10 Events That Will Define Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings” Series!

With the coronavirus currently raging around the world and no end to the health crisis in sight, expect to see an increase in these sort of hypothetical think-pieces from my blog.

This is something I feel like I should have written about ages ago. But now, while we wait for production on Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings streaming series to resume, we have to wonder: what will the series actually be about? Hint: it’s not The Lord Of The Rings – or, rather, it is, but not quite in the way you were probably expecting, if you haven’t been following along with every tidbit of news about the series.

You see, while Amazon Prime does have the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s most well-known and influential novel, that’s not what they’re choosing to adapt in their billion-dollar, five-season production. Instead, they’re rummaging around in the depths of Tolkien lore, in a little-known and oft-overlooked period of Middle-earth history: a time period known as the Second Age. The average audience member introduced to the Tolkien fandom through Peter Jackson’s movies probably doesn’t know this term, but they do know two major events that happened in the Second Age – namely, the forging of the One Ring, and the first defeat of Sauron the Dark Lord. Both events happened in rapid succession in the prologue to The Fellowship Of The Ring, but in Tolkien’s timeline there are more than a thousand years between those two things.

That’s why today we’ll be looking at ten events that shaped the Second Age and will likely define the series.

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10: Rebuilding After The First Age. Amazon Prime does not have the rights to adapt material from J.R.R. Tolkien’s posthumously published The Silmarillion, meaning they probably won’t be addressing too many events from the First Age of Middle-earth’s history, at least not in great detail. But they don’t really need to: the Second Age picks up right where the First left off, with all of Arda (basically, the entire world, of which Middle-earth is actually only a small piece) in ruins following the fall of Morgoth the Accursed and the destruction visited upon the earth’s surface by the trampling feet of the host of the Valar (Middle-earth’s pantheon of gods). Continents get pushed around, coastlines change, mountains crumble – just an average day in Arda. Assuming the series starts roughly around the beginning of the Second Age, it’ll have to cover several events that happen here: the migrations of Elves, Men and Dwarves across Middle-earth, the foundations of new cities and strongholds, and the establishment of empires such as Númenor, a star-shaped island kingdom given as a gift to Mankind by the Valar; Lindon, which becomes the chief dwelling-place of the High Elves under the rule of King Gil-galad; and Eregion, a small but hugely influential kingdom settled by Celebrimbor, last of the crafty Fëanorian Elves. Even if the series starts later in the Second Age, these events will still probably be covered in flashbacks.

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9: The Heyday Of Elves And Men. This is the time period during which we can probably expect a large part of the series to take place. Basically, what you need to remember about the Elves we’ll see living in Second Age in Middle-earth is that they chose to stay there. After the First Age, when the world was remade and Morgoth was undone, the Elves were offered a choice by the Valar: to repent for all their sins (which included killing some of their brethren and defying the will of the Valar) and return to the Blessed Realm of Valinor across the Western Sea, or to remain in Middle-earth. Some chose to head back home, but a lot decided to stay: the ones who stayed grew arrogant, and tried to prove to the Valar, in a way, that they could make Middle-earth just as blissful and peaceful as Valinor. This motivated Celebrimbor to welcome a stranger who came among his people claiming to be an emissary from the Valar who had taken pity on the Elves of Middle-earth. This stranger, going by the name of Annatar, Giver of Gifts, was welcomed into the kingdom of Eregion and quickly rose to power there. Meanwhile, in Númenor, human Men began to sail far and wide across the seas of Arda, settling in colonies along the coasts of Middle-earth and venturing even to the edge of the world. Something else to remember, for future reference: at this point in the timeline, the earth is flat. A flat, roughly circular disc just floating in the cosmos, minding its own business. So when I say the Númenóreans ventured to the edge of the world….I mean that literally.

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8: The Rings Of Power. Remember that stranger who showed up in Eregion? Yeah, well, it’s at this point in the timeline that he basically comes out and says what every Elf in Middle-earth has already been feeling: it’s time to radically redesign the balance of power in Arda. He and Celebrimbor work together to forge a set of Rings, each of which is imbued with terrible power. These Rings are given out to all the major players in Middle-earth: King Gil-galad gets one, Círdan the Shipwright gets one, the Lady Galadriel gets one; seven Dwarf-lord get one each; nine of the most powerful human sorcerers, kings and warriors get one each. But in secret, Annatar, Giver of Gifts, has been stealing Celebrimbor’s secrets to forge his own Ring – a master Ring, a Ring that will rule all the other Rings and bind them to his will. Oh wait, did I forget to mention that Annatar is actually Sauron the Dark Lord in disguise? Yeah, he totally is, and he’s intent on getting vengeance on the Valar for what they did to Morgoth, his master and mentor in the First Age. But when he puts on his One Ring and declares himself to be the Lord of the Rings, Celebrimbor senses his true purpose and hides all the other Rings, buying himself a little time.

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7: The War Of The Elves And Sauron. Unfortunately for Celebrimbor, his quick action meant that the Three Rings given to the Elves were saved – but he himself was captured by Sauron during an attack on Eregion, tortured for that information until he died of exhaustion, and then was tied to a flagpole and carried like a banner into battle by Sauron’s armies of orcs. In the end, Celebrimbor only disclosed to Sauron the locations of the Seven and Nine Rings they had made, and Sauron took most of those at this point. For a long time afterwards, Sauron was at war with the Elves of Middle-earth, and this is where the series will be able to fit in some awesome battles: Gil-galad and his herald, Elrond, lead the main assault against Sauron, but they are joined by several others, including Círdan with his fleets of Elven ships; Galadriel and Celeborn, leading joint efforts from both sides of the Misty Mountains; the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm; and Glorfindel, a resurrected Elf from the First Age who is sent back to Middle-earth by the Valar to aid in the Elven Wars. But even with all of this aid, the Elves still would likely have been defeated, had not Númenor arrived just in time.

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6: The Decline Of Númenor. While the Elves are busy fighting Sauron in Middle-earth for centuries, the Men of Númenor are feeling the Dark Lord’s shadow from afar. At the height of their power, the Númenóreans were a naturally long-lived people, but as time went on their longevity began to wear away, even as they clung to it. In their heyday, they had welcomed Elves to their island paradise: even Elves who came from Valinor with gifts and wise advice. But now, they’re starting to wonder why only Elves were “blessed” with immortality, and their jealousy of Valinor grows until it becomes a disease. Amazon will need to get this exactly right: we need to feel that desperation that will drive the Númenóreans to madness and acts of blatant aggression; we need to see the terror in the eyes of their Kings, holding onto life even as they slip away; we need to smell the decay that creeps through their culture, foreshadowing what’s to come.

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5: Sauron In Númenor. When the Númenórean army arrives in Middle-earth, bringing an end to the war between Sauron and the Elves, Sauron realizes at once that he is outnumbered. But Sauron is cunning: pretending to be defeated, he willingly surrenders to the Númenórean king and commander, Ar-Pharazôn, and is subsequently taken back to Númenor to be a prisoner. Here, he pulls the same trick he used against the Elves: he promises Ar-Pharazôn his greatest desire – in this case, everlasting life. This, he claims, can only be won if Ar-Pharazôn musters the courage and the army to invade Valinor, the Blessed Realm of the Valar. Ar-Pharazôn, not known for being the brightest Edain in Arda, finally succumbs to his prisoner’s seduction, and allows Sauron to counsel him in every matter: when Sauron begins the building of his army, the King agrees to it; when Sauron builds a temple to Morgoth and starts practicing bloody human sacrifices there, the King agrees to it; when Sauron sends him off to his death, the King agrees to it, ignoring all the warnings of doomsday that the Valar send his way. He and his army do make it to Valinor, and they even set foot on the Blessed Realm’s shores – and then, in the greatest act of comeuppance ever, the Valar kill him and almost everyone else in Númenor by sending the island hurtling into the ocean abyss and burying Ar-Pharazôn under a mountain. Sauron is temporarily killed in the cataclysmic disaster, and he loses his ability to ever again take a human form.

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4: Gondor And Arnor. At this time, the world is remade again by the Valar, and becomes a globe. Oddly, the only effect this has on the Middle-earth map, aside from the complete disappearance of Númenor, is changing one island in the Bay of Belfalas. Coincidentally, it’s in this bay that the next chapter of the Second Age begins, as this is where one small group of battered ships arrives after a long and arduous journey by sea, manned by the Númenórean prince, Isildur, and his brother. Their father, Elendil, gets washed ashore in the far north of Middle-earth. At these two points on the map, these men set up two kingdoms: Gondor in the south, and Arnor in the north. These kingdoms become one vast empire in these last few years of the Second Age, and are united in opposing Sauron. Isildur builds the city of Minas Anor (later changed to Minas Tirith), and plants the sapling of the White Tree of Gondor there. The seven seeing stones, or palantíri, are placed in secure locations around Middle-earth. The tower of Orthanc in Isengard is built. With callbacks like these, who needs hobbits?

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3: The War Of The Last Alliance. Needless to say, Sauron isn’t done haranguing our heroes just yet. Gathering his forces for a final push, he leads his armies of corrupted Ringwraithes, orcs, and foul creatures into battle against the fledgling force of Gondor. But in this dark hour, Mankind does not stand alone. Elendil, King of Arnor, goes to Gil-galad and Elrond and requests their aid: they form a Last Alliance of Elves and Men, and lead their armies together into the south, relieving the siege of Gondor and eventually entering Mordor, Sauron’s dreadful realm. As they approach Mordor, they are joined by Elves out of Lórien and Greenwood, Dwarves from the Misty Mountains, and even Ents out of Fangorn Forest. There are several battles along the way, most notably on the plain of Dagorlad that would later become bogged down and renamed the Dead Marshes. In Mordor, the Last Alliance besieges Sauron’s fortress of Barad-dûr, which lasts for several years.

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2: The Fall Of Sauron. At last, Sauron breaks the siege, though not before many have died, including Isildur’s brother Anárion and Oropher, king of the Elves of Greenwood. The Dark Lord arrives on the battlefield wearing the One Ring he created, making him almost invulnerable – he drives the attacking armies back to the slopes of Mount Doom, and there, with the fiery heat of his hand, he kills Gil-galad and Elendil. But Isildur, Elendil’s son, takes up the hilt-shard of his father’s broken sword and deals the fatal blow to Sauron, cutting the One Ring from the Dark Lord’s finger. Sauron is vanquished, and his evil spirit flees, incorporeal and weakened. His armies are easily defeated. His Ringwraithes vanish from history. And the war is won. But Isildur refuses to listen to the counsel of Elrond and Círdan, who both advise him to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Instead, Isildur finds himself unable to get rid of the Ring, and holds onto it as a souvenir of his victory.

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1: The Disaster Of The Gladden Fields. This one is entirely up to the showrunners: it’s possible they’ll want to end the series on a more hopeful note, with the survivors of the war picking up the threads of their broken lives and moving on, and all that. And certainly there should be some happy endings – but at the same time, it would be deliciously exciting to end the entire series with the disaster of the Gladden Fields, something that was glimpsed briefly in The Fellowship Of The Ring. Isildur, returning home from the war, is attacked by a rogue band of orcs and killed – and the One Ring slips from his finger as he falls and drops into the River Anduin. Imagine it: Howard Shore’s familiar, eerie score closing out the final episode of the final season, as we watch the Ring settle into the mud at the river-bed, there to lie in wait for the next two and a half thousand years…

So what do you think of these ten events from the Second Age timeline? Will they define the series, or do you think the showrunners will focus their adaptation on a singular moment from the chronology, rather than trying to fit three-thousand years worth of story into just five seasons? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Maxim Baldry To Star In “The Lord Of The Rings”!

Technically, I reported on this quite some time ago, back when Maxim Baldry’s name first came up in association with Amazon Prime’s long-awaited adaptation of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, because, at the time, it seemed legit. However, as the months have crept by and we have begun to hear more information about the streaming series’ production and filming in New Zealand, Maxim Baldry’s name has been…let’s say, suspiciously absent from the conversation. To the point where it seemed like his casting had been a piece of misinformation (something that has plagued the Lord Of The Rings series since the beginning, with sites like TheOneRing.net often pushing hyperbolic and conjectural narratives about the series on their Twitter account).

Our fears were apparently confirmed when Baldry was left off an important cast list released by Amazon Prime themselves. A total of fifteen actors and actresses were officially cast and sent off to New Zealand to begin their strenuous physical training and start work on the series, including Robert Aramayo, Nazanin Boniadi, Markella Kavenagh, Morfydd Clark and others. But Baldry, whom, at the time, I and many other fans considered to be one of the main stars, was still nowhere to be seen. His social media gave no hint of any involvement (for comparison, most of the other confirmed stars have been using their social media to keep us up to date on their time in New Zealand, including sightseeing, hiking trips and visits to Lord Of The Rings trilogy locales such as the Hobbiton film set).

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And then last night, out of the blue – Maxim Baldry is onboard the Amazon Prime series, according to Deadline (who also broke the original story of his joining the cast). They have now acknowledged that their initial report was only partially accurate: while he has been circling the project for some time, only recently has he worked out a deal with Amazon and settled into what Deadline are calling “a lead role” – not to be confused with the lead, who is believed to be played by Robert Aramayo. This matches up with what Amazon Co-head of TV Vernon Sanders said about the series: that there were still “a few key roles to cast”.

As for who Maxim Baldry is playing, that’s an open question as of right now. But the British actor, best known for his work on Years And Years, seems to have a very important place in the series. And that’s why I’m returning to what I think was my original assumption, and putting out a guess that he’s playing Annatar the Giver of Gifts, one of the many forms of the shape-shifting villain Sauron, who you might remember from Peter Jackson’s trilogy as being a giant eye in the sky. Baldry’s slender build, delicate features and long mane of dark hair lend themselves naturally to the Dark Lord, who often disguised himself as an Elf during the Second Age of Middle-earth, when this series is set. Annatar, Sauron’s most iconic alter ego, was an Elven lord who claimed to have been sent from the realm of the gods to bring a message of reconstruction and reform to Middle-earth, only to deceive his victims into enslaving themselves to his will. If not Sauron, then my other fan-cast for Maxim Baldry would be the young and peaceful Elven King Gil-galad, leader of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, and one of Sauron’s chief rivals during the Second Age.

Who do you think Maxim Baldry is playing, and why do you think it took him so long to get onboard with the series? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Simon Merrells Cast In Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings”!

Amazon Prime recently announced the main cast for their upcoming Lord Of The Rings prequel adaptation (a multi-talented fellowship of fifteen, all of whom seem like admirable and interesting people), but now, with their production start-date inching closer, it’s time for them to start casting the smaller roles: recurring characters, guest stars, that sort of thing. Simon Merrells is the first such actor to be cast, according to new reporting.

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Merrells, best known for his work on the TV series Spartacus (and for his brief but hilarious role on another Amazon Prime series, Good Omens), will supposedly be joining the cast of the epic fantasy in a recurring role: unsurprisingly, we don’t have a character name to attach to his face just yet, nor do we know how many episodes he will appear in. But that’s never stopped me before, and it’s not enough to stop me now from taking a wild shot in the dark and throwing out a guess for who I think Merrells could portray in the first season of Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings.

The character who came to mind immediately, after taking a long, hard look at Merrells’ long, hard face, was Círdan the Shipwright. Círdan is by no means a pivotal figure in the histories of the Second Age of Middle-earth, when this series takes place, but he is still just important enough to warrant popping up from time to time: he was one of the three Elven Ringbearers, and throughout the Second Age he wore on his hand Narya, the Ring of Fire – a responsibility he doesn’t seem to have ever exploited, as there’s no record of him ever using the Ring (and as soon as the Third Age rolled around, he took the first chance he got and passed it off to Gandalf). In this Age, he mostly stayed put in the peaceful country of Lindon, where he was probably a close confidante of the Elven king Gil-galad. He also started construction on the Grey Havens, which would later serve as the Elven peoples’ last escape-route from Middle-earth in times of war and hardship. There, at the Havens, he was probably the guardian of one of the palantíri seeing stones (which technically was housed a couple miles away at Elostirion, but close enough to still conceivably be within his sphere of influence). He stood by Isildur and Elrond on the slopes of Mount Doom after the first defeat of Sauron, and presumably backed Elrond up when the latter tried to convince Isildur not to take the One Ring. He’s a character who stands on the margins of this world’s history, watching events unfold with a patient, foreseeing eye, but rarely getting involved in the action. In other words, he’s not going to be around often in the series, but when he does show up, it’ll probably be for big, dramatic moments.

And of course, Merrells matches his physical description well enough: Círdan is written to be an old Elf, still noble and majestic, but weathered and worn-down a little from the weight of his burdens and the pain he has seen. Merrells, with his gaunt features and deep-set eyes, looks almost exactly like the character – I say “almost”, because Círdan is supposed to have a long grizzled beard, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Merrells, who has grown a decent-sized beard before for multiple roles.

So that’s who I think Simon Merrells could play in the Amazon Prime series. Who do you think he’s playing, and what do you think of the casting? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Who’s Who In The “Lord Of The Rings” Cast?

Amazon Prime has officially announced the fifteen members of the main recurring cast for the first season of their The Lord Of The Rings, a massive fantasy series that will dive deep into the uncharted expanses of time and space between J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic creation-narrative The Silmarillion, and the events of his most well-known work, The Lord Of The Rings. In this mostly unknown and unexplored region of the Tolkien legendarium, there are three-thousand years of stories, subplots and character arcs that can absolutely be stitched together into the five-season series that Amazon is hoping to create: and now they have a cast to help them with that daunting task.

A cast that, for the time being, is just that: a bunch of names and random headshots that really doesn’t give us any clear picture of what’s going on in Middle-earth at this point in the fantasy world’s history – are most of these characters original, devised by the Amazon Prime writer’s room? Or are they Tolkien characters, and we just don’t know it yet? Who is playing who?

That’s why I’m here: to make extremely random and imaginative conjectures based on a handful of vague hints, and, hopefully, get something right. I’m likely wrong about most or all of these predictions and theories, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.

That being said, let’s start out with Robert Aramayo, first on the cast-list and the man presumed to be the series’ central protagonist. Aramayo’s real character name is unknown, but it is known that he replaced fellow Brit Will Poulter, who was supposed to play “Beldor”. While no character with that name exists in Tolkien’s canon, Poulter’s striking resemblance to Hugo Weaving – who portrayed Elrond Half-Elven in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy – led many to believe that Poulter was playing a younger version of Weaving’s character, and that “Beldor” was merely a code-name. Aramayo doesn’t bear the same resemblance to Weaving, but he’s not entirely dissimilar, either. If Poulter was playing Elrond, then it seems certain that Aramayo is, as well.

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There’s another (small) bit of evidence that points to Beldor being Elrond: in an unofficial character breakdown, a character named “Neldor” was mentioned as being very similar to Beldor. Frankly, Neldor makes the most sense as a code-name for Elrond, since it’s literally just the word Elrond with the letters scrambled, but I think Neldor is more likely to be Elrond’s canon twin brother, Elros – the first king of Númenor, and forefather of the Dúnedain. And who better to play Elros than the only other member of the cast (so far) who looks anything like Robert Aramayo: Welsh actor Owain Arthur? Arthur has similar facial features to Aramayo, but is also noticeably older, meaning he could convincingly portray the Half-Elf’s mortal brother, who chose to live and die as a human.

We don’t know who’s playing Elrond, but it looks like Welsh actress Morfydd Clark is almost certainly playing a younger version of the Elven heroine Galadriel, as was reported some time ago. Clark could easily pass as Cate Blanchett’s twin, and has an ethereal aura that would befit a character of Galadriel’s nobility and majesty.

Similarly, it seems definite that Australian actress Markella Kavenagh is playing the character of “Tyra”, an elf or non-human character with an optimistic, naive worldview and an eager curiosity. This has been reported since she was cast several months ago, and it hasn’t changed once. Kavenagh is playing Tyra: of that I’m certain. I’m not yet certain whether Tyra is a code-name, but I do think she’s an original character – my theory is that she’s a rustic Silvan elf, and I will not be swayed in that opinion until proven wrong. A lot of people want to believe she’s actually Celebrían, the future wife of Elrond and mother of Arwen Evenstar, but those people are wrong. Sorry.

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If I had to guess who is playing Celebrían, it would be Ema Horvath, a young Slovak-American actress who was cast a while ago: she doesn’t look like the type of actress who could play “warm and maternal…Eira” or “self-sufficient single mother…Kari”, so I have to assume she’s playing another character, whom we haven’t seen yet in either character breakdowns or leaked audition tapes. Celebrían is as good a choice as any. though another possibility is Tar-Ancalimë, the first ruling Queen of Númenor.

But let’s get back to that self-sufficient single mother for a moment, because I think Iranian-British actress Nazanin Boniadi is the perfect fit for the role of Kari, whose audition tapes revealed a conflicted character struggling with a dangerous secret that could turn her people against her. Either that or she’s Erendis, a proud, fiercely determined Númenórean noblewoman who has a prominent role in Middle-earth history, and was the subject of one of Tolkien’s most emotional, intimate dramas. Boniadi would kill it in either role. I’ve also seen suggestions that she could be a gender-bent Celebrimbor, and I would love that too.

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The series needs a villain, and I think both Daniel Weyman and Joseph Mawle make strong cases for why they should play Sauron, better known in this age of Middle-earth as Annatar, the giver of gifts and deceiver of men. Both men have strong, harsh features and a gaunt, almost sinuous look – personally, I’d take Mawle as Sauron and Weyman as his right-hand man, the Witch-King of Angmar, but maybe that’s just me. Sauron is an important role, and has to be cast right: in fact, since the character is a notorious shape-shifter, I wouldn’t mind seeing a number of different actors (or actresses) take on the role over the duration of the series, just to keep us constantly on our toes about who to trust. That way, the heavy burden wouldn’t just be on one actor’s shoulders, but would be passed around from episode to episode, allowing for the demigod villain to have a certain incorporeal feeling.

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The character of “Hamson” is as good as Sauron is evil – described in breakdowns and audition tapes as a kind, loving farmer trying to preserve his fading health long enough to see his family through the winter, I imagine Hamson to be a rugged, rustic middle-aged man: basically, actor Dylan Smith. Otherwise, I could see Smith taking on the role of Loda, “an earthy man” whose daughter is training to be an apprentice in her village community.

Which brings us to Megan Richards, who I think fits the role of Loda’s daughter perfectly. This character doesn’t yet have a name, but had an important role in Loda’s audition tape, which saw the father and daughter duo conversing about a stowaway living in their house. With her charming, expressive features, Richards would be a sturdy emotional core for the series: a simple character wound up in a number of extraordinary circumstances. Alternatively, she could be playing one of Tyra’s sisters.

Next up, we have the youngest member of the cast, Australian child actor Tyroe Muhafidin. This boy has elf-ears, no questions asked: his ears are about as pointed as a human being’s can be, and I think it would be a waste to cast him as a human child, or anyone other than an elf. But are there any elf-children running around in the Second Age of Middle-earth? There are a couple: in one version of Galadriel’s backstory, she was the mother of a son named Amroth, who went on to become a noble elf-lord and the subject of a tragic love-song. Or, with a little timeline-altering, Muhafidin could be playing one of Elrond’s twin sons, Elladan or Elrohir. Those are the only elf-children I can think of off the top of my head, but there are very few kids in the Second Age – most likely, Muhafidin is playing a young version of a character who will become important as an adult in future seasons of the show.

Charlie Vickers is my pick for the character of “Cole”, who is described simply as a “charismatic” young fellow with a heavy burden and a melancholy attitude. Even after much brain-wracking, I can’t quite decide who this character might be in the Tolkien canon: perhaps the gloomy, pessimistic Celeborn? Imagining a “charismatic” Celeborn is somewhat difficult, so perhaps Vickers is playing a human – I keep coming back to Aldarion, the world-weary adventurer who set sail from Númenor to explore the edges of the world and found himself halfway across Middle-earth, leaving his family far behind him and largely abandoning the cares of his kingdom.

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Aldarion’s closest friend among the Elves was the last king of the Noldor, the immortal Gil-galad. This is a role I wouldn’t mind seeing race-bent, especially because Puerto Rican actor Ismael Cruz Córdova seems like such a good choice: not only does he have a curiously timeless look, but his eyes are almost as striking as Elijah Wood’s – reminiscent of the pale starlight that the Elves adore so much. I could picture Córdova’s Gil-galad as a solemn, mature young leader and a keen judge of character.

Sophia Nomvete, an Iranian-African actress, is an exciting casting choice, and I want to see her in an exciting role: this could be as a queen reigning over lands in Middle-earth, or even as one of the two Blue Wizards who visited the far east and helped rally the fight against Sauron from behind his front-lines, causing irreparable damage to his war effort. The fates of these two wizards are a long-running subject of debate in the Tolkien fandom, and we’ve never seen them onscreen – the closest we got was a throwaway reference to them in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

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Finally, we have to figure out who Australian actor Tom Budge is playing: no easy task, considering that most images of him show the actor sporting a large, downright Gallic mustache. But once you look past the facial hair, I think it’s easy to envision Budge as an elf: perhaps even the foolhardy Celebrimbor, who will probably have a large role in the show as the creator and craftsman behind the forging of the Rings of Power. But Budge could also be playing a villain – in particular, I could see him as one of the nine mortal men ensnared by Sauron and transformed into the horrible Ringwraithes.

So all fifteen have been accounted for, and where does that leave us? Well, technically, nowhere, since these are all just guesses. I’ve tried my best to check off all the many characters listed in the unofficial breakdowns and audition tapes, but even so, a couple are still missing: who’s playing the maternal “Eira”, or irascible “Brac”? Which of these is the charismatic but cunning “Aric”, who made such an impression on us several months ago?

I leave you to come up with your own guesses, and tell me what you think of mine: share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings” Sets Series Cast!

Amazon Prime has assembled a fellowship of talent worthy of the long, perilous journey to Middle-earth, and they have my sword, my bow, my axe, and anything else they need from me. I love them, I already adore them, and if by life or death I can protect them, then I will.

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The full series cast, revealed today in a series of social media posts from the streaming service (which, inconveniently, didn’t have photos attached, forcing me to look up each actor individually), will include: Robert Aramayo and Joseph Mawle, both from Game Of Thrones; Owain Arthur, a theater actor soon to appear in Disney’s The One And Only Ivan; Nazanin Boniadi of Bombshell and Hotel Mumbai; Tom Budge of The Pacific; Morfydd Clark of Dracula; Ismael Cruz Córdova of The Undoing; Ema Horvath of Like.Share.Follow; Markella Kavenagh of Picnic At Hanging Rock; Tyroe Muhafidin, a new actor on the scene; Sophia Nomvete and Megan Richards, both theater actresses; Dylan Smith, star of I Am The Night; Charlie Vickers of Medici: Master Of Florence; and finally Daniel Weyman, star of Great Expectations and The Happy Prince.

Notably absent from this comprehensive list is Maxim Baldry, who was previously reported to have joined the show in a lead role – I feel it’s safe to assume he is no longer part of the cast (or never was part of it to begin with), but it’s worth keeping an eye out for him later on. While this group of fifteen will surely be the series’ main cast, it’s probable that many more actors and actresses will be added as time goes on.

On the other hand, this cast is a big win for diversity in the fantasy genre: a number of these stars are people (and especially women) of color, and come from a multitude of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, making this probably the most diverse adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works yet.

We don’t yet know who’s playing who, as Amazon has yet to announce any character names: Morfydd Clark is, as previously reported, believed to be playing a younger version of Galadriel, while Robert Aramayo is playing a character known only as “Beldor”, and Markella Kavenagh has landed the role of “Tyra” – both of the latter names could be, and likely are, code-names for more well-known characters from the Tolkien mythos.

Obviously, there are a lot of names to go over here, and I might have to try and break them down individually at some point, because I’m sure Amazon has given us plenty of hints as to who these actors and actresses will be portraying. Already, the cogs in my brain are beginning to rotate – nay, spin – as I piece things together: is Mawle playing Sauron, or could it be the equally fine-featured Weyman? Is Córdova playing an original character, or is it only me who thinks he looks like Gil-galad? Speaking of which, have any of Tolkien’s roles been gender or race-bent? If so, can Boniadi please play Annatar?

So…what do you think? This is the cast, for better or worse: these are the men and women that we will walk alongside into the tumultuous Second Age of Middle-earth, and alongside whom we will (hopefully) spend a long, long time, weathering all the storms of Sauron, the betrayals of Númenor, and the wrath of the Valar. How do you feel, and who are you most excited to see onscreen for the first time? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Robert Aramayo Joins Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings”!

With production supposedly set to begin on Amazon Prime Studios’ The Lord Of The Rings prequel series in February, the streaming service has found a new lead to replace departing star Will Poulter: Game Of ThronesRobert Aramayo will take over the coveted role.

Robert Aramayo Joins Amazon's "Lord Of The Rings"! 9
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There is no indication, as of yet, which role Poulter and now Aramayo are set to play, though the Tolkien fandom had largely arrived at the conclusion that Poulter, who bears a striking resemblance to actor Hugo Weaving, would be playing the younger version of Weaving’s Lord Of The Rings character, Elrond Half-Elven. Aramayo, on the other hand, is best known for his role as a young Ned Stark (also played by Sean Bean, who portrayed Boromir in The Fellowship Of The Ring) on the HBO fantasy drama Game Of Thrones, a character he played for just four episodes – I bring up that last point in an attempt to allay Tolkien purists’ fears that casting Thrones actors automatically indicates that the Lord Of The Rings prequel will be a knockoff of the former series, despite the fact that only two Thrones actors have thus far been cast in LOTR, and neither had any sort of substantial role on Thrones.

Aramayo’s casting is an exciting addition to the high-profile series, which recently cast Welsh actress Morfydd Clark as a young Galadriel in the epic fantasy, which will explore a period of time long before the events of The Lord Of The Rings, during the War of the Last Alliance, the heyday of the kingdom of Númenor, and the first downfall of Sauron. So far, Galadriel is the only named character to have been cast, though Aramayo’s character is being referred to by a codename, Beldor.

How do you feel about Aramayo joining the series? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings” Finds Its Galadriel!

We have breaking news from Amazon Prime’s upcoming Middle-earth streaming series that is bound to make every Tolkien fan sit up in their seats and take notice. The character of Galadriel has apparently been cast, and will have a significant role in their adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s unpublished and posthumously published writings, which detail the ancient histories of Middle-earth. Galadriel, who appears prominently in Tolkien’s works as a military commander and authority figure, was inevitably going to be a lead character in the series, but the casting is shockingly unexpected.

Amazon's "Lord Of The Rings" Finds Its Galadriel! 10
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Morfydd Clark, a Welsh actress best known for her role in His Dark Materials, has apparently landed the coveted role of the immortal Elven lady portrayed by Cate Blanchett in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Clark bears a striking resemblance to the ethereal Australian actress in whose footsteps she will follow, giving us a clear indication that Amazon Prime is looking to establish continuity between their new series and Jackson’s classic films.

The character of Galadriel, whom we will meet at a crucial point in her long and complicated life, is best known for her grace, elegance and patient wisdom, founded on centuries of experience fighting wars against the forces of darkness: but Galadriel is not all about moral purity and Elven excellence – in the Second Age of Middle-earth, when the Amazon series is set to take place, Galadriel is still recovering from the traumas of an age-long battle against the first great evil, Morgoth, and is seeking a new dominion in the wide, unclaimed expanses of Middle-earth after having turned down the forgiveness of the Gods for her part in aiding a rebellion against divine wisdom. The Galadriel whom we will meet in the show is bold, headstrong, and brash – nothing like the cool, collected woman we see in the Third Age.

How do you feel about this exciting new development? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Ema Horvath Joins Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings”!

Actress Ema Horvath has joined the slowly assembling cast of Amazon Prime’s adaptation of the novels and unpublished writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, becoming only the fifth actor to do so – at the rate this is going, we should have a full cast sometime by the end of next year: but filming apparently begins in February, so the series’ casting directors might want to speed things up and stop searching relentlessly for hairy bikers and “wonderful noses”. All the wonderful noses in the world aren’t going to help a show that can’t pull together a main cast.

Ema Horvath Joins Amazon's "Lord Of The Rings"! 11
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Still, Horvath’s casting is at least a welcome sign of life from the project, which seems to randomly tumble into our newsfeeds every month or two with a sudden, startling announcement that makes us all sit up for twenty minutes before settling back into the long dark of Moria. Perhaps, if Amazon Prime could release some plot details, character names, or even a few pieces of concept art, we might have cause to get really excited: but these little unofficial news-stories are becoming increasingly infuriating as we’re forced to wait in silence for weeks in between, contenting ourselves with reading frustrating articles about all the things that the show could do wrong or “has” to get right (naming no names, of course).

Horvath herself is not likely to heighten our excitement or give outsiders a reason to get hyped: she’s a relatively obscure actress, with a small resume. I’m not certain which character she could be portraying onscreen, but I hope we might get an indication soon, as the show moves into production. I’d love it if Amazon could surprise us all and suddenly put out a big, detailed press release or something that all of us theorists could obsess over for a couple of weeks. That would be nice.

What do you think of the casting? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

New Details About Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings”!

For what is rumored to be the biggest, most expensive streaming series ever made, Amazon Prime Video’s The Lord Of The Rings prequel, based largely on the posthumously published works of author J.R.R. Tolkien, is barely even on the radar for most people. The series’ official social media accounts post cryptic messages and then go silent for weeks, even months. No cast members have been officially confirmed, even with filming set to begin in February of next year. We, the hardcore Tolkien fans, have to satisfy ourselves with theorizing and speculating about the smallest of details while we wait for any big announcements to break. But in the past couple of days, we’ve gotten plenty of small details, and now, at last, we have another big one.

Just a few days ago, a bunch of character code names for the series were released, with a couple of accompanying character traits that were largely vague and unhelpful. But last night Redanian Intelligence, a site better known for its coverage of The Witcher on Netflix, published transcripts of several audition tapes for some of these new characters, giving us a clearer insight into some of the series’ ensemble cast – specifically, the ones that seem most likely to be wholly invented, original characters designed by the showrunners themselves. And yes, that means it’s time to go through each audition tape one by one, breaking down all the new details and hints.

Obviously, be aware that any and all dialogue in an audition tape may not be indicative of the series’ actual script, and some of the scenarios within may not even be real: though a couple of them are detailed enough that they seem likely to be slightly altered versions of actual scenes from the show’s first season.

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The first two videos focus on the character of Brac. I had previously speculated that Brac, described as “irascible and cantankerous”, might be the Elven King Oropher, lord of the Wood Elves of Greenwood and best/only known for leading his troops in a reckless charge against the forces of Sauron and dying in the process. Turns out, I was far off the mark in this case: based on the clues provided in these two videos, it appears that Brac is a human man. In Tolkien’s mythos, there are many different kinds of humans inhabiting the earth during the Second Age when this series takes place – but for the purposes of this post, I’m only going to be focusing on two, in particular: the Men of the West, who lived on the island of Númenór, and the Drúedain, or “Wild Men”, who lived in Middle-earth but were permitted to travel whither they wished. And Brac is almost definitely one of the latter.

The first video revolves around Brac’s interactions with an unnamed second person who appears to have come from the royal court of Númenór to consult with him about some urgent, mysterious matter. It is clear from context that Brac is living or staying in Númenór, as a guest of the royalty: specifically, Brac references “your queen”, indicating that his storyline takes place during the reign of one of the three  ruling queens of Númenór – most likely Tar-Ancalimë. In Tolkien’s writings, one of the most major events involving the Drúedain takes place during her reign: it was at that time that the Drúedain who lived in Númenór became afraid and began to return across the sea to Middle-earth, realizing in their hearts that doom was coming for the mighty island kingdom, and any who stayed there would be swallowed up in the bloodbath to come.

Brac appears to be a high-ranking member of Drúedain nobility, who is pondering whether to stay on the island or return home. He questions the queen’s messenger, demanding to know the real reason why a Númenórean queen, whose people colonized and “befouled” Brac’s homeland, would suddenly pretend to care about her subjects’ suffering. The messenger gives no clear answer. The scene ends with Brac reluctantly allowing the messenger to spend the night at his house.

In the next scene, it is made obvious that the setting is Númenór, as Brac comments angrily about how much he despises the night sky made bright as noon-day by the lights of the island’s cities. “The night should be a blanket,” he announces, before prophetically adding “I can’t ever quite escape the feeling that it’s all about to fall over.” He announces his intention to leave the island and return to his homeland the very next day, but the second person, here given the name Radagar, pleads with him to stay, even revealing the queen’s bidding: “our people will make amends for each yield of crop you lost during our wars”. Brac appears to contemplate his words, but the scene ends shortly thereafter with no conclusion reached. Until we actually see the episode in which this conversation may or may not happen, we can only speculate about what Brac eventually chooses to do – will he leave the island or stay to negotiate with the queen? We know from Tolkien’s writings that there were no Drúedain still living in Númenór by the time of the island’s eventual downfall and destruction, so Brac will presumably escape death by godly wrath.

The next two scenes give us our first look at Kari, the “village healer with a secret”. I had hoped that her character might be Erendis, the Númenórean queen who raised her daughter, the aforementioned Tar-Ancalimë, in the countryside far from royal interference and male meddling – but unfortunately, it appears I was wrong. Kari seems to be a human, one of the proto-Dunlendings who lived in the regions colonized by Númenór in the Second Age and later reclaimed by nature. She is like Brac in that she is keenly aware of the divide between the peoples of Middle-earth, but unlike Brac, she doesn’t seem to have any intention of leaving her homeland.

In her first scene, Kari speaks to her lover, a soldier named Everad. There’s clearly a divide between these two tormented souls: Everad fears and distrusts Kari’s “disloyal” people, who rose in rebellion in “ages past”. Kari argues on behalf of her kinsfolk, and asks him whether there is “[any] room in your peoples hearts for forgiveness”. It doesn’t seem implausible that the steely Everad is a Númenórean warrior: if that is the case, then both characters are possibly committing a crime against their cultures by being together – and who doesn’t love some forbidden love? Considering that there aren’t any elf/human pairings in the Second Age, this seems like a good fit for the story.

The second scene with Kari is more tense and powerful: she wakes in the early morning and finds Everad already preparing to leave her home, while soldiers search for him in the village outside. There are a whole bunch of weirdly vague hints in this scene: Kari speaks of a “rumor”, and says that “few could” sleep during the night. As Everad prepares to leave her, Kari stops him: “If what you say is true, and this is the last time we are to see each other, please say what you want to say.” The scene ends with Kari telling Everad to wait for her: whether that’s meant literally or not is unclear.

Next, we have Loda: I predicted that Loda would be a boring character, and I’m beginning to think I’m right in that assumption. He’s a father who loves his daughter but doesn’t get along well with his son, who, in Loda’s words, is wasting “the most important years of his life on aimless schemes”. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like it could refer to the character of Aric, whom we met in a previous audition tape: roguish, charming, devious, remember him? Loda, on the other hand, is much more conventional and traditional: the scene opens with him prepping his daughter for her “first day as an apprentice”, and ends with him revealing that he’s…taken in a stowaway? That’s the most interesting part about his character so far, and yet we don’t have any clues to go on about who his stowaway is, or why she’s stowing away. Until we have more to go on, I’m guessing that Loda, like the others in this new batch of audition tapes, is a human – probably proto-Dunlending like Kari, though it’s not out of the question that his character is Drúedain.

Finally, we come to Hamsom. He only has one scene, but it reveals a great deal about his character: initially described as a “loving family man with health issues”, Hamsom is here seen working on his farm, trying to work past those very health issues: his wife tends to him, but wonders aloud whether Hamsom will survive the bitter winter. Her husband promises her that he’ll be there for her, reminding her of the strength of his love for her. He’s already one of the most charming characters in Amazon Prime’s ensemble cast, and I can’t wait to see more of him, though I have no idea how he’ll fit into a story about the creation of the Rings of Power, the downfall of Númenór, and the wars of the Last Alliance. I also don’t know if he’ll even live through the first season, in the condition he’s in. One thing we can surmise is that he is also human. I can’t determine yet which geographical region of Middle-earth he might be from, but his demeanor, and his hobbity name, almost suggest he might be a Halfling – Halflings, at this point in Middle-earth’s history, could only have dwelt in Wilderland, between the Misty Mountains and Greenwood the Great. But since that’s a bit of a stretch, I’m assuming he and his family are of the Race of Man, probably living somewhere in the north of Middle-earth, where the winter season would be particularly harsh.

It’s notable that Amazon Prime might be diving deep into Tolkien’s incredible genealogies for the human species, since Peter Jackson’s films only briefly touched on the idea that there are different groups of Men in Middle-earth – here, Amazon Prime has the opportunity to explore these different groups and subgroups of people, each with their own distinct cultures, customs and characters, from the Easterlings to the Woses (and hopefully, someday, the elusive Lossoth). It could lead to some very interesting – and probably heated – discussions about what it means to be human in Middle-earth, and what responsibilities and burdens go along with that distinction.

So there you go: four more characters, six more audition tapes, infinite questions and few answers. What do you think of this group of characters, and do you think any of them might be from Tolkien’s books, or are all of them newly invented by the team over at Amazon Prime? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Amazon Prime’s “Lord Of The Rings” – Main Characters Revealed?

As production begins on not one, but two seasons of Amazon Prime’s hugely ambitious prequel series to the classic novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, it can’t be long before the cast and characters are revealed to the public – so far, we only have four actors supposedly set to join the series’ ensemble cast, yet none of them have been officially confirmed by Amazon, and we still have no idea which characters (either from Tolkien’s expansive mythos or the showrunners’ imaginations) they might be playing. Today, though, some tantalizing new clues have leaked – not just about the holy quartet, as I’ve begun to call them, but also about a slew of new characters rumored to have prominent roles in the series. All of the following character names are presumably code-names put in place by Amazon to protect the secrets, and absolutely none of this is official.

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denofgeek.com

Firstly, the obvious, or least, unsurprising. Markella Kavenagh is rumored to be playing the inquisitive teenager Tyra, who is wise beyond her years and all that. We met her in those leaked audition tapes from a while back, remember her? At this point I’d be very surprised if Kavenagh doesn’t end up playing the Tyra character, considering how strong the rumors are – we do have a new tidbit of information about her: she is suspected to be both a dramatic and a comedic character.

Will Poulter is rumored to be playing Beldor, something I suspected: Beldor, a young, politically savvy protagonist, seems like he could very well be the young Lord Elrond of Imladris. The new hints suggest that Beldor will be paired up with more dramatic characters who will provide a stark contrast to his reserved, perhaps even solemn nature. Yep, sounds like Elrond to me. If not, I suspect he’s probably Elrond’s mentor Gil-galad.

Game Of Thrones‘ Joseph Mawle is still rumored to be a central antagonist for the series, though this new report is beginning to confirm our suspicions that his character, Oren, is in fact the deceiver Sauron. A personality “built around a wounded and fallen nobility”, who projects “a sense of timelessness” – those are basically the hallmarks of the fallen demigod Sauron, who turned away from the wisdom of the gods and chose to walk a path of darkness into ruin. It’s unclear whether Mawle will also portray the Dark Lord in his form as the Elven lord Annatar, or whether the character will take many different guises during the series’ run.

The protagonist is rumored to be a woman, the character Eldien, whose description is particularly interesting. Yet another timeless character, Eldien is “complex, unique and formidable”. Who else is complex, unique and formidable? The Elven lady Galadriel, a battle-hardened leader and warrior whose morals are much more gray in the Second Age of Middle-earth than they were later on in her long life – at the time this series takes place, Galadriel, like Sauron, has just rejected the mercy of the benevolent gods and has turned away from their guidance to seek glory and fortune in Middle-earth. I would be very happy if the spotlight is on Galadriel for at least the first season.

Now we move into the rest of the ensemble cast, briefly but vividly sketched out: there’s Neldor, who’s a “similar archetype” as the similarly named Beldor – Elrond’s twin brother, Elros, perhaps?

We have Brac, a character who provides the other half of a dramatic duo – described as “irascible and cantankerous”, Brac’s description isn’t really ringing any bells for me. I suppose he could be somebody like King Oropher of the Wood Elves – in which case, it would be funny if the other half of the duo was Beldor (if Beldor is Gil-galad). The only description we have of Oropher from Tolkien’s own works is that he disobeyed Gil-galad’s orders to halt during the War of the Last Alliance and ended up being killed in a reckless charge at the gates of Barad-dûr. That’s a possibility, but it’s more probable that Brac is a completely invented character.

Eira is next on the list – “a warm and maternal woman”. There’s not much to go on here.

Aric, whom we encountered in the audition tapes, is still on board to be a main character – or at least a series regular. His character, a charismatic rogue, was very well defined in the leaked dialogue, so I don’t feel like there’s too much new material to go over. I’m beginning to guess that Maxim Baldry, the last rumored cast member, is playing this character (not for any particular reason: just because).

Calenon is a “ruggedly-handsome” war hero. He’s also described as “brooding”, which is never a fun character trait. But there is a prominent Tolkien character who does nothing but brood, and that’s Celeborn, the husband of Galadriel. That’s as good a guess as any. Plus, it would be amusing to see Celeborn as a handsome heartthrob, since by the time of The Lord Of The Rings, he, well, isn’t.

As if on cue, we come to Loda, the “earthy” fellow who “doesn’t give his feelings away easily”. Yet another boringly unoriginal trope. Earthiness suggests a human character, though perhaps not a Númenórean (they seem more like lofty, spiritualistic types): so let’s mark Loda down as a possible man, maybe even a Wose of the Woods.

Kari, the next character on the list, is a deserter from the nearest Dungeons & Dungeon campaign, it seems. A “self-sufficient single mother”, she would seem to fit the bill for the character of Erendis, the Second Age’s most iconic unique female character, if not for the fact that she’s a “village healer with a secret”. If we really want to believe she’s Erendis, we could come up with theories that Amazon Prime is changing the story so that the proud Númenórean queen flees to the countryside to be alone with her daughter and there becomes a rural medic, hiding the shocking secret that her daughter is the heiress to the throne – but it’s somewhat more plausible, in my opinion, that she’s playing Tyra’s mother.

Hamson is one of the weirdest names on the list – whereas most of the code-names are vaguely archaic in a watered-down sort of way, Hamson sounds more Old English; more like a certain Hamfast Gamgee of the Shire, right down to the character description as a “loving family man with health issues”. But Hamfast Gamgee wasn’t born in the Second Age, and wouldn’t be born until many thousands of years later, so unless there’s some extreme timeline-muddling going on here, I very much doubt this character is a Gamgee, or even a hobbit in general. Hobbits probably existed in some form or another during the Second Age, but nobody knew about them. To keep continuity with Tolkien’s writings, it would be best if hobbits never showed up in the Amazon Primes series, or only appeared in the story’s peripheries. But in that case, I can’t imagine what or who Hamson is, and what’s he doing in this story.

Finally, there’s Cole, another “charismatic” character: this time, one who carries “the weight of the world” on his shoulders. That could be literally anyone in the Second Age, but for some reason I’m locking in my guess that this character is Celebrimbor, the Elven craftsman who designed the Rings of Power in a desperate attempt to try and rebuild Middle-earth in the image of paradise. He literally carries that burden and responsibility with him until he get killed in a particularly brutal way by Sauron during the Dark Lord’s war against the Elves.

There’s a lot here that could potentially be interesting, even engrossing, when executed. On paper, some of these character descriptions are bound to look a little off-putting to Tolkien purists – brooding heroes, charismatic rogues – but it’s better not to get too freaked out about any of this right now. The series is still very early on in its development, and no footage has yet been shot. Some (or all) of this is susceptible to change. Nonetheless, it’s fun to theorize about these things and wonder what it means for the series.

What do you think of the code-names and character traits? Do you agree with my assessments? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!

Amazon Prime’s “Lord Of The Rings” Renewed For Second Season!

With several months yet to go before filming even begins on the first season of Amazon Prime’s hugely ambitious adaptation of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, the studio has already gone ahead and renewed the big-budgeted fantasy series for a second season. There are several new details in the Deadline article which broke the news, so allow me to ramble on about them with urgency and excitement. As you can probably imagine, I’m trembling with anticipation.

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indiewire.com

First of all, we have the news that the second season of the series is already in the works – Jennifer Salke, the head of Amazon Studios, has confirmed that as we speak, the writer’s room for the series (which includes J.D. Payne, Patrick McKay, Gennifer Hutchison, Bryan Cogman, etc) is currently collaborating on writing the bulk of Season 2 scripts. As is noted in the article, this is really good news because it means that we, the audience, won’t have to wait that long between Seasons 1 and 2. In fact, at the speedy rate that things are going, we could expect to get the first two seasons almost back-to-back. My heart can’t take this.

Additionally, it has been revealed that after J.A. Bayona has finished filming the first two episodes of the series’ first season, the show will go on hiatus for four to five months, allowing time to review the footage and write more material for the second season before moving on with filming. In Deadline’s words: “By going on a longer than normal hiatus, LOTR will be ready with Season 2 scripts so it could possibly film some Season 2 footage during the Season 1 shoot, or even film the remainder of Season 1 and Season 2 back-to-back.” This is, of course, the same tactic that Peter Jackson used when directing his equally ambitious movie trilogy of Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. Parallels. Parallels!

The article also notes that the majority of the series is expected to film outdoors, on location in New Zealand, as we suspected. That could mean a return to the practical-effects pioneered by Jackson in his movie trilogy, or it might indicate something else entirely (Deadline suggests that it’s because Tolkien loved the outdoors: I have no idea whether they’re right or not).

So there you have it! This is an extraordinary action by Amazon, as it seems to suggest complete confidence in the fledgling series, which has a long way to go before it gets off the ground. While we wait, leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!

Should We Be Worried About Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings?”

This is a departure from my usual posting format in that this is not strictly a news story, but more of a response to a news story. The story, in this case, is actually an interview with Game Of Thrones screenwriters and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, which was posted online in Twitter thread form by an attendee, who goes by the username Needle & Pen. The interview was shocking, and soon had the entire internet collectively wringing their hands and crying out to the heavens: “How did this happen?”

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comingsoon.net

Well, by Benioff & Weiss’ own admission, they don’t know – or seem to care. In the interview, which reeks of white privilege, elitism and snobbery, the two men proudly revealed just how inexperienced and unprepared they were for the task of adapting the massive fantasy epic to the small screen, and just how happy they are that they were able to basically dupe HBO into hiring them. For instance, they talked about meeting with A Song Of Ice And Fire author George R.R. Martin for the first time, and confessing to him that they “didn’t really have any” bona fides or experience. In their own words: “We don’t know why he trusted us with his life’s work.”

Now, I’d love to talk about Game Of Thrones, and the various failings of Benioff & Weiss, but that’s not what this post is about – or, well, it is, but only indirectly. This post is, in fact, a response to a response to this interview: soon after that tweet went public, The One Ring.net, the most trusted and reliable Tolkien forum in the world, expressed their concerns that Amazon Prime’s upcoming adaptation of the histories of Middle-earth would fall into the same trap as Game Of Thrones: and they had some legitimate fears, so let’s break down what was said by both sides, and what Amazon can learn from the hugely underwritten, half-baked final season of Game Of Thrones that firmly cemented Benioff & Weiss as some of the fantasy genre’s most hated individuals.

The One Ring.net (or TORN for short) drew attention to the fact that JD Payne and Patrick McKay, the showrunners of Amazon Prime’s Middle-earth series, share many similarities with Benioff & Weiss: both are relative newcomers to the scene, having no experience in TV, or in the making of big-budget, spectacular fantasy epics. Payne and McKay did write a script for a Star Trek movie – but it was never used, which isn’t exactly a promising sign. And, as TORN pointed out rather dismissively, both duos are, when it comes down to it, just “a couple friends”. It’s true that Payne and McKay have been working together for most of their adult lives, just like Benioff & Weiss, but I think it’s worth mentioning that Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, two-thirds of the creative team behind The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, were a married couple when they started working on the ambitious film project, yet nobody has any complaints about that. The fact that Payne and McKay have a close friendship isn’t really a problem, in my opinion. The fact that they have no prior experience – obviously, that could pose quite a substantial problem along the line. But here are my three reasons why we should NOT be worried about Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings prequel series becoming the next Game Of Thrones-level disaster.

1: They’re Not Alone.

For Benioff & Weiss, being handed full creative control over HBO’s most daunting and daring TV adaptation wasn’t a passion project so much as “expensive film school” – or, in Weiss’ words, a “ten year drunk party”. And the two men treated it as such, giving themselves freedom to make as many mistakes as they wanted. They admit in the interview that working with costume designers, for instance, was a “learning experience”. And yet, rather than bring in talented and experienced individuals to help them figure out the process, Benioff & Weiss went in the completely opposite direction, much to HBO’s chagrin – they decided early on that it was going to be just the two of them, stumbling through the series’ development like idiots, because they “didn’t know better”. They were eventually forced to bring in another writer, Bryan Cogman, and were helped by a second, Dave Hill: both men got to write a whopping four episodes each – out of seventy-three.

On the other hand, Payne and McKay are not alone, and have surrounded themselves with incredibly talented people from all different genres of film and television: their writer’s room is nigh on overcrowded, in fact, with Payne and McKay being joined by Gennifer Hutchison of Breaking Bad, Helen Shang of Hannibal, Jason Cahill of The Sopranos, and Justin Doble of Stranger Things, with Bryan Cogman, Glenise Mullins, and Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey as consultants. It’s a far cry from the two-man show that was Game Of Thrones. There are talented and dedicated people involved with Amazon Prime’s series who can help to guide Payne and McKay on their debut journey. Is that all it takes to steer a five-season epic series with a budget close to a billion dollars? No, probably not. But it’s a good first step, and it will hopefully prevent Payne and McKay from indulging in the amateur excesses that Benioff & Weiss seemed to enjoy in their first few years working on Game Of Thrones.

2: There Is Diversity On Amazon’s Team – Though Not Enough.

One thing that immediately stood out in the Benioff & Weiss interview was their casual dismissals of fans’ complaints of racism, sexism, and especially white privilege – i.e., the idea that white men, even without being blatantly racist, still think they are owed certain privileges and rights by virtue of their skin color. For instance, the privilege to simply walk up to HBO and say “hey, give us a TV show to make”.

Benioff & Weiss’ counter to the argument was that Dave Hill, whom I previously mentioned wrote a total of four episodes from 2015 to 2019, is of Asian descent. Vanessa Taylor also had a brief stint working with the two men before leaving to write The Shape Of Water. But, is that really enough? In a series that is known for having some of the most iconic female characters in fantasy, is it enough to have only one woman temporarily helping to write those characters? And do I even need to rhetorically ask if it’s enough to have zero people of color in the non-existent Game Of Thrones writer’s room?

Now let’s take a look at Amazon Prime’s creative team for their Lord Of The Rings series: leaving aside the fact that Amazon Prime Studios is, in fact, run and overseen by a woman, Jennifer Salke, who was recently named the 17th most influential person in Hollywood, we have, in the Lord Of The Rings writer’s room, a total of three women as of right now: Mullins is also a woman of color, while Shang is of Asian ethnicity.

So, Amazon Prime is doing only marginally better than Game Of Thrones in terms of gender and cultural diversity: but at the very least, there’s some progress being made. We have to hope that more women and POC are added to the writer’s room as time goes on, but for now we can at least be assured that there is already more diversity on this team than on the team assembled for Game Of Thrones.

3: Payne And McKay Have Nowhere To Hide.

Okay, that sounds unintentionally threatening. What I mean is this: when Benioff & Weiss began their tenure on Game Of Thrones, they were doing a relatively simple adaptation from page to screen: and while they did introduce a bunch of new elements, they continued to work from George R.R. Martin’s novels until 2016, when they ran out of source material to draw from: and at that point, most fans tend to agree that the show suddenly began to decline in quality. At first it wasn’t too noticeable, as the fanbase was initially excited to be surprised, and was willing to ignore some of Benioff & Weiss’ mistakes: but by the finale of season 7, it was becoming clear that something was wrong: after years of slow, patient build-up, the storyline of the Night King and the White Walkers was being rushed into the foreground, and Benioff & Weiss were already publicly discussing their desire to conclude the story in its eighth season. The last two seasons were drastically abbreviated to provide for this, with the final season being cut down almost to miniseries format, with only six episodes to tie up several hundred loose ends, story-threads, subplots, so on and so on. And, as everybody is now aware, the final season didn’t go over well: poorly received by critics and fans, the once-mighty TV series ended with a bit of a whimper, reducing complex characters to cardboard cutouts and basically ruining what made the show so much fun: its depth. To nobody’s surprise, though, that depth was a hallmark of Martin’s work, not Benioff & Weiss’.

Payne and McKay don’t have the ability to hide behind J.R.R. Tolkien’s published novels for several years before finally having to strike out on their own, into uncharted territory: because the Amazon Prime series isn’t actually an adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings. It is instead a prequel series, covering the only time-frame in Tolkien’s extensive legendarium that he didn’t write much about – the three-thousand year long era in between the events of The Silmarillion and the downfall of Sauron that is glimpsed in the prologue of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship Of The Ring. Why do I continue to call the series The Lord Of The Rings, then? Well, there’s still no official title for the show, so it’s going to have to do, despite being a little misleading.

Anyway, it’s encouraging to know that what we see from Payne and McKay will be indicative of the series’ quality going forward, whereas with Benioff & Weiss we were cruelly deceived. The writers at Amazon Prime will have only scraps of material to work from, but it’s their responsibility and duty to fill in the gaping holes in Tolkien’s mythos. Hopefully, they can achieve that – and if they can’t, then we’ll know right away, rather than wasting ten years of our lives.

And finally, a bonus point that I think is worth mentioning: Amazon Prime seems to care for the Tolkien fanbase in a way that Benioff & Weiss never did for Game Of Thrones‘. In the interview, the two men admitted to grossly misinterpreting their own fanbase; in an attempt to make fantasy popular to “NFL players”, they stripped the books of their more fantastical, magical elements – that is, until the final season, when those were the only things left in their dwindling toolbox. They didn’t ever listen to fans’ feedback, because they didn’t see the value of considering other peoples’ reactions. And it’s just as well, because as for their opinions on the books they were meant to be adapting, well…

Now, we don’t know what Payne and McKay think of Tolkien’s work: all we have to go on is the official Amazon Prime press release that says they feel like Frodo on the beginning of his great journey, etc, etc. But Amazon Prime’s Lord Of The Rings has been surprisingly cooperative with and responsive to fans – at least, until their official Twitter account basically went missing in action several months ago. For instance, when fans noted that there were design flaws on one of the Middle-earth maps released by Amazon, the creative team (which we now know is led by renowned artist John Howe) was quick to revise the map. And aside from that one blunder, the other maps they’ve released all hold up to scrutiny, remaining faithful to even some of the obscurest bits of Tolkien canon. And if you’re wondering why I’m rambling about the maps, consider that Benioff & Weiss also acknowledge in their interview that they themselves were “geographically challenged”. So again, Amazon Prime is one step ahead of them in that regard.

So there you have it: my response to the response to this incredibly dismaying interview with the two men responsible for some of the highest highs and the lowest lows in modern television history. If you want to read the full Twitter thread, referenced several times above, I’ll direct you here. I wish you luck.

So what do you think of all this? Do you think Payne and McKay have an advantage, going into this daunting project: or will they end up being the next Benioff & Weiss? And as for Benioff & Weiss themselves – what do you think of their admissions and confessions? Share your thoughts in the comments below!