“We ask for something sacred in this mountain, and so we offer something sacred in return. In exchange for access to your Mithril mines, the Elves are prepared to furnish this city with gain, grain and timber from the elder forests of Eriador for the next five centuries.“
Welcome back to another Blind Watch! This episode and subsequent essay are strange because there is quite a bit of racism between the species, but not how you would necessarily expect it, and not how Tolkien wrote it.
Elrond speaks the opening quote of this essay to King Durin III towards the beginning of the episode. Unfortunately, the showrunners have changed the Elves’ history and relegated their fall to the Second Age of Middle-earth instead of the Third Age. In doing so, they have changed the relationships between the Elves and Dwarves of this age and made Mithril something it is not.
At this time in Middle-earth history, the Elves and Dwarves had a friendship, or if that’s too strong a word, they had peace and an understanding. For example, Celebrimbor and Durin worked together to create incredible weapons and armor using the Mithril. Likewise, Gil-Galad and Elrond had a deep friendship (which the show posits is only on Elrond’s side, Gil-Galad just uses him) with the Dwarves. Beyond the weapons and armor, they build fantastic structures for Elves and Dwarves alike, and Celebrimbor even used Mithril to infuse into the doors of Moria to block outsiders. I’ve mentioned this before, but Gandalf needs to speak the Elvish word for “Friend” to enter the mines in the movies. If their relations were so strained, why would you have to use an Elvish word to enter a Dwarven City?
At this point in Tolkien’s history, there was no rift between the Elves and the Dwarves. Instead, the showrunners rely on the play between Gimli and Legolas to inform the audience of interracial conflict rather than showing the history.
The show also has a scene where Prince Durin throws a piece of newly mined Mithril to the end of a table next to a wilted leaf. The Mithril seemed to bring the leaf back to life, which was supposed to indicate how the Mithril would bring back both life to the world and nature to the Elves, but this was not the case in the book.
Tolkien intended to be vague in his writing and wanted an eventual rift between these two races because that created more drama. But, unfortunately, the showrunners are taking it a step further and dramatizing things that were never written to get more dramatics out of the show itself.
Beyond that, Mithril is just a metal. It’s a precious and rare metal, but it doesn’t have the magical power the show pre-supposes. What it does have is the ability to be a magical conduit, which is why Celebrimbor used it in the magical lock of the doors to Moria.
So the argument that King Durin is proposing to his son seems like a dangerous and backward-thinking proposition, but it’s spot on (at least in the show’s reality).
He tells his son, “The Fate of the Elves was decided many ages ago. By minds much wiser, much farther seeing than our own. Defy their will, and this entire kingdom might fall. Perhaps the entire Middle-earth.”
He is alluding to the Valar and how the deeper the Dwarves delve, the more danger they can bring upon themselves. In fact, one of the most well-known Balrogs was named Durin’s Bane.
If you remember Peter Jackson’s movies, there is a scene right before the Balrog comes out, and Gandalf says that the Dwarves delve too deep, in their greed. This anticipation of the Balrog is what the showrunners are trying to set up.
There are two other plotlines the show covers, and neither has any basis in Tolkien’s works, just the vague understanding of what might be happening behind and between the pages, with some outright falsehoods along the way.
Let’s get the falsehoods out of the way first, shall we?
Galadriel and Theo are speaking one night on their trek to find survivors of the volcanic explosion. Galadriel tells Theo that she lost her brother Finrod and her husband Celeborn to Sauron. There is no truth in these statements; her story of how she met Celeborn is convoluted with the tale of Beren and Lúthien. That is the story of Lúthien dancing in a meadow and Beren coming upon her, not how Galadriel meets Celeborn. To top that off, Celeborn doesn’t die; we see him in Fellowship of the Rings, so I’m not sure what they are trying to prove here.
In addition, Finrod died in the battle against the Dark Lord, but not the Dark Lord you might think. Finrod had one of the most epic battles told in The Silmarillion when he fought Morgoth, the fallen Valar and Sauron’s master. Sauron had nothing to do with Finrod’s death, so it seems strange that they would purposefully change history instead of just skewing it in their favor.
We also follow along with the Southlanders as they all come together, and we learn of Isildur’s death…which never happens in the book. Isildur’s closest brush with death comes when he steals the fruit from Nimloth, the tree of the Valar, when he still lived on Númenor, and even then, he is never considered dead.
Beyond these blatant changes, however, they do show what happened in history. The Southlands became Mordor, just not in the way the showrunners are proposing. Sadly, we don’t get to see Isildur and his brother develop the great cities of Middle-earth and bypass everything to get some fake fan service, but these are differing mediums, so I guess beggars can’t be choosers. You either get screen time in the Second age or don’t.
The last portion I would like to mention is the powerful magical strangers who come across the halflings. There is much mention that this is Sauron, but I don’t think that’s the case. Instead, I think this may be a younger version of Saruman or one of the other Istari.
Sauron didn’t travel in a group. Indeed he was famously solitary and did not need to mess with halflings. But then again, they have changed many other things, so let’s see where the ride takes us.
Join me next week as we delve back into The Silmarillion for the Penultimate essay on Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age before coming back for the final episode of The Rings Of Power!