Strap on your boots and wrap up your lembas bread, after years of anticipation we’re finally about to collectively embark upon Amazon’s by now far-from-unexpected journey back into the epic fantasy universe of JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth.
Showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay have been admirably tight-lipped about the details, but we know for sure that this one’s a little different from the Peter Jackson films. While there are a few familiar names, this is a tale of the Second Age – well before Frodo and Sam – one that takes its inspiration from the history of the world that Tolkien left behind in his Silmarillion and some 150 pages of appendices to the third Lord of the Rings novel, The Return of the King.
It is a period of tenuous alliances between peoples, all of whom will have to be introduced at length: dwarves of Khazad-dûm, humans of the island kingdom of Númenor, elves seemingly everywhere else and harfoots (harfeet?), ancestors of the hobbits, hopping around at waist-height. This is before we even get to the ominous presence of Sauron in the sidelines, and the forging of the 20 Rings of Power. Many have pointed to the colossal amount of money that has poured into this show, but if all 19 new ones appear in this first season then we’re actually down to a comparatively modest $23.25 million per ring.
Before we stride out once again into a vast world spanning many thousands of years and four distinct “ages”, with family trees so dense and sprawling they make those of Game of Thrones look recently pollarded, here is a short introduction to the key characters of The Rings of Power. If you’ve never cracked open any of the intimidating paratexts to Tolkien’s more famous stories but you’re still looking to follow the plot and impress your bespectacled colleagues, search no further.