‘Rings of Power’: Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ series, explained

Amazon’s big bet on the timeless works of JRR Tolkien started with a $250 million bid at an auction in 2017.

Five years later, the first episodes of what is expected to be a five-season, $1 billion television series are finally here. “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” premieres Sept. 2 on Prime Video.

Amazon, whose founder Jeff Bezos has a “personal obsession” for Tolkien’s work, according to Vanity Fair, won the rights at auction to the author’s supplemental writings about Middle-earth. The eight-episode first season is reportedly costing $465 million.

“If it works, (it) could become a global phenomenon,” Vanity Fair’s Anthony Breznican and Joanna Robinson wrote in February. “If it falls short, it could become a cautionary tale for anyone who, to quote JRR Tolkien, delves too greedily and too deep.”

What should Tolkien fans and casual viewers expect from the incredibly expensive and highly anticipated series? Here are questions, answers and some facts you’ll want to know.

What book is ‘The Rings of Power’ based on?

It’s not. Amazon bought the rights from the Tolkien estate to the “appendices,” which appear in six parts at the end of Tolkien’s third book of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The author, as explained by Vanity Fair, “squeezed thousands of years of history into about 150 pages of postscript … These timelines, genealogies and notes on language and culture became so important to Tolkien that he even stalled the publication of the final book , ‘The Return of the King,’ to complete them.”

“The Rings of Power” is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, which takes place thousands of years before the events of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” books, and the six Peter Jackson films upon which they are based. (Jackson, whose “Return of the King” won a Best Picture Oscar in 2004, is not involved in “The Rings of Power” project.)

What is ‘The Rings of Power’ about?

Let’s begin with Amazon’s description: “The Rings of Power” “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.”

There have been six trailers released for the series. The latest focuses on Galadriel — a familiar character from “The Lord of the Rings” (more on that later).

We know Galadriel from previous films as the Lady of Lothlórien, but here she is a fierce warrior who anticipates an evil threat to a period of peace.

“My brother gave his life hunting the enemy,” she says as she mourns over his dead body. “His task is now mine.”

A trailer released in July at San Diego Comic Con — which begins with Galadriel mourning those lost during the last great war — had fans talking not only about the orcs and balrog that made an appearance, but also Sauron and his predecessor, according to Variety.

“Though his name isn’t spoken in the trailer, Tolkien fans know that evil to be Morgoth — the first Dark Lord of Middle-earth and the mentor of the villain who dominates Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’: Sauron,” according to Variety.

All the storylines, according to Vanity Fair, “will center, eventually, around the incident that gives the trilogy its name” — the creation of the rings.

What is the show rated and can kids watch?

“The Rings of Power” is rated TV-14. There will be frightening moments, but viewers shouldn’t expect to see the sex and nudity featured in HBO’s popular fantasy series “Game of Thrones.”

Showrunner and co-executive producer Patrick McKay told Vanity Fair that the objective was “to make a show for everyone, for kids who are 11, 12 and 13, even though sometimes they might have to pull the blanket up over their eyes if it’s a little too scary.”

Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) and Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards).

What is a harfoot?

In Tolkien’s Second Age of Middle-earth, there were no wizards or hobbits. There were, however, harfoots. Entertainment Weekly describes them as “early predecessors to the hobbits all Tolkien fans know and love. Similarly diminutive in stature, these harfoots haven’t yet settled in the Shire, preferring instead to wander as nomads and live in close-knit communities.”

Who are the characters in ‘Rings of Power’?

Some of the characters in Amazon’s new series are familiar, taken from Tolkien’s works. Others are created based on the backstory of the appendices.

“We had the privilege of working with Tolkien scholars,” JD Payne, showrunner and co-executive producer, told a Comic Con audience in July, according to USA Today. “Tolkien gave us all these amazing clues about characters in the Second Age. When Tolkien was silent, (we) try to invent things in as Tolkienian a way as possible.”

Currently, there are 22 total shows listed for “The Rings of Power.”

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5 characters you know

  • Galadriel (Morfydd Clark): Played in the Jackson films by Cate Blanchett, this Galadriel is “thousands of years younger, as angry and brash as she is clever,” according to Vanity Fair.
  • Elrond (Robert Aramayo): Played by Hugo Weaving in “The Lord of the Rings” films, the Elrond in “The Rings of Power” is “not yet an elf lord,” according to Entertainment Weekly. “Instead, he’s an ambitious young politician of half-elven heritage. He’s also got a powerful family legacy to live up to.”
  • Isildur (Maxim Baldry): While barely seen in “The Lord of the Rings” films, Isildur is a constant presence due to the fact that he cut the One Ring from the hand of Sauron, but never destroyed it, setting in motion the events of the trilogy. In “The Rings of Power,” Isildur is “still a young man living on the island of Númenor,” according to Entertainment Weekly.
  • Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards): We know his name, at least. “Celebrimbor is a brilliant artisan who strikes up a friendship with the dwarves in nearby Khazad-dûm,” according to Entertainment Weekly. “Eventually, however, he’s manipulated into crafting several rings of power — which helps kickstart Sauron’s inevitable rise.”
  • Sauron: No actor is credited with playing the evil one, but we all know who Sauron is. In analyzing the San Diego Comic Con trailer, an article in Variety points out that “only parts of the character’s body (mainly his threatening hands and arms) appear on screen. There are also a couple shots of an etherial, sallow-skinned man who appears to be operating on Sauron’s behalf.”
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Durin IV (Owain Arthur) and Disa (Sophia Nomvete).

5 characters you don’t know

  • Halbrand (Charlie Vickers): According to Entertainment Weekly, “one of the series’ more mysterious figures is the mortal castaway Halbrand, who soon crosses paths with Galadriel.” According to Vanity Fair, he is “running from the past.”
  • Miriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson): She’s the queen of Númenor, an “ancient island kingdom … ruled over by powerful humans of half-elven heritage,” according to Entertainment Weekly. “The island looms wide through Tolkien’s legendarium.”
  • Durin IV (Owain Arthur) and Disa (Sophia Nomvete): The dwarf prince and princess who rule over Khazad-dûm, a kingdom that eventually fell and was the setting for one of the more thrilling scenes in “The Fellowship of the Ring.” According to Entertainment Weekly, the prince and princess “have a loving and playful relationship,” and it’s the first time a female dwarf has appeared in a film based on Tolkien’s work.
  • Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh): She’s a harfoot with a “Baggins-like yearning for adventure.” according to Entertainment Weekly. “The show begins with Nori and her closest friend Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards) discovering a mysterious man (Daniel Weyman), who seems to have fallen from the sky in a flaming meteor.”

Who else is in the cast?

  • Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker).
  • Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi).
  • Round (Ismael Cruz Córdova).
  • Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin).
  • Trystan Gravelle (Pharazôn).
  • Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry).
  • Eärien (Ema Horvath).
  • Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards).
  • Largo Brandyfoot (Dylan Smith).
  • Kemen (Leon Wadham).
  • The Stranger (Daniel Weyman).
  • Marigold Brandyfoot (Sara Zwangobani).
  • Elendil (Lloyd Owen).
  • King Durin III (Peter Mullan).

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