A New Era of Lord of the Rings

A New Era of Lord of the Rings

“Lord of the Rings.” A tale as old as time, told by one of the most creative writers there has ever been, and responsible for the redefinition of fantasy storytelling as a whole. But could this beautiful world come crashing down in flames with Amazon at the helm? That’s right, Amazon’s new TV Show, “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” released its first two episodes on Sept. 1 to mixed responses. It was met with a lot of praise, and a lot of criticism, but where did this all come from, and is this outrage rooted in what Tolkien really said?

l The spikes in the negativity surrounding the show picked up speed when the trailers hit the internet. The trailers showed Galadriel, a prominent female elf in, “The Lord of the Rings,” wielding a sword, much to the anger of many fans. 

Classically, Galadriel doesn’t need a sword and is already powerful without it. For many fans, it felt like a move by Amazon to push political values into the series, trying desperately to suck every drop of strong independent women out of a traditionally male-dominated universe. In addition to this, the heavy inclusion of people of color was remarkable and, honestly, quite a nice change of pace from the white heroes of the Peter Jackson movies. 

The release of the first episodes was relatively well-received by critics, with an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the audience score was much lower, just a 35%. 

On Amazon Prime, the show was review-bombed so severely that Amazon had to shut down reviews for the series altogether. 

The first three episodes had absolutely stunning cinematography and visuals, for the most part, only faltering in some goofy moments that could have been avoided. 

However, many feel the story is too restrictive and slow. . But can you really blame the showrunners for this? 

They only have rights to a small part of Tolkien’s legendarium, that being the core Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books, and their appendices. They have so little to work with in terms of story, that they have to take some creative liberties. This is why (in another highly controversial change) the showrunners decided to shorten the timeline from tens of thousands of years to just a few seasons of a television series. 

But are the changes that the showrunners made in line with what Tolkien said about his world? Well, to put it simply, no, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. 

To be clear, what we are seeing in this show is just a single take on Tolkien’s world. What is presented in the show is not 100% translatable to Tolkien’s novels nor the Peter Jackson trilogies. So when we have black hobbits and elves, the fact of whether or not Tolkien said this is irrelevant. What matters is how the showrunners choose to interpret the show as a whole. 

In the world of “Lord of the Rings,” race is not something that’s ignored. 

Tolken writes on numerous occasions about characters with darker skin colors. “It seemed to grow larger as it lay for a moment on [Tom Bombadil’s] big brown-skinned hand,” (Tolkien 144). “The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, feet were neat and nimble, and they were beardless and bootless,” (Tolkien 12). 

Certainly, Tolkien is no stranger to people in his legendarium having different colors of skin. Perhaps the real divide in Tolkien’s works is in a different kind of race. Putting on this lens is a reminder that the real racism in the world of the “Lord of the Rings” is between Elves, Dwarves, Men, Hobbits, and other sentient beings. 

In the new series, an extra focus is folded into the division between different groups of people. According to the show and Tolkien’s writings, men of the south sided with an evil being named Morgoth long ago. Even thousands of years after they lost the war and the conflict ended, the elves still watch over the Southlands, expecting some sort of riots based on the actions of these people from long ago. 

We also see this kind of paranoia from the other side when Arondir, a new elf character, visits a tavern in the Southlands on his routine watch. “Oh, let it go, knife-ears,” The young Rowan says, “The lot you lump us in with died off a thousand years ago.” These divides between these different groups of people run deep. 

“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” is a fascinating series, letting a new generation into a deeper understanding of Tolkien’s world through breathtaking visuals and music, but also tells a story about deep racial bias that lasts through generations. I’m interested to see where this show goes next, so consider me thoroughly intrigued.