I should hope by now that every Tolkien fan is well aware of Amazon’s forthcoming series based on his legendarium. More than anything, I think we are craving to know what will take place in the show. And by perusing the many books set in Middle-Earth, we can have a fuller idea of what that may be.
THE QUICK FACTS
But first, here are the rapid-fire facts about the show itself:
- It is set to premiere in a while… September 2, 2022
- It’s really, really expensive (it’s Amazon—what do you expect?)
- It has a huge cast I won’t belabor you to name
- It will run for at least 2 seasons
- They began filming in New Zealand but will continue in the UK
- It is officially untitled (though I hope it will be soon)
As to the what the show will be about, we know it is set before The Lord of the Rings in the Second Age. But as the only image we have seen from the show tells us, it seems to that it will give us glimpses of a much earlier time.
THE BOOK FACTS
The history of Middle-Earth is far more extensive than you may think. From its creation to the death of King Elessar (Aragorn), there are around 10,000 years, and each bears many tales. Tolkien divided them into four ages, the first two of which I will briefly outline into below. This background enables us process what we know about Amazon’s Lord of the Rings. Namely, how it fits in the legendarium’s greater picture.
If you’re curious, I get all of these details from Tolkien’s works, especially Appendix B in The Lord of the Rings and the first several sections of The Silmarillion.
The First Age
This age began when the world was inhabited by the children of Eru Illuvatar: Elves, the firstborn, and Men, the followers. The Ainur, Eru’s Holy Ones, sung beautiful melodies with him that shaped in their thoughts the vision of the world. The Ainur found joy at the sight at of it. But Melkor, who was the most powerful of them, wished to subject it to himself. Despite Melkor’s intentions, Eru Illuvatar gave the musical vision substance and being with the Eternal Flame, and the Ainur formed it according to the vision. Eru called it Eä, The World That Is.
Fourteen Ainur loved Eä greater than the rest and created upon it the Kingdom of Arda, so they descended to it. They constrained their powers and took upon themselves the appearance of Illuvatar’s children, the elves. They called themselves the Valar and settled in Valinor to the west of Middle-Earth. Each served Eru in different areas of the Eä: Manwë with the power of the winds and skies, Ulmo with the Sea, Aulë with the Earth, and eleven others. And one of these was Yavanna, who from a song created two beautiful trees named Telperion and Laurelin that illuminated Valinor. These are the trees you see in the background of the image above.
Many elves came to dwell in Valinor with the Valar, one of the greatest of whom was Fëanor. He and his people were craftsmen and made the Silmarils, three jewels that captured the light of Yavanna’s trees. Though it could be many people, I believe the figure in the picture above is this Fëanor. When Melkor attacked Valinor and the two trees were destroyed, the silmarils were all what was left of their light—but they too were taken by Melkor.
Fëanor and his people (including Galadriel and Elrond’s forefathers) had vowed to protect the Silmarils, but the Valar would not let them leave Valinor. They pushed away all in their path to recover the jewels, however, even slaying their kindred to escape Valinor. They made it to Middle-Earth but it was long before they would even see their precious jewels.
Long after this, the power of Melkor (known thereafter as Morgoth) and his servant Sauron (a maia, a former servant of the Valar) grew to its height. But at last, the Valar, Elves, Men, and Dwarves defeated them, but not without a great cost of their own lives. This defeat ushered in the Second Age.
The Second Age
This age is said to be the setting of Amazon’s series. As foretold by the above picture, the show flashes back to the first age, but for a reason yet unknown. If I would venture a guess, it could be a comparison of the three Elven Rings and the three Jewels.
After the Valar destroy Morgoth, Middle-Earth changes drastically. The line of Elros (Elrond’s human brother) goes to the island of Númenor and many elves sail into the West. Almost everyone else migrates South into the part of Middle-Earth we are accustomed to. Celebrimbor and many descendants of Fëanor settle in Eregion. This is the land at the door of Moria, the dwarf kingdom built upon Mithril. Celebrimbor, like Fëanor, was a skilled craftsman, but Sauron decieved him and his kin into making the Rings of Power. Shortly after, Sauron crafted the One Ring in Mount Doom.
Celebrimbor eventually perceived Sauron’s plan, but by then it was too late. Sauron destroyed Eregion and Moria; Celebrimbor is killed. He also seduced Númenor and the whole island fell into the sea. Elendil and his sons, Anárion and Isildur, escape Númenor’s fall and found Gondor and Arnor in Middle-Earth. But these too are soon contested by Sauron.
The Second Age ends with the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, when they band together and defeat Sauron. Isildur takes the One Ring, but dies and loses it. The Ring is lost, but only until Sméagol finds it, of course. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films cover these events, so they are likely familiar to you.
So where does the TV series fit in? Perhaps it will begin with the fall of Eregion and Númenor to Sauron and then simultaneously follow Elves and Men up until their Last Alliance. This way, the TV series ends where the movies begin. Amazon’s show may be in the climax of the Second Age just as Lord of the Rings is in the climax of the Third Age. This is speculation, of course, but it does make sense.
And as to what Amazon’s Lord of the Rings will actually hold, we must wait and see.
Enjoy this article? Check out my other ones on J.R.R. Tolkien:
- Reading Tolkien Beyond ‘The Lord of the Rings’
- Why I like Tolkien—and You Should Too
- Are the Books or the Movies Better?
- Which Hobbit Are You? (Quiz)