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The Rings of Power: How the Middle-earth prequel links up with The Lord of the Rings
Prime Video’s The Rings of Power is set a thousand years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. Will fans of the epic movies recognise the characters and places in the new series?
Almost 20 years after cinema-goers watched the all-powerful One Ring melt in the lava of Mount Doom, marking the end of Frodo Baggins’ quest, the fantasy world of JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth will once again grace our screens in an exciting eight-part series from Amazon Studios.
On 2 September, the much-anticipated first season of The Rings of Power launches on Prime Video, taking us back to a land in which peace reigns – but where the threat of evil and darkness is never far away.
The Rings of Power is set in the lesser-known period of Middle-earth’s history: the Second Age, around a thousand years before the events of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay have said they plan to cover key events in Tolkien folklore such as the rise of Sauron and the fall of the island kingdom of Nùmenor, to name but a couple, and we can expect to meet a host of new characters, be they elves, men, dwarves or harfoots (of which more, later).
The new series is largely inspired by parts of Tolkien’s later work The Silmarillion as well as various appendices to his epic novels. As well as places and faces familiar from Peter Jackson’s films and others mentioned in Tolkien’s apocrypha, a lot of the characters have been created especially for the show.
For viewers, there will be connections and dots to join as well as exciting new friendships, alliances and rivalries to watch unfold. But how does The Rings of Power fit in with the stories we already know and love?
Forging the first Rings of Power
We can assume from the show’s title the stories of the great rings will be brought to life during the first series, and we’ll learn more about how they are forged and why they were created to begin with. Fans of the films will remember the elf Galadriel introducing us to the great rings in the prologue of Jackson’s first film, The Fellowship of the Ring.
We know that the elf Celebrimbor is going to feature in The Rings of Power, played by The Crown and Downton Abbey star Charles Edwards. He is renowned throughout Middle-earth for his artisan and craftmanship. Celebrimbor has a strong relationship with dwarves, but could his kindness be a vulnerability to be taken advantage of by darker forces?
It was Celebrimbor who crafted the three elven rings of power, but how they’re tied to the other great rings including the One Ring forged by Sauron is a story we will hopefully uncover within the series.
Men, ‘who above all else desire power’
Just like The Lord of the Rings, the race of men – and how their behaviour influences the whole fate of Middle-earth - is a cornerstone of Tolkien’s tales.
The Rings of Power will be no exception, and the kingdom of Nùmenor will be a focal point of the show’s first season.
Nùmenor is an island realm which rose to prominence in the Second Age of Middle-earth but, as it is long gone by the time of Frodo’s quest, we are also expecting to see the beginning of the end of this epic kingdom in The Rings of Power. The humans of this land are of half-elven heritage, but that doesn’t suppress their thirst for supremacy.
One Nùmenorean character the Amazon Prime Video series features is young sailor Isildur (played by Maxim Baldry). Fans of the Lord of the Rings would be familiar with this name, as he’s a direct ancestor of the trilogy's protagonist Aragorn.
You may already be familiar with part of Isildur's legend from the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring - he’s the hero who cuts the One Ring from Sauron’s hand on the scorching hot slopes of Mount Doom.
Ultimately, however, Isildur lets the One Ring overwhelm him and it becomes his downfall. The Rings of Power may show us how Isildur came to prominence, and how his legacy began to unravel across the land and seas of Middle-Earth.
Never mind the Hobbits, here's the Harfoots
If you’re asking yourself what on Middle-earth is a Harfoot, the long and the short is they are an ancient breed of Hobbits. Tolkien’s lore tells us that Hobbits didn’t exist, as we know them, until the Third Age.
As a result, The Rings of Power’s small hairy-footed folk are ancestors to our much-loved Hobbits such as Bilbo and Frodo. Although none of The Rings of Power’s Harfoots are related to the Bagginses of the Shire (to our knowledge, at least) they are similar in size and spirit. There are some subtle differences, however - they are more wanderers than hermits, and live a somewhat nomadic life. Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) and Sadoc Burrows, played by Sir Lenny Henry, are key halflings to watch out for.
The immortal Elves
Two Rings of Power characters you will recognise from The Lord of the Rings trilogy are the elves Galadriel and Elrond. Played by Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving in Peter Jackson’s films, their considerably younger selves – and remember we’re talking a millennium or two – are played by up and coming actors Morfydd Clark and Robert Aramayo (above).
They are both very different to their older incarnations too. The Galadriel we know – the ethereal Lady of Lothlórien - is a sage and serene figure but in The Rings of Power we see a more unsettled and adventurous version of the heroine.
Equally, the half-elven Elrond is portrayed as an adolescent version of Weaving’s mythical character. Although he may be centuries old by the time of The Rings of Power, the series sees him almost as an adolescent, navigating his way through politics and family troubles whilst trying to find a purpose in the immortal life he has chosen.
In another parallel with the trilogy, Elrond strikes up a warm relationship with a dwarf named Durin, just as Legolas and Gimli eventually do in The Lord of the Rings.
Axes at the ready – the Dwarves are back!
Unlike Elves, sadly Dwarves are not immortal and so none of the cavern-dwellers we meet in Lord of the Rings are yet born at the time of The Rings of Power. However, this doesn’t mean we won’t see any of the tough bearded warriors throughout the series.
The primary dwarvish character the story will follow is Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), a young and strong leader. Durin is accompanied by the love of his life Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete), who becomes the first female dwarf in any Tolkien’s adaptions.
They are both established in the city of Khazad’dûm. It may not seem like a familiar location, but The Rings of Power depicts the ancient underground kingdom in the height of its power: by the Third Age it is in ruins and is more commonly known as the fallen city of Moria. Could we be reunited with an infamous Balrog creature that dragged Gandalf to his near fate? The series’ trailer suggests we might…
Evil eyes and dark forces
Will we see Sauron in The Rings of Power? It’s extremely likely the notorious villain will appear in the show as he plays such a pivotal role in the outcome of the Second Age. Many fans have theorised that the white hooded figure seen in the trailers, is in fact a version of the dark lord Sauron, as his legend states he takes up many forms as the Middle-earth’s main antagonist. By the time of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, of course, he is portrayed as an all-seeing eye that casts a shadow over the lands of men and elves.
Other dark beings you may recognise from Jackson’s films will be Orcs, Sauron’s malevolent pawns and an ever-present threat to peace across Middle-earth. The Rings of Power’s version of Orcs will be equally as fierce but will look wilder and rawer than ever as they reign terror across the land.
Expanding the map of Middle-earth
While The Rings of Power will share many of the locations and the peoples we already know from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, helping viewers get their bearings in Middle-earth, the new series offers up an entirely new saga with brand new heroes and villains.
The show will expand the map of Middle-earth that we’ve seen on screen so far, and yet – despite the introduction of some completely original characters - remains faithful to the lore and mythology of Tolkien’s work.
The benefits and power of a multi-season TV show format is that we will get a real deep dive into character arcs, epic environments and more which will be explored across several seasons until we get closer to the time of Gandalf, Frodo and friends.
Watch the first two episodes of The Rings of Power on Prime Video in the UK from 2am on Friday 2 September. The rest of the eight-episode first season will be released at the same time each week from September 9 to October 14.