After endless speculation, we finally received two major updates on Amazon’s long-gestating Lord of the Rings series: a firm release date for the season premiere and our first look at the series itself, which reveals way more than you might think.
First, fans were thrilled to learn that Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series will definitely be arriving on September 2, 2022, just over a year from now. That’s still a long time to wait, to be sure, but this key visual that was also released proves that the wait will definitely be worth it. Check out the image below and you’ll start to get an idea as to why people are getting very excited:
Before I break down everything significant in this image, let’s take a minute to appreciate just how gorgeous this looks. Anyone still afraid that this series would somehow be visually inferior to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy can now lay those fears firmly to rest because this image looks like it sprang right out of the same world as the films, which it should as this IS meant to be the same Middle-earth, just at a different point in time. If all of the visuals in the series look this good, we are in for a real treat.
Now to talk about why this image in particular is so significant. When I first saw this image, I thought it was merely a look at one of the Elven cities or kingdoms that could be found in the Second Age of Middle-earth. But then someone on social media pointed out a very significant detail that changed everything about this image. Look to the right of the city (I’ll get back to THAT in a moment), where the sun appears to be shining behind a very large tree. You see it? Here’s the thing, if you zoom in on the tree, not only will you see a second tree behind that one, but you’ll also see that the light is coming FROM the tree. Dedicated readers of Tolkien’s mythology will know these trees very well: these appear to be none other than the famed Two Trees of Valinor, that provided light to the Elves and the Valar before the Sun and Moon were made. The one providing golden light in the front is Laurelin and the barely visible silver tree behind it is Telperion.
Why is this so significant? For several reasons actually. For one, the fact that these two trees are alive and well in this image means that this particular scene takes place before the First Age of Middle-earth. In Tolkien’s timeline, it was the demise of the Two Trees of Valinor that kicked off the Elves’ flight from Valinor back to Middle-earth, setting the First Age into existence. By the Second Age of Middle-earth, the Two Trees have been long since destroyed by Morgoth, the original Dark Lord of Middle-earth, and Ungoliant, the ancestor of Shelob (the giant spider in the Return of the King movie). That we have a scene where the Two Trees are still alive suggests to me that we’re getting a prologue set way back at the dawn of Elvish history, to explain how we get to where things are at the dawn of the Second Age where the bulk of the series will be set. On the other hand, this could be a sign that we’re getting flashbacks to the distant past. At any rate, the story will not be completely confined to the Second Age, and that is an exciting thought.
This almost guarantees then that we are definitely going to be seeing Morgoth onscreen, because Morgoth is a big part of the reason the Two Trees are dead. The Trees are destroyed to cover Morgoth’s theft of the famed Silmaril gems (an entire war was fought over these jewels) and this leads to his permanent exile from Valinor. Morgoth is also the ultimate instigator of getting the Elves to return to Middle-earth in the first place, so I would not be surprised to see the destruction of the Two Trees summarized at some point in the story. And if you’ve forgotten who Morgoth is, remember that Morgoth is essentially an evil god who was the master of Sauron, the creator of dragons, and the leader of legions of Balrogs. As scary as Sauron and Mordor were in the Third Age, Morgoth was a thousand times more deadly.
Speculation about Morgoth aside, I’m also fascinated by the city depicted in this scene as well. The presence of the Two Trees of Valinor confirmed to me that this must be the famed Elven city of Tirion, the capital of the Noldor elves (Galadriel’s people). That we’re seeing Tirion means that we could easily be getting scenes set in and around Valinor, a location that was hinted at but never visited in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Remember that this is where Frodo was sailing to at the end of the trilogy, but we never see him arrive. Many fans of Tolkien’s work, including myself, have longed to see Valinor realized onscreen, be it big or small, so realizing that this image is set in Tirion and Valinor, the homeland of the Elves, is a literal dream come true for me.
There’s also a hint of mystery about this image, namely: who is that white-robed character facing away from us? At this point it could be almost anyone, so I don’t dare to speculate. But I can’t help but wonder if it is a known character from Tolkien’s works or an original character whose story will interweave with what Tolkien originally created?
These are the most important details I can glean from this first teaser image from the Lord of the Rings series on Amazon. Hopefully more will be teased as the September 2022 release date draws nearer. But for now, we have more than enough to think about.