The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1 drew to a close on Amazon Prime Video on October 14 2022, capping off a massively successful run for the streaming platform. In doing so, the first season referred to numerous minute details from the mythology series created by J.R.R. Tolkien that would have been missed by anyone who is not deeply invested in the books or the films based on them. If you haven’t seen the show yet, this is our spoiler warning!
Created by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, the eight-episode first season has been directed by J.A. Bayona, Wayne Che Yip and Charlotte Brändström. The epic drama, which has the distinction of being the most expensive TV show of all time, is mainly based on the appendices in Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, as well as references from The Silmarillion which is a collection of expansion stories written by him.
Due to this, most of the events, the characters and their developments in the series are either entirely new or based on interpretations of Tolkien’s vision of Middle-earth, as it was before the times of The Hobbit or LOTR.
This, however, does not mean that there are no Easter eggs for fans of Peter Jackson’s six-film adaptations of the two main Tolkien books — The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) trilogy and The Hobbit (2012-2014) trilogy. Besides weaving new stories from the references in the literary works, the series also presents the origin stories of several prominent characters, significant places and major events seen in Jackson’s films.
What is the foundation of The Rings of Power?
Tolkien’s universe is divided into three periods — The First Age, the Second Age and the Third Age — each thousands of years long. The central plot of the entire series is set in the Second Age and is about four of the five principal races Tolkien created for his epic — elves, humans, dwarves and orcs. The fifth principal race, hobbits, are not seen in The Rings of Power because they did not exist in the Second Age. Instead, viewers get to see the Harfoots — the ancestors of the hobbits.
The Rings of Power serves as a prequel to the two film trilogies. Its core plot revolves around the eventual forging of the 19 rings by elves under the influence of Sauron, the evil lieutenant of the dark lord Morgoth. As fans of the epics and the films know, Sauron secretly forged the One Ring which gave him the power to rule over the three races. That led to a great battle known as the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, in which Sauron was defeated. The Rings of Power is expected to end with the battle.
As such, the story of the series appears to be taking place some 3,000 years before the events of The Hobbit — when Bilbo Baggins stole the One Ring from Gollum.
The series gives details of the geography of Middle-earth, with places and features mentioned in Tolkien’s works appearing on the screen as a visual map or spoken about by characters. These include the dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dûm, elven lands of Valinor and Lindon, the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, Rhovanion, Anduin, the Southlands and Orodruin — the last two of which fans see completely transforming into Mordor and Mount Doom, respectively, towards the end of season 1.
So far as season 1 has shown, there are more Easter eggs connected to the LOTR trilogy than to The Hobbit trilogy.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power cast
There is a host of major characters in The Rings of Power, but the most significant of them are a young Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and a young Elrond (Robert Aramayo). While Galadriel appears as a wise elven warrior, Elrond is more like a diplomat. Their older versions were seen in the two film trilogies, where they were essayed by Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, respectively.
Much of the developments in season 1 are either a direct result of the actions of Galadriel and Elrond or indirectly (and inadvertently) influenced by them, and how the two almost immortal beings deal with the events.
The massive ensemble cast includes other main elven characters Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) and Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards). Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), his wife Disa (Sophia Nomvete) and his father King Durin III (Peter Mullan) are the major characters from the dwarven race.
So far in the series, the main human characters depicted are Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and her son Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin), Tar-Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle), Elendil (Lloyd Owen) and his son Isildur (Maxim Baldry).
Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry), Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) and Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards) are the main Harfoot characters. They are also accompanied throughout season 1 by The Stranger (Daniel Weyman).
The main threat to all races in season 1 until the finale episode has been the orcs led by fallen elf Adar (Joseph Mawle).
Tolkien’s expansive literary works do not mention several of the main characters seen in the series, including Arondir, Bronwyn and Nori. They are, therefore, entirely original creations by the makers.
The two big reveals
For the first seven episodes, the showrunners kept the two big questions unanswered, both concerning the supposed ‘true’ identities of two key characters — The Stranger and Halbrand.
The final episode ends the suspense on at least one of them while revealing who the other actually is.
Overall, season 1 ended on a high note. It presented the world of Tolkien as die-heart fans of the books might visualise. It started with the first two episodes revealing details such as what the mythical elven world of Valinor looks like, how the legendary trees of Valinor were destroyed, how the Second Age began and some key characters.
As the series progressed, fans saw how the otherwise simple Harfoots bravely confront evil in the form of the three beings who follow The Stranger. Meanwhile, humans, especially the healer woman Bronwyn, display formidable leadership in times of great peril, and several angelic and powerful guardians start appearing inexplicably across Middle-earth for the inevitable battle that pits humans and elves against Sauron.
Easter eggs you may have missed in The Rings of Power season 1
Sauron did indeed repent
In fact, he was repenting of his ‘evil’ through the series. Because Sauron…drumrolls…is Halbrand. Confirming a long-held fan theory that the mysterious ‘human’ is the dark lord who once served Morgoth, episode 8 reveals in great detail how Halbrand manipulated Celebrimbor to create the rings.
Galadriel was the first to realise that Halbrand is Sauron when Celebrimbor told Gil-galad that they have to “craft a power not of the flesh, but over flesh.”
The same words were spoken by Adar in captivity in episode 6 when he told Galadriel and Halbrand what Sauron actually sought to do with “the power of the Unseen World.”
Yet, when Galadriel confronts Halbrand, he tells her that Morgoth’s defeat freed him. Fans of Tolkien’s books know Sauron wasn’t originally evil. He was actually corrupted by dark forces and took the name Sauron.
In the final sequence with Galadriel, he tells her how he repeatedly hinted at the evil he did and felt it was important for him to be free of it. He expresses his desire for Galadriel to be his queen so that he can remain in the light as she holds power.
Yet, as all fans know, Sauron could not let go of his desire to rule.
‘He is the other. The Istar. He is…’
The words are uttered by the three entities — The Nomad, The Dweller and The Ascetic — following The Stranger. During a rescue mission mounted by the Harfoots led by Nori, they realise they were mistaking The Stranger for Sauron.
Before The Stranger defeated them, disintegrating their bodies into moths, they confirm he is an Istar but are destroyed just before they utter his name.
After reuniting with the Harfoots, he tells Nori that in her tongue, “the Istar” would be “wise one” or “wizard.” Of course, his magical abilities were already revealed in earlier episodes when he used them to bring back to life an entire apple orchard, freeze a pool of water, fend off ferocious wolves and create a constellation with fireflies.
There are five Istari in Tolkien’s mythology — Gandalf, Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown and two Blue Wizards. Only the first three have been shown in Jackson’s films.
However, there are enough Easter eggs to confirm that The Stranger is Gandalf the Grey. When defeating the three entities, he converts them into moths — the insect that Gandalf spoke to in Jackson’s film trilogy.
Further, when he was about to venture off in search of the eastern land of Rhûn, from where the three entities came, The Stranger tells a confused Nori, “If in doubt, always follow your nose.”
The same was said by Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), when he told Merry in the Mines of Moria, “If in doubt, Meriadoc, always follow your nose.”
Besides the fact that The Stranger is very close to the Harfoots, as much as Gandalf was to the hobbits, he has an adventurous spirit and is seen wearing a shaggy grey coat, further solidifying the fact that he is the heroic and kind wizard who helps save Middle-earth from Sauron.
(A bit about Rhûn: It is the same place whose people ally with Sauron and whose soldiers are seen in Jackson’s trilogy, fighting against the enemies of the dark lord.)
Galadriel’s husband Celeborn
One of the major reveals in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power came in episode 7 where Galadriel is having a conversation with Theo after escaping the Orcs who were looking for them in the night following the destruction of the Southlands.
Galadriel tells Theo that she was once married to Celeborn. However, the elf commander appears to believe that Celeborn died in the great war, which he joined against her wishes.
“I never saw him again after that,” Galadriel says. However, it is important to note that Galadriel never utters the word “dead;” she simply says she never saw him after the war. The choice of words has its own weight because fans of the LOTR movies and books know that Celeborn is alive and well.
Celeborn’s first on-screen appearance was in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where he is played by Marton Csokas. In the film, Celeborn and Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel provide supplies to the Fellowship on their quest to destroy Sauron.
It is also noteworthy that Celeborn and Galadriel had a daughter, Celebrían, who became the wife of Elrond. Celebrían and Elrond were the parents of Arwen — the half-elf played in Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy by Liv Tyler.
However, Galadriel in The Rings of Power has only revealed that she was married; she has not yet said if she had a daughter before Celeborn went to war. On the other hand, there is also no hint about Elrond being married at this point in the series.
Durin’s Bane makes its first appearance
The fate of Khazad-dûm is known to all. Even before the series started, fans knew that the beautiful kingdom of the dwarves ruled by King Durin III, whose son Prince Durin IV is best friends with Elrond, will end up as the devastated mines of Moria by the time of the first film in the LOTR trilogy.
In Tolkien’s lore, Khazad-dûm was destroyed by a Balrog — a mythical creature whose body is always on fire and who is immensely powerful. The Balrog lived deep in the mines under Khazad-dûm and was awakened when the dwarves struck too deep.
In episode 7, Prince Durin IV tries in vain to convince his father to continue mining Mithril — the legendary element that appears to have the power to heal elves and their dying world. However, his father refuses and casts an already healed Lindon leaf from the elven world down a crevice.
The leaf continues to fall for some time, indicating that the mine is really very deep. As it finally settles at the bottom, it suddenly catches fire. Next to it is a Balrog whose body erupts in flames, as if coming back to life. It roars, and the scene ends there.
This is the same Balrog which gets the name Durin’s Bane, for it destroyed Khazad-dûm and killed King Durin VI, the grandson of Prince Durin IV. It is the same Balrog that Gandalf the Grey encountered in the mines when the Fellowship was passing through it.
Interestingly, the origin of Mithril and the Balrog is narrated by Gil-Galad in episode 5 when he tells Elrond of a battle between the fiery demon and a legendary elven warrior over a tree at the top of the Misty Mountains. The tree was believed to contain one of the lost Silmarils, or powerful jewels coveted especially by Morgoth. Lightning struck the tree while the battle was on and the powers of the elf and the Balrog were sealed in the form of Mithril deep below Misty Mountains, within which is Khazad-dûm.
The settlement at Pelargir
Also in episode 7, Bronwyn tells Galadriel that she plans on leading the survivors of the Southlands to “an old Númenórean colony by the mouth of the Anduin — Pelargir.”
Pelargir is one of the most powerful settlements in Tolkien’s story. But as of the time of the Rings of Power, it is apparently still a small colony of less significance. This is the place which eventually becomes the port and the naval base of the Kingdom of Gondor, whose capital, Minas Tirith, becomes the site of the final battle for the ring in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).
In Tolkien’s lore, Pelargir became a refuge for the Faithful — those who opposed the authoritarian King’s Men of Númenor. The Fall of Númenor, which is expected to be depicted in later seasons of The Rings of Power, drives the Faithful to Pelargir where they lay the foundations of Gondor.
Interestingly, Elendil, who in season 1 is under the service of Queen-Regent Tar-Míriel, or Míriel, as she is known, is the most prominent member of the Faithful and would eventually become the first High King of Gondor.
Míriel will trigger the Fall of Númenor
Míriel has been a figure of hope and alarm throughout the series till the destruction of the Southlands in episode 7. The eruption of Mount Doom results in her going blind. A completely transformed Míriel, out of fury, promises to return to Middle-earth for vengeance with a much larger force.
She even uses the Adûnaic name “Inziladûn” for her father, while invoking his name, instead of the Quenya name “Tar-Palantir.” This is significant because the former name is used by the authoritarian King’s Men and the latter by the Faithful. It indicates that Míriel’s anger has set in motion the eventual Fall of Númenor.
As Tolkien lore goes, the Númenoreans eventually became conquerors of the lands of Middle-earth instead of helpers when they first came to the aid of the Southlanders in episode 6. The idea of the conquest and tribute from Middle-earth was also shared in episode 5 by Pharazôn, the shrewd advisor of Míriel who would eventually become the king of Númenoreans.
A phrase common between Galadriel and Arwen
While chasing Adar through the woods after the Númenoreans rescued the Southlanders in episode 6, she touches her white horse and utters the words “Noro lim” in Sindarin tongue. The words simply mean “run swift,” after which the horse increases its speed.
While the words might not appear anything out of the ordinary for those who have not seen the LOTR trilogy, it is actually a major fan-favourite moment.
The same phrase was used by Arwen in The Fellowship of the Ring when she was fleeing the Nazgûl with an injured Frodo Baggins on her horse Asfaloth. She whispers the phrase “Noro lim” to Asfaloth, and the horse outmatches the Nazgûl horses. In The Fellowship of the Ring book, the same phrase was used by the elf Glorfindel for Asfaloth in the same situation.
In Tolkien’s world, Sindarin is one of the Elvish languages apart from Quenya. But it is the latter which has been presented as the common elvish tongue in the series. This is why the use of the Sindarin phrase by Galadriel has also come in for criticism, with some saying that it appears a forced reference to the LOTR saga, as the Sindarin language had until this point not been used. There is also criticism of the context in which the phrase was used.
In episode 6 of the series, the orcs of the dark elf Adar are inside the elven tower looking for its defenders. When Adar orders them to search the tower, one of the orcs shouts “Gimbatul.” That word is Black Speech and part of the famous inscription on the most important object in all of Tolkien’s universe — the One Ring.
The verse on the ring inscribed in Black Speech reads: “Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.” Its English translation is: “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.”
The word “gimbatul” means “find them.” Interestingly, the Black Speech was created by Sauron and the phrase on the One Ring was also inscribed by him.
Undercliffs and Grey Marshes
Episode 5 shows a lot about the Harfoots on their quest to find a new place for their temporary stay. The group of Harfoots, comprising Nori Brandyfoot’s family, her friend Poppy Proudfellow and The Stranger, are seen following the larger Harfoots group.
Through a visual of the map of Middle-earth, it is shown that Nori’s group passes Undercliffs and Grey Marshes. Their wagon is stuck at Grey Marshes, but the scene being one of hope and song (with Nori singing “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”), their caravan quickly moves onwards to Trout Bend, Thistledell and The Braids.
Yet, the existence of both Undercliffs and Grey Marshes in the world of the Harfoots thousands of years before they evolve into Hobbits is interesting.
The Undercliffs is the same place where Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee first meet Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002). But by that time, the place was known as Emyn Muil and not Undercliffs.
They then reach Dead Marshes, which is the same place known as Grey Marshes in The Rings of Power. Of course, the marshes have become even more terrible than they appear in the series.
By the time of the journey through it by Frodo, Sam and Gollum, the marshes have also become haunted. How the otherwise harmless place in the series turned into a horrific landscape in the LOTR saga might possibly be shown later.
(Main and Featured images: IMDb)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India