Author

Archive for October, 2022

Blind Watch: The Rings of Power; Episode 3, Adar

If we didn’t do everything we weren’t supposed to do, we’d hardly do anything at all.

Welcome back to another Blind Watch! This week we cover episode three of The Rings of Power, “Adar.”

Before we begin anything, I have to say how amazed I am at the show’s budget and their ability to capitalize on and make the show as beautiful as it is. Of course, there are problems with the narrative flow, as they are cherry-picking events from multiple different timelines, but they are keeping reasonably faithful to the character’s intent. That almost doesn’t matter when you get to see the beauty of Middle-earth and Númenor.

We are introduced to several characters you’ll know, even if you aren’t familiar with The Silmarillion or the Númenórean story. First, we meet Captain Elendil (which I’m pretty sure was never mentioned as a Captain in the book, but I’m still catching up) and his son Isildur, whom we all know from the Scene in The Return of the King where he cuts off Sauron’s finger and takes the One Ring from the Dark Lord.

It seems like the showrunners are forsaking that Andùnië (the city Elendil takes Galadriel to the library) was a major metropolis and a kingdom in its own right. Elendil was the ruler of that Kingdom on the western shores of Númenór.

In the show, we see a mural of Elrond and Elros, brothers and sons of Elwing and Eärendil, in that library. If we remember from The Silmarillion, Eärendil and Elwing came to Valar and told of Morgoth’s reign, which caused the Valar to come to Beleriand and stop him. They broke the rules by going to Valar and are lauded as heroes for risking their lives to destroy Morgoth. As a reward, the boys had a choice of which line to follow because Elwing and Eärendil were descendants of both Elves and Men. Elros chose Men, and Elrond chose Elves.

There is an interesting scene where Elendil comes before the Queen Regent and states that his name means either Elf-friend or Star-lover. Eärendil becomes a star and rides a chariot across the sky as penance and reward for his transgressions, so Star-lover shows respect to Elendil’s ancestor. Because Elendil is a direct descendant of both Elwing and Eärendil, the Elf-friend translation of his name shows his willingness to bring both Elvenkind and Men together.

The Númenóreans seem like an evil group of people in the show, and they progressed that way because they believed they were better than anyone else. They had progressed to be more intelligent and advanced and yearned for long life. It seems like that would be at odds with The Lord of the Rings mythology, where they call Aragorn the last great Númenórean king. But in that case, it’s because Aragorn was a descendant of Elendil, the Elf-friend, and not of the Kings (or Tar’s), which took power and eventually caused the Drowning of Númenor.

And Speaking of the Drowning of Númenor, the show seems to be headed in that direction. The Queen Regent Míriel is indeed a true Queen of Númenor, daughter of Tar-Palantir, the seer. He is named after the Palantírí, the Seeing Stones which Fëanor created in Aman, and Elendil brought with him to Middle-earth when he fled from the Drowning of Númenor. Of course, everyone can remember Saruman with his twisted claw hovering over the stone, looking into the future tainted with Sauron’s corruption.

Back to Míriel. She was forced into marriage by Ar-Pharazôn, who was possibly the worst of the Kings of Númenor. I think this is where the show is headed, though I wonder if we will see Ar-Pharazôn as a character.

He sought to take over Middle-earth under the glorious banners of Númenor and force Sauron to bend his knee. However, it was Sauron who outwitted him. Sauron raised the white flag and surrendered without lifting a finger. Ar-Pharazôn took him into custody, thinking he had successfully created a kingdom of Eä (the world in which all the lands were in. Feel free to read that as Earth).

Over the years, Sauron corrupted Ar-Pharazôn to the point that he eventually became a council to the king. This led to the world’s downfall and caused the great wars of the Second Age.

Obviously, the show will speed this up, as they need to do so within the next six episodes. Still, I’ll be very interested in where they take this, as we’ve just touched upon the history of Númenor, which is the basis of the Current Blind read essays on one of the final chapters of The Silmarillion, “Akallabêth.”

We have two other storylines in this episode that don’t progress much, but one gives a deeper understanding of what is happening behind the scenes in the show. The other shows a broader sense of the progression of Middle-earth itself.

The first is Arondir’s storyline, which gives the episode its namesake. He awakens and finds that he’s a slave to the Orcs. They force a team of captives to dig tunnels when the prisoners realize that the Orcs are looking for something, not necessarily tunneling under the Earth. This hilt can only be what we saw the boy Theo hiding in the first and second episodes. The assumption is that they need the hilt to try and bring Sauron to power, but that all remains to be seen. We meet Adar at the very end as Arondir is concussed, and his vision is blurred. Adar comes in his point of view as a blurry Orc Captain.

The second storyline is Nori’s, and whom I can only guess are the originations of the shire folk, I.E., Hobbits. There is a mention in The Fellowship of the Rings that Hobbit’s used to be nomadic, but they settled down, and they are calm and gentle folk who don’t like adventures. Not only do their names (Brandyfoot and Proudfellow) match those of the Hobbits, but their demeanor does as well. After watching this episode, I’m doubling down on the “Stranger” that they found to be Gandalf. I’ve always wondered why Gandalf had a propensity for hobbits when danger was in the way and why he thought of them when he had a task. It may be that Nori is an ancestor of the Baggins clan, and Gandalf feels an affinity with her because she made sure he was safe.

The plot thickens, but it closely matches Akallabêth, so join me next week for a continuation of the Blind Read before we return for Episode 4 of the Rings of Power!


Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Akallabêth, part 2

In this Age, as is elsewhere told, Sauron arose again in Middle-earth, and grew, and turned back to the evil in which he was nurtured by Morgoth, becoming mighty in his service. Already in the days of Tar-Minastir, the eleventh King of Númenor, he had fortified the land of Mordor and had built there the Tower of Barad-Dûr, and thereafter he strove ever for dominion of Middle-earth, to become a king over all kings and as a god unto Men.

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue the story of Númenór and watch as they create cancer within themselves, eventually leading to their demise.

We left off last time with the Númenóreans hitting landfall in Middle-earth, so they could hold to their word that they would not sail East towards Valinor.

The people of Middle-earth “sat under the Shadow were now grown weak and fearful,” but the Númenóreans taught them to farm and trained them “in the hewing of wood and the shaping of stone.

This enabled the people of Middle-earth to forget their ancestor’s transgressions and shed Morgoth’s taint. They revered the Númenóreans because of this and took them as godlike kings.

This power went to their heads. “And they said among themselves: ‘Why do the Lords of the West sit there in peace unending, while we must die and go we know not whither, leaving our home and all that we have made? And the Eldar die not, even those that rebelled against the Lords. And since we have mastered all seas, and no water is so wild or wide that our ships cannot overcome it, why should we not go to Avallónë and greet our friends?‘”

The sentiment of Hubris is central to the Númenórean downfall and the wars which would follow in the Second and Third ages. The Dúnedain thought themselves so great and powerful that they allowed their demise. There is a very close parallel with the Romans in the Númenórean storyline, and I have to wonder if Tolkien didn’t model their rise and fall after that ancient empire. We’ll touch on that more later.

The Course of Empire. Destruction, 1836. Found in the collection of New York Historical Society. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Some heavy theology follows the above quote, which spans pages. It is Tolkien’s search for meaning between the godlike and the mortal. There is quite a bit of documentation that Tolkien eventually meant for these histories to progress into later ages, which would become our history, almost like alternate history and mythology to the real Earth. Because of this, we see this Theology in the struggle of suffering. Why do Men have to suffer and die when the Elves and Valar live eternally? These are surrogate Angels of our world, with Ilúvatar being God.

They go back and forth, showing the youth and entitlement the Númenóreans felt. Why shouldn’t they get to see Valinor and become undying like the rest? But the Valar argued with them, telling them they were given their own gifts; they were not allowed to have the gifts of the Valar and the Eldar.

The Númenóreans all believed this, so it wasn’t until Tar-Atanamir (King of the Dúnedain) that their quest for eternal life saw its first downfalls (which they were blind to) because “Atanamir lived to a great age, clinging to his life beyond the end of all joy; and he was the first of the Númenóreans to do this, refusing to depart until he was witless and unmanned.”

The curse they would keep was this obtuseness of desire. Instead, they would cling to power and life to the detriment of all else.

It was during this age that they built significant structures on the mainland. Many of the Númenóreans reveled in the worship they received from the men of Middle-earth, “and the power and majesty of their kings were increased; and they drank, and they feasted, and they clad themselves in silver and gold.”

Reading this passage, I couldn’t help but think of Denethor and his disgusting eating habits while Merry sang his lamentations.

But the Númenóreans had more power and prestige than Denethor, and it enabled Sauron to gain his own power. So it’s here in the book that we get this essay’s opening quote.

There are some confusing and contradictory passages here which I probably need to read a few more times to understand completely. Still, it seems as though Sauron was around and in the land building power and creating Mordor, and during the Númenórean King Tar-Minastir’s reign, he created the One Ring. It was a partnership between Tar-Minastir and Gil-Galad, the Elven King, which stopped his ascension to power. I hope to see what that struggle looks like in the last chapter of The Silmarillion, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.”

His fear and hatred of them grew through his exposure to the Númenóreans. “Yet Sauron was ever guileful, and it is said that among those whom he ensnared with the Nine Rings three were great lords of the Númenórean race. And when the Úlairi arose that were the Ring-wraiths, his servants, and the strength of his terror and mastery over Men had grown exceedingly great, he began to assail the strong places of the Númenóreans upon the shores of the sea.”

Because of this struggle against Sauron and their own Hubris, the Númenóreans continued their segregation from the Eldar and Valar. It was years and numerous Kings later when they stopped taking Elvish names and stopped tending the White Tree. They didn’t strike out against the Eldar but punished those of their ranks who sympathized with the Eldar. The Valar saw this, and they “gave them counsel and protection no more in their wroth.”

Tolkien does something exciting here. It’s the telling of the rise and fall of civilization over age, but he tells it so simply that it feels like one event after another leading to their eventual fall. But these events are slow-moving, and little things happen during the reign of each of the Númenórean great Kings. Of course, Sauron was around in Middle-earth during this time. Still, his influence was slight, mainly because of the impact of Gil-Galad, but also because he was interested in building up his great fortress, much like his Valar master, Morgoth.

There was no nail in the coffin for the Númenóreans, which makes this history so believable. Great empires can withstand a single significant event. What they cannot resist is years of degradation from the inside. The Númenórean pride and hatred lead them down a path of righteous death.

These people lived hundreds of years, and we’re up to the 24th King of Númenór, and we haven’t even gotten to the linchpin event, which caused the eventual downfall. Tolkien is taking his time, creating an environment within Númenór that will allow this linchpin event to happen.

So join me next time when we see what that event is as we continue on the story of Akallabêth!


Blind Watch: The Rings of Power; Episode 2, Adrift

No! This is different. He could have landed anywhere and he landed here. I know it sounds strange but somehow I just know he’s important. It’s like there’s a reason this happened, like, I was supposed to find him. Me. I cant walk away from that, not, until I know he’s safe. Can you?

Welcome to another Blind Watch! This week we delve back into Amazon’s realization of Middle-earth with the second episode of “The Rings of Power.” Be warned now! This blog is meant to be read after watching the episode. There are heavy spoilers and explanations of the episode, so please watch before reading!

This episode, “Adrift,” follows a stranded Galadriel in the middle of the sea. Arondir as he searches for the root of the plague. Nori Brandyfoot finds a mysterious giant and tries to befriend him. Then lastly, Elrond brings us to see the Dwarves of Khazad-Dûm.

Though the title is a metaphor for all the characters and the uncertainty of what is to come, let’s begin with the most apparent message and cover Galadriel.

A group of shipwreck survivors finds her floating in the ocean. A creature they call the worm attacked them, which is some giant sea creature. It harasses them and breaks up their flotilla, leaving only one survivor after its destruction. However, Galadriel does see (with her elf eyes) some spear impaled into its tail fin. I’m sure there is a significance that I’m missing at the moment, but it’s something to remember moving into future episodes.

In the Silmarillion, many creatures remained undescribed and grew in the darkness of Middle-earth. They were creatures of Morgoth’s creation because he corrupted the land. I believe that this sea creature, this “worm,” is one of those creatures, and it’s fun to see what the imaginations of Amazon can come up with because they have such an open slate.

The last survivor, Halbrand, lets Galadriel know that Orcs destroyed his home, Orcs that were supposed to be gone from the region. Instead, we find that the Orcs come from the Southlands, which we already know from Arondir’s storyline. Eventually, they are seen by someone on a ship, who undoubtedly is a Númenórian.

Moving back to Arondir’s storyline, he heads to the Southlands and finds a city that has been destroyed from beneath. The scourge is Orc that has tunneled underneath the earth and popped up to sack the city. He and Bronwyn find enough evidence to realize that Bronwyn’s town is in danger. They head back to find that Orc’s have come from underneath, and there is a fun fight scene towards the end of the episode where they fight and kill one of the orcs.

The mystery here is Theo, who is Bronwyn’s son. He has a sword hilt with Sauron’s mark on it, and the question is, where did he get that hilt? Could Theo be Halbrand’s son? Could the mysterious broken sword have come from a previous battle where Sauron was defeated? We are led to believe that Sauron’s armies heeded the call of the sword hilt, so all those questions remain to be answered.

Elrond’s storyline is the least impressive of the episode and takes up most of the run time. However, the whole point of the storyline is a setup for the rings of power in general. Elrond meets up with Celebrimbor, the premier elvish smith who wants to create something spectacular. However, he somehow lacks the ability, so Elrond takes him to visit his “friend” (speak friend and enter) Prince Durin. The goal is to get Prince Durin and Celebrimbor together to create what can only be the Rings of Power. There is also a decent amount of back and forth about Dwarvish/Elvish relations, which will only enrich the later storylines.

The final storyline is, to me, the most interesting and is represented by the quote at the beginning of this essay. It follows Nori, who is a precursor to the Third Age Hobbits we know and love (based upon the name, I have to imagine she is a descendant of the Proudfoot and the Brandywine Hobbit lines).

Nori finds the mysterious giant who has some magical powers. I think the showrunners are taking a little more creative license here because I believe this being is a Maiar named Olórin, otherwise known in Middle-earth as Gandalf.

The Maiar are basically celestial beings, second only to the Valar, and indeed are servants of the Valar (Morgoth is and was Valar, and Sauron is his Maiar adjutant). The Istari were a sect of Maiar “wizards” sent to Middle-earth to assist the people against Sauron’s deception and armies. At the end of the first episode we see this giant being shot down to the earth like a meteor, and spends the majority fo the second episode trying to learn speech, and to understand his magic.

That follows with the general storyline of The Silmarillion, but the only issue is that the Istari were all sent in the Third Age, not the Second Age, so the showrunners are ignoring some history of Middle-earth here to work to make a better and more fluid show.

The whole of what I know about the Second Age comes from Akallabêth, which I’ve just finished, and we’ll get a Blind Read over the next few weeks to complete it. The issues I see here are that in the Second Age, Sauron worked his silver tongue to fool the great kingdoms of Middle-earth. He became a consultant of the Númenórians and created distrust from the inside rather than fighting them directly.

Sauron’s real story may still be the case in the show because we are just getting to Númenor in the next episode, but because there are already armies of Orcs fighting, and no one seems to know where Sauron is, I don’t think this is the direction they’re going.

It also is a complete divergence for Galadriel’s character because she was a fighter, but at this point in history, she was married to Celeborn and living peacefully, but there is no mention of him in the show. It was Morgoth who killed her brother, not Sauron, so her motivation has changed entirely.

Despite all that, it’s fun to be back in Middle-earth on screen, and I can’t wait to see their take on Númenor!

Join me next week as we continue with Akallabêth. We will switch back and forth between Blind Reads and Blind Watch every week for the next few weeks, as the last two chapters in the Silmarillion pertain to what is happening in “The Rings of Power.”


Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Akallabêth, part 1

And the Doom of Men, that they should depart, was at first a gift of Ilùvatar. It became a grief to them only because coming under the shadow of Morgoth it seemed to them that they were surrounded by a great darkness, of which they were afraid; and some grew wilful and proud and would not yield , until life was reft from them. We who beat the ever mounting burden of the years do not clearly understand this; but if that grief has returned to trouble you, as you say, then we fear that the Shadow arises once more and grows again in your hearts.

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we delve into the Decendents of Elves and Men, otherwise known as the Númenorians or Dúnedain.

Tolkien begins the chapter by giving us an abridgment of the story of Men in The Silmarillion, but with a slight adjustment: “It is said by the Eldar that Men came into the world in the time of the Shadow of Morgoth, and they fell swiftly under his dominion; for he sent his emissaries among them, and they listened to his evil and cunning words, and they worshipped the Darkness and yet feared it.

Interestingly, he begins this chapter from the perspective of the Eldar because the majority of the end of The Silmarillion has to do with how the “men” (meaning humans) helped with the ultimate defeat of Morgoth. Indeed without their influence, Morgoth would probably have taken over the land of Middle-earth.

What I find so fascinating about this passage is that Tolkien is saying that the majority of Men in the first age fell under Morgoth’s deception. However, just a select few, the Edain, who made their way West into Beleriand, were free of The Dark Lord’s corruption. Indeed, these Edain are whom we’ve read about thus far in the Quenta Silmarillion.

With Morgoth’s defeat, his thralls went back into the east, and the Edain faithful to the Valar were rewarded for their servitude. “Eönwë came among them and taught them; and they were given wisdom and power and life more enduring than any others of mortal race have possessed.”

They were also given land that was “neither part of Middle-earth nor of Valinor, for it was sundered from either by a wide sea.” The Valar raised the ground from the sea and enriched it with life, and the Star of Eärendil shone like a northern light to show the Edain how to reach that land. The land was called Andor, or “Númenóre in the High Eldarin tongue.

This was the beginning of that people that in the Grey-elven speech are called the Dúnedain: the Númenóreans, Kings among Men.

These “Kings among Men” were blessed with abnormally long lives to allow them to gain wisdom and help with the progression of Men in Arda, but the original gift of Ilùvatar was still intact. The gift of death.

Ilùvatar (you can read this as God) wanted Men of Middle-earth to have the ability to die, so he gave them short lifespans. The Valar are eternal, and the Eldar are immortal unless mortally injured. So men were given short lives to appreciate the splendor that Ilùvatar and the Valar had wrought. The drawback was that none of the great human kingdoms of the First Age could produce the marvels that the Elves or even Dwarves were able to create. Thus Númenor allowed them to grow “wise and glorious, and in all things more like the Firstborn than any other of the kindreds of Men; and they were tall, taller than the tallest sons of Middle-earth; and the light of their eyes was like the bright stars.

It was here on Númenor, the island kingdom, that Elros, brother to Elrond and son of Eärendil and Elwing, became the first King of the Dúnedain in the great city of Armenelos.

Because of his parent’s sacrifice and their mixed blood, the Valar gave the brothers the choice of whom they would live their lives. Elrond chose Noldor blood and lived the rest of his life amongst the Elves. Elros, however, decided the blood of Man, and it’s from his shared blood that the Númenórian line descended.

Elros ruled in splendor for over four hundred years, growing Númenor into the legend it would become. “The Dúnedain dwelt under the protection of the Valar and in the friendship of the Eldar, and they increased in stature both of mind and body.”

They accepted a ban from the Valar that they were not to sail to the west and thus spent their time growing in knowledge and the arts. They became great shipbuilders, as you would expect of people living on an island. They accepted gifts from the Valar and planted seedlings of the great trees of Valinor, echoing Telperion. I have to wonder if this is the antecedent of the great white tree of Gondor we see in The Lord of the Rings. The men of Gondor were, in essence, descendants of the Dúnedain, so having the tree be the standard on their armor and flags makes sense, especially because Aragorn was a descendant of those great kings.

White Tree of Gondor. Tolkien saga. Isolated black and white eps. Lord of ring and Hobbits illustration.

It was during this time that Middle-earth’s wisdom faded, all while the Númenórian knowledge increased. It was only a matter of time before the Dúnedain would make their way to the mainland. Over the years of building ships and gaining their knowledge, a natural curiosity about the surrounding world cropped up among the Dúnedain. They were denied the ability to sail west, so naturally, they sailed east to Middle-earth’s dark lands.

This was the beginning of the corruption of the Dúnedain. They came as seekers of knowledge but went to the land that had regressed. They came to a land of people who had become hunter-gatherers and lived tribally. They came as wanderers and became conquerors. They became, in their own eyes, Gods of Middle-earth.

Join me next week as we review the second episode of The Rings of Power before returning to the saga of the Dúnedain!