Amazon has completed what I assume is just the first phase of its Middle-earth teasing, walking through the famous Ring verse on its The Lord of the Rings on Prime Facebook page. First they threw down an unlabeled map of Middle-earth (“Three Rings for the Elven-kings…”); then three days later we got a few basic region names thrown down (“Seven for the Dwarf-lords…”); then seven days later we got a few extra labels, like future Lothlórien (“Nine for Mortal Men…”); then nine days later we got a slew of Gondor- and Arnor-specific cities and towers and even Sauron’s fortress of Barad-dûr “(“One for the Dark Lord…”). All of these updates have really only suggested a focus on the Third Age in a much earlier time, well before Aragorn’s time.
Now, one day later, the new map they’ve posted pans waaaay back to reveal something big: more than just Middle-earth (the mainland continent) but a wider swath of Arda, the world itself.
It’s important to note that today’s reveal didn’t just drop more names onto the existing map. Rather, it’s a different map altogether. It’s how things looked before Ilúvatar, the singular god of Tolkien’s legendarium, “showed forth his power…and changed the fashion of the world.” It’s when Flat Arda became a freakin’ globe at last. (#ResearchFlatArda) And it’s when those Undying Lands the Elves are always pining after were straight-up lifted out of geographic reach.
So yeah, we’re seeing the Second Age before all that, before the drowning of Númenor. Because gosh-darn it, there it is: Westernesse itself. Anadûnê. Númenor! Look at it there, still safely rooted in the Great Sea, Belegaer.
Welcome to the Second Age: https://t.co/Tamd0oRgTw
— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) March 7, 2019
Does this mean that Amazon will actually set their story during the Second Age, maybe show us of the forging of the Rings of Power, the heyday of Númenor, and Númenor’s inevitable fall? We don’t know, of course. But probably…not?
There has been no news of Amazon getting the rights to The Silmarillion, or any of the History of Middle-earth books, or really anything outside of The Lord of the Rings, so any treatment of the Second Age would require them to ignore the mother lode of remarkable stories and lore about that time that J.R.R. Tolkien did write. They’d have to work only from the scarce information provided in the Appendices of LotR, and then just make up replacement events. Which would be a terrible thing. I think filling in gaps by inventing new stories can work, but replacing what already exists would be grievous indeed. Appendix A gives readers a crash course version of Númenor—lots of kingly names, but a lot of missing drama.
The fact that the map shows us Númenor is intriguing, there’s no question! That map doesn’t exist in The Lord of the Rings (or at least not in any edition I know), so I do wonder if it’s possible they can have rights to just a map without all the text that goes with it? Note the labels on the island itself; of all those, only Meneltarma (the mountain at the middle) gets named in Appendix A. So what gives?
Then, back on Middle-earth, this new map includes Eregion, a nation of Elves founded by the remnants of the Noldor who didn’t all go back to the Undying Lands at the end of the First Age. This is where Galadriel and Celeborn are hanging out, as well as Celebrimbor, the Elf who heads up the ringmaking project—and is hoodwinked by Sauron into doing so in the first place. It’s also where the Elves actually got along with the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm (Moria) for a good long while.
My running theory is that Númenor will simply be talked about, a lot. They’re not showing us this stuff for nothing. All the events of the Third Age are impacted mightily by what happens in the Second Age—namely, the creation of the Rings of Power (especially the One Ring) and the “return of the Kings of Men to Middle-earth.” That is, once Númenor sinks, it’s the survivors—the Faithful, the Dúnedain, the Men who were gifted with long life and supernatural skill—who come back to mortal lands and settle there for good. There they establish the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. They are headed by Elendil the Tall and his sons, Isildur and Anárion. And, well, you probably know the rest…
Those great kingdoms, like the Elves themselves, eventually fade with time so that by the War of the Ring they’re just a remnant of what they once were. The landscape of Middle-earth, by that time, is filled with ruins of their ancient glory.
So we’re still not sure what Amazon is up to, but we’ve got lots of data points to occupy us until they finally show us how it all fits together, don’t we? Today’s map-sharing came with the message “Welcome to the Second Age.” So it does feel like the rumor that the series will focus on the adventures of young Aragorn are just that, or maybe he’ll just be one piece of a larger whole. Maybe it’ll be less about King Elessar and more about where he came from, and his ancestry.
Hey, am I the only who wants to see the forging of Narsil by the Dwarf Telchar of Nogrod, whenever the heck that actually was? Anyone else?
But still…what if? What if Amazon is being sneaky, and they’ve secured more rights than they’re letting on. Maybe they’ve got rights to draw material out of Unfinished Tales, that totally amazing book of Tolkien lore that was the first to give us a behind-the-scenes look at both The Lord of the Rings and the legendarium of which The Silmarillion itself was but a part. Unfinished Tales does include that map of Númenor and a whole bunch more.
Another little detail I noticed on today’s map: Amon Lanc. It’s in the southwest corner of the great forest that will be known as Greenwood the Great and then Mirkwood. Amon Lanc means “the Naked Hill,” and it’s is where the fortress of Dol Guldur will one day rise. You know, that haunted place where Sauron puts on a pair of Groucho glasses, lies low under an assumed name (the Necromancer), and nurses his wounds after losing his precious Ring. Anyway, Amon Lanc is never named in The Lord of the Rings, but it does get a few mentions in Unfinished Tales.
So, whether we get the Second Age in actuality, or only in flashbacks, or even only in dialogue, we’re getting something there. What are you hoping to see? More importantly, what am I missing here?
Jeff LaSala is fully responsible for the Silmarillion Primer. Tolkien fandom aside, he wrote a D&D novel (long ago), produced some cyberpunk stories, and now works for Tor Books. He sometimes flits about on Twitter.