horrible things in Tolkien’s universe, by the tyrannical Morgoth, who seduced Sauron away from the Valar. Of course, this First Age flashback could also be setting up Galadriel’s arc or establishing the curse of the Fëanorians, or it might just be one part of a montage of Middle-earth history: but considering the hoops Amazon would have had to jump through to even get the rights to The Silmarillion that would allow them to film this, I have to assume whatever we’re seeing here is an important moment in the show. And building up the threat of Sauron, starting with the kind of complex and sorrowful backstory that will finally dispel the widespread belief that Sauron is a straightforward evil villain, seems like a worthwhile use of Silmarillion content.

Does this mean I’m going to have to resurrect my series of Second Age history deep-dives, but with the First Age too? Perhaps. We have a long wait ahead of us, but I for one welcome the extra time: I need to be prepared for this, folks! The fact that I cried over a picture of a tree should give you some hint as to the emotional state I’ll be in come September, 2022, when The Lord Of The Rings actually premieres.

The Lord Of The Rings
Galadriel | wallpaperflare.com

Let me turn it over to you, dear readers. Did you get emotional seeing this image, returning to Middle-earth (technically Aman, but whatever) for the first time since The Hobbit trilogy ended? What parts of The Silmarillion do you hope to see in The Lord Of The Rings, and when do you think Amazon will give us a proper title for this show so I can stop calling it The Lord Of The Rings and confusing half of my readers? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

* Okay, so I’m an idiot. September 2nd is the date of J.R.R. Tolkien’s death in 1973, not quite as “random” as all that. It feels like a strangely solemn date on which to premiere Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings, but I did want to point this out.

Middle-earth Explained: Lindon And The Elves Of The Second Age

The recent reveal of an official synopsis for Amazon Prime’s The Lord Of The Rings adaptation has left us all excited to jump back into Middle-earth and revel in the many joys it has to offer us. But to get fully prepared for Amazon’s upcoming series requires more than just a movie marathon or even a reread of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings – Amazon is pulling from Tolkien’s extensive deep lore for their series, and diving into regions of Middle-earth previously unexplored by either the films or main books.

Lindon
“The Grey Havens” by The Brothers Hildebrandt | baltimoresun.com

Lindon is by no means a name familiar to most Tolkien fans, so it’s understandable if you need a reminder about where it is in Middle-earth – though, in fact, both The Lord Of The Rings books and films did very briefly enter Lindon in the saga’s emotional climax. Described in Amazon’s synopsis as an “elf-capital” with “majestic forests”, Lindon is more recognizable as the Elven land west of the Shire where the Grey Havens were located…and from which Frodo and Bilbo set sail at the end of the Third Age, seeking out spiritual healing in the Uttermost West. This bit tends to be confusing for many first-time Tolkien fans, particularly movie-goers; the films don’t set it up as well as they should, and it never gets explained, leading to the entire sequence often being mistakenly interpreted as an allegory for Frodo dying.

But if you’ve ever wondered what happens to the Bagginses after they sail into the sunset at the end of The Return Of The King, then this is the post for you – and in the process, you’ll also learn everything you need to know about Lindon and its people before Amazon brings them to life on the small screen.

Amazon’s Middle-earth series, while still titled The Lord Of The Rings, is set thousands of years before the events of the trilogy, in the Second Age of Middle-earth during a time of mighty empires and epic heroes…but our story begins even further back, in the First Age. The world was flat like a tabletop, and still newly formed, and there were really only two continents: the westernmost of the two being Valinor, the land of the gods (or Valar, as they’re called in Tolkien’s myths), and the easternmost being…well, Middle-earth. The race of Elves originated in the uncharted forests of Middle-earth early in the First Age, predating the creation of the sun and moon by at least a millennia or two and explaining their collective fascination with stars, the only real source of light during their formative years as a species. The Valar had foreseen their coming, and what with the Elves being the subject of a whole bunch of prophecies, and a particularly nasty Dark Lord named Morgoth roaming through Middle-earth at the time, it was in everyone’s best interests for the Valar to herd the Elves westward, and over the sea into Valinor. Along the way, some Elves got fed up and went home, or got lost, or found other places to settle down…to keep things simple, I’m referring to those stragglers as Silvan Elves, though the proper blanket term for them is the Nandor. Anyway, remember them: they show up again later.

Of the Elves who made it all the way to Valinor and flourished there under the benevolent influence of the Valar, the most prominent and promising were always the skilled, hotheaded people known as the Noldor. But just three stolen gemstones and two dead trees later, Valinor had been plunged into chaos, and most of the Noldor recklessly took off for Middle-earth, pursuing Morgoth, the culprit, with an unholy vengeance in their hearts – all while openly rebelling against the Valar, who had insisted they stay put in Valinor while the gods dealt with Morgoth themselves. The Noldor established countries and civilizations of their own in Middle-earth, most of which toppled to ruin at the end of the First Age: when the Valar finally defeated Morgoth in battle, trampling mountains into the sea and flooding the entire region known as Beleriand until only a sliver of it remained; that sliver being Lindon, a coastal landmass just barely big enough to contain the entire suddenly displaced population of Beleriand – and not just the Elves, but the Men and Dwarves too.

Lindon
Elves “At Lake Cuivienen” by Ted Nasmith | pinterest.com

The Second Age opens with the Valar offering all of the exiled Noldor a chance to repent for their crimes and return to Valinor. Many Elves agreed to do so, but many more did not – instead choosing to stay in Middle-earth. Nonetheless, the option to sail back to Valinor was still available to all Elves at any time, and only made more accessible when Círdan the Shipwright completed building his Grey Havens in Lindon in the first year of the Second Age. But while Círdan presided over the Havens, he was never called a king – that title belonged to his adopted son, Gil-galad, who had become High King of the Noldor at a young age, and was by this point acknowledged as the highest-ranking Elven King in all of Middle-earth. Gil-galad stayed in Lindon even while many of his people migrated further eastward, settling new lands in Eregion and beyond.

Amazon’s description of Lindon as an “elf-capital” is both misleading (the closest thing to a city was the Grey Havens) and accurate, in a way: Lindon was a rural melting-pot populated by both Noldor and Silvan Elves, the latter of whom had lived there long before Gil-galad’s arrival. Tolkien hinted at the notion of a deep divide between the Elves from Valinor and those of Middle-earth, which I expect to see explored further in Amazon’s series; as the two peoples clash after their long estrangement, in a cultural and societal conflict. Meanwhile, Dwarves lived in the Blue Mountains that encircled Lindon – though their underground mansions of Nogrod and Belegost were both at least partially-destroyed by the turmoil of Morgoth’s fall.

Midway through the Second Age, Gil-galad warded off an attempt by the Dark Lord Sauron to infiltrate Lindon disguised as an emissary of the Valar named Annatar. Though Gil-galad could not guess at Annatar’s true identity, he sent warnings to his Elven kinsfolk across Middle-earth about the mysterious stranger – warnings that were ignored in Eregion, where Annatar was allowed to become a powerful and influential figure, overseeing the construction of all but three of the great Rings of Power. Those remaining three were secretly given to Gil-galad, Círdan, and Galadriel for safekeeping after Annatar betrayed the Elves of Eregion (*pretends to be shocked*), forging the One Ring to control them all.

Sauron’s brutality in Middle-earth drove many Elves back under the protective aegis of Gil-galad, whose power was still too great for Sauron to challenge – but some, out of fear and grief, fled across the sea to Valinor, never to return. Gil-galad brought in aid from Númenor to help conquer Sauron, unintentionally sparking a grudge-match between Sauron and the island kingdom of Men that eventually resulted in Númenor and most of its population being dragged into the ocean abyss; Valinor being removed from the Circles of the World by divine intervention (though still accessible via the “Straight Road” open only to Elven ships); and the earth being made round. Lindon lost many of its beaches, but otherwise scraped by.

In the final years of the Second Age, Lindon’s Elven armies played a pivotal part in bringing about the defeat of Sauron (albeit a temporary defeat). The last Númenórean refugees led by Elendil joined forces with Gil-galad’s Noldor and Silvan Elves in what became known as the Last Alliance, and together they pursued Sauron south across Middle-earth, into the mountains and volcanic wastelands of Mordor. There, on the slopes of Mount Doom, Gil-galad was burned to death by Sauron’s fiery hand: and with him died the kingship of the Noldor. His Ring of Power, Vilya, was saved by his young herald, Elrond, who later used it to heal Middle-earth’s hurts from his dwelling in the refuge of Rivendell. Lindon, meanwhile, faded in significance in the absence of its noble King, becoming little more than a rest stop on the one-way trip to paradise for world-weary Elves and occasional Ringbearers.

Lindon
The Grey Havens | looper.com

So next time you read the books or watch the movies, and get to those heart-wrenching final scenes at the Grey Havens, spare a thought for what was once the greatest realm of the Elves between the Mountains and the Sea in the Second Age – and think ahead to Amazon’s series, which will allow us to finally witness Lindon in all its glory.

Tell me what place in Middle-earth you’re most excited to see, and be sure to share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

10 Things Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings” Should Include That Will Shock The Fandom

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about my favorite topic, The Lord Of The Rings and all things Tolkien (it really hasn’t, since I somehow manage to bring it up in most completely unrelated posts, but that’s beside the point), or since I’ve written a “top ten” list like the ones I did sometime back in March, where I discussed things I wanted to see in Amazon Prime’s upcoming adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings on the Second Age of Middle-earth, as well as things I didn’t want to see, and characters I hope the series will handle with the utmost care. In the meantime, the Tolkien fandom has found other things to argue about – most recently the topic of sexuality in the Professor’s works, something I will address later in this post, and which was in fact the inspiration for this post. After seeing how shocked and outraged a portion of the Tolkien fandom was in response to the news that nudity and sexuality might be present in the Amazon Prime series, I asked myself: what other things might similarly shock them, if it’s mature content they’re opposed to? Things straight from the Tolkien canon, things that the Professor himself sketched out in detail or tantalizingly hinted at, and which will now have the opportunity to be realized onscreen?

Of course, this list will only be dealing with shocking events and themes of the Second Age of Middle-earth, which is when the Amazon Prime series will be set (no, it’s not really The Lord Of The Rings, and I still don’t understand why they haven’t given us some indication of what the actual title will be). The Second Age just so happens to be the second darkest era in Middle-earth’s history (the First being, both figuratively and, until the creation of the sun and moon quite literally, the darkest), which means there’s a great deal of strange, terrifying, controversial or just uncomfortable things for Amazon to draw from for their adaptation. And now, without further ado, let’s get into it.

The Lord Of The Rings
Blue Wizards | reddit.com

10: Different Magic. Let’s ease into this and start out fairly tame, with something that Amazon doesn’t necessarily have to include, but definitely should if they can find a way to do so naturally without alienating a massive part of the Tolkien fandom. In Tolkien’s assorted early writings on the Blue Wizards of Middle-earth, he briefly mentioned something that has always fascinated me and has always intrigued me because of how it seemingly challenges the loose rules of his soft magic system. “I fear that they failed…,” he wrote of the two Wizards, “and I suspect they were founders or beginners of secret cults and ‘magic’ traditions that outlasted the fall of Sauron.” Tolkien would later rewrite the story and have the Blue Wizards play an active, heroic role in bringing about Sauron’s downfall secretly from the east, but the idea of the duo spreading the knowledge or understanding of magic throughout Middle-earth is almost too irresistible to pass up on – even if Tolkien put magic in quotes, and clearly didn’t intend for it to mean real magical power like that possessed by Gandalf or the Elves. We’ve never seen magic used quite to this extent before in Middle-earth, certainly not with regards to cults or occult practices. And considering how Tolkien’s magic system is often used as the gold standard for soft magic systems in fantasy, it could be risky to explore this in too much detail – though it could be rewarding because it would give the show a chance to explore uncharted territory.

The Lord Of The Rings
Manwe of the Valar | tor.com

9: The Valar. As with occult magic, this has the potential to be both a good idea and a bad idea, depending on who you ask. Most hardcore fans know and love the Valar, but more casual fans might be weirded out by the reveal that Tolkien’s world comes with an entire pantheon of gods, goddesses and other minor deities – like the sun, and the moon…and Gandalf. In the semi-biblical narrative of The Silmarillion, the presence of the Valar feels very natural and I would argue it’s no different with the Second Age – but I’m just one person, and I have previously seen some quiet backlash to the idea of the Valar ever physically appearing. Some simply feel like it’s too radical a departure from the Middle-earth that most people know from The Lord Of The Rings, while others specifically don’t like The Silmarillion because of the gods and goddesses and other somewhat religious elements of the story. Amazon will have to include the Valar either way, because they’re critical to the story, but I’m interested to see what the reaction will be from the fandom. Personally I’d be thrilled.

The Lord Of The Rings
Entwife | scifi.stackexchange.com

8: The Burning Of The Entwife Gardens. Let’s get a little more specific now. In the cinematic Middle-earth franchise thus far, the most explicit act of desolation we’ve seen has been a single vision of a ruined Shire in the Mirror of Galadriel, and the wreck of Dale by dragon-fire in The Hobbit. But we’ve never seen anything on the scale of the torching of the Entwife gardens near the end of the Second Age. The Entwives cultivated a tranquil land east of the River Anduin, which unfortunately fell directly on Sauron’s warpath as his armies returned from defeat in Eriador to Mordor. In an attempt to deplete the approaching Last Alliance’s resources, he torched the Entwife gardens, and the Entwives themselves disappeared from recorded history. Were they burned? Enslaved and put to work in Mordor (in which case, that will be even more disturbing content to watch out for)? Or did they escape to happier lands? Whatever their fate may have been, watching their gardens be uprooted and scorched will be shockingly brutal enough. Not unpredictable, but definitely the stuff that season finale cliffhangers are made of.

The Lord Of The Rings
Sauron | indiewire.com

7: Celebrimbor, Gil-galad And Anarion’s Deaths. The Second Age is filled with a lot of very violent deaths. Nobody knows this better than Celebrimbor of Eregion, the Elven smith who forged most of the Rings of Power and was later betrayed by his partner and confidante, Annatar – who turned out to have been Sauron in disguise all along. Sauron and his orc armies attacked Eregion with the hope of locating the Three Rings that Celebrimbor had made for the Elves: they pillaged the city without any luck, and eventually Sauron captured Celebrimbor and tortured him mercilessly for information. Celebrimbor refused to relent, and so, of course, he was killed. But Sauron wasn’t content with just murdering one of the last of the Fëanorian bloodline. No, he also horribly mutilated the Elf, shot him full of arrows, and had his body hung from a flagpole and carried into battle like a banner by his orc army. That’s straight out of Game Of Thrones right there, and is almost certain to land the show a TV-MA rating no matter what. As for Gil-galad, last High King of the Noldor, he was apparently burned alive by the fiery heat of Sauron’s hand during their duel on the slopes of Mount Doom. And Anarion…well, he got his whole head bashed in by a rock thrown from the parapets of Barad-dûr, killing him and crushing the crown of Gondor. I don’t know which of these three fates was the worst, but all will certainly be graphic and stomach-churning onscreen.

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

6: Death And Mortality. Speaking of death, it’s actually one of the major recurring themes throughout the Second Age – and when the series begins to tackle the subject of Númenor and their relationship with death and mortality, that’s when it’s going to abruptly steer away from the realm of fantasy and into disturbing, cynical, psychological horror. For many fans of The Lord Of The Rings, it might come as a shock to realize that Tolkien’s world isn’t always escapist entertainment, but can be horrifyingly realistic when it needs to be. It’s in Númenor where this will surely be most apparent, as the island kingdom’s long-lived people slowly begin to lose their famous longevity and wither away: in desperation, they cling to life but fall into madness, chaos and a frantic search for a cure to death, or an antidote to their fear – which some of them find in Sauron’s evil, or in the nihilistic worship of the dead. They turn away from the wisdom of the Valar and the Elves, and descend into an abyss of their own making (and ultimately into the very real abyss beneath their island. Too soon?). It’s really grim.

The Lord Of The Rings
Numenorean Army | lotr.fandom.com

5: Commentary On Imperialism. Tolkien was no fan of the British Empire’s global expansion, and his works reflect that: much of the trouble in Númenor first begins to emerge after the island kingdom starts occupying lands in Middle-earth across the sea, starting wars with the native peoples there and bringing back riches to fuel and fund ever more conquests. For our own sake, I hope that any violence against the native peoples of Middle-earth will be shown as it is – an unjust brutality – and not glorified or normalized. Some will complain that it’s politicizing Tolkien’s work or “pushing an agenda”, but they will be purposefully ignoring the fact that Tolkien’s work is already very political and itself pushes a very anti-imperialist agenda. The Númenóreans are also responsible for deforesting almost the entirety of Middle-earth’s western shore from the Elven kingdom in Lindon all the way to Harad at least, but probably even further. Remember in The Lord Of The Rings, when Treebeard the Ent laments the vast forests that once covered the earth? Yeah, Númenóreans tore them all down and used the wood to build ships. If you’re not shocked by that, you probably should be.

The Lord Of The Rings
Sauron | editorial.rottentomatoes.com

4: Human Sacrifice. Just a little bit more graphic violence, don’t worry. When the Dark Lord Sauron arrived in Númenor and began playing on the growing fears and prejudices of the Númenórean people to increase his own power, he also had a plan to try and make Middle-earth great again – a plan which involved sacrificing political prisoners to the memory of his former master and mentor, the fallen angel Morgoth. So he built a truly massive domed temple in Númenor and used it to perform these sacrifices: we don’t know exactly how, but we know the bodies were disposed of with fire, because smoke rose from the temple so often that the dome was stained black by soot. The first victim to the flames was the original White Tree, which had stood in the King’s Court for years and was a symbol of the friendship between Elves and Men. Sadly, many Númenóreans fell for Sauron’s lies and gladly gave up their friends and families to the Dark Lord’s altar.

The Lord Of The Rings
Numenor | legendarium.co.uk

3: Ar-Pharazôn. If you’re wondering who allowed all this to happen, well, you should probably blame Ar-Pharazôn, the last King of Númenor and the guy who decided it was a good idea to bring Sauron into the very heart of his empire. He makes this list not only because he was a corrupt leader who allowed Sauron to slaughter his own people, declared war on the Valar, and doomed his entire nation to a watery fate, but because of what he did in his personal life. You know, the whole bit where he usurped his kingdom’s throne by forcing his first cousin, Míriel, to marry him against her will – thus stealing the rule of Númenor from her, the rightful heir. It’s probably one of the greatest tragedies in Middle-earth’s history: that a capable woman could have been so close to averting all the horrors that would befall her kingdom, but because of an unqualified man was forced to the sidelines, where she could only watch and wait for the inevitable. Her last act was to try and plead with the Valar to show mercy on her people, but she died in the cataclysm like all the rest. You might be noticing a pattern at this point, and yes, the Second Age really is this hopeless and horrible.

The Lord Of The Rings
Eowyn | tor.com

2: Commentary On Gender. Since we’re now on the topic, I feel like we have to talk about this (though I’m well aware that a certain subsection of the Tolkien fandom would rather not). Truth is, you can’t read the tale of The Mariner’s Wife, the most complete extant writing by Tolkien on the Second Age, and not see how it’s a story about gender. I mean, it’s not even subtext. Erendis, the story’s protagonist, literally has an extended, passionate monologue about male privilege and how men will do anything in their power to undermine women, even the great women of history – whose heroic deeds they diminish and leave out of their legends. No matter how much it may cause some people to squirm and start muttering under their breath about “social justice warriors”, I want this entire speech recited onscreen. It’s among the most important and exceptional things Tolkien ever wrote, and it’s true, both in-universe and in real-life. But Amazon shouldn’t stop there: considering what we’ve just discussed about how Númenor’s downfall might have been averted by a woman, I think they could find further opportunities to comment on the empire’s oppressive, patriarchal system.

The Lord Of The Rings
Beren and Luthien | bbc.com

1: Sexuality. At last we come to it: the great battle of our time. Is sex and sexuality wholly foreign to Tolkien, or is it instead woven subtly and cleverly throughout his work, a thematic goldmine waiting to be properly explored? Both answers are nearly right, in my opinion, but the latter more so. Tolkien’s depictions of sexuality aren’t gratuitous, something I feel the series should reflect, but they’re there: prominently, in the First and Second Ages. For examples, read The Mariner’s Wife (no, but like, seriously, read The Mariner’s Wife: it’s amazing), and you will find that the whole story is bristling with sexual energy. Erendis and her husband have an epic back-and-forth about how he leaves her bed cold, to which he replies that he thought she preferred it that way. Tar-Ancalimë accidentally interrupts a mass wedding and then has to stay the night, listening in embarrassment to the sounds of “merrymaking” all around her as the bridal-chambers are occupied one-by-one. Amazon is going to have to expand on all of this because they’re creating something in a visual medium, but it’s also just common sense to be more explicit rather than less so because it helps to make the existing commentary on gender and sexuality more explicit as well, lending thematic depth to the entire story of Númenor. And for those worried about “the children”…well, I’m honestly not sure you can make a series about the Second Age child-friendly without actually rewriting the entire thing anyway.

So there you have it. Ten examples of things that are either going to shock the Tolkien fandom, or already have (though, to be quite blunt, it seems to be mostly the thought of nudity that has people all riled up: because apparently graphic violence and human sacrifice is fine, but some bare skin is where our fandom draws the line?) It should go without saying that I love the Tolkien fandom, and this isn’t meant as an attack on anyone in particular. So what did you think of my list? Feel free to share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below – and if you have any more shocking things to add to the list, say so!