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I met the team behind The Rings of Power: they love Tolkien

Last week I was invited to London to get an exclusive glimpse at Amazon’s forthcoming series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power which will première on Amazon Prime on Friday 2 September this year.

It was an honour to represent the Society to have this sneak peak of the show, and from the 20 minutes of footage I saw, it is clear that although the storylines are not exclusively Tolkien, the show has been created with a level of craftsmanship and attention-to-detail which is unparalleled, and which is a love letter to the Professor. This homage to Tolkien includes, as we’ve seen from the trailer, Galadriel and Elrond and Gil-galad, and other characters and locations familiar to us all.

Alongside the footage, I was able to meet with the showrunners – J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay – whose vision and passion is the driving force behind the show. What they are seeking to do is fill in the gaps in Middle-earth: that expanse of the Second Age where we know very little of what happens, they are going to provide us with their ideas of what could have happened. What was the world like at this time?; who are the key people?; and why did they want the Rings of Power. This is a story which is familiar to all of us in the Tolkien community: good and evil; friendship and fellowship; and ultimately love and death.

For decades fans have wondered what was happening in Middle-earth during the Second Age; whether that be what life was like in Númenor or Eregion; what the history is of the Hobbits before they suddenly pop up in the histories of Middle-earth; and who are the peoples in the South and North and East of Middle-earth.

A character is seen walking towards a city with two shining trees in the background
An image from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, by Amazon Studios

Amazon have already confirmed the involvement and oversight of the Tolkien family in The Rings of Power, and this was repeated when we chatted. In conversation, they were able to quote freely from both the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings and the Letters, and even mentioned visiting Tolkien’s grave at Wolvercote Cemetery. As people in the Tolkien community will know, this is a level of commitment and interest that can’t simply be faked. So, although they are filling in the gaps in the histories of Arda, we can be assured that they are doing this with love, care and affection; and with an attention-to-detail that comes from the involvement of the Tolkien Estate.

As Chair of the Tolkien Society, I am acutely aware that what drives so many people to be inspired by Tolkien’s works is this world created with depth and devotion, with a wealth of characters that touch people’s hearts. Speaking with the showrunners, I am convinced that they are the right people to adapt Tolkien’s works, and if the entire community of Tolkien fans heard my conversations with them, I am sure they would reach the same conclusion. I loved what I heard from them, and I am bought into their vision and dedication.

But I don’t just want to love what I hear; I want to love what I see on screen. I know not all Tolkien readers will agree with the creative decisions the team will make, but I am looking forward to September with the hope and anticipation that we will see a TV show that we can all fall in love with, myself included.

About the Author: Shaun Gunner
Shaun is the Chair of The Tolkien Society. First elected in 2013, Shaun has overseen the Society's expansion from 600 to 3,500 members. Shaun regularly speaks about adaptations of Tolkien's works and the future of Tolkien scholarship whilst passionately believing the Society needs to reach out to new audiences. In his spare time he can be found playing video games and Lego, or on Twitter. He chaired another charity, Mankind, and is a local councillor.