A new crop of heroes will come together in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which releases its first two episodes this Thursday, Sept. 1 on Prime Video. (The show snagged an early Season 2 renewal back in November 2019.)
With the series set during the Second Age — thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings — don’t expect to see fan favorites like Frodo and Aragorn, since they weren’t yet born. However, the show will include some familiar characters, including younger versions of the immortal elves Galadriel and Elrond.
Created by showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, the series spans a variety of locations, from “the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor” as old and new characters etch out legacies that will last long after they are dead.
With such a large ensemble, piecing together how everyone fits into the story is a tall order. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. See below for our full explainer on Rings of Power, and then drop your predictions in the comments.
In Tolkien lore, Eru Ilúvatar is the one true god and creator of the universe, known as Eä.
His disciples, the Valar, were immortal beings who ruled and shaped the world (called Arda), which contains the continent of Middle-earth.
Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, was counted among the Valar — under the name Melkor — until he was banished following many terrible deeds. They included stealing the Silmarils (precious jewels made by elves), destroying the sacred Two Trees of Valinor with help from a giant spider named Ungoliant, kidnapping the first elves and mutating them into the first Orcs, and spreading lies about the Valar to create distrust between them and the elves.
The Valar eventually rose against Morgoth (with help from elves and men) in the War of Wrath, and the Dark Lord was finally banished from the world. Rings of Power picks up hundreds of years after that, with things relatively peaceful. But Morgoth’s lieutenant Sauron is still around and hiding out, meaning evil is threatening to rise again….
Galadriel and Halbrand
In the Amazon series, Galadriel (played by Morfydd Clark) is an elf and the commander of the Northern Armies. The eventual ruler of Lothlórien (portrayed in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy by Cate Blanchett) is determined to wipe out the last remaining evil. While the other elves are ready to move on from the War of Wrath, young warrior Galadriel still believes Sauron is somewhere out there. And since her older brother Finrod died in that war, she is extremely motivated to find the remaining parties responsible.
“She knows there’s badness and no one’s listening to her, and she’s screaming into a void,” Morfydd Clark, who plays Galadriel, tells TVLine.
Galadriel eventually encounters a mysterious man named Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) on a raft in the middle of the Sundering Seas. Halbrand, a new character created for the show, hails from the Southlands (where humans aren’t fond of the elves) and is looking to “start anew” per portrayer Charlie Vickers.
The Power Elves
The High King Gil-galad (played by Benjamin Walker) rules the elven capitol of Lindon, which is located on the western part of Middle-earth — where the elves depart on boat to the Undying Lands. As the boss of the other elves, he’s trying to maintain the peace, which is difficult considering Galadriel’s refusal to stop her hunt for Sauron.
“When we meet him, he’s a politician,” Walker explains. “He’s trying to illuminate and elevate the people around him to protect them from themselves and the inevitability of darkness.”
He also has the gift of foresight, which may come in handy with evil lurking about.
Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), ruler of the elven region Eregion, is another important figure in the story. As a master craftsman — the best Middle-earth has to offer, in fact — he will go on to forge the Rings of Power. “He’s reached a point in his existence where he’s searching for something,” Edwards shares. “We find him vaguely unsettled. That makes him vulnerable to predators who may happen to come along.”
Elrond (Robert Aramayo), the future Lord of Rivendell, is a young elf rising through the ranks in Lindon. His friendship with the dwarven Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur) comes in handy for Celebrimbor, who’s looking to employ the dwarves for a very special project.
The dwarf kingdom of Khazad-dûm was in ruins in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, but it is a booming underground realm in the Second Age.
King Durin III (Peter Mullan) currently rules, with his son Durin IV next in line for the throne. Prince Durin is happily married to Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete), another new character created for the show. (And in case you’re wondering, she does have a beard in the show.)
The Harfoots and the Stranger
The Harfoots are one of three Hobbit breeds, the other two being the Stoors and the Fallohides. A tight-knit community of nomads, they won’t settle in the Shire until the early part of the Third Age. We meet quite a few of them in the show, including elder Sadoc Burrows (played by Sir Lenny Henry), Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards), Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), and Nori’s parents Largo (Dylan Smith) and Marigold (Sara Zwangobani).
Poppy and Nori cross paths with The Stranger (Daniel Weyman), another mystery character we know next to nothing about.
“He’s obviously mysterious and enigmatic, and he’s struggling to remember exactly what his purpose is,” Weyman teases. “In terms of any sort of power that he has, I think how he wields that in the communities that he comes in contact with is going to be quite a fun and possibly terrifying journey. Is he good? Is he bad? That’s something that we’re all going to discover with him on the journey.”
In the Second Age, Aragorn’s sea-faring ancestors were thriving on the island of Númenor.
(Fun fact: Elrond’s brother Elros was the first king of Númenor, and went by the name Tar-Minyatur. They were both half-elf, half-human, and were given the choice to pick which race they wanted to be counted among. Elrond chose the elves while Elros went with the humans, living an unnaturally long life before dying a mortal. His bloodline, which includes Aragorn, live longer lifespans because of him.)
The realm is currently led by Queen Regent Míriel, who will be dealing with some Game of Thrones-like drama surrounding her throne.
“I think one of the great clues is in her name: Queen Regent Míriel,” portrayer Cynthia Addai-Robinson notes. “We know that essentially means that she’s not fully queen just yet.”
Not everyone wants to be ruled by Míriel, which is why her cousin Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle) has stepped in to help. “We see him here as very much a public servant,” Gravelle shares. “We see a man with tremendous responsibility [and] tremendous pressure, but something that he’s very good at. [He has] the ear of some of the people there — the chancellor and the head of the guilds — so [he’s] in a position to smooth that relationship.”
There’s also plenty of drama with Elendil, a respected sea captain and all-around good guy (and eventual founder of Gondor). He’s a single dad with three kids: Anárion, Eärien (an original character played by Ema Horvath) and Isildur — the guy who cut the ring from Sauron’s hand and kept it for himself.
In Rings of Power, he’s just a sailor trying to follow in his dad’s footsteps while also dealing with the death of his mother. He clashes with his father, which leaves his sister caught in the middle.
“Our other brother has run away to the other side of the island we live on, and Isildur is threatening to do the same thing,” Horvath says. “[Eärien is] a bit stressed trying to keep the family together.”
According to Horvath, the father-son conflict leaves her “vulnerable to attention from other sources.”
The Southlands is an important location you definitely want to keep an eye out for in the show.
Bronwyn (played by Nazanin Boniadi) is a human from the village of Tirharad, and there’s a reason her people live in the slums. They are the decedents of the humans who sided with Morgoth in the War of Wrath, and elves were appointed to watch over them ever since. When Bronwyn gets cozy with the Silvan elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), her people are not happy about it — hence the forbidden romance.
Bronwyn’s son Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) is a teenager struggling with adolescence. He finds comfort in a broken and menacing-looking sword, which will become a major part of his story. “It is quite important to him,” Tyroe Muhafidin explains. “In finding this thing, it’s almost like he’s found purpose and something that can drive him to do things.”
Are you looking forward to Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power? What do you hope to see in the show? Sound off in the comments below.