The Coming of Tolkien’s, The Rings Of Power

The Coming of Tolkien’s, The Rings Of Power August 25, 2022


The Coming of Tolkien’s, The Rings Of Power

A week from now, Amazon Prime will premier the long-awaited series, The Rings of Power. A prequel to Tolkien’s much beloved Lord of the Rings Trilogy, it tells tales cobbled together from the appendices of that trilogy–and therein lies the problem. Amazon has released several trailers and interviews with the cast and spun some of the plot in drips and drabs to ferociously hungry fans. It has done so mostly through social media. The response has been swift and terrible.


A Conspiracy of Negative Fan Reaction Towards This Long-Awaited Version of Tolkien’s Tales?

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but it sure looks like a massive campaign was set up to disparage the coming series, set to play over five years at a cost of well over a billion dollars. The series–mind you, it has not even aired yet–is accused of wokeism, infidelity to the texts, poor storytelling, and terrible characterization. The fan critics say the series will not be faithful to the source material. The problem is, there isn’t much source material. When Peter Jackson did his fine films, he was often criticized for taking liberties with the text of the novel. But The Rings Of Power has no text. It has appendices that refer, vaguely, to stories 3000 years before The Lord Of the Rings but tell no real plot line. There is no plot for the writers to violate. A poet might say of the source materials the writers had to work with:


They are like memories in the night,

With flashes of starlight,

Hinting at tales of fading glory.


In fact, the materials the writers have to work with in The Rings Of Power, speak more of disconnected events–thought streams that might someday become a coherent story. Peter Jackson already had a coherent story to work with. These writers have had to flesh one out on their own.


Tolkien Left the Writers Free to Craft a Tale Using Their Own Creativity

There may, indeed, be too much wokeism. It does look like a black dwarf queen (how does one get black skin from constantly living underground?) and a black elf, along with pre-hobbit hippy-like short people are token gifts to the diversity nazis. But so what? There is nothing in Tolkien’s legendarium that would preclude such creatures. Much criticism has been leveled at the characterization of Galadriel, who, in The Lord of The Rings, is the most powerful creature in Middle-Earth, outside of Sauron. The critics are mad that she is portrayed as a warrior. Again so what? She is a creature thousands of years old and deserves to have a hobby. Seriously, Tolkien, in the appendices, allows for this. She is an incredibly strong character. Picking up a sword, for her, is no great effort.

Peter Jackson had a solid plot, rich lore, immense description, and the wealth of Tolkien’s research to work with. He did a masterful job. The writers and producers of The Rings Of Power, have a much harder task. They need to invent a plot and a storyline. They have much less of Tolkien’s research to guide them. This is both a blessing and a curse. They can create a tale of beauty and suffering, wonder and woe, courage and betrayal–if they have the talent. That is their challenge. If they succeed, it won’t matter if they take what seems like liberties with the lore. From what I’ve seen in the trailers, the landscapes look fantastic, the lore is intact, and the characterization is deep and complicated. Those are great starters for a classic experience of fantasy.


A Time For Hope

Within the past 24 hours, professional critics are beginning to weigh in. Many of them saw the first two hours of the series in the past few days. They are universally positive, once again showing the truth that you have to really see the show to comment on its virtues or vices. This bodes well. There’s a dictum we all should follow:  Don’t criticize until you have heard and seen the story. Then pipe up with critique, positive or negative.

I love Tolkien. I have since I first met him in Middle-Earth long ago when I was in high school. His world-building and storytelling are strong enough to weather those who come after him and use his material. I believe the storytellers will use his vision to tell a great tale. God knows we need it. The world has grown small with pettiness and anger. We need a story to lift our hearts. May The Rings of Power be that chronicle that lifts our hearts and makes our spirits soar.


*****The Rings of Power premiers on Amazon Prime Thursday, September 1, 9 pm EDT.

About Monsignor Eric R. Barr, STL
Monsignor Barr is a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois. In his 36 years of priesthood, he has been pastor, principal, teacher, university professor, Vicar for Clergy and Vicar General. He is a former associate editor of a newspaper and a novelist. He speaks on Celtic Theology and Current Catholic Issues. You can read more about the author here.
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