This year, Amazon is taking a big swing. Come this fall, they’ll officially drop their blockbuster new series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
That subtitle is revealing, of course, but all in all Amazon has been pretty cagey about details on the series. Aside from a handful of calculated drops, they haven’t released much by way of explainers on the series, or how it’ll fill in the blanks on a lesser known time in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth history. No doubt this is because the show is a bit of a gamble, even for a streaming service backed by one of the largest companies ever. Amazon wants to prove that it can tackle giant prestige shows, while also making a run at the fantasy crown that HBO scored with Game of Thrones.
As such, there’s a sense that The Rings of Power rollout is heavy on deliberation. Still, the information has started to stack up, and does tell us some things about what the series hopes to be. Here’s everything we know about the story and history of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
When is The Rings of Power release date?
The show premieres Sept. 2. Amazon Prime Video has not yet announced how many episodes will drop at once.
Where’s The Rings of Power trailer?
Right here! The latest trailer debuted at San Diego Comic-Con and featured the most in-depth look at the Middle-earth show yet. As is ominously teased by Queen Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to Galadriel: “It is here, the moment we feared.”
Of that line, Addai-Robinson said in a Q&A at SDCC that when viewers tune into the show they will “know exactly what it means.”
“In terms of where we find Queen Regent Míriel,” Addai-Robinson continued, “there is that foreboding sense of, you know, something is about to happen, that sense of worry. And so we see this civilization at its peak, but there are those rumblings in the streets and just this sense of impending — you know, maybe it’s doom. But that sense that something is happening.”
Who’s in The Rings of Power cast?
Though the character lineup was initially limited to just a series of character posters of purely hand close-ups, new details have filled in throughout the year of who’s playing who.
We’ve long known that Morfydd Clark (Saint Maud) was cast as a younger Galadriel, who’ll be hunting down collaborators of the recently defeated first great Dark Lord, Morgoth. Along for the ride are Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), scion of the underground kingdom of Khazad-dûm (aka Moria); Disa (Sophia Nomvete), a dwarven princess; and Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), a newly invented elven character in a forbidden relationship with human village healer Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi).
As familiar faces go, The Rings of Power will feature a young Elrond (Robert Aramayo), an “ambitious” architect and politician who’s rising to prominence. We’ll also get to see Isildur (Maxim Baldry), long before he cuts the one ring to rule them all off Sauron’s hand. And book fans will recognize the names of Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), the elven smith who was tricked into teaching Sauron how to make rings; and Gil-Galad (Benjamin Walker), the High King of the Elves.
Megan Richards and Markella Kavenagh will be playing Poppy Proudfellow and Marigold Brandyfoot, respectively — “two lovable, curious harfoots,” per Vanity Fair’s February feature on the series. Dylan Smith will also play a harfoot character, Largo Brandyfoot, presumably of some relation to Marigold. The magazine reports that the showrunners have built out a pastoral, secretive harfoot society so they can have a “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead story in the margins of the bigger quests.”
Also announced is Simon Merrells, playing an original character called Trevyn. In mid-April, Amazon revealed the name of a new character, Theo, who’s played by Tyroe Muhafidinis.
Then there’s the rest of the show’s cast: Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow), Lenny Henry (Broadchurch), Geoff Morrell (The Underground Railroad), and Augustus Prew (Kick-Ass 2) — their character names were all being kept under a shroud of secrecy.
Is Anson Boon playing Sauron?
Yes, no, maybe — all of the above, really. While Anson Boon’s ominously lurking character certainly gets his share of moments in the SDCC 2022 trailer, he’s also far from confirmed as the figure that audiences know as Sauron.
But though Amazon hasn’t confirmed the character he’s playing, it might still be Sauron, who at the time this story takes place is still able to shapeshift. During this period, he’s described in the books as the “Lord of Gifts,” and as having a fair (meaning pale, but also pretty) appearance, all the better to achieve his dastardly aims. Boon’s profile certainly could fit the bill.
But with Amazon still holding back key details of how the first season of Rings of Power will go, it seems like it’s a bit too early to call.
When is The Rings of Power set?
This one has a relatively straightforward answer: the Second Age. In the Tolkien universe, that means Rings of Power falls well before the timeline of the Peter Jackson movies, which take place in the Third Age (primarily). But lots of things happen in the Second Age to set up the events of the main Lord of the Rings books and movies. The series will go into those, including the centuries leading up to the Last Alliance of Elves and Men and the downfall of Sauron.
More practically, this means The Rings of Power will not be focusing on most of the beloved characters from the original trilogy, as it’s well before their time. Considering each age covers about a thousand or so years of time, it’s actually pretty remarkable that we get any overlap in characters at all. You won’t get to see Frodo, Bilbo, Aragorn, or Legolas in the show, but there are some recurring characters — although they’re much younger than we’ve come to know them.
What is the plot of The Rings of Power?
Per Vanity Fair, the show will “juggle 22 stars and multiple story lines, from deep within the dwarf mines of the Misty Mountains to the high politics of the elven kingdom of Lindon and the humans’ powerful, Atlantis-like island, Númenor.”
About 2,000 years before the events of the rest of the Lord of the Rings series, Galadriel is leading the charge against the remnants of the dark lord’s acolytes, particularly his apprentice Sauron, who is off the grid somewhere.
As she tells Elrond in the first full trailer for the series, she has been changed by her time at war. Which war? In the books, it would be the millennia-long struggle against Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, among the oldest beings in the universe. In Tolkien’s lore, Middle-earth’s Second Age began after the combined forces of elves, Numenorean humans, and the Valar — Middle-earth’s pantheon of protector gods — defeated Morgoth’s armies and imprisoned the dark god outside of reality.
The Rings of Power appears to pick up with everything that happened next, concerning those elves, the men of Numenor, the gods, and the remnants of Morgoth’s servants — and Galadriel appears convinced that they can be found and must be routed out. We know she starts adrift at sea, where she meets Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), “a fugitive from his own past” and a new character introduced in the show. Eventually this will all lead to the main event of the series’ story and the prequel itself: the forging of the rings of power.
“Rings for the elves, rings for dwarves, rings for men, and then the one ring Sauron used to deceive them all,” co-showrunner Patrick McKay told Vanity Fair. “It’s the story of the creation of all those powers, where they came from, and what they did to each of those races.”
What Tolkien book did they base Rings of Power on?
Unlike the Lord of the Rings movies or the spin-off Hobbit trilogy, The Rings of Power are not based on a specific book — per se. Instead, the story builds on some of Tolkien’s Appendices, 150 pages or so of post-script that go deep on thousands of years of history. When Tolkien’s family put the rights to the Appendices (and what the author referred to as “the Second Age of Middle-earth”) up for auction, Amazon won the rights for the low, low cost of $250 million.
The mission now is to turn the timelines, genealogies, and other histories included in the Appendices into a story that comes a few thousand years before the time period of any of the Lord of the Rings movies.
“Can we come up with the novel Tolkien never wrote and do it as the mega-event series that could only happen now?” McKay asked when talking to Vanity Fair.
Where are the hobbits?
As McKay told Vanity Fair in February: “One of the very specific things the texts say is that hobbits never did anything historic or noteworthy before the Third Age. But really, does it feel like Middle-earth if you don’t have hobbits or something like hobbits in it?”
So the showrunners see the harfoots as a way to include the hobbits without stepping on any (hairy) toes. And as Polygon’s Susana Polo points out, harfoots are a racial precursor to the modern hobbit, and they appear to play an important role in the narrative:
All this time we’ve been listening to the trailer’s only dialogue, a female voice saying “Have you ever wondered ... what else is out there? There’s wonders in this world beyond our wandering. I can feel it.” As she finishes speaking, we cut to a shot of actress Megan Richards, which is editing language for: This is the character who said that thing. So, either she really does say that thing in the series, or the editors of this teaser want us to think she said that thing.
OK but Gandalf is important and old — will Gandalf show up in Rings of Power?
Gandalf — along with other notable wizards, like Saruman — are certainly technically on the table. Long story short, Tolkien’s wizards are basically demigods born shortly after the beginning of time who clothe themselves as old men. Their purpose on Middle-earth was to observe and combat the rise of Sauron.
So yes, they’re alive during the time period of The Rings of Power. But if you dig deep in your Tolkien lore, you’ll find they were on a different continent for the most part. So while Middle-earth’s gods only began to send wizards to combat Sauron’s return during the Third Age in Tolkien’s canon, McKay and Payne could feasibly find an excuse for a cameo or two, were they so inclined.
How much did The Rings of Power cost?
On top of the $250 million sum to acquire the rights (which also allow the Tolkien family to retain input on the direction of the series), it’s not exactly clear. Vanity Fair cites their production costs via the New Zealand production documents at $462 million, offset by a $108 million tax rebate. But with a marketing campaign and subsequent seasons, the magazine guesses it’s north of a $1 billion price tag for the series so far.
Where does the Lord of the Rings anime fit in?
The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim, the feature-length anime announced in 2021, is slated for an April 12, 2024 release date. But the Warner Bros. movie has nothing to do with the Amazon series, beyond being set in the same universe.
The War of the Rohirrim, a joint project with Warner Bros. Animation and New Line Cinema, is directed by Kenji Kamiyama (Blade Runner: Black Lotus) and executive produced by Philippa Boyens (The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit trilogies). It will tell the story of the “life and bloodsoaked times of one of Middle-earth’s most legendary figures; the mighty King of Rohan — Helm Hammerhand.”