In less than one week, Amazon Prime Video’s ‘The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power’, is set to air to the public. As the first on-screen Tolkien work since The Hobbit: The Battle Of Five Armies (which many fans criticize for its non-canon plotlines and the over-use of CGI), it is understandable that fans of Tolkien’s legendarium are nervous. In this post, I am going to break down some of the things that we can expect from the upcoming series, as well of things that will make you as excited as finding Mithril in Khazad-Dum, and as wary as The Faithful Númenorians of Annatar. Hide your rings, folks, and let’s take a look …
What To Know About The Second Age
In the history of Tolkien’s world, Arda, we know that there are at least five “ages”: The Years Of The Trees, The First, Second, Third, and The Fourth Age (which started after the One Ring was destroyed). As the name suggests, this time period is the second age after the destruction of the Trees of Valinor, and began after the destruction of Beleriand during the First Age.
The beginning of this age saw the creation of the lands of Lindon for the elves, and the island of Númenor for men. Remember these names as they will be important in the upcoming series! At the end of the First Age, much of the Dwarven realm in the Blue Mountains was destroyed. Therefore, in the beginning of the Second Age, many of those dwarves migrated to Khazad-Dûm, joining the Longbeards there, where they found mithril. Also during this age, Sauron constructs his stronghold of Barad-dûr in Mordor, disguises himself as a fair Elven Lord, creates the one ring, takes control of much of Middle Earth, and is eventually (temporarily) defeated in The War Of The Last Alliance. During this epic battle, which marks the end of the age, the ring is cut from Sauron’s hand by Isildur, son of Elendil (the first king of Gondor and Arnor after the destruction on Númenor).
“The Edain came at last over leagues of sea and saw afar the land that was prepared for them, Andor, the Land of Gift, shimmering in a golden haze. Then they went up out of the sea and found a country fair and fruitful, and they were glad.” – The Fall Of Númenor
During the First Age, Eärendil (father of Elros and Elrond) attempted to sail West to plea with the Valar to assist in the destruction of Morgoth (the first bad guy of Middle Earth and master of Sauron). Eärendil was the first mortal to ever step onto the land of Valinor, and because of this was given the power for himself and his offspring to choose their fate: to become human, or elves. Therefore, Elrond chose to be an elf and was granted immortality, and Elros chose to be human. Because of Eärendil’s bravery and the help of the Valar, Morgoth was defeated. Beleriand was then destroyed and thus marked the end of the First Age, allowing for the creation of Númenor for Elros and his peoples (a reward for his father’s deeds).
For most of the Second Age, Númenor was an island of great valor, and the peoples that lived there had long lives (the average lifespan was over 200 years old) and remarkably stood, on average, over 7ft in height. They were noble, sea-faring men who had a rich, knowledgeable civilization. The Númenóreans, for most of the island’s history, revered the Valar and the elves. As it was a rule, that they must not to attempt to sail to the lands of Valinor. Therefore, the Númenóreans sailed east and established ties with the elves of Middle Earth. One such elf was the last High King of the Noldor, Gil-Galad.
It was Gil-Galad who sent a letter in S.A (Second Age) 882 warning the king of Númenor about a growing shadow and feared that it was Sauron at work. More on that later. And during Sauron’s increasing power and influence, some of the Númenóreans fell under his influence, worshiping Morgoth and despising the Valar. During the reign of Tar-Ancalimon in S.A 2251, the land was divided into those that continued their reverence for the Valar and elves and even continued speaking elvish, and those that were wholly opposed to their influence, resented the Valar for ‘The Gift Of Men’ (human’s mortality), and believed the Valar to be cruel and unjust. Their hatred fuelled many of them to test the limits of their human abilities and conquer some of the lands of Middle Earth.
From S.A 2280, The Unfaithful Númenóreans constructed the city of Umbar (one of the first great Númenórean strongholds in Middle Earth), and expanded their conquests to the south lands of Middle Earth, including the land of Harad. At first, they built a good relationship with the Haradrim, passing on some of their knowledge for such things as agriculture. However, as the rebellion against the elves and Valar continued, the Unfaithful Númenóreans did unspeakable things to these peoples.
Before his death in S.A 3255, king Tar-Palantir, who was the son of one of The Unfaithful Kings, ruled as the last Faithful king of Númenor. Despite his faith, no help did he receive in his efforts to mend ties between his estranged peoples and the Valar. And when he passed, his only daughter (and rightful heir) was unlawfully married to the leader of The Unfaithful, Pharazôn. He took the sceptre and became King Ar-Pharazôn. This tyrant king was the most cruel and wicked of all the kings of Númenor, and thus became the last king before the destruction of the island.
“Ar-Pharazôn the Golden was the proudest and most powerful of all the Kings, and no less than the kingship of the world was his desire.” – The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A
After the destruction of Melkor, Sauron’s leader, Sauron went into hiding, lying low from the Valar to regain his strength. Throughout the first centuries of the Second Age, Sauron worked to rally together any of those whose wills could be easily corrupted. Such were those of the peoples of the south of Middle Earth and Harad. As early as S.A 882, Gil-Galad could sense an evil brooding and sent a letter to the king of Númenor, reporting his suspicion that the servant of Melkor was at work. In S.A 1000, Sauron constructed his fortress of Barad-dûr, in Mordor. With his great leader forever cast into the Void, Sauron sought for himself the title of the Ruler Of Arda.
It is known in Tolkien’s writing that Sauron was a Maia and a great smith, who learnt a lot from the Vala Aulë before he turned to Melkor and became his most trusted lieutenant. A fun fact about Aulë: he was the great smith of the Valar, and created the dwarves. I highly recommend looking up the story of the creation of the dwarves. It’s very fascinating.
As Sauron’s forces grew in Mordor, he sought to corrupt the elves as well. Therefore, Sauron took for himself a disguise, a fair elven emissary of Valinor named Annatar, the Lord Of Gifts. He took this form and went to Eregion, hoping to befriend and corrupt the elves of that area. He attempted to befriend the High King Gil-Galad and Elrond, but was unsuccessful. Although Gil-Galad and Elrond did not know that Annatar was in fact Sauron in fair form, they did not trust him.
Sauron then befriended Celebrimbor, the grandson of Fëanor (one of the most prolific elves of the First Age who created the Silmarils). Celebrimbor was deceived by Sauron’s fair form and of his great knowledge (remember, Sauron was originally Aulë’s pupil). It is from this time that Celebrimbor made the 19 rings of power, and taking the knowledge of their creation, Sauron created his own master ring. He forged the One Ring in the cracks of Orodruin (Mt Doom), as the lava within was the hottest substance in Middle Earth, and provided the privacy Sauron required to make such an evil ring.
It is important to know that Sauron was not involved in the forging of the 19 rings of power, and therefore the three elven rings, seven dwarven rings, and the nine rings for men were not corrupted in the same way as the One Ring. However, Sauron did have an influence on how they were made, as some of the practices that were taught to Celebrimbor from Sauron were used in their creation. Therefore, Sauron was able to create his One Ring, that bound the others to his. We see this prominently in the Third Age during the events of The Lord Of The Rings.
Once Sauron put on his ring, the elves were aware if his presence and hid their rings of power. Celebrimbor gave two rings to Gil-Galad (who later gave one to Círdan and one to Elrond), and one of the elven rings to Galadriel. The rest of the rings of power were hidden by Celebrimbor. Enraged that the elves would not bend to Sauron, he issued a full-scale assault onto the land of Eregion, hoping to take back the rings. He discovered the nine rings and captured Celebrimbor, torturing him for two years for the whereabouts of the three and the seven. Celebrimbor was killed in S.A 1697 and hung upon a pole as war banner.
With the nine in his possession, Sauron gave the rings to men who were the must susceptible to corruption. As we all know, these rings turned the men into wraiths called the Nazgûl, who were instrumental in the aid of Sauron throughout The War Of The Ring. Surprisingly, the seven rings that were given to the dwarves had the same power as the nine, but the dwarves were far more resilient than expected. They did not turn to wraiths as the men did, but caused the dwarves to be more hungry for gold and riches. Most of the seven rings are completely unaccounted for, perhaps melted by dragon fire?
In S.A 1700, Sauron and his forces attacked the Númenórean and Gil-Galad led army at Gwathló, but was utterly defeated. In this disastrous loss, Sauron and his remaining forces withdrew to Mordor to regain his strength over the next many centuries.
“Now Sauron’s lust and pride increased, until he knew no bounds, and he determined to make himself master of all things in Middle-earth, and to destroy the Elves, and to compass if he might, the downfall of Númenor. He brooked no freedom nor any rivalry, and he named himself Lord of the Earth. A mask he still could wear so that if he wished he might deceive the eyes of Men, seeming to them wise and fair. But he ruled rather by force and fear, if they might avail; and those who perceived his shadow spreading over the world called him the Dark Lord and named him the Enemy; and he gathered under his government all the evil things of the days of Morgoth that remained on earth or beneath it, and the Orcs were at his command and multiplied like flies.”
— The Silmarillion, Akallabêth
Annatar And The Fall Of Númenor
After another attempt to assail the Númenóreans in battle, Annatar was captured and brought to Númenor in S.A3262. At that time, the last king of Númenor, King Ar-Pharazôn, was ruling the island. He was a proud tyrant who completely outlawed the customs and language of the elves. It was a very dark time in Númenor’s history and was ripe for the influence of a beguiling Annatar, who used the guise as the Lord Of Gifts to manipulate the already corruptible men of Númenor.
For those who are familiar with the events of The Lord Of The Rings in the Third Age, this may sound familiar to you – and you’d be right. This story of Annatar and king Ar-Pharazôn is vaguely similar to Grima Wormtongue corrupting King Theoden of Rohan. Although, clearly different in that Ar-Pharazôn in this case was already a terrible character, but it’s interesting to see this dynamic playing out thousands of years before the events of The War of the Ring.
During this time, Sauron convinced the Númenóreans to worship him and make human sacrifices in his honour (these people were usually enslaved men from the lands south of Mordor, or Harad), cut down the White Tree Of Númenor (Nimloth), and encouraged them to rebel against the Valar and attempted to assault Valinor itself.
Outraged by the rebellion, the God (Eru Ilúvatar) brought upon the land a great flood. A few of the Faithful, led by Elendil, were able to escape the flood and later established the lands of Gondor and Arnor. The Unfaithful did not survive the destruction of Númenor, and even Annatar lost his elven body. Sauron’s spirit then returned to Mordor where he gained strength until the War Of The Last Alliance, where his ring was ultimately cut by Islidur, marking the end of the Second Age.
[…] and she grew to be tall beyond the measure even of the women of the Noldor; she was strong of body, mind, and will […] Even among the Eldar she was accounted beautiful, and her hair was held a marvel unmatched. It was golden like the hair of her father and of her foremother Indis, but richer and more radiant, for its gold was touched by some memory of the starlike silver of her mother; and the Eldar said that the light of the Two Trees, Laurelin and Telperion, had been snared in her tresses.
– Unfinished Tales, “The History of Galadriel and Celeborn”
Galadriel is, quite obviously, a very interesting character that is certainly a major feature for the upcoming Rings Of Power series. There is a fair amount of history about Galadriel from The Years Of The Trees and the First Age that we aren’t going to go into depth with, so if you’re interested, I definitely recommend picking up a copy of The Silmarillion book and having a read on it. We will, of course, go through the history of Galadriel through the Second Age, and theorise where the show might be heading with her character development throughout the seasons.
Galadriel was a high Noldor princess, from the line of Finwë, who was around during the Light Of The Trees in The Blessed Realm, and was amongst those that joined the host of Fëanor but took no oath and did not participate in the Kinslaying. It was always her goal to establish a realm of her own in Middle Earth, and she was said to be proud but clever. Throughout the events of the First Age, Galadriel, for the was most part, was secluded from the wars that took place, and towards the end of the age, she passed into Eriador to distance from the wars that were taking place in Beleriand. Her brother, the mighty Finrod Felagund, often saw his sister in his land of Nargathrond, but in later years, journeyed with Beren in an attempt to take back one of the Silmarils. However, they are captured by Sauron and tortured by wolves. Finrod valiantly takes a fatal bite intended for Beren, thus dying in that awful place.
I think it is good to know some context about Finrod as well, as from the promotional videos, it seems his dead body will shown in the series. And by the looks of the trailers, Galadriel takes Finrod’s sword.
After the destruction of Melkor, who was forever cast into the Void, at the end of the First Age, Galadriel spent time in Lindon with the High King of the Noldor Gil-Galad before ruling an area west of the Misty Mountains in Eregion, under the rule of Gil-Galad. During the end of the first millenium of the Second Age, one of the kings of Númenor, Aldarion, sailed to Lindon to form an alliance with the Noldor King. During this visit, Aldarion gifts Gil-Galad seeds of the Malinornë tree of the Blessed Realm, which he gave to Galadriel (these were the seeds that Galadriel sowed in Lothlorien, the Mallorn trees).
It is unclear if Galadriel stayed with her husband Celeborn, who often fought against assaults of orcs on the eastern side of the Mist Mountains, or if she ventured off without him. I’m sure we will see in the upcoming series, Amazon’s creative license in full action regarding her travels, as it is confirmed that she will be in Númenor at some point in the show. We do know, though, that she did not trust Annatar, the Lord Of Gifts, and when it was revealed that he was in fact Sauron, she advised Celebrimbor to hide the rings of power. And thus Celebrimbor gave her the elven ring Nenya (the ring of water).
She then went on to create the land of Lothlorien, and only after Sauron was defeated, and the One Ring was no longer in his possession, did she use her elven ring to protect her land.
The Importance Of Knowing The History
I believe it is helpful to know what Tolkien wrote about the Second Age as we go into the upcoming series, and what is up for speculation/unknown. As Amazon doesn’t have the rights to use anything other than what is written in The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, the majority of the canon aspects for this show will come from from the Appendices in The Return Of The King.
This obviously raises a number of issues. First of all, there is very little explained about the Second Age in these works (which Amazon will have to fill in creatively). Not to mention the changes in plotlines. As The Return of The King was published before The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales (as they were compiled and edited by J.R.R Tolkien’s son, Christopher Tolkien), there were updates in the events and whereabouts of characters in Tolkien’s later works.
In that case, does it mean that the series will have to follow the older versions of theses events? And lastly, Tolkien considered the Second Age the Dark Ages of Arda’s history and there were purposely fewer details explored. Therefore, Amazon (which we have already seen) will need to add a lot of “filler” details. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but this does make a lot of fans nervous as original characters and plotlines will need to be introduced.
And because of these reasons, I believe it is all the more important to learn about the details of this age before going into the series so that we can know what is more likely the canon version, and what is Amazon’s creative interpretation.
The Upcoming Series
The Stanger A.K.A Meteor Man
So let’s start with the most mysterious and allusive character that we’ve seen in the trailers, The Stranger, or, as fans have dubbed, The Meteor Man. In the trailers, we see a light shoot across the skies of Middle Earth and crash into the ground, and a grey-bearded, unclad man is revealed. In the rubble, the Meteor man is discovered by two halflings, Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot and Poppy Proudfellow. So who could this mysterious man be? Let’s explore some of the theories out there …
Sauron is the most obvious choice, and the character that first came to mind for most people (it did for me at least). And while it could be Sauron coming to earth, pretending to be an emissary from Valinor, there are a number of issues with this theory. For one, it is not canon to Tolkien’s writing as we know that during this period, Sauron was already in Middle Earth, so why would Amazon bother to have him fall from the skies? Another point that clearly rules Sauron out of the equation is that the man that emerges from the meteor rubble is definitely older and doesn’t look like a fair elven emissary for the Valar! However outlandish it may seem now for this character to be Sauron in disguise, it can not be wholly ruled out as Amazon has all the power to change Tolkien’s original storylines. With that in mind, would they really want to? Would fans be happy?
Although my first impression when I saw the first trailer leaned towards the idea of it being Sauron, I quickly changed my mind due to these points (especially as later trailers revealed The Stranger to be an old man). For me, it wouldn’t make sense for Amazon to make this alteration, the pay-off just wouldn’t be worth it.
ONE OF THE WIZZARDS:
I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you why this is a popular theory, as the appearance alone of the Meteor Man certainly suggests this. As we can see in the trailers, the Meteor man is elderly, with bright blue eyes and rugged grey clothes. So could this theory be plausible? The small amount of written material on the five wizards does not indicate that they came to Middle Earth by any means similar to that of a meteor, but rather, by boat, and not until thousands of years later in the Third Age. That is not to say that it is impossible. Again, Amazon can alter as they wish, but in Tolkien’s work we know that the wizards were Maiar who lived in Valinor before being given new forms as wizards in the Third Age. However, Gandalf was curious about the children of Ilúvatar and would sometimes go to Middle Earth and interact with the elves that inhabited the lands.
Now, do I want this to be the case? Certainly not. I would be disappointed if it ends up being Gandalf or Sauraman. That being said, if it is one of the two wizards, or Radagast, I could come around to the idea (especially as the Blue Wizards are far more mysterious and there is a lot more unknown about these two). However intriguing this theory is, it still seems unlikely and is likely a red herring by Amazon.
THE MAN IN THE MOON
Now, a very interesting theory that has been circling online concerns a poem mentioned in The Adventures Of Tom Bombadil, called ‘The Man In The Moon Came Down Too Soon’. This was sung by the Gondorians and later (In The Fellowship of The Ring) Frodo recites an adaptation of this by Bilbo Baggins called ‘The Man In The Moon Stayed Up Too Late’, which depicts a man who lives in the moon ,comes down to earth, and has one too many pints which causes a lot of shenanigans.
The original poem from The Adventures Of Tom Bombadil goes like this:
“… He twinkled his feet, as he thought of the meat,
of pepper, and punch galore;
And he tripped unaware on his slanting stair,
and like a meteor,
A star in flight, ere Yule one night
flickering down he fell
From his laddery path to a foaming bath
in the windy Bay of Bel.”
As we can we see, the imagery is strikingly similar. And if i’m being honest, is one of the most interesting theories out there. However, there are a bunch of issues with this idea. For one, Amazon does not have the rights to the works of The Adventures Of Tom Bombadil, but could use the adapted version by Bilbo, but I’m sure that The Stranger is not going to be a drunk who came to earth to have a merry old time. Another issue, of course, is the location mentioned. For the original poem, the location is the Bay of Belfalas (which wouldn’t make sense for why the Harfoots in Amazon’s series would find him), and in the second poem, the location is clearly an inn, but there probably weren’t any inns in the area that he probably landed in the show.
An interesting speculation about this theory is that it was a Maia, and that the legend of this event passed on from generations until it was twisted into the outlandish but amusing story that it became when Bilbo later wrote it into a poem. While highly unlikely, I still find this one of the obscure yet fascinating theories.
AN ORIGINAL CHARACTER
Now with all of this being said, there is absolutely nothing stopping Amazon from making this a new character, and if executed well, could be a great edition to the series. It is certainly interesting to think about who it could be if it was an original character. Perhaps it is a Maia, or something more sinister. Who knows! Either way, there are a number of directions that this could go, and in my opinion, if the showrunners are able make the character believable (meaning that it really feels like it is something that Tolkien could have put in), and if they’re able to have a purpose that doesn’t contradict any of the major events/take away from any of the canon lore, then I am definitely open minded. I’m really excited to see where they take this character. What about you?
As anyone who is familiar with Tolkien’s writings on hobbits knows, there is no mention of any species of hobbits (including harfoots) in the Second Age. However non-canon this introduction is, it will be interesting to see how Amazon uses their creative license to depict these early ancestors of the hole-dwelling, ale-loving hobbits we know in the Third Age.
This character is another big mystery and someone many fans are eagerly waiting to know more about. What we do know is that this character is a Southling and it looks from the trailer that he will meet Galadriel and end up in Númenor. There is something in his appearance and tone that would indicate a darkness. I, personally, would love to see this character later become a ringwraith.
Arondir and Bronwyn
Now these original characters will be interesting to explore as the episodes drops. Bronwyn is a Southlander who has a forbidden love with Arondir. Arondir is a silven elf, and watching the trailer, we see that he will be one of the main action character. To be honest, I’m not thrilled with the idea of an elf-human love again. This kind of pairing is only successful a couple of times in the history of Arda, so unless this romance ends tragically (and we see how generally unsuccessful elf and human love is, setting up the difficulty for Aragorn and Arwen’s love), I don’t know how into it I’m going to be.
Another interesting thing to note, both of these characters are supposed to be in the South Lands of Tirharad (a non-canon location), so I would expect the scenery to be more like a desert? Not sure, but will be looking forward to seeing it in the upcoming series. Also, I just have to say that this photo looks stunning!
Although, at first glance, I assumed this character to be Sauron, upon a re-watch it seems unlikely that this character will be Sauron. While we have no indication of who this indication is, it could be a cult leader of Melkor worship. As we know, Annatar will later influence the Unfaithful to worship Melkor, so it would make sense for this character.
Theo is another mysterious original character for the show. From the trailers, we are not given a lot of information as to who this character is and what his arc will be for the story, but I suspect something sinister. Theo finds a broken sword that looks quite menacing and we see another character say to him, “have you heard of Sauron?”. It would make sense if he ends up learning about the Dark Lord Sauron and joins his army.
Hopes & Fears
To say that I’m cautiously optimistic would be generous indeed. While I’m keeping my expectations low, I am extremely excited to be diving into Arda once more. The expansive history and beauty of Middle Earth is so impressive that to be able to see it on-screen once more is unbelievably exciting. I just hope that they do Tolkien’s world justice. With that in mind, let’s go through some of the things that I am hopeful for, and things that I am sceptical and will need to see in action to judge properly.
- This series has the opportunity to show the key themes of the Second Age in a very compelling way: the mortality of man, the rise of Sauron, Sauron’s cunning, manipulative ways, the elves wanting to preserve their power and beauty in Middle Earth, the turn of men’s faith in the Valar, and the alliances of the races (men, elves, and dwarves).
- The forging of the rings of power. I am really excited to see this on the on-screen, as it is a monumental moment in the history of Middle Earth.
- To see a different side of the Galadriel that we know and see her story arc develop.
- I am excited to see Khazad-Dûm in its prime, especially from all the references and depictions given (particularly in The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings)
- I am excited to see Annatar and his influence on not only the Noldor elves of Eregion (including Celebrimbor), and the men of Númenor.
- The over-use of CGI/unnatural-looking landscapes or creatures.
- The compressed timeline. As the Second Age spans thousands of years, the show will have to adjust the timelines to make a cohesive plot. This means that they will have to skip over a lot, and I am worried that we will either not see key events or it will be brushed over.
- Having two Durins within the same lifetime. Tolkien implicitly details that Durin was not an inherited name, passed on from generation to generation, but the dwarves believed that Durin (the first dwarven lord) would occasionally reincarnate. Therefore, if one would possess the likeness of Durin the first, then he would be given the title of Durin. So it is very strange to see Durin the third and Durin the fourth together.
So what to you think? Are you excited about the upcoming series or have the trailers not lived up to your expectations?
For further reading: The Lord Of The Rings Wiki https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Second_Age Tolkien Gateway: https://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Second_Age The Silmarillion – by J.R.R Tolkien edited by Christopher Tolkien The Appendices, The Return of the King – by J.R.R Tolkien Unfinished Tales – by J.R.R Tolkien edited by Christopher Tolkien
For more about me: https://abbeyjacksonauthor.com/