The Rings Of Power questions, answered

Ismael Cruz Córdova as Arondir in The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power

Ismael Cruz Córdova as Aron in The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power
Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video

Since it was announced in 2017, Prime Video’s The Lord Of The Rings has been a real conundrum. A $1 billion Lord Of The Rings without Frodo, Gollum, or Bill the Pony? And there won’t be any Shire, the plans for Helm’s Deep are years from being drafted, and meat will definitely not be on the menu, boys. Amazon’s tricksy, isn’t she, precious?

In this case, the title, The Lord Of The Rings does not refer to JRR Tolkien‘s masterwork but rather the literal “Lord of the Rings,” also known as Sauron, the Dark Lord who conceives of and claims ownership over the Rings of Power. The series will follow his rise and eventual fall, but there’s still a heck of a lot that we’re unsure about.

With The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power days away from premiering, we’re awash in information. Tolkien’s canon is rich with detail and incident, so pinning down when this show takes place and which of the author’s work to study for prep has been difficult. At Comic-Con, co-showrunner Patrick McKay said that Amazon “bought the rights to basically 10,000 years of Middle-earth history.” Thankfully, McKay and co-showrunner JD Payne did settle on a specific period to set their epic: The 3,400 years that make up the Second Age. So let’s get into it and answer the biggest questions about this very big show as best we can.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – Main Teaser | Prime Video


What is the Second Age?

Middle-earth history is broken into four ages. The First Age was the first era of Arda (or Earth), beginning when Eru Ilúvatar (essentially God of Middle-earth) created the Elves and ended with the overthrow of Morgoth, the first Dark Lord and Sauron’s boss. This time period is documented extensively in The SilmarillionJRR Tolkien’s posthumously published book of lore that the author’s son, Christopher Tolkien, edited and released in 1977.

However, as much as we’d love to see moments from the First Age, the Second Age is exciting because Tolkien never finished it. Because he died during the writing of his opus, The Silmarillionour knowledge of this history comes from the Lord Of The Rings appendices, ancillary books approved by Tolkien’s son, and recaps like The Fellowship Of The Ring‘s ‌“The Council Of Elrond” chapter, a 40-page Cliff’s Notes retelling of the era.

By choosing the Second Age of Middle-earth, Payne and McKay set up a prequel structure akin to the Star Wars prequels oath House Of The Dragon, bringing viewers back to a time of prosperity well before the trouble began for Luke Skywalker or Jon Snow. Middle-earth in the Second Age is thriving compared to the Third Age Lord Of The Rings trilogy is set. The Third Age has a post-apocalyptic wasteland vibe, but people were quite happy before that.

Beginning with the destruction of Morgoth, the Second Age tells of Númenor, the island kingdom of Men and home of the Númenóreans, a noble race of seven-foot-tall warriors. Númenor is Tolkien’s Atlantis, a powerful, nautical society doomed to be swallowed by the sea they worship. In Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship Of The Ring, the Númenóreans, also known as the Dúnedain, make an appearance in the first scene, with Elendil and Isildur getting up close and personal with Sauron. That scene closes the curtain on the Second Age, with Isildur claiming the ring for himself and damning the world with his folly.

Númenor

Númenor
Photo: Prime Video


Who are all these people?

As you’ve hopefully noticed, even though this show is called The Lord Of The Rings, these are not the characters we came to know across Jackson’s six movies nor Tolkien’s books. The three most recognizable in that context are Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), Elrond (Robert Aramayo), and Sauron. Judging by the trailerwe assume Sauron is more of a background villain The Rings Of Power—though, since he’s the titular character who commissions the titular jewelry, we presume he’ll pop up in this first season. What we don’t want to do is spoil any of that story, so we’ll just say he’s probably around and gathering strength.

The two most familiar characters on the show are Elrond and Galadriel. Originally played by Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett in Jackson’s films, Elrond and Galadriel maintain the entire history of Middle-earth, having lives that span all Three Ages. They’re like R2-D2 and C3PO in that way. Robert Aramayo takes over as young Elrond, a half-Elven. At the end of the First Age, Elrond is given the choice of whether or not he wants to be an Elf or one of the Númenor. He chooses Elf, but his twin brother Elros chooses me—and discovers and settles in Númenor as their first king. However, it’s unclear if Elros is on the show and whether Aramayo will be pulling double duty.

Benjamin Walker as High King Gil-galad, Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, and Robert Aramayo as Elrond

Benjamin Walker as High King Gil-galad, Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, and Robert Aramayo as Elrond
Photo: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

Galadriel (played by Morfydd Clark) is one of the most powerful Elves in Middle-earth. Jackson gave her a haunting, ethereal power Fellowship, but here she’s in warrior mode with her cool armor. At Comic-Con, Clark noted that “it’s not actually her armor. It’s a gift from someone else.” We’ve never seen this side of her onscreen, but in Unfinished TalesTolkien mentions that she gets her war on.

As for Númenóreans, you’ve got Elendil and Isildur running around, who are good rulers but end up blowing it at the last second, which is the story of Númenor. Both characters pop up in the prologue of Jackson’s Fellowship, and Isildur’s name follows his heir: Aragorn. Isildur’s failure is what drives much of Aragorn’s self-doubt in the films, with his ancestor’s cursed name hanging around his neck. For example, “Isildur’s Bane” is a common nickname for the One Ring.

LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring – Opening Scene – (HDR – 4K – 5.1)

One of the most surprising features of the show is that there is a new character, Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), an elf stationed in the Southlands where he keeps watch on Sauron-aligned humans. Interestingly enough, his story is one familiar to Middle-earth: a romance between human and elf. Yes, Arondir will play in a gender-flipped Beren and Lúthien (or Arwen and Aragorn) with the human Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi). Elf-human relationships apparently happen once in every age.

Last but not least, the Dwarves play a big part in the show, with the legendary Durin IV (Owain Arthur), who oversees a fully functional Moria with his wife and queen Disa (Sophia Nomvete), the first Dwarf woman ever depicted in a Tolkien adaptation. They rule Moria, which we’ll finally get to see in all its glory.

Owain Arthur as Prince Durin IV and Sophia Nomvete as Princess Disa

Owain Arthur as Prince Durin IV and Sophia Nomvete as Princess Disa
Photo: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video


What of these phony Hobbits?

For a so-called Lord Of The Rings, there’s a surprising lack of Hobbits. Sadly, this story takes place in a pre-Hobbit age, or, at least, an age during which Hobbits didn’t do anything “impressive.” Thankfully, this left the Harfoots (Harfeet!) up for grabs. At Comic-Con, Payne said that because “Tolkien doesn’t say anything about Harfoots not having done anything impressive in the Second Age,” they felt the creative license to bring them into the show.

And thank Eru for that; otherwise, this story would be dominated by the noble pursuits of Númenóreans and Elves, who aren’t exactly cutups. Humans live for war and Elves for touching leaves and living forever. It’s up to halflings to actually provide some levity as audience surrogates. The main Harfoot, Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), is said to have the adventurousness of a Took—although her name implies some of the connection as the famous Fellowship-member Merry Brandybuck. We’ll see what mischief she’ll get up to and how such a small thing can become a great hero.

Megan Richards as Poppy Proudfellow and Markella Cavenagh as Elanor

Megan Richards as Poppy Proudfellow and Markella Cavenagh as Elanor “Norie” Brandyfoot
Photo: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video


Does this have anything to do with Peter Jackson’s trilogy?

This has been one of the hardest questions to get a straight answer on, and even the creators are a little dodgy when pushed. At Comic-Con, they said that it’s all Tolkien’s story, and they, like the Jackson films, are indebted to him alone. Idol it’s hard not to see some character designs from Jackson worm its way in. While the Elves and Dwarves, as well as their armor, architecture, and haircuts, resemble Jackson’s aesthetic, the Balrog is straight up the same design.

There are other indications that Amazon is staging this as a soft prequel to the Oscar-winning trilogy. Like Jackson’s films, The Rings Of Power was also shot in New Zealand with Weta Workshop, the groundbreaking visual effects house that made its name on Jackson’s series, handling post-production, props, and digital effects on both the Lord Of The Rings oath The Hobbit trilogies.

However, in an official capacity, Jackson is not involved with the series. Jackson said Amazon reached out to him, but when he asked to see scripts, the company known for delivering products quickly ghosted him.

The Tolkien estate has never been a fan of Jackson’s version of Middle-earth and allegedly rejected him coming onboard. Tolkien’s family wasn’t the only group putting the kibosh on his involvement; Amazon’s lawyers also didn’t think it was a great move legally. Warner Bros. owns the rights to Jackson’s movies, and this show is through Amazon. In a statement, the company said, “In pursuing the rights for our show, we were obliged to keep the series distinct and separate from the films.”

For once, this is a good thing. As much as it would be cool to have a scene where a de-aged Sean Astin reads from the Red Book that Frodo (Elijah Wood) gave to him at the end of Return Of The King, it limits the scope of the show. Let’s have a new one Lord Of The Rings that is free to enjoy and explore Middle-earth without being attached to another filmmaker’s work.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power isn’t an easy thing to prepare for. It’s a massive story that will (hopefully) deepen as the series unfolds. Will it contain everything fans want to see? No, but there’s nothing left to do but see the thing for ourselves on September 1.

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