The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has been at the centre of fan discussions from the moment it was first announced in January 2020, and during this time, fans of J.R.R Tolkien’s iconic high fantasy books have gone from guessing what the Amazon Prime Video series could be about, to finally learning of its title and then criticising the show for its young cast and unfamiliar plot that is set thousands of years before events depicted in the books.
A smaller, and some would say toxic group of fans, are unhappy that the series is led by a female character, while others fear that it will not be rooted in the lore that Tolkien created when he penned The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. All this adds pressure to showrunner Patrick McKay and series producer Lindsey Weber, who, through various interviews, have constantly assured fans that Tolkien’s world and the characters in it are in fact, in very safe hands.
“I mean, there’s certainly pressure. We know how much this work means to millions of people around the world. There’s so many people who love Middle-earth, we are among them, but we want to do everybody proud,” said Weber in an exclusive interview with Geek Culture.
“What we’ve made, we’ve crafted with a lot of love and care. And hopefully, fans will see that when the show comes out.”
Now that The Rings of Power is out, critics and fans have been raving about the show’s stunning visuals, with many calling it cinematic in presentation, comparable to what audiences would typically see in movies, except now on the small screen, and with the privilege of having eight hour-long episodes instead of one two-hour plus film.
The Rings of Power delves into the unexplored Second Age of Middle-earth and serves as a prequel to the books, and in some way, to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, even though the movies and streaming series are not related in any ways. Where Peter Jackson’s movies delivered the impact of the One Ring, The Rings of Power delves into the intricacies of how it led up to that, starting with the formation of the many rings from the Second Age.
For writer McKay, the history alone is intriguing and with plenty of literature to work with, it gave the writers the power to showcase other factions and characters in Tolkien’s writings that never made it to the screen.
“The Second Age has some of the greatest stories that Tolkien ever invented. And stories that haven’t really been seen in full on the big screen before. We’ve got the history and the forging of the Rings of Power, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron when he’s a physical being, the incredible epic story of Numenor – the greatest kingdom of men that ever existed in Middle-earth’s history, and the Last Alliance where men and elves banded together to battle Sauron,” shared McKay.
“J.D. [Payne], my co-writer and I, when we first started talking to Amazon about the possibility of making a show, we poured through the literature and there were you know possible stories around every page, but this was a story that we felt was suitable for this vast canvas and had all the flavours that you want in Tolkien – there’s elves and dwarves and we found deep in the books, you know, a potential story for our Harfoots.”
Although McKay didn’t share which books he and Payne researched when pitching and writing the series, many of the characters introduced in The Rings of Power were introduced or mentioned in The Silmarillion, a collection of mythopoeic stories written by the English writer, but edited and published posthumously by his son, Christopher.
For those who’ve not read it, The Silmarillion recounts the creation of Middle-earth and its ancient history up to the time of key The Lord of the Rings character, Bilbo Baggins. It is the ancient drama to which the characters in The Lord of the Rings look back on, and where some of them, including Elrond and Galadriel, even took part in.
However, McKay presses that The Rings of Power is not an adaptation of the prequel novel but instead, is a rich tapestry of all the greatest stories ever told in one throughout all of Lord of the Rings history, but particularly the Second Age.
“The Silmarillion is awesome and an incredible read, if you haven’t ever looked at it, but we’re telling a story after those,” said McKay.
“Our story, we pulled out of the appendices where Tolkien laid out his entire mythos for us and then woven throughout the Lord of the Rings books where you know, Elrond here, Gandalf there, even Sam and Frodo there talk about the great heroes and the epic stories that happened in the Second Age. And then we sort of wove each of those threads together into what hopefully feels like a tapestry that you know, people want to look at.”
Weber, Payne and McKay have fought tooth and nail to prove to naysayers that the series is deeply rooted in Tolkien lore and whilst the first two episodes are more than enough evidence that the creators have deep love, respect and understanding for the Lord of the Rings franchise, The Rings of Power has also expanded Tolkien’s world by creating new characters that further enrich the story.
Creating these characters and writing The Rings of Power in itself was an unforgettable experience for McKay and his team of writers, who have worked closely for half a decade and even created a small wholesome routine for themselves that includes trying to embody Tolkien.
“We had an incredibly joyful experience starting, oh, gosh, almost four and a half years ago, you know, imagining what the Second Age might have felt like and look like and talking about the books and you know, everyday we start with a quote from Tolkien and we do a close reading of it and just try to get in tune with his imagination and think about what was important to him thematically,” shared McKay.
“Tolkien is worlds within worlds within worlds, and some of those worlds didn’t have named characters in them but they had a clue as to who might have lived there and out of that and out of our close reading these amazing new characters cropped up that hopefully, audiences connect to as much as they’ll connect to people like Elrond and Galadriel.”
Thus far, The Rings of Power looks promising, offering an extension of the books while staying distinctly apart from the earlier films. With only the first/second episode out and plenty more to go, fans are definitely strapped in for a fantastical ride through Middle-earth.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.