After years of silence, save for faint whispers in the dark corners of the world, the marketing machine for Amazon Prime Video’s billion-dollar Lord of the Rings prequel series published an exclusive which adds heads, arms, and most importantly names to those characters.has awakened. Teaser images of nothing but the torsos of many different characters were posted on show’s Twitter account last week, and today the folks at Vanity Fair
Exciting as they are, these breadcrumbs are leading the Tolkien-obsessed (myself included) to join the rest of the world in watching the first trailer expected during the Super Bowl on Sunday. But even before that trailer airs, there’s a ton of exciting and worthwhile information to take away from the teasers offered so far.
All Hail Galadriel, Warrior Leader of the West
While I had some guesses as to the identity of the slender feminine figure pictured in full armor and gripping one of the most beautiful daggers you’ve ever seen, the lady Galadriel was not on that list. This is exciting, as we’ve mostly only seen or read of Galadriel’s acts as a fully formed and endlessly wise adult.
This version of Galadriel, portrayed by Welsh actress Morfydd Clark, is more than a thousand years younger than the ethereal elf portrayed by Cate Blanchett in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings film. She’s fresh from having her home destroyed and her view of the world shattered following a war against the first Dark Lord of Middle Earth, Morgoth, and his young apprentice, Sauron. It looks like we’re going to see Galadriel before she becomes the careful tactician and patient protector of her people, which if nothing else will look great on screen.
The dagger in the first image released by Amazon is probably the most interesting detail about Galadriel we’ve seen so far. It’s a symbolic representation of the two trees of Valinor, the twin massive magical trees in the world of the Elves before they came to Middle Earth. These trees were destroyed by Morgoth, and the last fruit each bore became the Sun and the Moon as we know them on Middle Earth. For Galadriel to wield a dagger like that, it’s a fantastic symbol of the rage still inside her for those who destroyed her home and tells us a lot about the kind of character we are likely to see in this series.
Finally, Dwarves with swagger
The original teaser images from Amazon revealed two characters with gold dust on their fingers, one with a big red beard and a massive hammer and the other with hand-hewn golden triangles down a flowing garment. We now know those two to be Durin IV, lord of Moria; and Disa, a Dwarven princess. We don’t know much about Disa yet, as she’s one of many new characters created for this series, but the images shared of her and of Durin make it abundantly clear that we’re going to see the Dwarven people with a lot more attitude and charisma than we’ve seen in the previous films.
The Dwarven people in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are a beaten, broken folk. Their greatest kingdoms had fallen to ruin, the royal bloodlines had all but disappeared, and their kin were not as united as they once were. These were proud, fierce people, but undeniably sullen compared to their heights in the Second Age of Middle Earth. The Dwarves we get to see in The Rings of Power are of the Second Age, before the Balrog of Morgoth had been awakened and destroyed Moria. They’re going to have massive shining halls with wealth and power the likes of which we’ve never seen captured on screen, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Much more than The Silmarillion
If you thought this series was supposed to be an adaptation of Tolkien’s book The Silmarillion in the same way the movies were a retelling of the books, you’re in for a surprise. The Silmarillion is not a clear-cut beginning-to-end story like The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. In fact, at one point, J.R.R. Tolkien pushed back on the very idea of publishing The Silmarillion because it wasn’t a single story. Tolkien himself describes the Second Age of Middle-earth as a dark age where not very much of its history needed telling.
In a letter to editor Milton Waldman he explained The Silmarillion like The Hobbit in that there were no characters to hold your hand through the massive events he’d envisioned. It wasn’t until after his passing that his son, Christopher Tolkien, took on the monumental task of assembling The Silmarillion into something a person could read and understand as more than just fragments of stories. You could fill a library with all of the notes and ideas surrounding The Silmarillion, which they have, but it’s still not a single narrative adventure in the same way we understand the first two stories.
It’s important to keep that in mind when you read about the new characters the Amazon Prime Series will introduce to Middle Earth. Galadriel’s Human friend Halbrand, Dwarven princess Disa, and silvan elf Arondir are all names you won’t find in the many books of Tolkien lore which exist today, but that doesn’t mean they don’t belong in this telling of Middle Earth. This part of Tolkien’s massive world has a lot of gaps, and the writers for this story were given the herculean task of filling those gaps with a compelling story. Time will tell if they succeed, but for the moment it’s not a bad thing that you’ve never heard or read some of these names before.
People of Color in Middle-earth
We’ve seen several prominent characters revealed in these teasers who, it bears highlighting, aren’t white. Arondir, Disa, and at least one of the nomadic hunters shown off so far are beautifully representing shades of skin which are new to cameras, but not at all new to Middle Earth.
If your only experiences with the world of Middle Earth are The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, books or movies, you may find yourself wondering why there are suddenly more people of color in Middle Earth. This isn’t an exercise in making Tolkien’s world seem more diverse without his permission, this world has always had more than just pale skinned people in it.
There are three different kinds of Hobbits, and one group known as the Harfoots are specifically described as having dark skin by Tolkien. We know that half-elves adopt the characteristics of their Human genes, which is why Elrond is one of the only elves with dark hair, so a darker-skinned elf is completely plausible.
No detail is too small
The most incredible thing about the teasers we’ve seen so far is the weight of every tiny detail in every photo. There are Dwarven runes subtly sewn into the sleeves on one man’s outfit, we’ve already mentioned Galadriel’s incredible dagger, and the longer you look at Disa the more spectacular her outfit becomes. The effort put into the armor everyone is wearing, the wicked twisting of an elvish design to form the sword hilt Sauron is wielding, it all begs fans to keep looking for more details.
This level of detail is one of the things which madeso compelling to so many. You could casually watch the show and tweet along your thoughts as it happened, but you were also deeply rewarded for watching it on the biggest screen you could and giving the show all of your attention. If these teasers tell me anything at all, it’s that Tolkien fans are really going to want to watch every episode more than once to catch every little thing. And, honestly, I’m here for it.