“I leapt from that ship because I believed in my heart that I was not yet worthy of it. I knew that somehow, my task here was not yet complete. And when I surfaced all I could do was swim and pray I had chosen wisely. I did not cross that bitter Ocean, onyl to drown now. And nor will I let you.”
Welcome back to another Blind Watch! This week we conclude The Rings of Power and close up all the messy and misused storylines.
There will be heavy spoilers in this essay, so if you have not watched the episode or show yet, please stop now and head back to Amazon and watch it!
This episode finally reveals who Sauron is as well as one other major character in the mythology.
The show begins by having “the stranger” walking through the woods. He has been exiled from the wandering Hobbits (though they are not called that yet), and the mysterious and dangerous wanderers dressed in all white appear before him and all but tell him he is Sauron. Then, they use out-of-place magic to fool him, but the entire exchange doesn’t make sense.
First, let’s follow along with the show’s storyline and assume that this tall Stranger is, in fact, Sauron (he’s not, and we find out later who he is). It doesn’t make sense that Sauron wouldn’t know who he is at this point in history. He was already in Middle-earth from the end of the First age. The only time in Middle-earth’s history that it would make sense that Sauron might not know who he was (that never happened in any Tolkien I have read) was after the Drowning of Númenor, when he was cast down into the abyss, shed his mortal form and retreated to Barad-dûr. The fact that he shed his human form is the only factor in thinking he might not know who he was, so instantly, we see this Stranger is not Sauron.
What bothers me about this interaction is how lazy the writers were. Why would Sauron’s servants not know who he was? Especially servants who were this powerful in magic? Notwithstanding that there never were any magic users mentioned in Sauron’s entourage, these characters are just a means to an end to show the power of the Stranger and to show who he is, which is an Istari, otherwise known as a Wizard. Namely, this Stranger is who I thought he was all along: Gandalf the Gray.
It is Halbrand who turns out to be Sauron in disguise. I’m a little discouraged that I didn’t catch this sooner, but the writers changed the history so wholly to make it challenging to understand who he was, so I’ll give myself a little grace. Afterall, the whole point of this first season wasn’t to tell a wonderful story about Middle-earth, they wrote it to hide who Sauron was and to make a dramatic reveal.
To met he problem isn’t that Sauron turned out to be Halbrand. Sauron did, after all, disguise himself to influence the making of the Rings of Power. In the Silmarillion, he disguises himself as Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, to control the Noldor Elves and influence them create the rings in the first place.
Elrond and Gil-Galad suspected Annatar was not who he said he was, so he left Lindon and went to Eregion, where they crafted the Rings. But, unfortunately, while they were making all the Rings of Power (not just the three for the Elves), Sauron retreated to Mount Doom and created the One Ring to rule them.
So the fact that the showrunners decided to change Sauron’s disguise from Annatar to Halbrand is acceptable. My problem comes in with how they introduced and framed him. Sauron is a master of deception, so much so, that he destroyed two different empires with influence alone (meaning that he didn’t raise an army against them).
But why was Sauron stranded on a raft? Do the showrunners want us to believe that he foresaw Galadriel jumping off her boat and swimming to a broken-down ship in the middle of the sea? And even if that was the case, there are far easier ways for him to ingratiate himself within the Elven culture.
Having Halbrand come up with such a soft cover as “King of the Southlands,” which was so easy to figure out “bloodline was broken,” is unlike Sauron. It makes him seem weak and lazy, which he is not.
Not to mention that there never was a human king in Middle-earth before Númenor. They were all traveling bands who were subjects of the Elven Kings.
The whole point of the entire show wasn’t to make an incredible Lord of the Rings show, but to hide the information about who Sauron was so they could have that reveal in the last episode. All the character’s motivations were to hide who he was, all the action was to hide who he was, and all the plot was to conceal Sauron’s true identity. I don’t mind that the showrunners wanted to change history, however, it doesn’t thrill me. The fact that they very obviously sat around a writing room and said they wanted the final reveal to be who Gandalf is and who Sauron is, then framed the rest of the show around that is just lazy.
This is why people don’t like the show. It’s not necessarily how they changed history because, without a doubt, this story is different from Tolkien’s. It’s not the show’s visuals because the special effects are spectacular. It’s how the writers decided that one event was enough to drive eight episodes. It’s how they took away the agency of every character to fit in with some big reveal (which was pretty lackluster).
I’m not sure if I’ll be watching the second season, if and when it comes out, but it’s no longer a Tolkien show, so there will not be another Blind Watch covering the events if there does turn out to be a second season.
Thank you all for reading, and join me next week as we complete The Silmarillion!
Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age, Part 3
“Thus the Exiles of Númenor established their realms in Arnor and in Gondor; but ere many years had passed it became manifest that their enemy, Sauron, had also returned. He came in secret, as has been told, to his ancient kingdom of Mordor beyond Ephel Dúath, the Mountains of Shadow, and that country marched with Gondor upon the east. There above the valley of Gorgoroth was built his fortress vast and strong, Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower; and there was a fiery mountain in that land that the Elves named Orodruin. Indeed for that reason Sauron had not set there his dwelling long before, for he used the fire that welled there from the heart of the earth in his sorceries and in his forging; and in the midst of the Land of Mordor he had fashioned the Ruling Ring (pg 290-291).“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we learn about the rise of Sauron and the beginnings of the downfall of the Númenórean lineage.
We left off last time learning how Isildur and Anárion built some of the most significant structures of Middle-earth, and we pick up this time realizing that “the malice of the Eye of Sauron few even of the great among Elves and Men could endure. (pg 291)“
We learn from the opening quote that Sauron took up residence in Mordor. He gathered great strength, recruited and bred servants, and expanded his empire beyond the firey mountain Orodruin; “and perceiving that Sauron had returned, the Númenóreans named that mountain anew Amon Amarth, which is Mount Doom. (pg 291)“
Sauron then used that great force to attack and sack Minas Ithil, “and he destroyed the White Tree of Isiluder that grew there (pg291).”
Isildur fled with a seedling of that great tree for a second time in his life and sought his father. Meanwhile, his brother held Osgiliath and drove Sauron back into the mountains, but “Anárion knew that unless help should come his kingdom would not long stand (pg 291).”
Elendil and Gil-Galad met with each other to come up with a strategy against this new Dark Lord. They decided that the only chance the people of Middle-earth had against his tyranny was to unite and make a stand. “Therefore they made that League which is called the Last Alliance (pg 292).“
Tolkien gives us two short paragraphs describing the events of this battle that rent the world. Every race had members on both sides, except the Elves, making it a struggle of kith and kin.
Gil-galad and Elendil fought valiantly and pushed Sauron back into Mordor, laying siege to his stronghold for seven long years. During these seven years in the fields of Gorgoroth, Anárion, Elendil’s son and Isildur’s brother died in battle. But it wasn’t until the last siege that Sauron himself came out to fight against his enemy, and “he wrestled with Gil-Galad and Elendil, and they both were slain, and the sword of Elendil broke under him as he fell. But Sauron also was thrown down, and with the hilt-shard of Narsil Isildur cut the Ruling Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own (pg 292).“
Sauron, defeated, returned to shade form because he had put so much of his essence into the Ruling Ring. However, it was years before he took “visible shape (pg 292)” again. This victory marked the end of the Second Age of Middle Earth. The destruction of two great Kings and their powerful enemy ushered in a new age.
Isildur took the Ruling Ring for himself, and there was peace and prosperity for many years. Sauron’s minions were not wholly destroyed but reduced to a number Isildur was not worried about.
Isildur was not his father, though. “Never again was such a host assembled, nor was there any such league of Elves and Men; for after Elendil’s day the two kindreds became estranged (pg 293).“
Part of that estrangement came because Isildur refused to destroy the Ruling Ring, even upon the council of Elrond and Círdan. Instead, he took it as a token of success in dealing with the killing blow to Sauron and as recompense for the deaths of his father and brother.
Isildur went north to stake his claim to the throne in Eriador, his father’s seat, “and he forsook the South Kingdom (pg 293).” He set Meneldil, Anárion’s son, to rule Gondor in the south in his absence. To rule and to guard against the inevitable return of Sauron.
On Isildur’s trip north, he “was overwhelmed by a host of Orcs that lay in wait in the Misty Mountains (pg 293).” Unfortunately, Isildur was lazy because he deemed that he had won the war, so he didn’t set a guard when his caravan slept. As a result, the roving Orcs killed everyone except for three servants and Isildur, who escaped by slipping the ring on his finger and going invisible to his pursuers.
He jumped into the river, but “there the Ring betrayed him and avenged its maker, for it slipped from his finger as he swam, and it was lost in the water (pg 294).” With the ring off his finger, the Orcs could see him, and they filled him with arrows.
The surviving servants brought Narsil, Elendil’s broken sword, back to Imladris. But the sword was not reforged, “and Master Elrond foretold that this would not be done until the Ruling Ring should be found again and Sauron should return. pg 294)“
Over the beginning years of the Third Age, through war and isolationism, “the Men of Westernesse, the Dúnedain of the North, became divided into petty realms and lordships, and their foes devoured them one by one (pg 294).”
In the Southlands, the line of Númenor flourished for years under the leadership of Meneldil. They built immense structures and created the Gondor armor we are so used to seeing, but “the blood of the Númenóreans became much mingled with that of other men, and their power and wisdom was diminished, and their life-span was shortened, and the watch upon Mordor slumbered (pg 295).”
Eventually, a plague landed on them and killed the King’s lineage. They abandoned the border of Mordor and allowed evil to creep out of the boundaries. The evil took the shape of dark shadows. “It is said that these were indeed the Ulairi, whom Sauron called the Nazgûl, the Nine Ringwraiths that had long remained hidden, but returned now to prepare the ways of their Master, for he had begun to grow again (pg 295).”
They took Minas Ithil, Isildur’s former seat, and made it a place of dread and horror. “Thereafter it was called Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery (pg 295).“
“But Minas Arnor endured, and it was named anew Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard; for there the kings caused to be built in the citadel a white tower, very tall and fair, and it’s eye was upon many lands (pg 295).“
The stage is set, and the hallmarks of the Third Age are being revealed. Join us on the next Blind Read to see the resolution of “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.”
“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!
“It is said that the towers of Emyn Beraid were not built indeed by the Exiles of Númenor, but were raised by Gil-galad for Elendil, his friend; and the Seeing Stone of Emyn Beraid was set in Elostirion, the tallest of the towers. Thither Elendil would repair, and thence he would gaze out over the sundering seas, when the yearning of exile was upon him; and it is believed that thus he would at whiles see far away even the Tower of Avallónë upon Eressëa, where the Master-stone abode, and yet abides. These stones were gifts of the Eldar to Amandil, father of Elendil, for the comfort of the Faithful of Númenor in their dark days, when the Elves might come no longer to that land under the shadow of Sauron. They were called the Palantíri, those that watch from afar; but all those that were brought to Middle-earth long ago were lost. (pg 290)”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! Whew, that was a long introductory quote! This week we progress into the places, deeds, and constructs of the Third Age as we get closer to the events of The Lord of the Rings.
We pick up right where we left off last week, with the creation of the Nazgûl, because “Sauron’s lust and pride increased, until he knew no bounds, and he determined to make himself master of all things in Middle-earth. (pg 287)”
Sauron’s shadow began to spread across Middle-earth, and he ruled with an iron fist, crushing any small insurrections before they could start. He oversaw the Orcs, and they “multiplied like flies. (pg 288)”
However, this era was still prosperous for the people of Middle-earth, and Sauron would not cross Ered Luin. “Gil-Galad was aided by the Númenóreans. (pg 288)” and so Sauron knew, even with his mighty garrison of Orcs, that he could not withstand the two races who had aligned against him.
It was at this time in History that the Númenóreans challenged Sauron, and as we learned in Akallabêth, he “left Middle-earth for a while and went to Númenor as a hostage of Tar-Calion the King. (pg 288)”
After the Drowning of Númenor, Sauron fell into the Abyss, but his spirit flew back to Middle-earth where he found Gil-Galad had taken over and made a wonderful kingdom of much of Middle-earth. So Sauron “withdrew to his fortress in the Black Land and meditated war. (pg 288)” as the Third Age began.
During this time of the great Flood that destroyed Númenor, the Faithful, Númenóreans who still believed in the Valar and the Eldar, sailed to Middle-earth. “The chief among these were Elendil the Tall and his sons, Isildur and Anárion. (pg 288)”
It was in Middle-earth that Elendil befriended the Elven King Gil-Galad, and had the freedom to settle in Eriador and create new kingdoms and structures. They built great towers in Emyn Beraid, “and there remain many barrows and ruined works in those places. (pg 289)” Probably the most memorable for casual readers/viewers would be the tower on Amon Sûl, otherwise known as Weathertop.
Elendil’s sons went south, “and they established a realm in those lands that were after called Gondor. (pg 289)” Aragorn, considered the king of men because his bloodline comes directly from Elros (Elrond’s brother) half-blood, is the direct descendant of Isildur. So Elrond is Aragorn’s uncle; if you put about 89 greats in front of Uncle, that is.
The Númenóreans were still a sea-faring people, so they created the most significant city along a great river, a city they named Osgiliath, with a great bridge to allow their spectacular ships to sail beneath. This structure is the Bridge destroyed in “The Return of the King,” and Osgiliath is the city Faramir is trying to defend from the Orc scourge.
They also built two prominent towers: “Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Rising Moon, eastward upon a shoulder of the Mountains of Shadow as a threat to Mordor; and to the westward Minas Anor, the Tower of the Setting Sun. (pg 289)” Remember these names. These become very important in everything that comes afterward.
Isildur settled into Minas Ithil, where Anárion settled into Minas Arnor, “but they shared the realm between them, and their thrones were set side by side in the Great Hall of Osgiliath. (pg 289)” Their towers were also set to either side of the great city, setting up the major areas of early Gondor, but they were not the only dwellings.
The Númenóreans also built many other cities, including the circle of Angrenost, otherwise known as Isengard, and the tower they built there was known as Orthanc. This is the tower where the Istari (wizard Maiar) Saruman took up abode.
Beyond the buildings, “Many treasures and great heirlooms of virtue and wonder the Exiles had brought from Númenor; and the most renowned were the Seven Stones and the White Tree. (pg 290)” Otherwise known as the Palantíri (the seeing stones) and the seed of Nimloth, which Isildur nearly died obtaining.
The seeing stones “Three Elendil took, and his sons each two. (pg 290).” Elendil set his in the towers of Emyn Beraid, on Weathertop, and the city of Annúminas. Isildur placed his in Minas Ithil and at Orthanc, and Anárion put his at Minas Arnor and Osgiliath.
These seeing stones were intended to be a balm against the darkness Sauron held in the land, but at this time in History, he was still trying to build power, so the significant structures of the Númenóreans in Middle-earth didn’t feel his presence often. Only Elendil realized the turn of the tide and understood the power of the Palantíri. He knew that if Sauron got his hands on those, his presence could reach far more deeply than ever. He saw Pharazôn be corrupted by only words, creating the downfall of Númenor. What if Sauron could control the visions the Great Kings of the Third Age were seeing and make them think they were all real? This would be far more pervasive than just playing to one’s Hubris.
The sons, however, one more step removed from the purity of their bloodline, believed in using these seeing stones for their power and protection of their people. So the seeing stones stayed where they were set. Orthanc fell into Saruman’s hands, and the power corrupted him (amongst other things), and Osgiliath, we know, stood until the end of the Third Age. But what of the other two towers? We have not seen the names Minas Ithil and Minas Arnor yet. Where do those come in?
Join me next time to find out!
Next week we’ll cover the penultimate episode of The Rings of Power before diving back into “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.”
“My children, we have endured much. We cast off out shackles. Crossed mountain, field, frost, and fallow, till out feet bloodied the dirt. From Ered Mithrin to the Ephel Arnrn, we have endured. Yet tonight, one more trial awaits us. Our enemy may be weak, their numbers meager…yet before this night is through, some of us will fall. But for the first time, you do so not as unnamed slaves in far-away lands, but as brothers. As brothers and sisters in our home! This is the night we reach out the iron hand of the Uruk…and close our fist around these lands.“
Welcome back to another Blind Watch! This week we cover Episode six of The Rings of Power, Undûn. The episode is fast-paced and fun to watch, but there is very little content in this episode based on the core material.
This episode focused solely on the southland’s battle for survival against the orcish horde and showed the treachery of men wooed by Sauron’s power delicately and subtly. But it also shows how people can hold onto hope nearly as well as Peter Jackson did in “The Lord of the Rings.”
We start the episode with the Orcs storming the tower. The Southlanders have fled, and Arondir stays behind to lay traps for the scourge.
It’s here, Waldreg, the human who betrayed his kinsmen and ran off to join Adar shows his concern for the Orc Captain, but there is something strange about his motivations. He follows Adar fervently, but we don’t know why he does this. Earlier in the season, he shows the mark on his arm. He gained that mark from using the hilt which becomes a sword from his blood, but where did he get the hilt? Why did he lose it, and where did Theo get it? Was Waldreg previously a soldier in Sauron’s armies and used the blood sword? Has he been a spy all these years? Unfortunately, they haven’t given us enough to make a proper conclusion.
We then transition to Galadriel and the Númenóreans on the ship on their way to help the Southlands. They show a bit of interaction between Galadriel and Isildur, where Isildur says, “I was just trying to get away. As far as I could from that place.“
Isildur wanting to leave Númenor is actual history, but it takes place before the events in the show. Isildur was trying to get away from Númenor, but it wasn’t until after he was already a hero for taking the fruit of Nimloth and saving the tree’s offspring from the evil of Sauron and Pharazôn. Isildur was gravely injured because of his heroism and “went out by night and did a deed for which he was afterwards renowned.” The problem I have, is that he has already left Númenor, so if the showrunners decide this event is to be his redeeming deed, then they need to find some way to bring him back to Númenor before the great flood.
The remainder of the episode takes place in the Southlands. The Humans all retreat to the town and set up an ambush for the Orc army, who attacks them at night. They successfully attack and push back the Orcs but find that most of the beings they killed were, in fact, their fellow humans who left town to join Adar. These humans are just in disguise, made up to look like Orcs.
Once this realization happens, the actual garrison of Orcs attacks the humans, only to be pushed back again by the Númenóreans, who have the best possible timing.
If you weren’t paying attention, however, you might miss Adar saying, “Waldreg, I have a task for you.“
The Númenóreans go onto a glorious victory, at least it seems. We see Waldreg finds the broken hilt, and he places it in some lock which activates a flood.
The flood goes all the way through to what I can only imagine is Mount Doom, where Sauron forged the One Ring. Then, the water creates a chain reaction which causes a significant eruption.
You might wonder why the episode is called Udûn. It’s the Elvish word for Hell or Dark Pit. The tunnels that the Orcs had been tunneling weren’t just searching or trying to seek something. It was that because they wanted the hilt, but they were also making tunnels so the water released by the hilt key would create a chain reaction that would cause hell on earth for the humans. Fireballs and magma fill the ground, and it’s a more extensive form of destruction that hasn’t been seen since Ancalagon the Black crushed mountain tops underneath its claws (an enormous dragon ever to live in Middle-earth and servant to Morgoth). What is even more devious is that Udûn is Sindarin Elvish, which proves the point that these Orcs were indeed transitioned from Elves to these creates because of Sauron’s corruption. Udûn is also the name of the region just beyond the black gate of Mordor. Coincidence?
So there is just one question remaining. Arondir tries to destroy the hilt key earlier in the episode, but the hammer he uses breaks instead.
What can this blade be but Gurthang, the sword of Turin Turambar? Turin is a hero of legend in the first age, surrounded by bad luck. His sword was Gurthang, which he used to slay many powerful creatures, including Glaurung, Morgoth’s Dragon Captain. Unfortunately, Turin killed himself once he realized he was married to his sister (who killed herself just before he did the deed), and the blade broke asunder after that happened, which is the only way the sword could be broken. Gurthang was a sentient sword, and there is a prophecy (interesting prospect in a show heavily leading on the sign laden Palatirí) where Turin will use Gurthang in the Final Battle to kill Morgoth for infinity.
I could see the showrunners using Gurthang as a key to release Sauron from the trappings of his spirit form and return him to his mortal form.
This is the blade, after all, that feeds off blood and remembers its kills.
So despite the lack of history in the last few episodes, I am excited about where this is going because if I’m right about this sword being Gurthang, it opens up whole new worlds of history to be exposed. There will be considerably more people who have never read The Silmarillion exposed to its lush history.
So join me next week and experience some of that history as we continue with “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age!”
“And there is not now upon Earth any place abiding where the memory of a time without evil is preserved. For Ilùvatar cast back the Great Seas west of Middle-earth, and the Empty Lands east of it, and new lands and new seas were mande, and the world was diminished, for Valinor and Eressëa were taken from it into the realm of hidden things.“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we delve into the end of Númenor as we conclude Akallabêth.
We left off last week with the Númenóreans burning down Nimloth, the White Tree from Valinor. The tree’s destruction was to indicate the downfall of the Númenórean race because of the evil influence of Sauron and Melkor.
“Now madness and sickness assailed them; and yet they were afraid to die and go out into the dark, the realm of the lord that they had taken; and they cursed themselves in their agony.“
The Númenóreans suddenly became quick to anger, and there were many killings of people who rebelled against the strength of Númenor. For years it “seemed to the Númenóreans that they prospered, and if they were not increased in happiness, yet they grew more strong, and their rich men ever richer.“
I had previously compared Númenor to the Roman empire, and I think this is a great example. The Roman empire grew so big and grand that, for years, it was eating itself from the inside. What started as a republic became a monarchy with a single person with ultimate power. With that ultimate power comes hubris and selfishness, leading to civilizations’ downfall.
This is what happened to Númenor. They were angry with the Valar and the Eldar because the Númenóreans were mortal, despite their abnormally long lives. They held onto that anger, letting pride get in the way. They grew more intelligent and advanced than the people of Middle-earth, and they were the only culture able to capture Sauron.
But Ar-Pharazôn thought they captured Sauron because of how mighty Númenor had become. This misled confidence led to Sauron becoming an advisor to the king, creating the domino effect that ultimately killed off the culture.
The Númenoreans became “fierce men of war,” and Pharazôn “grew to the mightiest tyrant that had yet been in the world since the reign of Morgoth, though in truth, Sauron ruled all from behind the throne.”
He ruled that way for years, with Sauron as his closest advisor, until he began “walking under the shadow of death.” Pharazôn was mortal, and it was only a matter of time before his body gave out. Still, Sauron’s words ate at him: “The Valar have possessed themselves of the land where there is no death; and they lie to you concerning it, hiding it as best they may.”
Pharazôn became an outspoken detractor of the Valar and a supporter of Morgoth, so he made it known that he was going to sail to Valar to discover their secret of immortality and take it for himself.
The faithful learned of this, and Amandil, Elendil’s father and Isildur’s grandfather, chose to follow in his ancestor’s footsteps. He would sail to Valinor as Eärendil did and warn the Valar about the impending attack, hoping for clemency for the rest of Númenór. Eärendil did so with the Noldor at the end of the First Age, and Amandil was hoping for the same in the Second Age, but “Men could not a second time be saved by any such embassy, and for the treason of Númenór, there was no easy absolving.”
Amandil was never heard from or seen again. In response, Elendil and the faithful loaded up on their ships to be ready for anything to come. “Many things there were of beauty and power, such as the Númenóreans had contrived in the days of their wisdom, vessels and jewels, and scrolls of lore written in scarlet and black. And Seven Stones they had, the gift of the Eldar; but in the ship of Isildur was guarded the young tree, the scion of Nimloth the Fair.“
Hearing nothing from Amandil and seeing a change in weather, they decided to sail west to Middle-earth and leave Númenor behind. Notice that the Seven stones were the Palantirí, and the descendant of the great Trees of Valinor was with them.
Pharazôn had already set sail when Elendil and the faithful left, and because of the great Eagles of Manwë, the Valar knew the Númenórean fleet was on their way.
“Then Manwë upon the Mountain called upon Ilúvatar, and for that time the Valar laid down their government in Arda. But Ilúvatar showed forth his power, and he changed the fashion of the world; and a great chasm opened in the sea between Númenor and the Deathless Lands, and the waters flowed down into it, and the noise and smoke of the cataracts went up to heaven, and the world was shaken. And all the fleets of the Númenóreans were drawn down into the abyss, and they were drowned and swallowed up forever.“
Pharazôn made it to Valinor but was “buried under falling hills.” and the great wave created by the chasm Ilúvatar generated wiped Númenór from the face of the Earth. It was the event known as The Drowning of Númenór.
Sauron was caught in the catastrophe, and we would hope that would end him, but he is Maiar, the immortal servant to the Valar. “Sauron was not mortal flesh, and though he was robbed now of that shape in which he had wrought so great and evil so that he could never again appear fair in the eyes of Men, yet his spirit arose out of the deep and passed as a shadow and a black wind over the sea, and came back to Middle-earth and to Mordor that was his home. There he took up again his great Ring in Barad-Dûr, and dwelt there, dark and silent, until he wrought himself a new guise, an image of malice and hatred made visible; and the Eye of Sauron the Terrible few could endure.”
Thus the Second Age ends with another significant shift in the world, and another Dark Lord conquered with the help of Iúvatar.
There is only one more chapter in The Silmarillion, and it’s one that most people would look forward to more than anything that came previously. The title? “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.”
Join me next week (Thanksgiving!) as we review Episode 5 of The Rings of Power before jumping back into this last chapter!
“And if the Elf were here now, what would she see? Men of Númenor? Or a gaggle of mewling children? We are sons and daughters of the Edain. Of Elros Tar-Minyatur, whose house conquered Morgoth himself. But now one Elf, a castaway, could threaten us? Look down, each of you, at the Gilcrests you bear, a heritage of mighty hands. Of men who laid the sea wall, who raised Armenelos, triumph of our civilization. But now one Elf could threaten us? My friends! Trust in me. For by the calouses of my hands, I swear that elven hands will never take Númenor’s helm. She will remain as always a kingdom of men!”
Welcome back to another Blind Watch! We’re back this week with Episode 4 of The Rings of Power, “The Great Wave.”
This episode has some incredible imagery and is terrific to watch, but it is the furthest from Tolkien’s original works than any previous episodes.
The show starts with a vision of the Palantirí, where Míriel sees a vision of the drowning of Númenor. It’s a portent of things to come, and the event is, in truth, what ends the dynasty of Númenor, but the showrunners are playing a bit here to give us more drama and add to their storyline.
Míriel tells Galadriel later in the episode that through her vision of the Palantir, she knows that the beginning of the fall of Númenor comes when Galadriel appears in Númenor. The issue with this is that I have not read anything in Tolkien yet that has Galadriel going to Númenor in the first place. The history of the fall of Númenor comes because Pharazôn forced Míriel, his first cousin, to marry him so he could take the crown. Over time he captured Sauron who became a consultant. Sauron eventually corrupted him and influenced him to sail to Valinor to step on that sacred ground.
Númenor named the Land of Gift because Ilùvatar (read that as God) gave the land to the Númenoreans as a gift for Eärendil and Elwing’s sacrifice in stopping Morgoth. He and the Valar (read Valar as Angels) laid a rule down that Men (read that as Humans) were never to sail to Valinor. Ar-Pharazôn, in his foolishness, decided he was above God. As penance, Ilùvatar washed the island of Númenor and its entire fleet away into the sea and buried Pharazôn and the men. These greedy men who took a step onto Valinor were interred under a landslide, buried forever, and forgotten.
Despite that inaccuracy, I love the way the show is framing Pharazôn. He has a dialogue with one of the characters early in the episode where he speaks of being a statesman and how to talk to the common folk. His big speech is what opens this essay, and that speech ends with raucous cheering. It shows how he positioned himself through politics and statesmanship into power. I’m a little disappointed that the showrunners decided against him forcibly marrying Míriel to take the ultimate control. Still, it appears they will work around that by having Míriel go to Middle-earth to fight against Sauron. I imagine he will take power while she is away and Tar-Palantir (Míriel’s father and King) dies.
We switch to the Humans in the Southlands, escaping to a tower to get away from the Orcish scourge. However, the humans are in danger because they need food, and foraging in the lands hasn’t gotten them enough. Theo, the son of the woman trying to take charge of the encampment, comes up with a bright idea to raid the village to get food. He sneaks out, thinking that the sword hilt he found will help him against the Orcs, and with the help of his friend, they try to get food and save the town.
Predictably Theo wants to go “just one more place” like a child trick or treating on Halloween night. Clouds roll in and cover the sun, and the Orcs come in. Theo takes out the sword, which gets its power from his blood. He sticks the hilt into his skin, and it forges a blade he uses to fight off the Orcs.
I’ve not read of any blade in Tolkien that uses blood for power (or at least I don’t remember if I did). So my first inclination is to assume this is Gurthang, which was Túrin Turambar’s blade.
This history of the blade was that Eöl, the Dark Elf, forged it as Anglachel. Years later, Beleg Strongbow requested it to assist in defense of Túrin. Through their adventures, Túrin accidentally killed Beleg with Anglachel, and Túrin had it reforged into Gurthang.
Túrin used the sword to kill Glaurung, the King of dragons and one of Morgoth’s Captains, and eventually killed himself with it.
So why would I think that the blade Theo has would be Gurthang? Because the sword had a mind of its own. It spoke to Túrin, and there are many passages in which the sword would ask for action and blood. None, however, as apropos as when Túrin asked the blade if it would kill him quickly:
“Yea, I will drink thy blood gladly, that so I may forget the blood of Beleg my master, and the blood of Brandir slain unjustly. I will slay thee swiftly.“
I think it’s possible that a sword with that history with some sentience could have ended up broken and corrupted by Sauron over the years. Of course, this is a theory based on the history of The Silmarillion, but it seems like this is the kind of thing that the showrunners would do.
Lastly, we go back to Durin and Elrond and find the dwarves mining Mithril. The showrunners try to make many events fit within the show’s timeframe, but dwarves found Mithril in Khazad-dûm in the First Age, not the Second Age as the show is trying to present.
Khazad-Dûm was the only place in Eä to find Mithril, and it was in the Third Age (Between the events of the Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Rings) that the Dwarves delved too deep and woke the Balrog, who eventually destroyed all the mines of Moria.
Though the timeframe doesn’t match, I hope to see a Balrog in this show in a more prolonged battle sequence than we saw in the movies.
At any rate, next week, we’ll come back for the conclusion of Akallabêth before breaking down Episode 5 of The Rings Of Power!
“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!
“We had no word for death, for we thought our joys would be unending. We thought our light would never dim. So when the great foe Morgoth, destroyed the very light of our home we resisted. An a legion of Eleves went to war. We left Valinor, our home, and journeyed to a distant realm. One filled with untold perils, and strange creatures beyond count. A place known as Middle-earth.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! Or, in this case, let’s call it a blind watch! This week, we’re taking a step back from The Silmarillion and reviewing the first episode of “The Rings of Power” on Amazon.
The show is pretty much what I was expecting. It corrupts the lore of Tolkien, using some, changing most, and making much up on their own.
That may sound like a denigration of the show, but it is entertaining – Of which you can’t deny when you first look at Valinor and its two shining trees. People who have not read the Silmarillion will probably take great joy in the show because they get to return to Middle-earth and join along with a few characters they remember from the Movies. Namely Galadriel and Elrond.
So there is entertainment value in the show, and the special effects and visuals of the first episode are incredible. If nothing else, you can tell this was a labor of love for at least the special effects crew.
I have not finished the book (nor any of the other histories which expound upon the core that is The Silmarillion, but if you’ve been reading along with me, you know that), but just getting through the Quenta Silmarillion has given me a good enough knowledge to notice the inconsistencies in the show.
The first of which is in this introduction. We start by viewing Galadriel and Finrod Felagund speaking in Valinor, but the show ignores the entire Fëanor and Silmril plot, which was the fundamental basis of The Silmarillion. In the book the storyline was an effort to show a fall from grace and how people born with the best intentions were corrupted by greed, hubris, and familial bond. If you remember, Fëanor created the Silmarils, and Morgoth stole them with the help of the great and horrible Ungoliant, Shelob’s mother.
Morgoth was a Valar, a creation of Ilùvatar, the God of Arda (“God,” for lack of a better term). Ilùvatar created the Valar, who in turn created the world they created through their song from Valinor. Morgoth was a fallen angel who was jealous of the abilities of the Children of Ilùvatar (The Eldar, or Elves). So he stole the Silmaril’s, which held the light of Valinor, and went to Middle-earth. That is all true.
What the show doesn’t cover is that Fëanor and his sons and the rest of the Noldor (Galadriel included), Killed their kin because they were denied an exit from Valinor, and then they stole boats and sailed to find Morgoth and take the Silmarils back.
The showrunners did this because they wanted to keep the Elves the uncomplicated heroes of the show. They needed them to be beings that the viewers would root for, yet that depth of character, which they tried to infuse within Galadriel, is lost on the rest of the Elves.
So we see in the opening quote of this essay, which is part of the opening voiceover from Galadriel, that the Elves chased Morgoth to Middle-earth to battle the called angel. They include every grand battle and say that the war lasted for centuries, but they gloss over the other incredible stories of the age. But, of course, they didn’t have the rights to those stories, so we can’t blame them for it, and there is a possibility that they framed the show this way because they were not allowed to mention the I.P. of The Silmarillion, I.E., the Silmarils.
So all of that is just the setup for the show. The introduction has some spectacular visuals, and it was fascinating to see the aftermath of the Fifth Battle called Nirnaeth Arnoediad. For example, the pile of Elven helms (which probably should have been bodies, but it’s a show), which was called Haudh-en-Nirnaeth, or the Hill of Tears (The fifth battle was called Unnumbered Tears), which eventually grew over with grass. You’ll notice this heartbreaking scene immediately when you watch it.
The first considerable divergence the show takes, however, is that Galadriel’s Brother, Finrod Felagund. In the show he falls in battle with Sauron, which is factually incorrect. Instead, he falls in battle with Morgoth, so the back story of Galadriel in the show is false.
The second divergence is The High King Gil-Galad sends the warriors of the Elves back to Valinor, presumably to get them out of the way because Gil-Galad doesn’t believe that Sauron will come back in the next few centuries, if ever. The problem is that at this time, sending the elves to Valinor is not a decision that Gil-Galad can make. It has to be approved by the Valar, and if he had that palaver, there is no way the Valar would allow all of the warriors to return. Not to mention that Galadriel is the last of the Noldor who are accountable to the Curse of Mandos, so she would never be allowed to return to the undying lands.
The scene of the warriors entering Valinor is breathtaking, however, showing the showrunners’ love for the source material. I just wish they had not changed the motivation and basis of Galadriel herself.
I did enjoy the episode, however there are more things to say. First, there is quite a bit of back and forth about black elves. I have seen articles and posts on Social Media where people thought there were no black elves in Middle-earth. I’m here to say that if you hold this belief and you think all elves are described as golden haired, white, and thin, then you did not read the Silmarillion. The description of the Moriquendi, otherwise known as dark elves, had dark (sometimes grayish) skin and dark hair; not to mention the most famous of the Dark Elves, Eöl, the master of the forge and father of Maeglin.
The second is a specific point of interest. It is said in The Silmarillion that because Galadriel is the last of the Noldor who had seen Valinor’s light (yes, despite the actress’s age, she is the oldest of all the Elves in Middle-earth during the events of the show), the light of the trees are reflected in her eyes. The show does a great job at having that reflection of the light of the trees of Valinor in her eyes at all times.
I hope you all enjoy the show as well! Next week we’re returning to the book with The Akallabêth, which is (I think) the history of the Nùmenorians and the second age!
We have a lot to talk about, so join me every Thursday!