A first look at the series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power from Amazon Prime Video has stirred mixed emotions. On the one hand, it has been possible to see a very young Galadriel in elven armor played by Morfydd Clark. At the bottom of the publication you can read “commander of the Armies of the North”. The particularity is that the character wears on her armor the symbol of Fëanor. Can it explain The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power the apparent slip between Tolkien’s different tales? Owain Arthur could also be seen as Prince Durin IV, with no explanation other than his involvement. The disparity in data from the vast literary legacy of the fantasy literary saga confused fans.
But some casting decisions sparked immediate controversy. In particular, the photograph showing the dwarf princess Disa, played by British actress Sophia Nomvete. In the images, she can be seen at the entrance of Khazad-dûm. But what has puzzled several fans is that it is an African-English woman in the role of a character from Tolkien’s world. In fact, the actress is the first black woman to play a character in the classic fantasy saga.
The same reaction has been aroused by the character played by Puerto Rican actor Ismael Cruz Córdova. In the photographs, he can be seen as a sylvan elf named Arondir. This is a completely new character, included without literary reference in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. In addition, it was revealed that the plot line starring Cordova will have a special importance. The elf will maintain a forbidden relationship with Bronwyn, a healer played by Iranian-born actress Nazanin Boniadi. But they are not the only racialized characters in the series. An extensive Vanity Fair report revealed that British actor of Jamaican descent Sir Lenny Henry will play an important dwarf character.
Comparisons with Peter Jackson’s cast selection for the so-called Lord of the Rings trilogy are inevitable. As well as the director’s rigorousness in capturing the world of the literary saga. In fact, much of the complaints from fans on platforms and social networks are due to the fear that the original work is distorted. And it does so in favor of the focus on representation and inclusion that is part of today’s politics.
Tolkien’s work, based largely on Greek, Celtic, Germanic and Norse mythological cycles, has never been particularly diverse. Throughout the decade there were analyses of the way Tolkien showed Orcs or the way war casualties were dehumanized. But this time it’s about analyzing what the main figures in the story should look like. For Amazon this is a complicated discussion. Especially when The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, based on the work of the British writer, will have to face inevitable comparisons with Jackson’s.
But for the producers, the look of the characters is of no particular relevance. Or actually, it is insofar as it can broaden the vision of the universe narrated by Tolkien. Lindsey Weber, executive producer of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, commented that this is a new era for the work, adding. “Tolkien is for everyone. His stories are about his fictional races doing their best work when they leave the isolation of their own cultures and come together.”
But that doesn’t seem like a convincing enough explanation for fans. The photographs have been met with some unease and skepticism. Especially because of the fact that the elven race, as imagined by the writer, has very precise mythological roots. Both the immortals of Arda’s time and the Vanyar have an undoubtedly Nordic appearance. And although some are described with black hair and distinctive features, all have the appearance of white, delicate-looking men.
Did Tolkien ever describe all the races of Middle-earth? He did, but to the extent that they harmonized with the world he was describing. In fact, the writer took time and effort to create a world of subtleties. For example, he hinted but never confirmed that his elves had pointed ears.
Does Tolkien’s work accept revisions? It is not yet clear what the focus of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, from Amazon Prime Video. But what is clear is that it will not be without controversy.