Fans of The Lord of the Rings have been waiting on pins and needles ever since Amazon first announced that a new series was in development — entirely separate from the two Peter Jackson trilogies, importantly — and would be bringing us to previously never-before-seen events in Middle-earth. We finally received our most concrete details earlier today, which included the very first image that represents an incredibly tantalizing glimpse into the familiar yet alien world of the show.
Both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit boasted tons of lore to dig through, perhaps proving a bit too much for novices but serving as mere catnip for the initiated. However, this as-of-yet untitled Amazon show (we’re stuck with this Lord of the Rings qualifier/colloquialism until we’re not, I get it, but any nerd will tell you not to call it that!) has every indication of diving headfirst into the depths of author J.R.R. Tolkien‘s living and breathing world. Based on what we’re seeing, perhaps more than we even thought it would already. Without further ado, let’s unpack the hints, teases, and insinuations loaded in just this one image that could give us a deeper understanding of just what this series is all about.
When and Where in Middle-earth Are We?
The most immediate and major element that sets this series apart from the two film trilogies is the time and the setting. This image hints at a beautiful location that’s home to a great civilization (possibly the city of Tirion) with an intriguing source of light far off in the distance. Look closely in the background, however, and you’ll notice it’s no sunrise or sunset. Instead, there are two trees — one bright, one darker — from which all light seems to be emanating. This just might be the clincher that gives us the answer as to when this is meant to take place.
We’ve previously been made aware that the events of the show would take place during the Second Age, thousands of years before the events of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (which itself took place over 50 years before The Lord of the Rings). Where the Third Age largely encompasses the threat of Sauron, the fearsome would-be conqueror of Middle-earth and big bad of both movie trilogies, the Second Age (and, according to the synopsis, the events of the show) concerns the rise and fall of the kingdom of Númenor.
Fans would’ve been forgiven if they thought that this was the exact location of the image, but that’s not quite it. What this picture definitely seems to be implying is that we’re going back even farther in Middle-earth’s timeline than that.
To understand the context, we have to wind back the clocks beyond even the beginnings of the First Age. Known as the Years of the Trees, this is when Valinor reigned as a sort of heaven on earth, the paradise landmass (also referred to as Aman) that is home to the Valar (essentially the gods of Middle-earth) as well as the Two Trees: Laurelin the golden and Telperion with its dark leaves. These were the sources of power in the ancient world, bringing light to a previously dark existence and serving as the precursors to the sun and the moon. But good things never seem to last, as these trees eventually met a catastrophic end.
These events would seem to be well outside the purview of the show, occurring another several thousand years before the Second Age. But we’re betting that an early flashback sequence — similar to the world-building prologue that frontloaded The Fellowship of the Ring — will detail the chain of events of how those two trees were destroyed by Sauron’s master, Melkor/Morgoth, and how a recovered seedling ended up being planted in Númenor, the location that will kickstart the events of the show proper.
What About the Rest of the Series?
So what does this have to do with the rest of the show?
Númenor was an island kingdom far to the West of Middle-earth that was set aside for a specially chosen race of Men — a kingly lineage that went on to make landfall in Middle-earth, founding the kingdom of Gondor seen throughout The Lord of the Rings and from which Aragorn hails as a direct descendant. Before that, however, they tragically brought about the destruction of their own home in true Shakespearean fashion.
The first season of the Amazon series will likely detail the chain of events that led a much younger and more seductive Sauron to whisper in the ears of the arrogant Númenorean leaders and goad them into launching an incredibly misguided attack on the shores of Valinor itself — the paradise landmass (also referred to as Aman) that is home to the Valar, who are essentially the gods of Middle-earth. This is where Tolkien goes truly Atlantis on us, as Númenor is sunk beneath the ocean as punishment for their folly and only a few survivors (Sauron included) escape the destruction of their home to land on the shores of Middle-earth.
Still with me here? Fear not, much of the series’ five total seasons will still take place in the same Middle-earth that heroes like Frodo, Aragorn, and all the rest would eventually have their adventures in and go on to become names of renown. As the synopsis hints, we’ll be revisiting familiar sights such as the Misty Mountains (which our heroes attempted to climb in Fellowship and were instead forced to travel underneath to the Mines of Moria) and familiar characters (who we know will include a younger Galadriel). But the path to the Middle-earth we grew to know and love first goes through Númenor.
There are still plenty of gaps to fill and more surprises to throw our way as the to-be-announced release date for Season 1 draws closer, but at least we can be confident that we have a solid foundation for what to expect with this upcoming Lord of the Rings series. Be sure to stay tuned to /Film for more updates and deep-dives.
Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.
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