More Empire Magazine Stills
As per Fellowship of Fans, we now have a couple more images from The Rings of Power, this time what appears to be some items from the upcoming Empire Magazine article.
This first image is the one that has garnered a fair amount of attention. As per Fellowship of Fans, it depicts Arondir (a show-invented Elf) looking out from TirHarad (a show-invented location). TirHarad appears to mean ‘southern guard/watchtower’, and, well, the tower affords a decent view.
A closer look at the tower confirms that we are dealing with an Elvish construction. It has the eight-pointed star-shape that the show has been associating with the Elves, while the wood-carvings on the upper part of the structure feature a forest theme. We saw Arondir in a forest setting in the teaser trailer. So that’s all pretty straight-forward.
It’s the actual landscape that is the major headscratcher – what part of Middle-earth is this supposed to be depicting?
I think there are two realistic options. One is the scenario that has somewhat captured the online narrative in the past twenty-four hours, namely that this is Mordor prior to Sauron’s arrival – or as the fandom have affectionately named it, ‘Befordor.’ That would explain the mountains, and the river flowing into what might be the Sea of Núrnen. It could also possibly hint at a storyline of Mordor’s creation – Sauron’s destruction and enslavement of the area. Albeit southern Mordor remained fertile and cultivated throughout Sauron’s rule.
The second possibility is the one that I myself favour, namely that this is somewhere in western or central Gondor (or, rather, what will become western or central Gondor). Taking a look at a map of the area points to many small rivers (the depicted river is too small to be Anduin), and mountains overlooking cultivated areas. I think this is the more likely possibility for several reasons:
(i) Mordor is isolated, being cut-off by its giant mountain barrier on three sides. Local goings-on would garner less attention from the rest of Middle-earth than if this were proto-Gondor. Recall that we have Galadriel asking for assistance against the looming threat of Adar… which makes more sense if she were having direct contact with those on the receiving end of Adar’s attacks, and we know via Fellowship of Fans that Adar is associated with the TirHarad storyline.
(ii) The initial map-clues (remember those?) listed Ras Morthil. Which is on the cape of Andrast in south-western Gondor. I continue to think that Ras Morthil has some sort of relevance to the show, which again points to a Gondorian TirHarad (the other show locations seem more or less taken). There is no similar Mordorian location of interest.
(iii) Canonically, we actually know Elves did hang around in that part of the world, whereas Mordor prior to Sauron’s arrival is a blank slate.
(iv) It is satisfactorily southern to count as the location of a southern watchtower, while contrasting with Gil-galad and company up in the North.
So yeah, I think this is western proto-Gondor.
This one has Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry) with two of his fellow Harfoots, neither of whom are Poppy or Elanor. Nothing much to really note here, other than to suggest that the Elder Harfoots are confronting something unexpected and mysterious – enough to send them out into the night with a lantern. One commentator on Fellowship of Fans has also suggested that it arguably evokes the hobbit-with-the-lantern scene in Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring. But presumably Lenny Henry is not about to get his head cut off.