Covering Tolkien’s Greatest Hits: Musings on the Other Rings of Power Trailer

Now, that was strange. That was very strange. Having dropped an initial July teaser for The Rings of Power, Amazon put out a full two-minute trailer in the middle of the month. That one, I liked. Now, however, we have an additional three-minute trailer, released a couple of days ago:

That’s a fair whack of content. Enough to get a decent handle on things. And stranger still, I find my enthusiasm after the mid-July trailer waning somewhat. Quite why, I am not exactly sure. I have always accepted that the show will basically constitute fanfiction, invented material draped across the thin frame of Tolkien’s Second Age. And yet, when I look at this new trailer…

I see something that wants so hard to be Tolkienian, that invokes the greatest hits of Silmarillion material by repurposing them for its invention. And yet also something that is missing something. What that is, I do not know, but much like the First Viewing Syndrome that afflicted theatre-goers in December 2001, I am suffering a slight crisis of faith – I think my subconscious is cross-referencing the visuals with how I think of the text, and getting disturbed by discrepancies. A strange sort of inner-Purism, that can only be overcome by learning to treat The Rings of Power as a work of art on its own terms. First Viewing Syndrome can be a bastard, even if it does wane with re-watches.

At three minutes, I lack the inclination to offer my thoughts on each individual scene. Instead, I shall note what jumped out at me:

  • The mound of Noldorin helmets clearly evokes the Hill of the Slain after the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. This is what I mean by the strange re-purposing of off-limits First Age material for this Second Age production. As was the case with the Grinding Ice and the Forodwaith, and Finrod and Arondir, the invention is giving us the greatest hits of The Silmarillion, in a manner that flies under the rights issues. This, of course, raises the obvious question – are the red-water and Oath scenes (both repeated here) actually First Age flashbacks, or are they also re-purposings? I do not know at this point.
  • There is some speculation that the blond bloke in the hooded robe is Sauron. I personally am sceptical. Given the mysterious meteor, I think it would be far too early to throw Sauron’s fair form at us. No, my guess is that we are dealing with some sort of Dark Cult, loosely associated with First Age Sauron (or at least Morgoth). Along with Adar, these are the insidious evils that set the scene for what will come later. The creepy old dude asking Theo whether he has heard of Sauron does feel culty, potentially evoking the feel of The New Shadow, Tolkien’s unfinished sequel to The Lord of the Rings.
  • Galadriel looking into Tar-Miriel’s palantir is gloriously fan-ficcy, of course… but I think it interesting that she seems to see haunting memories. The Dagor Bragollach. Finrod’s Tomb. Whatever the hell the red-water scene is.
  • I think that’s an Ent grabbing Arondir. Which would imply that TirHarad might actually be near the Gap of Rohan.
  • The Balrog at the end is interesting on two levels. First off, it does look a fair bit like the Jackson Balrog. But since both adaptations have made use of John Howe’s services, I am not overly surprised that their Balrogs look like his. The second level is that there are no Balrogs in the Second Age. Durin’s Bane is still asleep. So why show us a Balrog? Either this really is a First Age flashback, or they are moving Durin’s Bane forward a few thousand years, or they are throwing in an invented Balrog to raise the stakes. It will be interesting to see what happens there.

As an aside, some energetic geeks have tried to calculate how many helmets are in the mound. The estimates I have seen put the total between ten thousand and twelve thousand. It’s enough to make one imagine Sauron offering the Nine Rings to Men who guess the total correctly. Like a jar of jellybeans.

8 thoughts on “Covering Tolkien’s Greatest Hits: Musings on the Other Rings of Power Trailer

  1. I wondered if the short-haired stranger was Sauron, which I didn’t like. Annatar ought not to look like he’s about to burn down an orphanage when he’s trying to win over the Elves. I prefer the idea they’re a cultist. The boy with the sword makes me wonder if he might be a Nazgul-to-be in future seasons. I’m guessing the balrog is a flashback. While I expect they’re going to move Durin’s Bane up, I’m guessing that will happen later in the show. Unless they really are doing bizarre things with the timeline. Who knows at this point.

    I’m not quite sure what to make of the First Age evocations. Some seem like they might be actual appearances of that material, and others aiming for resonance. If they are resonances… I’m not sure how to feel about that. The Oath of Feanor and the Hill of Slain deserve to be their own unique thing, and adding knock-offs of them in the Second Age feels cheap. I think my overall view is the same as with the last trailer: impressive visuals and incredible scale, a lot of questions about the narrative – some promising, some not so much.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Apparently the short-hair “guy” is actually an actress called Bridie Sisson. Searches confirm this. Her face is a good match, especially the hairline. Yes she is a cultist. It certainly is like The New Shadow. Tolkien abandoned it because it would be just a “thriller … not worth doing” (Letter 256).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Shall we ever see Beren and Lúthien? The scene of Galadriel before Finrod’s corpse made me think that they are able to implicate Galadriel in the B&L tale. After all, she was in Doriath at that time and no doubt she met Lúthien. I can imagine her, at least along the lines of the “warrior” Galadriel in this show, following Lúthien to Tol Sirion and helping to bury her brother.

    Another thing I have high hopes for is Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin. They bought the rights to Unfinished Tales, right? I would like to see at least a brief summary of Tuor’s history, his encounter with Ulmo, his union with Idril… after all, Tuor is the great patriarch of Númenor, his Dramborleg axe is part of the House of Elros regalia, it should be mentioned by the characters of the Second Age -Aldarion certainly does-, therefore it would be logical that we see Tuor in the flesh.

    The one I don’t think he will come out of is Turin, and it’s better that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Although what really worries me is if they will ever mention, throughout the seasons, or even in the prologue of the First Age, Eru Ilúvatar himself. The One God. I’m afraid he will never be mentioned and will be passed over altogether for fear that the play will appear too “religious” to casual viewers, although Tolkien no doubt intended Eru to be a reference to the Christian God he believed in.
    After all, remember, the focus of the Akallabeth plot is precisely the Religion. The fight between God and Satan for the soul of Númenor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This worries me too. The show-runners have said they will use Biblical language. (Payne is a Mormon btw. McKay I’m not sure but he has also got a religious background.) I suspect Biblical themes will enter in, but unacknowledged. E.g. the meteor could be out of Revelation Chapter 9:

      1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.

      2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.

      To handle the religious aspects properly they would need to use Tolkien’s own words. Like Jackson did. But they don’t have the rights to them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think it’s at least an allusion to Tolkien’s poem The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon.

        He twinkled his feet, as he thought of the meat,
        of pepper, and punch galore;
        And he tripped unaware on his slanting stair,
        and like a meteor,
        A star in flight, ere Yule one night
        flickering down he fell
        From his laddery path to a foaming bath
        in the windy Bay of Bel.

        Liked by 1 person

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