Taking advantage of the Super Bowl’s audience of millions, Amazon Prime used last night’s game to launch the first teaser trailer for The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power into the world. It was brief, just about a minute long, and more evocative than it was revealing – purely designed to get audiences, particularly more casual fantasy fans, excited to be back in the world of Middle-earth after almost a decade. But if the trailer seems light on story details and you’re still confused as to what’s going on, I want you to go check out Fellowship Of Fans on YouTube, because you will find many of the answers you are looking for there.
In fact, let me just put a pause on the trailer breakdown for a moment and invite you to marvel along with me at Fellowship Of Fans’ impeccable track record, because this teaser trailer officially confirms at least four exclusive story leaks and a character leak released by Fellowship over the past year – and a recent Vanity Fair article with accompanying promotional images confirmed several more of their exclusive character leaks, including Maxim Baldry as Isildur and Charles Edwards as Celebrimbor (sadly, I did not have the time to cover the contents of that article in the depth and level of detail that I wanted before the trailer dropped).
Knowing the context behind a lot of the split-second images in last night’s teaser trailer was immensely helpful to me, even as a long-time reader of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, because The Rings Of Power isn’t a straightforward adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings, where knowing the source material forwards-and-backwards is enough to fully grasp what’s going on. It’s an adaptation of Tolkien’s accounts of the Second Age of Middle-earth, which he left only partially completed at the time of his death, scattered like broken shards of a narrative across heaps of disorganized notes, rough drafts of stories that never went anywhere.
A relatively brief synopsis of the Second Age did find its way into the appendices to The Lord Of The Rings and is included in most editions of The Return Of The King, but it’s written in the style of a historical text and spans over three-thousand years. Amazon has opted to construct their own largely original narrative around the main events of the Second Age, which will be squeezed into a much smaller timeframe coinciding with the lives of the Númenóreans Elendil and Isildur – which is either the safer approach, the riskier approach, the right approach or the wrong approach depending on who you ask.
So anyway, while there are a number of characters in this trailer that come to us directly from Tolkien’s writings on the Second Age (Galadriel and Elrond being the most notable), there are just as many original characters pulled from the corners of Middle-earth that Tolkien left largely unexplored – including a Silvan Elf protagonist and a Dwarven princess. Obviously, most of their scenes and storylines are wholly original as well, but even the canonical characters have been placed in unfamiliar settings and situations, with Galadriel embarking on a mission into the Forodwaith to hunt orcs while Elrond mingles with the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm.
I’m sure a book purist will inform me in the comments below that that’s exactly why The Rings Of Power will suck, because it’s “fan-fiction” and not “canon”. Regardless of the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien would first have to rise from the grave to write any adaptation of his works that wouldn’t inherently be a piece of “fan-fiction”, and that no adaptation – bad or good – will ever have any bearing whatsoever on the original work if you don’t let it, I’m frankly confused as to how purists thought a Second Age show was ever going to work without at least a couple of original characters and storylines. I mean, did you not want any dialogue, either?
What concerns me slightly about all of the original characters and storylines packed into this teaser trailer is not that they exist in the first place, but that general audiences trying to get a handle on what The Rings Of Power is really about won’t be able to find that information easily – because it’s not in the teaser trailer itself, and it’s not in the source material that most journalists will point you towards. It’s in Fellowship Of Fans’ archives, mostly, and if you don’t mind a few minor potential spoilers, I highly suggest you check out all of their videos regarding The Rings Of Power as well as their Second Age breakdown posts and my own.
I know a few people who don’t like to come across anything even remotely spoiler-y before watching a film or series they’re excited for, so I’ll give you this one last chance to leave before we jump into the actual trailer breakdown you’ve all been waiting for, and some minor potential spoilers for season one. See you in seven months! The rest of you, follow me.
Although there’s nothing in this teaser that shocked me while watching, I feel like it still might surprise some folks to learn that the meteor streaking across the night sky at around the 0:35 mark is actually a person, whose true identity will be a running mystery throughout season one. Fellowship Of Fans reports that this character, dubbed “Meteor Man”, will crash into Middle-earth (sustaining severe memory loss in the process), where a group of Harfoot hobbits will discover him and adopt him into their traveling community at the behest of one Elanor Brandyfoot, the inquisitive young hobbit girl who narrates the trailer.
We catch a brief glimpse of Elanor holding the Meteor Man’s bloodied hand (it’s the trailer thumbnail, embedded above), but I doubt that’s immediately clear to anyone who hasn’t been watching Fellowship Of Fans’ videos religiously. This teaser trailer could have used slightly more footage of Meteor Man’s crash-landing and his discovery by the hobbits – just something to get casual fans talking and theorizing the same way they did with Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time, which had everyone wondering who the Dragon Reborn would turn out to be.
The difference is that the identity of the Dragon Reborn was common knowledge to anyone who had read Robert Jordan’s books, and the answer was easily available on Google anyway. Meteor Man’s identity is a genuine mystery, but Amazon is holding their cards so close to their chest that most fans don’t know that there’s a mystery here to be solved…yet. I don’t know when we can expect to see our next trailer, but I hope it shows more of this character and the bizarre circumstances of his arrival. Did I mention he might also be evil?
Amazon has officially nicknamed this character “The Stranger”, which is definitely more ominous and creepy than Meteor Man but somehow doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, either. It’s like how Disney wanted us to call Baby Yoda “The Child” at first. Not gonna happen. Don’t try to make it happen. And please let his actual name be something better than Grogu.
On the subject of names, we have to talk about Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot, Markella Kavenagh’s hobbit character. Elanor in this case is clearly a reference to Elanor Gamgee, the eldest daughter of Samwise Gamgee – born shortly after the events of The Lord Of The Rings. The name is Sindarin Elvish, and in the case of Sam’s daughter it was derived from the golden flower elanor that once grew in the forests of Lórien. It’s a beautiful name, and creates a powerful link to the hobbit characters of the Fourth Age, but I really do hope there’s an explanation for how Elanor’s parents came across the flower and discovered its Elvish name.
In the one clear shot we see of Elanor, she wears a sprig of yellow flowers in her curly hair – which I would have thought were just wildflowers were it not for her peculiar name. What we can extrapolate from this is that Elanor and her family must live somewhere near Lórien, which more or less lines up with Tolkien’s account of the late Second Age and early Third Age hobbit territories being situated in Wilderland, between the Misty Mountains and Greenwood. The Harfoots specifically “long lived in the foothills of the mountains” and “had much to do with Dwarves”, theoretically placing them somewhere in the vicinity of Khazad-dûm’s eastern gates and Lórien. This works out!
Markella Kavenagh’s Elanor is the only character to speak in the trailer, and she gets just a single line – “Haven’t you ever wondered what else is out there? There’s wonders in this world beyond our wandering. I can feel it.” Presumably, she’s talking to someone else in her hobbit traveling community, although I take it from this dialogue that these hobbits must never stray from their well-worn paths, or else why would Elanor be unsatisfied with her life? Fellowship Of Fans has previously reported that The Rings Of Power will follow the Harfoot hobbits on their westward migrations into Eriador.
Assuming the hobbits reach the Misty Mountains by the end of season one (and if they truly live next-door to Khazad-dûm, it might not even take them that long), it will only be the second perilous mountain journey in The Rings Of Power after Galadriel’s adventure in the Forodwaith. Here, in the bitterly cold wastelands once occupied by the Dark Lord Melkor, we’ll meet up with Galadriel and another Elf played by Kip Chapman as they seek out orcs, trolls, and other monsters left over from the First Age. Galadriel is out for vengeance, and she won’t rest until all of Melkor’s minions are wiped off the face of Middle-earth – including, and perhaps especially, Sauron.
I unironically love this whole concept, so much so that I’m not even disappointed to learn that is the Forodwaith and not the Helcaraxë, as some fans had hoped. I mean, I would have been happy either way, and the crossing of the Helcaraxë in the First Age by the Elven rebels leaving Valinor would have made for an even better parallel to the hobbits crossing the Misty Mountains looking for a new home, but whatever, I’m cool with it if it means we get to see Galadriel scaling an ice-wall using her Valinorean sword. Also, the Forodwaith is one of those wide empty areas on Tolkien’s map of Middle-earth where Amazon can play around as much as they like.
My early prediction is that something will happen up north that puts the fear of god in Galadriel. She’ll learn that Sauron is rising again (The Hobbit kinda did this storyline already, but badly, so we’ll let it slide), and she’ll quickly return home to Lindon, where King Gil-galad and Elrond will be unreceptive to her warnings and try to ease her fears instead of preparing for the inevitable. Fed up, Galadriel will leave again, this time on a sea-voyage. I don’t know why, but we’ve learned via Vanity Fair that Galadriel somehow ends up shipwrecked by episode two, and has to work together with a mysterious man named Halbrand to survive a storm at sea.
At some point during this sequence, probably after the storm has settled down a bit, Halbrand discovers that Galadriel is an Elf and pulls her hair aside brusquely to reveal her leaf-shaped ears. The audacity! My only takeaway from this is that Halbrand needs to get pushed off the boat or whacked in the head with an oar or something.
All signs point to Galadriel and Halbrand washing up somewhere on the shores of Númenor, where Elendil will find Galadriel. The trailer opens on an establishing shot of a Númenórean port-city, presumably the westward-facing city of Andúnië where Elendil and his family lived during the late Second Age. The camera follows a cargo-laden ship through a sea-gate painted blue and gold, and lifts over the archway to reveal a wide harbor crowded with fishing-boats, over which loom the palatial estates of the lords, and Tolkienesque interpretations of the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Colossus of Rhodes. Further in the distance stands the great peak of the Meneltarma.
It’s a beautiful sight, but it’s gone almost before you have time to register that you’ve just beheld the shores of Númenor. The rest of this trailer is Elf-centric and focuses primarily on Middle-earth, with no human characters besides Halbrand even appearing. I suspect we’ll see plenty more of Númenor in trailers, TV spots, and promotional images closer to release, but for now Amazon just wants to get the message across to people that this is Middle-earth, and Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits do a better job of conveying that than humans.
And based on the fan reaction to Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Silvan Elf protagonist Arondir in last night’s trailer, I can absolutely understand why the Elven characters will dominate the marketing for The Rings Of Power. They’re just neat. Arondir catching an arrow in mid-air, flipping it around and firing it in one fluid motion (all in the dark, mind you) is cool the same way that Legolas swinging across the front of a moving horse was cool in The Two Towers, before Peter Jackson decided he needed to top that scene every five minutes, using increasingly implausible CGI to do so.
The one shot in this trailer that gives me Hobbit vibes, in a bad way, is right near the end. An Elf wielding a giant battle-axe leaps in slow-motion across the screen, with a chain attached to his ankle unfurling behind him in the sky. It’s clearly supposed to be an awesome action beat, but I don’t know what’s going on here and it doesn’t look like it was achieved using practical effects, which is why it falls flat for me. If we learn that it is practical and that this is actually a really raw and visceral action scene, that’s interesting, but the character looks as weightless and removed from reality as Legolas when he was gliding up a falling staircase in The Battle Of The Five Armies, and I’m not feeling it.
Happily, this awkward moment is counterbalanced just a second later by a quick shot of an Elven character played by Will Fletcher standing in the rain, screaming soundlessly while a swarm of orcs presses against him from all sides – and not only is Fletcher clearly real and present in this scene, but the orcs are as well. I can’t begin to express how relieved I am that both of Amazon’s biggest fantasy series’ are committed to using practical effects wherever possible, and this one shot has me longing for the Wheel Of Time finale we could have had, were it not for COVID-19.
According to Fellowship Of Fans, this Elven character is Galadriel’s brother Finrod – and yes, he has short hair. It’s a tragedy, although perhaps not quite as tragic as what’s about to happen to Finrod in this scene. I know that canonically, he dies wrestling a werewolf in the dungeons of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, which as far as death scenes go is unparalleled in Tolkien’s works, but that happens in The Silmarillion and the rights situation is complicated, so maybe Rings Of Power Finrod will have to die in battle instead. I just hope it’s epic…well, that, and I hope Amazon gives him long hair in post-production. That’s where the CGI budget should be going!
You know who is actually rocking the short hair? Elrond, shockingly. His hair, while several shades lighter than I would have liked, looks a lot better in motion than it did in the Vanity Fair photos, and Robert Aramayo makes the absolute most of his one shot in the trailer by hitting the audience with a smoldering gaze that could melt a Ring of Power. It’s never not gonna be vaguely annoying to me that so many of the male Elves – and only the male Elves – are sporting short hairstyles, but it looks good on Elrond, I won’t lie.
Also, I love that he’s an accidental heartthrob; he’s not just smoldering for the sake of it, he actually seems to be glowering at a group of Dwarves partying in the background, who are breaking his concentration on whatever old artifact he’s studying. Aramayo’s Elrond is an ambassador from Gil-galad to the Dwarves, according to Vanity Fair, and at some point early in the season he will be sent to Khazad-dûm to try and repair the old alliances between Elves and Dwarves that existed sporadically throughout the First Age and almost invariably ended in one side betraying the other.
Fellowship Of Fans has previously reported that the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm will be reeling from the sudden collapse of a mining-shaft in the first few episodes, probably just before Elrond’s arrival in the city. Vanity Fair pointedly describes Elrond as an “architect”, implying that he puts his skills to good use at some point in the three episodes their writers have seen – perhaps literally helping the Dwarves rebuild and thereby strengthening the bonds of friendship between their peoples? I’m down for that.
A few quick shots of Dwarven characters pass by in this trailer – mostly from what is believed to be the funeral ceremony for the Dwarves killed in the mining-shaft collapse. Prince Durin IV and Princess Disa, the latter a new character and the first Dwarven woman with a major role in any adaptation of Tolkien’s works, are both in attendance. Disa leads a song of lament in a scene first described by, you guessed it, Fellowship Of Fans. We don’t get to hear any of it, unfortunately, but Sophia Nomvete’s physical performance tells me that this is gonna be an impactful moment.
A few moments later, Durin IV reappears wielding a hammer, and strikes swiftly at a large block of stone in a dark chamber. He’s being observed silently from the corners of the room by three or four older Dwarves, which almost makes me think this is some kind of time-honored ritual in which he must partake before he can become King Durin IV. Of the Dwarven characters in Tolkien’s works, those with whom we’ve spent the most time were either exiles or travelers long away from home, so to see Dwarven culture on display – and not through an intermediary character like Bilbo – is actually quite rare and exciting.
That’s what I love most about the direction The Rings Of Power is taking: it’s giving us a unique opportunity to explore the regions and peoples of Middle-earth that only ever existed on the peripheries of Tolkien’s most well-known stories. By the end of the Third Age, Khazad-dûm is in ruins, Númenor lies under the waves, Lindon is virtually uninhabited, and paradise has been removed from the world entirely – but in the Second Age they’re all alive, vividly alive, and The Rings Of Power lets us imagine what Middle-earth was before its decline.
And yes, it’s fan-fiction, all of it, but that’s…okay with me? I’ll still be interested to see where and why it deviates from Tolkien’s writings, and when it crosses a line for me I’ll voice my frustration, but it’s just one adaptation of many that have been, and many that have yet to be. It’s never gonna “ruin the books”, because the books will always be there – no matter what.
Three years ago, in February 2019, the official Twitter account for what was then known merely as ‘The Lord Of The Rings on Prime’ posted their very first tweet, heralding the release of a series of official maps. Three years and one pandemic later, we’re just a few days out from the Super Bowl, and what could potentially be another milestone in The Rings Of Powers‘ long and epic journey – the release of a teaser trailer. And to celebrate the occasion, Amazon dropped twenty-three new character posters on Thursday, each bearing the series’ title and an image of a character’s hands – drawing attention to their respective weapons of choice, various accessories, and of course, lots and lots of rings.
Some would argue that Amazon is just giving us crumbs of content, not even telling us the names of the actors and characters depicted in these posters, but I’ve watched our fandom support itself on literal crumbs throughout most of 2020 (that was a dark time), and this…this is a four-course meal and dessert compared to what Amazon used to post on their social media outlets. I say that as someone who’s had Twitter notifications for The Rings Of Power turned on for the last three years in preparation for a day such as today.
Luckily, I also had Twitter notifications turned on for most of the prominent Tolkien scholars, community leaders, and fan accounts to whom Amazon actually entrusted the task of revealing each new poster. I won’t lie, it was hectic trying to keep up with who was posting what and when, but it was also fun, and I deeply appreciate that Amazon gave the fans a chance to help promote The Rings Of Power and boost their own profiles in so doing instead of releasing these posters through the usual Hollywood trades or through their own social media.
And now we have twenty-three new character posters to pore over, so let’s get into this, shall we? They might not have names attached to them, but the subtle clues and in-universe cultural influences layered into the costuming and accessories make it surprisingly easy to break down the posters into five mostly distinct groups: Elves, Humans, Hobbits, Dwarves, with just one or two outliers that don’t fit neatly into any category. I’ll sprinkle more of my overarching thoughts regarding the costumes and costume design into the post, but if you don’t have any intention of reading further let me just tell you now: the costumes look gorgeous.
If it’s costume designer Kate Hawley who’s the mastermind behind the costumes showcased in these posters, each worthy of being put on display in a museum after their time in the spotlight is done, then Rafe Judkins really needs to hit her up now that The Wheel Of Time‘s costume designer Isis Mussenden has left the series. I had many criticisms of The Wheel Of Time‘s costume design and production design overall, but what disappointed me the most was the lack of richness, patterning, texture, and intricacy that I see in The Rings Of Power‘s costumes (granted, The Wheel Of Time had a much smaller budget).
Something that has been carried over from The Wheel Of Time is a bold approach to color, but the diversity of fabrics and materials (as well as better lighting) makes all the difference. Any crowd scene on the busy streets of Númenor or deep within the echoing caverns of Khazad-dûm is sure to be a treat for the eyes, and I’m very excited to see how these costumes look in action, and how the actors wear them. They make excellent hand-models, but I want to see them swishing and swooshing and strutting their stuff in that trailer, whenever it comes.
With all that out of the way, it’s time to speculate.
Let’s start with an easy one. I agree with the general consensus on Twitter that this poster depicts Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, wearing silver armor over a chainmail shirt and carrying a unique (and instantly iconic) sword, the hilt of which is fashioned to resemble the Two Trees of Valinor that once grew in paradise, welded into one. Its canopy of gold and silver leaves forms the round pommel of the sword. That alone implies that the wielder is one of the High Elves who came out of paradise during the First Age, which would line up with Galadriel’s canonical backstory. She is one of the few Elves left in Middle-earth who remembers Valinor and its glory.
She was also described by J.R.R. Tolkien as a proficient military strategist, and Amazon appears to be expanding on that by giving her a practical suit of armor befitting a commander of troops in the War of the Elves and Sauron. This would seem to confirm one of the earliest rumors regarding The Rings Of Power, that Galadriel would be depicted as a hardened warrior still fighting a war that had ended for most of her comrades, and would lend credence to other character details found in the audition tapes that sparked those rumors.
One last thing before we move on; the silhouette of this armor seems intentionally designed to evoke images of the Second Age Elves seen in the prologue to The Fellowship Of The Ring, which makes sense given that those Elves, with their distinctive cuirasses, helmets, and shields, more effectively convey to the general audience that this is a prequel series than any lengthy explanation of Middle-earth’s timeline could – that and another immediately recognizable ancient suit of armor, which we’ll get to near the end of this post.
Although this character’s heavy robes in dark shades of red and green could be of either Elven or human make, the Tengwar writing on the edge of the scroll gives away a clue that this is most likely an Elf – possibly even Elrond, who was no less bookish and introspective in the Second Age than he was in the latter half of the Third, and lived in King Gil-galad’s court as a royal herald before establishing Rivendell as a safe haven for poets, artists, philosophers and historians. Elrond is believed to be played by Robert Aramayo, and these could certainly be his hands.
I spent an embarrassing amount of time studying hands trying to match the twenty actors in Amazon’s main series cast to the twenty-three pairs of hands we see in these posters, and in only a few cases could I be absolutely certain who I was looking at. I’m not even certain this character is actually an Elf and not simply a human who can read Tengwar, in which case they could very well be a Númenórean Elf-friend – perhaps Elendil or someone of his house.
According to Tengwar Teacher on Twitter, the writing on this scroll translates to “King’s Scroll – View from South“. Above it is drawn a picture of a bridge leading to a door flanked by two trees, presumably viewed from the south. My mind immediately leapt to the famous Doors of Moria, which stood open throughout most of the Second Age to welcome any travelers, and that’s the only location in Middle-earth I can think of that canonically fits this description, so I’m going with the theory that Elrond is busy reviewing a report of what Celebrimbor and his Elves have gotten up to in Eregion.
Speaking of Celebrimbor, there’s no other character in Middle-earth who would wear the eight-pointed Star of the House of Fëanor so proudly (and to be honest, so loudly) on their clothes. The last of Fëanor’s bloodline and second only to Fëanor himself in artistry and craftsmanship, Celebrimbor is a pivotal figure in the Second Age, overseeing the creation of the Rings of Power and many other great works in the city of Ost-in-Edhil and in the neighboring Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dûm, with whose inhabitants Celebrimbor enjoys a mutual friendship.
This character, draped entirely in shimmering gold fabric, wears several golden rings on his fingers – which I’m willing to bet are among the countless lesser rings that Gandalf described in The Lord Of The Rings as “essays in the craft”, being just dangerous enough that you wouldn’t want anyone but an Elf wearing one for any length of time, but not so dangerous that they could possibly cause the end of the world. But it’s the Dwarven runes embroidered on this character’s sleeves that really seal the deal for me. This has to be Celebrimbor.
This is a fascinating poster. The character grips a feathered arrow, the preferred weapon of the Silvan Elves who dwelt in Mirkwood and Lórien, and wears a gray cloak like the ones gifted to the Fellowship of the Ring by the Elves of Lórien. But my eye was immediately drawn to that face – no, not the character’s face, for that is hidden, but the face carved into this character’s black wooden breastplate. With a signature frown, heavy brows, and beard and wild hair inseparable from the swirling leaves surrounding him, this is unmistakably the Foliate Head of the Green Man.
But what is the Green Man, an archetypal character from mythology primarily found carved into the walls of English churches and other old buildings, doing in Middle-earth? I can think of three reasons. If this is indeed a Silvan Elf depicted in this poster, then perhaps the Green Man is merely being used in his original pagan function: as a visual metaphor for the ecstasy and freedom that comes from casting off the constraints of society and achieving equilibrium with nature. The Silvan Elves, particularly those we see in The Hobbit, celebrate their liberated state with banquets and parties in the woods, heavy drinking, and a dismissive attitude towards the rest of the world.
Alternatively, there’s a chance this face represents either Tom Bombadil or an Ent, as both are believed to have been partly inspired by the legends of the Green Man. The Ents, with their long leafy beards and gnarled faces, share obvious similarities with the physical description of this enigmatic mythological figure. As for why one would be carved on a Silvan Elf’s breastplate, the answer lies in Legolas’ comments about the Ents in The Lord Of The Rings, where he talks about how the Silvan Elves have long been reverent of the mysterious shepherds of the trees who successfully withdrew into the depths of Fangorn Forest.
In the early Second Age, Sindarin and Noldorin Elves from Beleriand came to Middle-earth and established kingdoms and cities on lands that had once belonged to the Silvan Elves, leading to some strife and unrest between the two peoples – although most of the Sindarin Kings like Oropher (grandfather of Legolas) and Amdír adopted the Silvan language and culture, and their peoples became one. As no Silvan Elves are named in Tolkien’s chronicles of the Second Age, the figure in this poster could be either Oropher or Amdír, or it may be an original character – a Silvan Elf rebel, perhaps, who wears the Ent face as a symbol of resistance to Sindarin rule?
This poster confused me when I first saw it, and it still confuses me now. The character wears a gray cloak oddly reminiscent of the one worn by Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings, but carries an ornate golden scepter topped with an incredibly detailed sculpture of a city with little towers and turrets and walls. Typically, only a king would carry such a scepter, but this outfit seems too plain for a king’s wardrobe, somehow. The ostentatious kings and queens of Númenor would never be caught dead without some priceless jewels or accessories on their person, and one itty-bitty silver ring isn’t gonna cut it.
But then I saw a post on Reddit from a keen-eyed Tolkien fan pointing out the similarities between the sculpture on this scepter and Alan Lee’s paintings of Gondolin, and now I can’t unsee it. The placement of the towers, the distinctive series of gates and stairs, it all lines up perfectly. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean this character is from Gondolin – after the city was sacked at the end of the First Age, many of its treasures were lost and scattered across Middle-earth by orcs, thieves, and fleeing refugees. Most notably, the swords Glamdring, Orcrist, and Sting turned up thousands of years later in a troll’s cave.
But somehow I doubt this scepter would be put front-and-center in a character poster if it didn’t have meaning to the character holding it, which leads me to my theory that this is either Elrond, whose father Eärendil was born in Gondolin shortly before its fall, or Glorfindel, a warrior prince of Gondolin who actually died defending a group of refugees from a Balrog but was sent back to Middle-earth in the Second Age (long story) to help the Elves fight Sauron. He remained there until the end of the Third Age, although he’s been left out of every film adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings.
In Ralph Bakshi’s animated adaptation, his crucial role in carrying an injured Frodo Baggins to Rivendell was filled by Legolas (which is especially weird given that Legolas isn’t even from Rivendell), while Peter Jackson swapped him out for Arwen, only to sideline her for the rest of the trilogy. But Glorfindel might just get the last laugh, because I could easily envision a scenario where he fills the Gandalf role in The Rings Of Power, organizing the resistance to Sauron, rallying troops, and inspiring a new generation of heroes to take up the fight. The two characters have a lot in common – starting with the fact that they both got killed by a Balrog and resurrected by the gods.
Of all the character posters revealed, and there were a great many, none is more beautiful to me than this one, which gives us our first look at what I believe to be actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Tar-Míriel, the only child of King Tar-Palantir and the last Queen of Númenor. Dressed in a shimmering pearlescent tunic and adorned with gold, the Queen clasps in her hands a small white flower – likely a blossom of the White Tree that grew once upon a time on the palace grounds of Armenelos in Númenor. The flower may have hidden significance, as Tar-Palantir’s Adûnaic name, Inziladûn, translates to “Flower of the West”.
According to a production sheet unearthed back in November, the legitimacy of which is still unproven, Tar-Palantir is alive but very old when The Rings Of Power opens, and I have a strong feeling that Tar-Míriel is already ruling Númenor in his stead as a regent during these final months or years of his life, anxiously waiting for him to pass on and relinquish the throne so she can enact her own plans to prevent the corruption of Númenor by her father’s political advisors, who in full view of Tar-Míriel are gathering support for a coup.
The acceptance of mortality, death, and the eventual decay of all things is an overarching theme of the Second Age and of Middle-earth in general, but to see it through the eyes of a woman torn between her love for her father and her responsibility to her people would be extremely ambitious and impactful. My sneaking suspicion is that the pure white flower Tar-Míriel clasps in her hands in this beautiful image represents her father’s life, which she will hold in her hands at some point in season one.
I believe this character, whom we see with one hand resting confidently on their large golden belt, is most likely Trystan Gravelle as Ar-Pharazôn, whom Fellowship Of Fans exclusively reported back in December would primarily be seen wearing blue and gold, the colors of Númenor. That report provided numerous interesting details about Ar-Pharazôn’s role in The Rings Of Power, including confirmation that in season one he is still referred to simply as Pharazôn, having not yet usurped the throne from Tar-Míriel and declared himself king of Númenor.
Throughout the first season, Pharazôn is rumored to serve as Tar-Míriel’s closest advisor and confidante, which will make his betrayal of her all the more poignant. My guess is that Pharazôn will pretend to help Tar-Míriel deal with her father’s other greedy political advisors, only to secretly form alliances with them behind her back and organize them into a unit actually capable of bringing her down once she finally succeeds to the throne. Time will tell if fans will also be deceived by his lies.
The vivid sea-green fabric beneath this character’s faded golden armor tells me that this is probably a Númenórean, and a high lord at that. Judging by the hands, it’s not Maxim Baldry as Isildur, but it could be Lloyd Owen as Elendil, Isildur’s father and the Lord of Andúnië in the late Second Age. Elendil appeared for just a few seconds in the prologue to The Fellowship Of The Ring, before being slammed in the chest with Sauron’s mace and tossed several feet into the air, dying instantly.
In that scene, the focus wasn’t on Elendil but on Isildur, who famously took up the hilt-shard of his father’s sword that had been crushed beneath him when he fell, and cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand, temporarily defeating the Dark Lord. I assume that sword, Narsil, is what we see in this image – although it looks very different from the version of Narsil designed for Peter Jackson’s films, which strongly suggests that Amazon is moving in their own direction with The Rings Of Power. The blade we see here actually evokes the description of Narsil reforged in The Lord Of The Rings, with “a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun”.
The rayed sun also appears on the pommel of the blade and on Elendil’s breastplate, which might have no significance at all but after writing at length about how Men were born with the first dawning of the Sun I couldn’t help but notice the repetition of this motif and file it away under things that warrant further investigation. It might have something to do with the persecution of Elf-friends like Elendil by other Númenóreans during the late Second Age. Is Elendil trying to say that he is still a human Man first and foremost, despite being the most prominent Elf-friend in Númenor?
I’m still not certain if these are Ema Horvath or Nazanin Boniadi’s hands, but I think what’s obvious from the tidily manicured fingernails and the elegant orange dress is that this character is someone very well-to-do. She carries a journal of some kind with a wavy pattern embossed on the cover, something that we see repeated in the costumes I believe to be of Númenórean make, which leads me to believe this is a Númenórean woman from a noble family, perhaps even Isildur’s sister, Carine – an original character created by Amazon whom we’ve heard about from Fellowship Of Fans.
Ema Horvath is tentatively attached to the role of Carine, who appears to have gone by the code-name “Shay” at one point. It was Shay who was described in character breakdowns obtained by Knight Edge Media as a “pragmatic…studious…politically minded” woman who acts as “a peacekeeper” for her entire family in times of political crisis. She’ll have her work cut out for her in the late Second Age, that’s for sure.
This poster caused a stir on Tolkien Twitter when it was revealed because at a first glance, it instantly conjures up images of Rohan, a kingdom that wasn’t founded in the Second Age and wouldn’t be for another few thousand years. But as my sister pointed out to me first, the horse on this character’s sword is actually a seahorse, implying that they’re Númenórean rather than a member of the Rohirrim. They wear a very similar long-sleeved shirt under their armor to the one Elendil wears under his, even bearing the same rippling pattern, although this character’s clothes are brownish-red.
The muted color palette, especially in comparison to the vivid sea-green worn by Elendil, makes me think this character is lower-ranking than the Lord of Andúnië. The one hand visible looks like it could belong to actor Alex Tarrant, whom Fellowship Of Fans has previously linked to the role of one of Isildur’s close friends. Extrapolating from that, this character could have met Isildur and befriended him if the two were both lieutenants under Elendil. He must be significant, however, if he is deserving of his own character poster.
I love this poster because it gives me the vibes I want from The Rings Of Power. I look at this, and I’m immediately transported back to the Bronze Age, which is exactly what the Second Age should feel like in comparison to the vaguely Medieval aesthetics and technologies of the late Third Age, when The Lord Of The Rings takes place. The vibrant blue dress, the simple golden belt, that wicked looking sickle…it’s just really cool. I’d wager this character is human, most likely a woman from the lands of Middle-earth under Númenórean control.
The one character in The Rings Of Power who would fit that description is known only by the code-name “Kari”, and is believed to be played by Nazanin Boniadi, the highest-profile actress attached to the series (that we know of). Kari is a “self-sufficient single mother” according to the Knight Edge Media character breakdowns, who falls in love with someone from outside her village – someone “who the rest of the community may never accept”. Forbidden love is a classic and slightly overused trope in fantasy, but we’ll have to see if Rings Of Power can put a fresh spin on this story.
I probably would have accidentally categorized this character as a hobbit were it not for another perceptive Reddit user who figured out that the distinctive marks on the back of this person’s hands are shared by actor Maxim Baldry – who is believed to be playing none other than Isildur, the eldest son of Elendil and the man who would go on to establish the kingdom of Gondor in Middle-earth, defeat Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance, and take the One Ring from the Dark Lord’s hand only to lose it in the waters of the River Anduin.
This is a surprisingly humble costume for a character with such an epic destiny, but I’m once again going to credit my sister for laying out the most solid theory I’ve seen yet for why Isildur would be dressed in plain clothes, carrying the kind of rope typically found on sailing-ships. As she explained to me, the first audition tapes for Elendil – code-named “Loda” – actually presented us with all the puzzle-pieces upfront, but without the context that “Loda” is Elendil and his son “Cole” is Isildur (confirmed in circuitous fashion by Fellowship Of Fans and Redanian Intelligence), we couldn’t fit them all together at first.
In case you need a reminder, Elendil’s dialogue in one of those three-year old tapes revealed that he sees Isildur as a lost cause who is “[wasting] the most important years of his life on aimless schemes” and “hasn’t been home in three weeks”, which leads to an argument between him and his daughter – the aforementioned Carine – over which of them will finally reach out to him. In a second tape, Elendil tells an unnamed woman in passing that the “restless youths” of his land, including his eldest son, foolishly go looking for trouble in “the southern reaches” where there are “outlaw tribes”.
I have no idea what he might be referring to specifically, but all these comments taken together paint an interesting picture of a rebellious young Isildur traveling around Númenor looking for adventures, and probably cut off from his family’s fortunes. That would explain the simple clothes, and the ropes suggest to me that Isildur will look for his adventure on the high seas. He could travel east or south to the shores of Middle-earth, but he already seems like the type of guy who might even dare to sail westward, seeking out paradise and coming dangerously close to breaking the Ban.
Put into place at the beginning of the Second Age, the Ban prevents the Númenóreans from sailing “so far westward that the coasts of Númenor could no longer be seen”. This was intended to keep humans out of paradise, which at the time was still a physical place separated from Middle-earth and Númenor only by an ocean. The Númenóreans begrudgingly respected the Ban right up until the days of the last king, but The Rings Of Power would be wise to vividly illustrate the consequences of straying near the limit rather than simply telling the audience about this invisible barrier in the sea and expecting them to retain that information.
The only thing in this poster that gives away any clue as to the character’s identity is the distinctive sword they carry, which takes up most of the image and effortlessly draws attention from their simple brown traveling clothes lined with fur. Amazon clearly wants you to look at this sword, with its broken, gnarled blade inscribed with strange runes, attached to an overgrown hilt like a grasping iron claw with many fingers. They want you to dig out your copies of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales and search for clues.
And that’s exactly what Tolkien fans have done, with one theory quickly emerging that this is Anglachel – the sentient glowing black sword forged by the Dark Elf Eöl from a meteorite in the First Age, given as tribute to King Thingol of Doriath, removed from the treasure-hoards of Menegroth and carried into battle for the first time by Beleg Strongbow, taken from Beleg’s dead body by the tragic hero Túrin Turambar and reforged into Gurthang, and used by Túrin to slay the great dragon Glaurung and to end his own life after discovering that he had accidentally married his sister Nienor, at which point the blade finally broke into a million tiny pieces.
Few swords have as long a history as Anglachel, but The Silmarillion is pretty explicit that the sword’s shards were buried with Turin beneath the Stone of the Hapless, which was itself buried under ocean water when the sea rushed into Beleriand at the end of the First Age and forced Elves, Men, and Dwarves to flee further into Middle-earth. If this is indeed Anglachel, that would imply that someone removed the sword from Turin’s grave before the end of the First Age – and then what? Did they pass it on to their descendants, one of whom we see in this poster? But why?
Not to jump to conclusions or anything, but could this character somehow be a descendant of Túrin himself? Nienor, his sister and wife, threw herself from a cliff into the River Teiglin after learning the truth about their relationship, but although a grave was erected for her alongside Turin’s, her body was not found, and Tolkien notes that it was “[never] known whither the cold waters of Teiglin had taken her”. Could she have survived, and given birth to her child with Túrin? Maybe that’s a reach, but I’m just confused why anyone would willingly choose to carry Anglachel, a sword that was widely believed to have been cursed to bring doom to all its masters.
I haven’t yet seen anyone pose the theory that this could be Anguirel, the identical mate of Anglachel forged from the same meteorite but kept by Eöl in his magical house deep in the woods of Nan Elmoth. It was later stolen by his son Maeglin, who made his way to Gondolin (and later betrayed the city and brought about its downfall), but after that the sword is never mentioned again. Obviously, there is no record of it ever being broken, but during the fall of Gondolin it could have been melted by exposure to a Balrog or a dragon…there’s a lot of possibilities. And as we know, swords from Gondolin pop up in troll-caves and dragon-hoards well into the Third Age.
This character’s handful of cheerful acorns and their proportions in comparison to said acorns indicate that they’re most likely one of the prehistoric hobbits we’ll meet in The Rings Of Power, apparently referred to as Harfoots throughout the series to distinguish them from hobbits. The name is a bit of a cheat. “Harfoot” refers to one of the three main groups of hobbits, along with Fallohides and Stoors – Tolkien never used it as an umbrella term for hobbits in general.
That said, The Rings Of Power may focus exclusively on Harfoots because they were the first hobbits to begin moving westward from their original territories between Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains. About a thousand years into the Third Age, with Sauron gradually regaining his strength in Mirkwood, the Harfoots are believed to have crossed the Misty Mountains into the lands of Eriador where they would later establish the Shire, but Tolkien gives us one or two clues as to their whereabouts in the Second Age; namely, that they “had much to do with Dwarves in ancient times”. That’s it, really.
I’m still wary of how Amazon intends to fit hobbits into this story, seeing as it wouldn’t really make sense to push forward the date of their westward migrations, there are no other hobbit-centric stories to tell from this time period, and Tolkien seems to have been almost purposefully vague, but probably my greatest fear was that, in the interest of fan-service, Amazon would fall back on the aesthetics established for the hobbits in The Lord Of The Rings (both the book and the films).
The whimsical parodies of late 19th century British fashions, technologies, and names that we associate with the hobbits of the Shire work when the rest of Middle-earth seems only a few centuries removed by comparison, but would stick out like a sore thumb in a Second Age setting heavily inspired by Bronze and Iron Age civilizations. All of which is to say that I’m just very happy to see that Amazon is going for that ancient look with the hobbits. Not a waistcoat or pocket-watch in sight.
I had a hard time finding actress Markella Kavenagh in these character posters, because I was still looking out for an Elf. At the time that she was cast in The Rings Of Power, before Morfydd Clark or any other actor, her character – code-named “Tyra” – was widely believed to be Galadriel or another Elf, and many fans got the impression that she was a Silvan Elf based on audition tapes revealed in late 2019. But that was before we knew or could confirm that hobbits would be involved in the series in any capacity, and now that we do I’m locking in my guess that this is Markella Kavenagh’s “Tyra” – not an elf, but a hobbit.
In fact, let’s go back to those audition tapes for a moment. You can’t necessarily trust that the exact dialogue in these tapes is always pulled from the scripts for the show, and there’s a better than even chance that it’s not, but in one of Tyra’s audition tapes she’s seen comforting her younger sister, named “Branna”, who cries that if she “hadn’t run back from the berries we wouldn’t have lost my doll Rosie and had to come all the way out here”. This could be nothing, it might not even be a real scene from The Rings Of Power, but it’s worth noting that the character in this poster is holding some very large berries in her hand.
I’m also convinced, based on the contents of those tapes and the character breakdowns obtained by Knight Edge Media, that Tyra is the oldest daughter of two other hobbits, code-named “Hamsom” and “Cora”, whom I believe are depicted in the next two posters. Let’s move on, then, shall we?
The only character in these posters who matches the description for “Hamsom”, this fellow is dressed like a hobbit, in baggy, drab-colored clothes, and his weathered hands grip the wooden hilt of a short staff topped with some kind of blunt stone instrument – which, judging by the random animal fangs attached to the hilt, has been used as a weapon in the past, perhaps to protect Hamsom’s family and “traveling community” from wolves or wargs on the road.
Only one audition tape for Hamsom was ever discovered by Redanian Intelligence. It paints a vivid picture of a character determined to stay alive through a harsh winter while battling health issues that he’s able to hide from his children, but not from his perceptive wife, who worries that she won’t be able to hold the family together without him. But the information that his wife is code-named “Cora”, and that their whole family lives a “physically demanding” nomadic lifestyle, comes from the Knight Edge Media character breakdowns.
And here we have our “Cora”, most likely played by actress Thusitha Jayasundera. This poster provides very little information about her character, but we know from Knight Edge Media that “Cora” must rise to the occasion and become the matriarch of her entire family, although “the pressure of [Hamsom’s health problems] and their large family can make her seem dismissive and detached”. She is also mentioned to have at least two daughters, which is what links her to Markella Kavenagh’s Tyra, in my opinion, and implies that they’re all hobbits, even though Cora in this poster could be mistaken for a human.
Now, I want to draw your attention to the comment that Cora is a “matriarch”, because while there are very few instances of matriarchal societies or families in Middle-earth, that doesn’t mean there are none. Most notably, the family of the ancient hobbit Sméagol was “ruled by a grandmother of the folk”, according to Gandalf’s research into the subject, and she was “stern and wise in old lore”, as well as very wealthy; wealthy enough that Sméagol had come up with the lie he told Gandalf, that she had gifted him the One Ring as a birthday-present.
Sméagol was a Stoor and born roughly two-thousand, four-hundred years after the end of the Second Age, so although I’m undeniably tempted to imagine a scenario where The Rings Of Power ends on a scene of Tyra cradling baby Sméagol and calling him “her Precious”, I doubt that’s going to happen. I think this is more likely an example of Amazon’s writers building on the little information we do know about the hobbits and their ancient history to create original stories in the spirit of Tolkien’s works.
Sir Lenny Henry already confirmed a long time ago that he would play a Harfoot hobbit in The Rings Of Power, and I think you’re looking at him here – holding a piece of parchment with pictographs similar to those designed by artists John Howe and Alan Lee during their work on the Dunharrow sets in The Return Of The King, and wearing a silver ring on a necklace; which may have no significance to his character whatsoever, but certainly evokes the iconic image from Peter Jackson’s films of Frodo Baggins wearing the One Ring.
I want to mention that this is one of several posters depicting Black characters or characters of color that Amazon released, and the comments beneath every one of these posters are filled with outright racists whining about an insidious liberal conspiracy they’ve made up in their heads to explain why there are Black people – no, scratch that, hands – on their Twitter timeline. Oh, they know that Black people and people of color have always existed, but Black people and people of color in escapist fantasy is a different matter, because the genre has historically been very white and is thus seen as a last bastion for many neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other bigots trying to fence out the world around them.
So when Black actors get cast in fantasy adaptations, it makes them really mad – because suddenly, they can’t hide there anymore. They can’t even like the original story without the caveat that they hate the adaptation for “forcing” them to see Black people in the fantasy world they thought was meant for white people only, because the story itself rarely seems to have any personal meaning to them beyond being interpreted as racist and therefore “safe”. If they no longer feel safe in this fantasy world, then they no longer feel comfortable or happy there either…and that does make me happy.
Hilariously, if these racists even took the time to check Tolkien’s own writings on the subject, they’d find that the Harfoot hobbits specifically were described as being generally “browner of skin” than Fallohides or Stoors. But I’m not gonna sit here and say that The Lord Of The Rings is perfect either. Representation is one of several areas where The Rings Of Power could actually stand to improve on the books with their cast of mostly straight white cisgender male heroes.
Of the twenty-three character posters released by Amazon, just two depict Dwarves…which is a bit of a shame, if you ask me. I still hope that The Rings Of Power will spend a considerable amount of time in the Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dûm at the height of its glory (“not darksome, but full of light and splendour”, as Gimli described it in The Lord Of The Rings), but it might be through the eyes of Elven characters like Galadriel, who canonically visited Khazad-dûm several times before its gates were closed to the outside world and became a friend of the Dwarves.
Here we see a character reported by Fellowship Of Fans to be Durin (probably Durin III), played by Owain Arthur. Little is known about Durin III specifically except that, like all Dwarven kings to bear the name Durin, he would have been believed to be the reincarnation of Durin I, the eldest Father of the Dwarves. Durin III ruled Khazad-dûm during the years in which the Rings of Power were forged and the War of the Elves and Sauron was fought. He received one of the seven Rings around this time, either from Celebrimbor or Sauron – the accounts of Dwarves and Elves differ on this point, and both are biased, giving Amazon plenty of wiggle-room to tell their own story.
Whether Durin III is wearing one of the seven in this picture is unclear, as he seems to have an affinity for rings in general. I love that there’s a residue of gold-dust clinging to his hands, as if he’s been mining or perhaps just lounging amongst the treasures he’s accumulated – it could go either way. There’s something about his orange armor, coupled with the bright red braided beard, that isn’t totally working for me just yet, but I’ll need to see the full look before I can make a proper assessment. Fellowship Of Fans has reported previously that Arthur’s Durin would have “gold feet”, which is something we sadly don’t get to see in this poster.
Dwarven women have only ever existed on the peripheries of Tolkien’s stories, and even in live-action adaptations (ahem, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) they’ve been relegated to background characters in crowd shots. But The Rings Of Power is finally changing the narrative, with this radiant character poster promising a Dwarven queen with an actual role to play in the story, and a costume that already rivals any of those designed for Peter Jackson’s films – and we haven’t even seen it in its entirety.
Fellowship Of Fans reported yesterday that this is actress and singer Sophia Nomvete, which makes a lot of sense as the character of the Dwarven Queen is expected to sing a “sad lament” for fallen Dwarves, according to the same video linked above in which Fellowship Of Fans reported Durin III and his golden feet. Like Durin, Sophia Nomvete’s Dwarven Queen has hands stained with gold-dust. But Nomvete is by far the better-dressed of the two. She wears a jacket made of interlocking golden triangles, massive jeweled bracelets around both wrists, and there are even a couple of tiny gemstones visible within the deep folds of her tunic. She’s only missing one thing, and that is of course a long beard of her own.
It was previously reported by Fellowship Of Fans (same video, linked above) that the Dwarven women in The Rings Of Power would not have beards, but I and many others in the Tolkien community feel very strongly that Amazon has the money and resources to change that before the series releases in September and that they should. I’m prepared to forgive and even defend a lot of controversial changes and writing choices on this show, but this…this irks me. I was really looking forward to seeing all the Dwarven ladies with their beards intricately braided and adorned with precious stones.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m still very excited for Sophia Nomvete in this role, but I want to know why Amazon felt they couldn’t give the Dwarven women any beards. Not even short beards? Not even sideburns? What is this nonsense, Amazon? Explain yourself!
Okay, so my initial theory that this is Tom Bombadil was probably very wrong, and in retrospect makes little to no sense, but it seems I was at least correct in guessing that this character isn’t a human or a hobbit, much less an Elf or a Dwarf. According to Fellowship Of Fans, this is none other than “Meteor Man” – a nickname for an unidentified character who will appear in The Rings Of Power via meteor. I know how weird that sounds without context, so hear me out.
Fellowship Of Fans first broke the news about Meteor Man back in December of last year, but I believe we’ve known about him since 2019 – we just didn’t know we knew about him until the pieces fell into place, the same way they did with Elendil and Isildur. What we’ve known since December is that Meteor Man will fall to Middle-earth and be discovered by Harfoots, and that he suffers from amnesia and “can’t easily communicate” where he comes from, who he is, or what he’s supposed to be doing. Fellowship Of Fans reported yesterday that Meteor Man is who we see in this poster, dressed in ratty clothes and clutching an apple in one gnarled hand. Oh yeah, and he might also be evil?
Now, remember what I said about Markella Kavenagh’s “Tyra”, and how Tolkien fans including myself thought she was an Elf for a long time, before we realized she could be a hobbit? The reason we thought that was because in her very first audition tape, released way back in 2019 before we’d ever heard of Meteor Man, involved her and another character code-named “Hennah” running into a third character specifically described as “a human” on the road – like, literally running into him with their wagon – and arguing over whether to bring him back to their settlement or leave him for the bears.
At the time, I recall thinking that these two were probably Silvan Elves finding a human traveler injured in the woods, but now I can’t help but wonder if this was actually our first glimpse of Meteor Man. If you’re wondering what happens next, well, we don’t know yet because the scene ends there with Tyra saying that she “won’t leave him here”, and that somehow she can feel that “He is important”, which is more ominous with the context that this guy could be evil. For her sake, I hope that she hit him hard enough with her wagon that he completely forgot his villainous intent.
Obviously, none of this helps to answer the main question; who is Meteor Man, really? If he’s evil, that really narrows down the list of potential suspects, but Sauron canonically stayed on the surface of Middle-earth throughout the Second Age (most of his movements are actually surprisingly well-documented), and Melkor was cast into the Void at the end of the First Age, so unless this is an original character or someone totally unexpected, I don’t know what to think. Fellowship Of Fans reports that one version of the trailer for The Rings Of Power does show Meteor Man’s arrival, so hopefully we’ll get more clues before long.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, this looks like Sauron from Peter Jackson’s movies. Except it doesn’t, and it’s not. Amazon definitely wants you to think that, make no mistake, but the similarities between this suit of armor and the one worn by Sauron in the prologue to The Fellowship Of The Ring are surface-level when you actually zoom in and compare the two.
I mean, let’s start with the weapon. Not once in six movies does Peter Jackson’s Sauron ever wield a sword. To be fair, he’s a disembodied eyeball throughout most of the saga, and therefore incapable of wielding any weapon (even his laser-eye is pretty useless), but the one time we do see him take a physical form he uses a mace – a sleek and destructive weapon with angular, yet streamlined barbs of silvery-black metal arranged around a rigid hilt. But the black sword in this picture has a sinuous, almost veiny look to it, as if it’s more liquid than metal.
Moving on to the gauntlet, note that this character’s closed fist is basically just thorns everywhere. Like, you can’t even come close to this person without getting pricked by some part of their armor. The spikes on Sauron’s gauntlets are actually relatively tiny, which makes sense seeing as he needed to be able to wear the One Ring. For whatever reason, I look at this person and my mind immediately goes to the Tomb of the Black Prince at Canterbury Cathedral, and the big impractical spikes on his knuckles (spiked armor in general tends to be impractical, but they’re also cool and this is fantasy).
Finally, although this looks like a full suit of armor from a distance, it’s actually not – they’re wearing a few bits and pieces of armor, but most of their body seems to be protected solely by chain-mail and rough fabric (note the loose strands hanging down below the wrist). For comparison, Sauron wore full-body plate armor in Fellowship Of The Ring despite being a literal Dark Lord and having nothing to worry about. So no, unless Amazon is redesigning Sauron’s armor to give him a scrappy, almost mercenary look, I don’t think this character is Sauron at all.
Fellowship Of Fans reported yesterday that this is in fact an original character named Adar, played by Joseph Mawle, and I have no reason to disagree. Adar is also a villain, according to previous reports, and he does serve under Sauron as a lieutenant throughout season one, but he is an Elf who has been corrupted – and thus, in my opinion, far more likely to carry a sword and wear lighter armor like his Elven kin.
This has nonetheless caused some concern amongst Tolkien fans that we’re going to see a known character from the First Age transformed into a Second Age villain for the purposes of the story. I can understand why that would be upsetting, but this is one of those controversial choices that I think I’ll probably end up defending, because this doesn’t sound awful to me on paper. In execution, maybe, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.
I believe the real Sauron is hiding in plain sight, disguised in the humblest of clothes and wearing not so much as a single ring to give away his true identity. This character, with their gray garments bearing the eight-pointed Star of Fëanor, who indulges in no jewelry or fancy accessories beyond a silver belt-buckle and the barely-visible edge of a red cape or cloak, absolutely screams Annatar to me – Annatar being the Elven name that Sauron took while he went undercover in Eregion as an apprentice of Celebrimbor, quietly gathering information about how to design and forge his own Ring of Power.
Maybe the Star is just a coincidence, but it’s shown up now twice in these posters. Make of that what you will. I’m calling it now, this is Sauron, and when September comes around and this character casts off their plain gray robes to reveal a terrible Dark Lord (in a parallel to Gandalf before the throne of Théoden), you will see. Either that, or this is just an Elf, in which case I never said anything about Sauron and Annatar and epic reveals.
So there you go. Twenty-three character posters, thirty-seven hands, and limitless theories. Until we get that trailer (and I hope we see it very soon), I will continue to be dissecting these posters looking for any clues I might have missed, but now I leave you to share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
SPOILERS FOR THE SILMARILLION AND POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE RINGS OF POWER AHEAD!
The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power has long been believed to be the most expensive series ever made for either streaming or television. One season alone cost Amazon Studios an estimated $465 million dollars, and with two seasons already greenlit and a total of five planned (not to mention a potential spinoff), this is indeed shaping up to be a billion-dollar investment for Amazon; as initially reported when they obtained the rights to The Lord Of The Rings and its appendices in 2017 for a whopping $250 million.
But what I and many other fans have wondered for a long time is whether there was more to the deal than Amazon or the Tolkien Estate told us at the time, because in the four years since that deal transpired, we’ve never once heard that Amazon planned to adapt The Lord Of The Rings itself. No, their interest lies solely in the book’s slim collection of appendices, specifically the first five pages of Appendix A, which offers an extremely abridged account of the Second Age of Middle-earth – the period of time in which Amazon’s The Rings Of Power takes place.
You heard that correctly: five pages of source material for a series that is supposed to run for five seasons. I suppose you could throw in the first three pages of Appendix B, and then you could round up all the various references to events in the Second Age found elsewhere throughout the appendices and the book, but ultimately you’re looking at something like…ten to fifteen pages, tops. Hardly worth $250 million dollars, if you ask me.
Unless there was more to the deal.
Look, I don’t want to downplay the significance of the appendices, because most of what we know about the early Third Age comes from Appendix A. But if you’re looking for a detailed account of anything that happens in the Second Age or earlier, there’s really only two places to look: The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. Although published several years after J.R.R. Tolkien’s death by his son Christopher, both of these books were stitched together from his notes and various rough drafts to compile the full story of Middle-earth from its creation to the end of the Third Age, focusing primarily on the First and Second Ages.
As a side-note, I highly recommend both books to anyone interested in the Tolkien legendarium, but be aware that neither is a novel. The Silmarillion is a dense historical text written in an archaic style reminiscent of the Old Testament – once you get the hang of it, it can be paradigm-altering, but I won’t fault anyone for page-skimming on their first read. Unfinished Tales actually contains a number of stories with rich characterization and a substantial amount of dialogue, but as the title suggests, very few of these stories are finished – which can make for a jarring reading experience.
Anyway, both of these books would be immensely helpful to the showrunners and writers on The Rings Of Power for the details they provide regarding the Second Age that are nowhere to be found in Tolkien’s other works, including the fullest account of the fall of Númenor and several slightly different versions of the tale of Galadriel, who had a front-row seat to the forging of the Rings of Power in Eregion and the War of the Elves and Sauron. And with every new piece of information we learn about The Rings Of Power, it looks more and more likely that Amazon has the rights to both these books.
This has not been confirmed by Amazon themselves, and by gifting editions of The Return Of The King (complete with its appendices) to members of the Tolkien community over the Christmas holidays, they’ve subtly maintained that they have the rights to those appendices and nothing more. But the math isn’t adding up. Because long before we ever got our first look at The Rings Of Power, place-names found only in Unfinished Tales were already popping up on the official map for the series and cast-members were pictured reading The Silmarillion. And when we did get our first official image from the series, it depicted a scene straight out of The Silmarillion.
According to TheOneRing.net and their occasionally reliable sources, Amazon possesses the rights to certain “elements and passages” from The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, and their theory is that this would include anything pertaining to the stories already summarized in the appendices to The Lord Of The Rings. But where does one draw the limit? The stories of Middle-earth are intertwined to such an extensive degree that, even in-universe, characters (usually Sam Gamgee, to be honest) are constantly remarking on how they’ve unexpectedly ended up in someone else’s story, or are affected by something someone did thousands of years prior. The great tales never end.
So today we’re looking at iconic characters and memorable events from The Silmarillion (and in a separate post, Unfinished Tales) that don’t feature in the appendices to The Lord Of The Rings, but which could still make an appearance in The Rings Of Power anyway. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I wanted to choose characters and events that would be relevant to the narrative and themes of Amazon’s series – based on the limited information available to us.
1: The Ainur And The Ainulindalë
Most fantasy authors aspire to write a halfway decent book, publish it, and hopefully sell enough copies to write a sequel or two. J.R.R. Tolkien, in his early twenties, already had much higher ambitions. He wanted to create a national mythology for England, and he had Ideas for which of “the great tales” he would actually write, and which he would leave “only placed in the scheme, and sketched….[leaving] scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama”. The Silmarillion was originally intended to be the backbone of this mythology; a quasi-religious text from which Tolkien hoped other artists and authors could draw inspiration for their own Middle-earth stories.
And like most religious texts, The Silmarillion begins with a good old-fashioned creation myth – The Ainulindalë – that takes its sweet time describing in painstaking detail the hierarchy and individual powers and attributes of the Ainur, Middle-earth’s pantheon of gods and deities. Tolkien wanted The Silmarillion to be ready for publication simultaneously with The Lord Of The Rings, so that readers intrigued by the scattered references to the Ainur in the latter novel could follow the trail back to where it all began – a bit like a glossary.
Unfortunately, he struggled to edit The Silmarillion into a book – and it wasn’t until after his death, when his son Christopher took on the daunting task, that the work was finally finished. As Christopher himself noted, the wait had been so long by that point that many readers had come to associate Tolkien’s style of worldbuilding with a sense of mystery that left endless possibilities for imaginative headcanons. Some fans, not won over by Christopher Tolkien’s dry, passable writing style, were disappointed to see their favorite gaps in the lore filled in so concretely – especially with regards to the Ainur.
And because The Silmarillion is typically not a book that even hardcore Tolkien fans read until after they’ve read The Lord Of The Rings once or twice, what was an issue in 1977 is still an issue now for many readers, who are almost invariably surprised to discover that Middle-earth has gods, if not weirded out by the lengthy descriptions of the gods and their casual interactions with humans. Be glad, then, that Christopher Tolkien actually cut out the pages and pages of exposition about the gods’ homes and interior décor (all of which I’m embarrassed to say I find fascinating).
But the Ainur are thematically significant to the overarching narrative of Middle-earth, and inextricable from the plot. Sauron is one of several characters sprinkled throughout Tolkien’s works who is actually a member of the Ainur, although by the time of The Lord Of The Rings, that detail had been forgotten by most and was not relevant to the story Tolkien was telling. In the Second Age, it’s vital information – I’ve written more extensively about Sauron’s backstory and the nuances of his character elsewhere, but I’ll just say this: if Amazon wants him to be the great villain that he surely can be, they need to tell audiences who he really is behind his various disguises.
OK, I’ll say a bit more, because I can’t help myself. Sauron’s character arc in the Second Age is intertwined with that of another Ainu, the fallen angel Melkor. In the beginning, Melkor had disrupted the harmonious music of the Ainur with his violent melodies, leading to a cosmic conflict that spanned the entirety of the First Age and ended with Melkor being cast into the void. But before he was forcibly removed from Middle-earth, Melkor influenced a number of lesser Ainur with his teachings, including Sauron. They were all given a chance to repent their sins after Melkor’s downfall, but Sauron refused out of humiliation for his defeat and bitter envy of the gods, and the rest is history.
Sauron’s goal was never to destroy the world but to create paradise on earth. When he proves unable to do so (because nothing perfect or beautiful can be created by evil), he decides to adopt Melkor’s nihilistic tactics and simply raze paradise instead, mustering a Númenórean army to invade the realm of the gods near the end of the Second Age with the empty promise that they can liberate Melkor from the void. The other Ainur are legitimately scared for their lives, and cry out to the one god above all others, Eru Ilúvatar, for help. He intervenes on their behalf, changing the shape of the world so that paradise is no longer accessible to humans.
Whether The Rings Of Power adapts The Ainulindalë specifically, I believe there is no better time for the Ainur to finally appear – explicitly, not merely in disguise – and for audiences to get a glimpse of the overarching cosmic narrative, the “majestic whole” linking all the stories of Middle-earth from The Silmarillion to The Lord Of The Rings. I also feel that Melkor and Eru at the very least should both be established as characters (or perhaps as mere entities, to preserve some of the mystery surrounding them and avoid potentially ridiculous character designs) long in advance of the cataclysmic events in which they take part.
The first words in Appendix A of The Lord Of The Rings speak of Fëanor, the “greatest of the Eldar in arts and lore, but also the proudest and most selfwilled”. But the story of his life is only provided in summary as necessary context for the account of Númenor that follows, and readers interested in the character will find little information about him in the main text of The Lord Of The Rings, where Fëanor is mentioned a mere three times – his name uttered with reverence even by Gandalf himself. Only The Silmarillion tells the full tale; and what a tale it is.
Fëanor’s actions during the Years of the Trees and at the very beginning of the First Age of Middle-earth set in motion two conflicts that continued long into the Third Age; one a physical conflict between his family and…well, everybody, which claimed the lives of countless Elves including Fëanor and all but one of his seven famous sons; the other a metaphysical conflict, which was even more damaging to the Elves and lead to the eventual diminishment of their civilization and the dwindling of their people. Without him, the Rings of Power would never have existed, nor would the Elves have been tempted to make them in the first place.
After the beginning, but before time was being counted in years, the Elves lived in paradise alongside the gods and benefited greatly from their guidance and friendship. These were the Years of the Trees, when the sun and moon did not yet exist and the only natural light-source were the stars and the Two Trees of Valinor. The Two Trees were visible in the first official image from The Rings Of Power, released last year, which depicted an unnamed elf (now rumored to be Finrod) looking out over the Elven city of Tirion.
The most notable resident of Tirion was Fëanor, patriarch of a powerful (and exceptionally talented) family of blacksmiths, jewelsmiths, craftspeople, and inventors. Together, they designed intricate machines and incredible works of art – some of which, like the palantíri or Seeing Stones, survived into the Third Age and were weaponized during the War of the Ring. Fëanor was even able to capture some of the light of the Two Trees of Valinor and encase it within a set of jewels which he named the Silmarils. As Tolkien said, “Greatest of the Eldar in arts and lore”. In arts and lore. In all other regards…not the brightest bulbs in the box.
What Fëanor forgot, in his vanity, was that the Silmarils derived their radiance from the divine light within them – over which Fëanor had no rightful claim. So of course, when the Silmarils were inevitably stolen by Melkor, Fëanor took that as a personal insult and he and his family disobeyed the gods and pursued Melkor into Middle-earth. As a symbolic gesture, they also swore an unbreakable oath to never rest until they regained all three Silmarils. See what I’m saying? Rational thinking was not one of Fëanor’s strengths.
To be fair, no one could have known that he would spontaneously combust roughly five minutes later or that one by one, each of his sons would be dragged into the grave alongside him by the oath that chained them to his fate. But that didn’t stop regret and bitterness from setting in very quickly, particularly amongst the other Elves who had rebelled against the gods by following Fëanor and now found themselves stuck in a war-torn Middle-earth, forbidden to re-enter paradise. Even when the gods lifted the ban at the end of the First Age, many Elves refused to return – out of some mixture of shame, anger, and a fierce love for Middle-earth.
This is the volatile situation that Sauron took advantage of, by promising the Elves – including Fëanor’s gullible grandson, Celebrimbor – that they could repair the damage of the war they had brought with them, remake Middle-earth into a paradise more beautiful than that of the gods, and prove that Fëanor’s reckless quest for vengeance had been worth it in the end. This is something that resonates with many of the Elves, even those not fooled by Sauron’s lies. But the creation of the Rings of Power, bestowing upon their wearers the ability to slow the passage of time and prevent against decay, perfectly represents how their love was always misplaced.
Repeating the mistakes made by Fëanor, the Elves of the Second Age became possessive of Middle-earth, forgetting that it was never meant for them in the first place and that they had no power to control its fate. By refusing to leave, they placed themselves directly in the path of humans; the intended residents of Middle-earth. This coming-to-terms with the concept of mortality is an overarching theme of the Second Age, for Elves (who are immortal but must diminish and leave the lands they love) and for humans (who are literally mortal, “doomed to die”).
The final scene of The Lord Of The Rings finds Galadriel, Elrond, and many of the greatest Elves in Middle-earth boarding a ship bound for paradise – bringing to an end the time of the Elves, and clearing the way for humans. It is a sad moment, but a hopeful one as well, in which the Elves realize at long last that to love something, sometimes you have to let it go. But many fans, particularly of Peter Jackson’s films, describe this scene as confusing – because much of the essential context is only found in The Silmarillion. The Rings Of Power has an opportunity to change that by depicting Fëanor’s fall from grace, and I hope the showrunners take it.
3: The First Alliance Of Elves And Men
The prologue to The Lord Of The Rings, depicting the War of the Last Alliance between Elves and Men and the moment in which Isildur cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand, thereby ending the Second Age and bringing about the Third, has become a staple of film adaptations of the story (granted there have only been two, but The Rings Of Power will likely show this moment a third time), but neither Jackson nor Bakshi had the time to try and explain why that Alliance was the last. It simply was, and that worked for the films because the story of The Lord Of The Rings doesn’t rely on an understanding of Elven interactions with Men during the First and Second Age.
But the first two episodes of The Rings Of Power are rumored to form one three-hour long prologue to the main events of the series, and something I sincerely hope that’s included in that prologue is some mention or reenactment of the first meeting between Elves and Men, because frankly I don’t know how you can tell the story of the Second Age without establishing that Elves and Men used to be the closest of allies. It’d be like launching into the story of A Christmas Carol without first clarifying, beyond a shadow of doubt, that “the Marleys were dead to begin with”.
Men were born with the first rising of the sun, at the beginning of the First Age – very soon after the death of Fëanor, in fact. Following the sun, they traveled westward across Middle-earth for some three-hundred years, to the lands of Beleriand where the Elves were then living. And it was there that a group of Men under the leadership of Balan were discovered one evening by Finrod Felagund, the lord of Nargothrond, who crept warily into their camp and, moved by sudden love for these strange people, took up a harp and sang to them of the blessed land.
Finrod, as I’ve mentioned, is believed to be the character seen in the first image from The Rings Of Power. He was the elder brother of Galadriel, but one of the youngest lords in the host that left paradise – and he had not gone out of love or loyalty to Fëanor, but rather out of fear that Fëanor would lead the Elves astray. In Middle-earth, however, he found a new purpose helping the first Men, welcoming them into his kingdom and teaching them the skills they would need to build their own civilizations. While his fellow Elves were busy clinging to what they had, Finrod was already preparing to relinquish dominion of Middle-earth to Men.
Assuming Finrod is onscreen for more than five seconds (and assuming that’s even Finrod in that screenshot), his meeting with Balan is a scene that we could expect to see in the first episode – hopefully followed by some kind of montage depicting their life together, because there are very few characters in Tolkien’s legendarium who come quite as close to being canonically queer as Balan, the man who abandoned his people to go live with Finrod after spending a couple of days with the guy, and made the intriguing decision to change his name to Bëor (literally, ‘Vassal’ or ‘subordinate’).
Platonic or not, their relationship was so close that Bëor’s entire extended family also swore loyalty to Finrod, and he honored them all with the title of “Elf-friend”. Throughout the First Age, Elves and Men working together beat back the forces of Melkor just long enough for a mariner named Eärendil (himself a half-Elf, born to a human father and Elven mother) to journey across the sea to the realm of the gods with a plea for help. He was successful in his mission, and the gods defeated Melkor, but as Tolkien was no doubt well aware, winning the war is sometimes less difficult than picking up the pieces afterward.
The gods came between Elves and Men, but from the night they first met in Beleriand it was probably inevitable that they would clash over the subject of mortality. In The Silmarillion, we see the first death of a man from the perspective of the Elves, who are startled and saddened when Bëor suddenly dies at the age of ninety-three – still extremely young by Elf years. We don’t see the reaction from Men to the revelation that Elves don’t die, but that’s something I hope The Rings Of Power remedies; thus planting the seeds for the conflict that will define the Second Age.
4: The Death Of Finrod Felagund
Elves don’t die, but they can be killed, and the wars with Melkor claimed thousands of lives. It was an especially unhappy time for people whose names began with F, as Fëanor, Fingolfin, Fingon, Finduilas, and Finrod Felagund at various points all fell victim to Melkor and his minions. I could be here all day recounting the events that led up to each of their deaths, but we don’t have time for that and I highly doubt The Rings Of Power has time for that, even in a three-hour long prologue. Gotta save some stuff for the inevitable First Age spin-off series, am I right?
But out of all the characters listed above, there’s just one whose gruesome death would (a) clearly convey the unforgettable horror and personal tragedy of the wars with Melkor, specifically for the rumored main character of The Rings Of Power, Galadriel, (b) firmly establish the genuine threat posed by Sauron while revealing to the general audience that he was once the servant of an even more terrible Dark Lord, and (c) cap off what could otherwise be a slow-moving, exposition-heavy prologue with a cool and distinctly unique action sequence.
That character is Finrod Felagund. Ah, sweet, kind, selfless Finrod; always ready and willing to put his own life in danger to protect people he barely even knew. Fittingly, it was a Man – Beren of the House of Bëor – whom he died defending, while the two were being held prisoner by Sauron in the werewolf-infested ruins of Finrod’s old fortress on the island of Tol Sirion. For reasons that I feel have never been adequately explained, Sauron spent most of the First Age breeding werewolves on Tol Sirion. At some point he must have stopped, because werewolves seem to have died out by the time of The Lord Of The Rings, but he was obsessed with them for a long time.
Finrod and Beren fell into Sauron’s hands while trying to sneak past Tol Sirion with a company of Elves disguised as orcs. Sauron, a literal shapeshifter and master of illusions, wasn’t fooled for an instant, and “chanted a song of wizardry” to reveal the truth. What followed was a magical contest unlike anything else found in Tolkien’s works, with Finrod singing a song of paradise to defy Sauron and strengthen the spell that hid them. In response, Sauron sang of the shame of the Elves and of Fëanor’s rebellion that had destroyed the peace of paradise, and ultimately defeated Finrod, leaving him and Beren “naked and afraid”.
Then Sauron chained Finrod, and he tossed the Elf and his companions into a deep pit beneath Tol Sirion – and from time to time he would send a werewolf down into the pit to devour one of the companions, until only Finrod and Beren were left. The werewolf came one last time, and this time it came for Beren; but Finrod (who mind you, was completely naked and probably already dying of starvation and thirst) broke his chains using only his raw strength, grabbed the werewolf, and killed it “with his hands and teeth”, which to my mind implies that he…disemboweled the creature? Strangled it? Either way, it was gory and epic.
He died, of course, but saved Beren’s life, and in that same hour Lúthien came to Tol Sirion looking for Beren, and she battled Sauron, using her own magic to defeat the lord of werewolves and bring down the fortress. Sauron was forced to go into hiding, lurking in bat-form in the woods of Dorthonion where neither the Elves nor the wrath of Melkor could reach him. It wasn’t until Lúthien was dead and Melkor was defeated that Sauron finally reappeared at the dawn of the Second Age. Still, he had brought about the death of Finrod, and that was a terrible blow to the Elves.
In Nargothrond, Finrod’s death led to a conflict over succession between his regent Orodreth and the powerful sons of Fëanor who had hoped to usurp the throne. Galadriel’s reaction to her brother’s death is not recorded, and Tolkien wrote so many different versions of her story that it’s difficult to even pin down where she was at the time, but it could have been roughly around this point that Galadriel ventured further into Middle-earth, leaving Beleriand and the War with Melkor to others.
Galadriel will be a major character in The Rings Of Power, and for her not to mention Finrod at any point throughout the series would be very surprising to me – especially seeing as she crosses paths with Sauron during the Second Age and has a rare opportunity to interact with him face-to-face, while he is still cleverly disguised as an Elf and she is trying to figure out who he really is behind his façade. The situation is different, and the roles are reversed, but there’s an intriguing parallel there to Finrod’s unsuccessful deception of Sauron, and it would be poetic if Sauron’s undisguisable disdain for Finrod was what ultimately broke the illusion.
5: The War Of Wrath
The First Age of Middle-earth ended in a brief, tumultuous conflict called the War of Wrath by the Elves – and according to Tolkien, they wrote few tales about it because they did not take part in it, and only witnessed from afar the clash of Melkor’s horde with the mighty host of the Ainur summoned out of the west by Eärendil. I have a suspicion that this was partly an excuse to get out of writing about the war itself, as Tolkien later made a habit out of knocking his characters unconscious right before battles, but the truth is that the gods had no military strategies, no battle plans, nothing from which an author could form a detailed account of this war.
The War is largely described in broad terms: “The evil realm was brought to naught….the northern regions of the world were rent asunder….there was confusion and great noise.” The fury of the gods was so terrible that they broke the land of Beleriand beneath their feet, and all its inhabitants fled further into Middle-earth (where they reunited with Galadriel, who had been chilling out in Lindon for the last century or so). But the only moment from this War of Wrath that Tolkien describes in much depth is the duel between Eärendil and the great dragon Ancalagon, who crushed Melkor’s mountain fortress beneath him when he fell from the sky.
Melkor was tossed into the Void, the Silmarils were placed forever beyond the reach of the Elves, the last son of Fëanor disappeared into self-imposed exile, and the Second Age began. It was a time for rebuilding, a time of hope and joy and celebration. Too bad the gods’ misguided attempts to strongarm Elves and Men into throwing away the last several hundred years of collective growth and development in favor of a ‘return to normalcy’ would ultimately result in another conflict that would span the next three-thousand years.
The gods were at first unconcerned with Men. They gave them an island all to themselves as compensation for their sacrifices, because they trusted that Eru Ilúvatar had a plan for the human race, and they knew that humans needed to proliferate to achieve that plan, but their primary goal was getting the Elves out of Middle-earth before that happened and bringing them back across the sea to paradise. Many Elves refused to go back, but with the ban finally lifted, the fates of Elves and Men began to diverge.
This caused a lot of problems for Men, who understandably wanted to check in with their Elven friends who had departed across the sea, only to be informed that they weren’t even allowed to sail “so far westward that the coasts of Númenor could no longer be seen”. At first, they respected this ban and were content with receiving occasional Elven visitors from paradise in Númenor’s western port cities, but gradually the uneasy feeling that they were being excluded from something gave rise to rumors that the secret to immortality could be found in paradise, but that the gods would not share it with Men.
As they watched more and more of the Elves return across the sea to paradise, forsaking the land over which they had fought and spilled their blood together, it’s easy to imagine how the Númenóreans must have felt – but their growing envy of the Elves and fear of their own fate led to indefensible and increasingly irrational acts of violence as they tried to ward off death with dark magic and necromancy, or desensitize themselves to it by slaughtering the inhabitants of Middle-earth. By time Sauron came among them, they were already on the brink of breaking ties with Elves and gods entirely.
Sauron exploited the situation, just as he did with the Elves, and convinced the Númenóreans that they could obtain immortality by force from the gods. At this point, you’d think that the gods would maybe want to step in and quietly remove Sauron from the picture, but nah, they let him openly butcher Elf-friends and prisoners of war on an altar dedicated to Melkor for years while only occasionally communicating their displeasure via eagle. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Sauron was able to persuade the Númenóreans into attacking paradise, at which point the gods finally responded by…opening a chasm under the island to swallow it whole.
Much of this could have been avoided, perhaps, if the gods had not been so obsessed with trying to divide Elves and Men across two separate continents that they accidentally caused them to fear and hate each other, or if they had devoted literally any of their infinite time and energy to locating Sauron and Melkor’s other lieutenants instead of giving them freedom to roam across Middle-earth. Or perhaps not. Tolkien’s works allow for multiple, equally valid readings, and it’s important to remember that The Silmarillion is told from an Elven perspective, and Elven biases are intentionally engrained into it.
Whichever angle The Rings Of Power takes, blaming gods, Elves, Men, or all of the above, the events of the War of Wrath (and its immediate aftermath) are a vital prelude to the fall of Númenor. Besides that, there’s an opportunity to show off the largest dragon ever (and director J.A. Bayona has plenty of experience with giant reptiles), and for some truly groundbreaking action sequences. The fact that Amazon’s official map for The Rings Of Power also draws attention to the scattering of islands left over from Beleriand after the War of Wrath suggests that this is something we will see early in the series, and I couldn’t be more excited.
So what do you think of the points on my list? Stay tuned for part two of what may or may not be an ongoing series (is The Akallabêth long enough to warrant a whole separate post?), and as always, share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
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.
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.
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.
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!