For some people Amazon’s new TV seriesis a bit controversial. There are vocal groups who are concerned that showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay won’t go out of their way to ensure that this show is in line with JRR Tolkien’s collected works and may add things that Tolkien would not approve of. For many Tolkien fans, this is a song we’ve heard before. Doubts have been raised about every modern Tolkien story brought to the screen, including Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies.
While each episode of The Rings of Power will feature a summary article courtesy of CNET’s own Erin Carson, this article will be devoted entirely to analyzing how well each episode sticks to what Tolkien wrote.
To be clear, this analysis does not include:
- Whether colored people like dwarves, elves or Harfoots should appear on the screen ( end of conversation).
- Whether dwarf women should have a full beard (Tolkien was never clear on this, so I won’t take a position).
- Whether Tolkien is okay with people in his world making up things (this letter from Tolkien to his publisher in 1951 makes his point of view clear).
Episode 1: Shadow of the Past
This episode broadly introduces the world, and a handful of the individual stories that are seemingly destined to intersect. Check out our full summary for more.
The dagger of Finrod Felegund
In our opening scene, young Galadriel’s beautiful boat is destroyed, and her big brother prevents her from beating the guilty party within inches of his life for being such a tool. This scene is the first time we see Finrod’s dagger, which Galadriel takes as her own dagger as she searches for the enemy responsible for his death.
This dagger is beautiful, but there is no evidence that it existed in Tolkien’s work. Canonically, we know that Finrod had a sword and a bow. But we also know that he was a nobility, and in the few pieces of pre-Rings of Power art we have of Finrod, he carries with him some wonderful non-standard jewelry and weapons, including the Ring of Barahir, which eventually became finds its way to Aragorn’s hand. The dagger is not something Tolkien wrote, but it is also plausible that he would have such a dagger.
It is clearly a representation of Telperion and Laurelin, the twin trees of Valinor, who created sunlight and moonlight for the world before being destroyed and their last remaining fruit and flower turned into the sun and moon for Middle-earth. There appear to be three similar orbs on the dagger, between the silver and gold trees, which would almost certainly depict the three Silmarils. Finrod was a major part of the conflicts surrounding the destruction of the trees and the oath of Feanor, so it’s entirely plausible that he has a symbol of those events on him.
Where things get a little fuzzy is that Finrod has that dagger in the first scene with Galadriel. According to Tolkien, Galadriel was born about 90 years before the founding of the Silmarils. Elves mature physically in the first 100 years of their existence and then age much, much slower after that. At 90, Galadriel would have looked at least a few years older than shown on screen.
Is this bad? Not at all. Do I still want such daggers? Absolute.
Crossing the Sundering Seas
There is nothing technically wrong with this scene. The elves left Valinor to wage war across much of Middle-earth for a thousand years, which led to Morgoth being held back and Sauron sort of hiding.
But my god left out a lot of this scene. An entire season of this show could have been devoted to just that handful of sentences, summarizing how the elves were in Middle-earth. If you’re curious, read the ninth chapter of the Quenta Silmarillion, titled Of the Fight of the Ñoldor.
The village of Tirharad
If the name of this village didn’t sound familiar to you, you weren’t alone. Tolkien did not create Tirharad, but he did not create anything in this area that would later become Mordor. We know that men lived in what was then called the Southlands, because Tolkien wrote how Shelob would hunt men and elves before Sauron claimed the land as Mordor.
The name Tirharad is a combination of “watch” and “south” in Sindarin, which makes sense given the way the village is essentially guarded by the Silvan elves from their watchtower. This episode explains how the descendants of men who served Morgoth settled in the area, and the elves keep a close eye on them out of concern that corruption may once again enter their hearts. We know that some men served Morgoth, whose fortress Udûn existed in the northeastern part of the area that later became Mordor, so it’s not that long that men would have settled here after the wars.
Galadriel’s Return to Valinor
It has long been suspected that Galadriel was either banned from returning to Valinor or did not believe she deserved to return to Valinor, largely because of this line in Galadriel’s Song of Eldamar:
What ship would ever take me back across such a wide sea?
This scene shows Galadriel (sort of) being rewarded with the opportunity to return home along with the rest of her party. While Tolkien did write that some elves were allowed to return home after the War of Wrath, it was never explicitly stated that Galadriel was with them. It was written that many high elves chose to remain in Middle-earth even as more of their kind returned home, and Galadriel’s activities at this time are not well documented, so this new story fills those gaps with new ones. adventures of sorts.
Episode 2: Adrift
With some mischievous Harfoots trying to take care of The Stranger, Galadriel trying to swim across the Sundering Sea to find different ways that could go wrong, Tirharad having a problem with pest control and Prince Durin having an ax to grind with. Elrond, this is a busy episode. Check out the full summary here and the lore analysis below.
Nori’s not so hot foot
It’s easy to hear Nori say the fire isn’t hot and immediately think of Frodo’s reaction to the One Ring as it came from the fireplace to his hand, but the two are almost certainly not related. In Tolkien’s works, there’s no mention of magical fire that isn’t hot, but there’s a lot about the character known only as The Stranger that isn’t quite lined up yet.
This scene contains even more rumors that The Stranger is a wizard, and that fire is actually the Flame of Anor or the light of the Sun. For now, it’s unclear how this character and his powers fit into what we know of Middle-earth.
The Rite of Signin-tarâg
Not much is known about what dwarves do in their halls under the mountains, because they don’t often invite people who aren’t from their family. The few exceptions in the Second Age are largely elves who worked closely with dwarf blacksmiths to create a ton of different things, which we might get to see in this show, but not in this episode. So while Tolkien never wrote about Elrond claiming the Rite of Sigin-tarâg, there’s a lot of empty space when it comes to knowing what dwarves did in private.
Sigin-tarâg does not refer to any kind of competition. The word translates to longbeards, which is the other name for Durin’s people or this particular kind of dwarf. In this context, the Rite of Sigin-tarâg is exactly as Durin explains it, a test of endurance his people have created to settle internal disputes. It’s not something we’ve ever seen before, and it’s not something we’d ever see in the third age because of what’s happening to Durin’s people, so it’s likely that a challenge like this would exist.
Since this is not a character created by Tolkien, there is no record of the special way she helps dwarf miners do their thing. Dwarf women were banned from battle and are therefore not mentioned much in Tolkien’s works. But we do know that dwarves would be the best miners in the world because they were created with that purpose in mind.
Tolkien never really cares about what specific skills the dwarves have when it comes to mining, only that Aulë taught them special skills while creating the seven original dwarf lords.
Orcs under the floorboards
There are many examples of orc tunneling in Middle-earth, and those tunnels usually lead to what Tolkien called Orc holds. Some of these orcs were small, like the one in this episode, while others occupied entire mountains, like those in Mount Gundabad, which the orcs occupied for most of the Second Age.
We know Tirharad isn’t a place Tolkien made, but its proximity to what would soon become Mordor makes it a perfect place for orcs to burrow under.