The battle for Middle-earth draws near with the premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Set long before the events of the trilogy of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, this new series will depict Middle-earth’s war with the Dark Lord Sauron during the Second Age and the forging of the titular Rings of Power. This show will be the first major Hollywood adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s acclaimed series of novels since The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies from director Peter Jackson in 2014.
Tolkien’s fantasy world is rich with history and characters that have made it the beloved epic it is today. Though Jackson set a high standard for adapting Middle-earth for live action with his original Lord of the Rings trilogy, the show’s creators seem to have done their homework in developing this long-awaited series. There are a lot of important details about Middle-earth that audiences need to be aware of as they go into this new series. For those who feel like they need to refresh themselves on Tolkien’s novels before watching this show, here’s the gist of what audiences will and could see.
In the Second Age, Sauron began his quest to conquer Middle-earth, taking the form of “Annatar, the Lord of Gifts”. While under this righteous guise, Sauron tricked the Elves into forging the Rings of Power, which he would later control with the One Ring forged on Mount Doom. Only after the Elves learned of Sauron’s deception did the Dark Lord begin his bloody war with Middle-earth. The public has speculated that the trailers have already revealed Sauron as Annatar through a mysterious blank figure.
Some people may think that Sauron is the biggest threat to Middle-earth, but there was another time. Sauron was once Melkor’s lieutenant, the most powerful member of the immortal Valar. However, Melkor rebelled against his creator, the One God Eru, turned to evil and became known as Morgoth (essentially making him Tolkien’s version of Satan).
Morgoth plunged the world into darkness by destroying the Two Lamps. He later destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor, killed the Elf-king of Noldor, and stole the three Silmarils, leading to the War of the Jewels during the First Age. For his crimes, Morgoth was banished from the world and thrown into the Void, where he would remain until the end of days. Outside of Tolkien’s books, no other media based on Tolkien’s works put the spotlight on this ancient evil. But since the series seems to lean heavily on elements introduced in The Silmarillionaudiences finally get to see Morgoth in live action, most likely in a flashback to the First Age.
The sudden appearance of The Stranger (played by Daniel Weyman), falling from the sky onto a flaming meteor, appears to be the catalyst for the events of the series. As his name implies, the Stranger’s origins are currently unknown. However, it is possible that he is a Maiar (a lesser version of the Valar) sent to Middle Earth in human form to warn the people of Sauron’s return. This visitor could even be the great wizard Gandalf, who set Bilbo and his nephew Frodo on their adventures through Middle-earth. Weyman’s character bears a strong resemblance to Gandalf.
One of the most striking images seen in the show thus far is that of the Two Trees of Valinor. Tolkien readers know that the Valar planted these trees to act as the main source of light in the world after the destruction of the Two Lamps. But after Morgoth destroyed both trees with the help of the primordial spider Ungoliant (Shelob’s mother), the Valar transformed the remaining flower and fruit into the Sun and Moon. Since the series takes place in the Second Age, audiences will likely see them only in a flashback to the First Age, quite possibly before seeing Morgoth destroy them.
As the leader of Lothlorien, Galadriel is one of the most prominent and powerful Elves to grace Middle-earth. Though the books never gave her much of a role in the First Age, trailers for the series imply that her iteration of Galadriel fought in the wars of that time. It is possible that he even fought in battle against Morgoth, which could explain why he is so afraid of his former lieutenant, Sauron.
One of the most notable aspects of the trailers came in the form of the flaming Balrog. He is remembered by the public as the creature that fought Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring. But the Balrog have had a long and bloody history intertwined with Morgoth. Like Sauron, the Balrogs were once angelic Maiar who were corrupted by Morgoth, fighting for his master in the War of Wrath before going into hiding. Whether or not they’ll serve Sauron in this series remains to be seen, but it’s clear that at least one will burn up on audience TV screens.
This elf-smith is an important character in the history of Middle-earth, as he is the one who forges the Rings of Power for Sauron. As a member of the House of Fëanor, Celebrimbor carries a great legacy, as his grandfather forged the three Silmarils that were stolen and fought during the First Age. Perhaps the weight of his family history influences his decision to create the Rings of Power, inadvertently setting the stage for another great war.
Númenór is basically Middle Earth’s version of Atlantis. This island kingdom was raised from the sea by the Valar as a gift to the Edain who fought against Morgoth. However, Sauron soon became advisor to the king of Númenór, leading his citizens to worship Morgoth through human sacrifice with the promise of eternal life. He finally convinced the king to invade Valinor and steal the immortality of the Valar. In response, the Eru destroyed the invading fleet, along with Sauron’s body, and sent Númenór sinking into the ocean.
Audiences got to see some Hobbits (or Harfoots as they were known during the Second Age) walking through a field in one of the trailers. This image goes back to how Frodo and his friends set out on their quest to destroy the One Ring. Now it looks like a new group of Hobbits are going to have their own big adventure in the show. The Hobbits didn’t have as significant an impact on Middle-earth during the First and Second Ages, so it seems the showrunners took some liberties to give them a major role in this new adaptation.
This legendary elf is widely known to be the leader of Rivendell. But in the Second Age, Elrond served as the herald of Gil-galad, the last High King of Noldor, until the latter’s death at the hands of Sauron. Elrond also has strong connections beyond Middle-earth, as he is the brother of Elros, the first king of Númenór. All of them will no doubt be an important part of Elrond’s journey in the series as they all face the wrath of the Dark Lord.
Both races displayed a bitter hatred for each other dating back to the First Age. Despite this, a scene was revealed at Comic-Con in which Elrond and Prince Durin IV engage in a rock-breaking contest in what appears to be the dwarven city of Khazad-dûm. The status of their relationship is unknown at this time, but given the history between the elves and the dwarves, Elrond and Durin’s bond could trace back to the hate-turned-brotherly friendship forged by Gimli and Legolas as they fought for Middle-earth in Tolkien’s books.
Also known as the Black Riders or Ringwraiths, the Nazgûl were once nine men who were corrupted by Sauron through the Rings of Power and were said to include three lords of Númenór. These shadowy figures pursued Frodo and his allies during their journey through Middle-earth to claim the One Ring for his master. Since audiences will see the creation of the Rings of Power, they will almost certainly see the birth of Sauron’s most terrifying servants.
This legendary figure is widely known in Middle-earth as the man who defeated Sauron. As King of Arnor and Gondor, Isildur helped lead the armies of Elves and Men against Sauron until he cut the One Ring from the Dark Lord’s hand. While he had the opportunity to destroy the Ring, Isildur fell under his spell and kept it to himself until his untimely death.
In the series, Isildur will be depicted as a Númenórea sailor who will later become a king. Though Isildur will eventually fall victim to the Ring’s power, the Program developer Patrick McKay claimed that the show will explore the king’s journey until this fateful decision feels more like a tragedy than a foolish mistake.
While it’s unclear how long it will be before Isildur meets his fate with Sauron, this series has the potential to present a long and arduous journey into Tolkien’s epic world.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will premiere in Prime Video on September 1, 2022.