So much Middle-earth history left to be explored.
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel series may be at least a year from its debut, but the company has begun quietly teasing this highly ambitious, highly expensive project. A series of tweets from the official “The Lord of the Rings on Prime” Twitter account has been offering clues as to when the show might take place and what pieces of J.R.R. Tolkien’s lore the series will focus on, and the newest teaser confirms Amazon’s adaptation will be set during the Second Age of Middle-earth.
Little by little, Amazon’s social accounts have been filling in a map of Middle-earth while quoting portions of the iconic “Ring Verse” that details the creation of Sauron’s Rings of Power. Now that we know the series will take place in the Second Age, here are a few things you can probably expect to see in this prequel series, including the possibility of multiple timelines.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated as of March 7 to include the most recent additions to Amazon’s Lord of the Rings map.
More Evidence for Multiple Timelines
The latest map from Amazon seemingly contradicts some of the details from previous teasers. As Twitter users like @NolanBryanLynch have pointed out, the map now features a different name for Laurelindórenan and no longer showcases Gondorian cities like Minas Ithil. The most significant difference, however, is that this map extends much farther south and shows the island of Númenor in the southeast. As we’ve mentioned before, the destruction of Númenor is one of the most significant events of the Second Age.
Amazon followed that tweet with a second message teasing, “Welcome to the Second Age.” That would seem to settle the debate. However, this doesn’t change the fact that the previous map (which you can check out below) pointed firmly to a Third Age setting. These contradictory details strongly suggest the series will actually be set in different time periods.
That seems to leave two options open. Amazon’s prequel series may act as an anthology project, with each season chronicling a different conflict from Middle-earth’s past. Or the early “Young Aragorn” rumors could be true, with his own adventures serving as connective tissue as the show periodically flashes back to explore events like the fall of Númenor, the Last Alliance and the war against the Witch-king.
Either way, we doubt the series will seek to bombard viewers with multiple Middle-earth timelines at once without some way of making this material accessible to more casual Tolkien fans.
Read on for our previous speculation about the show’s Third Age setting.
The Third Age
While Amazon’s earlier map of Middle-earth seemed to indicate the series would be set in the Second Age, this version seems to point more firmly toward the Third Age. Specifically, roughly 2000 years after Sauron’s original defeat and 1000 years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
The revised map adds several key Middle-earth landmarks, including Sauron’s fortress of Barad-dûr, Gondorian cities including Minas Ithil, Minas Anor, and Osgiliath and the fortress of Amon Sûl. The fact that Gondor is clearly a major power tells us the show is set in the Third Age, not the Second, but some of these names seem to confirm a much earlier time period than a “Young Aragorn” series would allow for.
For instance, Minas Ithil is better known in the movies as Minas Morgul, the ethereal city populated by the Nazgûl and an army of orcs that Frodo, Sam and Gollum pass by on their journey to Mount Doom. Minas Ithil became Minas Morgul when it was invaded by the Witch-king. At that point, the Gondorians fled the city and retreated to Minas Ithil, renaming the city Minas Tirith. As for Amon Sûl, that was the former name of Weathertop, the ruined fortress where Aragorn and the Hobbits make their stand against the Nazgûl in Fellowship of the Ring.
These names all strongly suggest the series will be set in the middle of the Third Age and chronicle the war between Gondor and the Witch-king of Angmar. As fans of the LotR trilogy surely remember, the Witch-king is the leader of the Nazgûl and one of the nine human kings corrupted by Sauron’s rings of power. In the Middle-earth timeline, the Witch-king resurfaces about 1000 years after Sauron’s original defeat. He takes up residence in the northern kingdom of Angmar and begins waging war on nearby territories, sparking centuries of conflict.
In this period, Sauron is still a long way from beginning to regain his full power and taking physical form, but the Witch-king and the other Nazgûl are more than capable of wreaking chaos in his absence. It’s very likely that Amazon’s prequel series will chronicle the tail-end of this war, as the Nazgûl press their advantage and claim one of the key cities of Gondor.
The Main Characters
Assuming the series is set during this period, we can probably expect a cast of mostly new characters. The series will probably focus on Aragorn’s predecessors like Prince Eärnur of Gondor and elven heroes like Glorfindel (who in the books was the one who rescued Frodo from the Nazgûl, not Arwen).
That said, the door is certainly open for familiar faces to appear. This era is far enough in the Middle-earth timeline that Gandalf and his fellow wizards are active. We’re still hopeful we may see the mysterious Blue Wizards play a role in the series (more on that below). There are also immortal characters like Elrond who could easily appear as the story demands.
And we’re not quite ready to discount the rumors of the show focusing on a younger Aragorn just yet. It’s still entirely possible that the series will divide its focus between Aragorn’s origin and extended flashbacks to this earlier era. The destruction of Minas Ithil and the downfall of Gondor is directly relevant to Aragorn’s own journey toward becoming king.
Head to page 2 to see our original theories regarding the plot and setting of the Lord of the Rings prequel series, based on Amazon’s first map teases.