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What to know before you visit Middle-earth in “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”

by Clover Shaw
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The Rings of Power, a much-awaited prequel to “The Lord of the Rings,” premiered on 1st September after years of development. However, if you’re unfamiliar with the original content, watching the current prequel might overwhelm you without specific prior knowledge.

The series is released eight years after The Hobbit and 19 years after the concluding Lord of the Rings film. Therefore, if you want to watch this prequel and enjoy participation in social media debates, follow the guide to this extensive world. Furthermore, the given background knowledge will help the newcomers to understand and enjoy Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

A quick catch-up with the past

The Hobbit was initially published in 1937, followed by The Lord of the Rings trilogy, published back-to-back between July 1954 and October 1955. They became Tolkien’s most popular and successful novels.

The Hobbit is about the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, an eponymous creature. With his short height and hairy feet, Bilbo soon became a beloved character for children and adults alike. He starts a quest with a group of dwarves to retrieve the lost treasure. On his way, he comes across a ring that gives him the power of invisibility.

Then comes The Lord of the Rings. The story picks up many years later when it is finally revealed that Bilbo’s ring is the One Ring. LOTR also tells that it was Sauron, the evil dark Lord, who forged the ring as a source of power. To stop the evils from taking advantage of the powerful ring, Frodo, Bilbo’s nephew, embarks on a treacherous journey. His aim was to destroy the ring and protect Middle-earth. His allies are gardener Sam Gamgee and other representatives of the Middle-Earth races.

Tolkien was a soldier during world war I. His experiences on the battlefield shaped the many conflicts and the different forms of heroism depicted. Moral courage is as important in Tolkien’s world as physical prowess, if any, for the enduring heroes from Middle-earth.

The bonds between soldiers also shape the interpersonal relationships that are evidently the core of The Lord of the Rings. For instance, the devotion between Sam and hobbits Frodo and the enemies-to-friends relationship between Gimli and Legolas.

The timeline of the series:

According to Amazon, the series’ events are set in the Second Age of Middle-earth. It shows the stories from thousands of years before the ‘The Hobbit and ‘LOTR events. The era’s most significant event is the forging of the power rings and the rise of Lord Sauron. However, the series also covers Númenor’s “epic tale.” Númenor is an island, a nation of Men that Sauron manipulates. The series will also enhance the Last Alliance between Elves and Men when they teamed up to defeat Sauron. So, in simpler words, the prequel starts in peace and prosperity before things get dark.

What is Middle-earth?

Middle-earth is a fictional setting for the mythology Tolkien invented for his books. The land was first introduced in The Hobbit. However, the name Middle-earth came later in The Lord of the Rings.


Tolkien was an English literature professor and a language expert in his time. His expertise mainly focuses on history. He built his Middle Earth mythology with songs, poems, and historical traditions of different races and cultures. He filled his invested universe with creatures such as hobbits, dwarves, elves, and men. Norse mythology, fairy tales, Anglo-Saxon epic poems, and the Kalevala, the Finnish mythic poem, strongly influence Tolkien’s characters, stories, and languages.

LOTR and The Hobbit are the most well-known stories of Middle-earth. However, they don’t show the entire story of Middle-earth. The Silmarillion (1977), published by Christopher Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay (a fantasy writer), outlines the thousands-year-long history of Middle-earth.

The book covers the history of Arda, the place where the continent of Middle-earth was created. It also covers the First and Second Ages of the planet. The Third Age is where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit occur. Over the course of repeated battles between good and evil, Arda becomes a more planet-like disc. Unfinished Tales (1980) includes additional characters and events that have shaped Arda and Middle-earth.

The new series will not feature any stories from Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion since Amazon only owns rights to The Hobbit and the LOTR. The source of the material is the extensive appendices of The Lord of the Rings.

Familiar names

The Rings of Power is depicted in the Second Age of Middle-earth. It takes place thousands of years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. As a result, there won’t be many recognizable characters. Sauron, a fiery red eye in The Lord of the Rings, is still the main bad guy.

Sauron is the creator of the corrupting power rings and the infamous One Ring, which controls all the others. Although he may not be the main antagonist, his actions and desire to control Middle-earth will drive most of the action.

Galadriel and Elrond are two other familiar names. They are much younger than their appearances in the films. Galadriel is well-known as a warrior, consistent with her history as Tolkien wrote. There is plenty of opportunity in the series to watch how she becomes the wise ruler of Lothlorien, the elven realm.

​Elrond Halfelf, the ruler of Rivendell’s enclave, is more optimistic than in The Lord of the Rings. He also has closer links with the human kingdom of Numenor, whose rulers are descended from his twin brother Elros.

Being half-elven, the brothers could choose how to identify themselves. Elros chose to be a mortal, so he aged and died. Elrond decided to live as an immortal Elf and will explore the emotional toll of his decisions in his story arc.

Some fans might be worried that Tolkien may have reacted negatively to some of the liberties the filmmakers took with his works. However, his estate is also well-known for being litigious and protective of the original works. Contrarily, Tolkien has said that he wanted to see other people expand his universe. According to Tolkien’s wish, he would have loved to see his creation so beloved and expanding.



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