J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of elves, dwarves, hobbits and Middle Earth brought to life in The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an intricate one, defined by a perpetual struggle between good and evil, darkness and light, heroism and villainy.
And Amazon Studio's forthcoming The Lord of the Rings spinoff series, “Rings of Power,” seeks to honor the late author’s work by exploring the complicated origin stories of some of Middle Earth’s greatest heroes and antagonists, from the royal Elf Galadriel to the villainous Sauron.
That’s according to the stars of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” who, in an interview with The Christian Post, shared how the drama, set during the fictional Second Age, thousands of years before the events of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books took place, gives greater insight into the fantastical world the late author created.
Morfydd Clark stars as Galadriel, who throughout the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is defined by her grace, wisdom and power. But “The Rings of Power” meets Galadriel as an ambitious and somewhat misguided young elf who embarks on a dangerous quest following the death of one of her brothers.
Bringing such an iconic character to life in a new way, Clark said, was “frightening.”
“Not only is she magical, but she's also kind of magical amongst the magical; she's like a living legend,” the actress said. “And it was interesting because I don't think she does embody the level of wisdom and serenity that we know her to one day have. And so it was kind of exploring what her limits are, at this point in Middle Earth, which is thousands of years before The Lord of the Rings. And she is, to a degree, more innocent. There's a naivety, which I think is manifested through arrogance. And things are going to happen that even she couldn't predict.”
Though “Lord of the Rings” is not blatantly religious, Tolkien was a devout Christian who famously saw his work as a way to bring the Gospel to the masses by exploring themes of good and evil, the power of redemption and the universality of sin. The Oxford scholar, who died in 1973, was credited with bringing his friend and colleague, Narnia author C.S. Lewis, back to the Christian faith.
And darkness, the ring’s corrupting influence and human mortality are all similarly woven throughout “The Rings of Power” — themes Trystan Gravelle, who plays Pharazôn, adviser to the Queen-Regent of Númenor, said make “The Lord of the Rings” so universally relatable.
“I think there's a common theme of death that runs through [Tolkien's] work; it's always there, it's everywhere,” he said. “Even with elves who can live forever, they can still die. I think it's how we face that, and then I think that shows the character of the individual that is facing death and how they deal with it. There are two camps, then, on whether they accept their fate or they don't. I think that's what it is; it's an acceptance of death.”
He added: “I think everybody asks themselves why they're here, and where they’re going, and that can be a scary thing … so to go into a fantastical world and to see that with everything and an abundance of culture and richness of everything — at the core of that are the same fears, the same thoughts and the same sort of procrastinations as what we have. I think they are universal, I think they are timeless, and I think [that resonates] with people."
But "The Rings of Power" also highlights beauty, unity and a longing for a more perfect world.
To bring Middle Earth to life, Amazon utilized an estimated $465 million budget, making it the most expensive series ever produced. Shot in New Zealand, “The Rings of Power” is visually stunning, juxtaposing the idyllic elf-capital of Lindon and the island kingdom of Númenor to the darkness of the Misty Mountains. To defeat the powers of darkness, historically conflicting groups from these various regions are forced to unite: Elves and humans, hobbits and dwarves.
“I think that variety only makes us kind of richer; there are so many different groups in this world that all have their own myths and legends and kind of the thing that makes life worth living for them,” Clark said, reflecting on the diversity depicted in the series.
“The reason I love the creation of the hobbits is that they are these creatures that could be seen as weak because they're small, they can't fight in battle, they don't live forever. But what they do is live truly and completely. And a Middle Earth has to be safe for them as it is for the elves, the dwarves, the men. And I think that's a really beautiful thing to take away from it, that until we're all safe, no one is.”
The beauty of family and relationships are also a focal point of the series, as Tolkien was famously meticulous about documenting fictional ancestral genealogies. The marital relationship between the dwarven prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur) and his wife, princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete), for example, is heavily featured in “The Rings of Power.”
“What we’re seeing with Disa is love, real love, like true love and true respect and true unity and ambition and how to wrangle the kids at the end of an evening when they have to go to bed, and how to move mountains and discuss being heir to the throne and everything in between,” Nomvete said.
“Amongst all the epic world of Tolkein are trinkets of gold dust in domesticity and simple soft moments of functioning races,” she continued. “And so I think we touch a lot on that and how races combine … there’s this kind of woven tapestry of domestic life matched with an epic amount of magic and power and possibility, which is great.”
Though the show highlights some of Middle Earth’s most beloved characters, it also introduces new ones — and as a result, “The Rings of Power” has aroused concern among some Tolkien purists that the show won’t ring true to the author’s original intent. However, show creators reportedly worked with Tolkien experts, including Tolkien’s grandson, Simon Tolkien, to create new characters.
Charlie Vickers, who plays one of these new characters — Halbrand, a human shipwreck survivor looking for a new beginning — pointed out that his character, for example, bears a strong resemblance to “Lord of the Rings” heroes like Aragorn and Boromir.
“He has this sense of destiny, the sense of responsibility to something in his past that he's leaving behind, and he's trying to head in a different direction,” Vickers described.
The cast stressed that while “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” is a fantasy meant to allow viewers to “escape” into an alternate world for a moment, it nevertheless speaks to the universal human experience of “friendship, love and hope over despair” — elements that make Tolkien’s work so beloved and timeless.
From showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, the TheLord of the Rings spinoff saga premieres Sept. 2 on Amazon Prime, with new episodes available every week.
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org