Have you everloitering, a lifelong love of The Lord of the Rings, and a desire to make a TV series in that world? That’s what Amazon is doing with The Rings of Power. It’s a mammoth undertaking with impossible stakes at a time when the fantasy genre is having a real moment.
And while Amazon hasn’t skimped on advertising the series so far, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered about what the show is and whether it’s something you want to sit down and watch when it hits Prime Video on September 2 .
Here’s what you need to know.
Is The Rings of Power a prequel?
In many ways, yes. The Rings of Power takes place before the events of The Lord of the Rings, so for simplicity, the series is a prequel to the films.
The Rings of Power takes place thousands of years before The Lord of the Rings. It is a period in Middle-earth referred to as the second age, as time in this world is divided between globally affecting events. The Third Age, where Sauron is a great glowing eye and hunts for his ring, is very far removed from the events of this series. Sauron is very personal in this series.
Also, where the movies were adapted from the three books written by JRR Tolkien, the TV series is not as thoroughly sourced. Amazon was unable to secure film rights to The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s pre-Lord of the Rings collection of stories. Instead, this series will. Tolkien left many notes on the history of Middle-earth in his very popular trilogy, including an abridged history of many events in the Silmarillion.
If you’re not sure what exactly that means for this series, you’re not alone. Even The Silmarillion doesn’t have the same rich detail regarding the events of the Second Age that you get in The Lord of the Rings. This means that Amazon’s writing team has a lot of room to fill with things that Tolkien didn’t explicitly outline. Some Tolkien fans were nervous about the show’s respect for the source material.
Is there anything I need to see or read before I start?
You don’t need to have seen The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit to enjoy The Rings of Power. Likewise, if you’ve seen these movies but it’s been a while, you’re fine. You don’t need to have recently consumed the extended editions of every movie, and the same goes for all the books.
It certainly won’t hurt if you’ve seen them recently, or if you’ve ever read The Silmarillion. And don’t be mad if you ever get lost about something in an episode. We will post a summary and explanation as soon as possible and have aand for performances.
What is it about?
If you’ve watched or read The Lord of the Rings, you know that it focuses on Sauron’s ring of control. This golden ring was created as a way to manipulate the leaders of the races of dwarves, elves and humans who were given powerful magical rings as a gift. Sauron’s ring, often called The One Ring, spoiled the effort to bring the people of Middle-earth together after the great war against Sauron’s old boss Morgoth.
The Rings of Power, as the title suggests, is the story leading up to the creation of Sauron’s ring. It is the history and politics of Middle-earth after a brutal war and the struggle for growth and prosperity in the aftermath. We will see the dwarven kingdom at its most glorious instead of the ruins we see in Lord of the Rings. We’ll be watching a younger, impulsive, battle-hardened Galadriel long before she becomes the powerful, ethereal being we see in the movies. We will see how the great kings of men have gone from a great and mighty empire to broken, scattered remnants haunted by the Ringwraiths they created through their own greed and malice.
Instead of a single quest like Lord of the Rings, you can expect to see many beautiful and winding paths leading viewers to a conclusion that ends up being quite dark.
Will familiar characters appear?
In The Rings of Power, two popular Lord of the Rings characters have much more significant roles – Galadriel and Elrond. In The Lord of the Rings we see these two as rulers of their own realms, largely unable to leave those realms because their power keeps these places alive and protecting them. In The Rings of Power, each of these characters is younger and of much lesser status. Galadriel is a young warrior commander seeking to avenge her brother’s death, while Elrond seeks to gain status through political means.
The rest of the characters you’ve seen before are either nowhere near being born or haven’t arrived in Middle-earth yet. This is so far in the past that Hobbits as we know them do not exist and their ancestors have not yet found the Shire. Hobbits come from three different species of halflings, one of which is the Harfoot. These Harfoot are nomadic and move around frequently to stay safe. During Rings of Power we will be introduced to at least one tribe, but not much else is known.
If you’re interested in Gandalf, he probably won’t show up. Gandalf and the other four wizards of Middle-earth are not sent to fight Sauron until the Third Age. It’s possible that the writers could bend the timeline a bit and show us wizards before the end of the series, but it’s extremely unlikely that we’ll see one as a main character.
Is Amazon ruining The Lord of the Rings by making something up?
No, that’s nonsense from people on Twitter who like to get angry about things. I’ll let JRR Tolkien himself answer that, with a quote from a letter he wrote in 1951.
Some of the big stories I would draw in full, and many others I would just leave schematically and sketched out. Cycles should be joined into a majestic whole, yet leave room for other minds and hands, controlling color, music, and drama.
Since Amazon doesn’t have access to a specific story telling you what each character did in The Second Age, there’s a lot of space to fill in. What you will see in The Rings of Power is exactly what Tolkien describes above, new minds telling a new set of stories within the larger beats created by the great storyteller for the universe. There are certain boundaries that Amazon shouldn’t cross, especially when it comes to directly rewriting the story that Tolkien established, but outside of those larger plots, there’s plenty of room for other stories to be respectfully told.
We’ve already seen bits of this in the trailers for the series. Tolkien only mentions a single dwarf in all of his stories, and this is more or less done to further develop a prominent male character. We know dwarven women exist and had to do things in their mountain halls, so having a character like Disa follow in Rings of Power is a great way to respectfully expand Tolkien’s universe. The same can be said of the Harfoots, the nomadic ancestors of the Hobbits we all know and love. Tolkien created the Harfoots, but they were never part of any larger story he told. It’s a great opportunity to have fun with a band that most people already know they love.
Nothing is destroyed, at least as far as we know.
How many episodes are there?
This first season will have eight episodes, but Amazon has already announced that they will make at least five seasons. Unless the first season or two is catastrophically bad in terms of ratings, you can expect this show to be a topic of conversation for the foreseeable future.
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