- Lord of the Rings -Amazon’s 'Lord of the Rings' Series Description Doesn’t Really Tell Us Anything New... Or Does It?
Last week, in a lovely little throwback to the days when they were everyone’s go-to source for info on the Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies as they filmed, TheOneRing.net was first to get hold of the official description for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series:
Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. 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. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.
On its face, this is nothing that fans haven’t already guessed. We knew the series would take place in the Second Age, and that meant diving into the history of Númenor, the forging of the Rings of Power, and whatever was happening in various other Elvish enclaves at the time. The casting reports have consciously avoided who most of these actors are actually playing, with the notable exception of Morfydd Clarke (Galadriel), and this description doesn’t give us any new info on that front.
But, well, it is nice to have confirmation of some locations, at least, if only so we can engage in slightly more base-ful speculation. So, what do we think we’re going to see in these places?
First: We already got a peek of the Grey Havens at the end of the Peter Jackson movies, with Frodo and Bilbo sailing off into the West in a very Telerin swan-shaped ship, so it’ll be interesting to see if the production team has kept the same aesthetic.
Canonically, Lindon is the domain of Gil-Galad, High King of the Noldor who remained in Middle-earth after the events of the First Age, but there are a number of other major Elvish characters who should at least start out here — namely, Celebrimbor (more on him in a minute) and Galadriel, who don’t head east to establish their own realms until later on in the Second Age. However, if the series does open with Eregion already established, Celebrimbor and Galadriel will be there (along with Galadriel’s boring purse of a husband Celeborn).
Lindon is also where Elrond should be hanging out. We know we’ll be seeing a younger Elrond, an Elrond presumably grieving the choice his twin brother Elros made — to be counted among mortal Men — not long before the series begins. The two are now separated by an ocean, and Elrond’s wife Celebrían doesn’t come into his life until after her parents Galadriel and Celeborn establish the realm of Lothlórien. So, what exactly is he doing during this time? Becoming a loremaster? Going on adventures? Trying to deal with the trauma of losing his mom and dad at age 6, being raised by his kidnappers, and having his dad be a literal star in the night sky? Vibing? Probably a mix of all of the above.
The Misty Mountains
There’s a vast amount of fertile storytelling ground around this backbone of Middle-earth. You’ve got the Elven realm of Eregion, you’ve got the Dwarvish kingdom of Khazad-dûm, you’ve got the eventual establishment on either side of Rivendell and Lothlórien.
But more importantly, we’re starting things off in that harmonious time where Elves and Dwarves weren’t at each other’s throats and Eregion and Khazad-dûm were thriving, mutually benefitting civilizations. We’ll get to see exactly how everything goes sideways when Celebrimbor starts making Rings of Power at the suggestion of the not-so-mysterious “Annatar” (Sauron), and what happens when Sauron eventually invades Eregion and sends the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm underground until they wake Durin’s Bane.
The Celebrimbor story has me rubbing my hands in gleeful anticipation simply because it’s so unexplored. There’s a video game series where he’s something of a main character, but just about everything in that game goes against Tolkien canon. Here, the writers have the opportunity to construct a story far deeper than the cheap non-surprise of “Annatar is actually... SAURON! DUN DUN!” They can build an actual friendship (or more?) between Celebrimbor and Annatar, and use this relationship to explore just how fractured the Elves of Middle-earth are without a common enemy to unite them. Just as Better Call Saul isn’t ruined by knowing Jimmy McGill becomes Saul Goodman, or that Mike Ehrmentraut meets a grisly end years down the road in Breaking Bad, so too is there plenty of room for the LotR writers to create a far richer tension using the knowledge many viewers will have that Annatar is Sauron in disguise.
We still have no idea who’s playing Celebrimbor, or Annatar/Sauron, or even any of Durin’s folk. We also don’t know which of Celebrimbor’s origin stories the writing team is going with: Celebrimbor is one of the characters of the legendarium whose history was still somewhat up in the air at the time of Tolkien’s passing. The official version in The Silmarillion lists Celebrimbor as a son of Curufin (and grandson of Fëanor), but in the late 1960s, a couple other histories are given. The first is a description of Celebrimbor as a Telerin Elf who follows Celeborn to Middle-earth, and the second is that he is somehow descended from Daeron, the minstrel of Doriath. (Yeah, the one from the First Age who was in love with Lúthien, blew up her and Beren’s spot, and then ran away in shame.)
Personally, I’m rooting for the Fëanorian lineage, as it’s fitting for a grandson of Fëanor to fall into the same kind of trap as his grandfather when it comes to listening to evil forces in fair guise.
This is the real gem of the show, though. The story of a once-great civilization of people ruled by the descendants of Eärendil, brought to ruin by avarice and pride and an all-encompassing fear of death? Yes, please.
We already have a tantalizing start in Tolkien’s novella “Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner’s Wife,” which I describe to non-fans as “Middle-earth’s Revolutionary Road.” For those who haven’t read it, the gist is this: Tar-Aldarion, sixth king of Númenor, is more concerned with exploring the seas than actually governing or being a good husband. His wife, Erendis, can’t abide the sea, and while the two produce a daughter who becomes the first Queen of Númenor, their rocky relationship only deteriorates after Aldarion happens upon Middle-earth in his voyaging.
It’s a deft and engaging way to set up two huge, looming schisms within Númenor: Those who cling to life and power versus those who are content with their allotted years and their island kingdom; and imperialists versus isolationists. Making this story one of the linchpins of the first season would make for some truly compelling TV.
There’s still so much we don’t know about the series, but at least this description does give us slightly firmer ground on which to speculate. Here’s hoping we get some character names to assign to cast sometime soon.
Image: Amazon Prime