What’s the deal with the rings in ‘The Rings of Power’?

What’s the deal with the rings in ‘The Rings of Power’?

Amazon’s Lord of the Rings season finale. How do these new artifacts measure up to J.R.R. Tolkien’s versions? We explain.

Christian Holub

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the season finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

It took most of season 1 for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power to finally get to the magical artifacts mentioned in its title, but in this week’s season finale, the elven blacksmith Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) at last fired up his forge and got to work.

Despite the plural in the title is often referred to as the story of the One Ring that Dark Lord Sauron created to rule all other life. As any loyal reader of J.R.R. Tolkien knows, other rings were created as well — three for elves, seven for dwarves, and nine for men, as the song goes — but Peter Jackson’s film adaptations mostly just focused on the One. It is a creative choice. Although it may seem difficult to recall in retrospect, there was once Lord of the Rings was considered impossible to adapt. This famously complex fantasy story was made accessible to a wider audience by keeping the attention on one ring.

Robert Aramayo (Elrond), Benjamin Walker (High King Gil-galad)

The elven king Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. ‘

| Credit: Prime Video

But in Tolkien’s books, he talks much more about the others — particularly the three elven rings, which are the ones created in The Rings of Power season finale. Each one is identified with a specific metal and an element of nature. They also have their own names because the elves love to name things. They are Narya, with its ruby-encrusted Ring of Fire, Nenya with its adamant Ring of Water, and Nilya with its sapphire-encrusted Ring of Air. Don’t let the mentions of elements get to your head if Avatar is a fan. Nilya’s use doesn’t allow Elrond wind manipulation as a weapon.

The three elven rings have a powerful power, but in a subtler way that is very in line with Tolkien’s themes. Even in The Silmarillion, which is about the creation of Middle-earth, Tolkien writes about the “weariness” of the mortal world and the inevitability of decay over time. The three rings are the reason the elves remain around in that mythic saga. The One Ring of Sauron is focused on domination, while the Elven rings are focused on preservation. Elrond said at Rivendell’s council that “those who made them didn’t desire strength or domination, nor wealth, but understanding and making, to preserve all things unstained.” These are the things that the Elves of Middle-earth have, in part, gained, but with sorrow.

This, indeed, is why the rings are forged in The Rings of Power: Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) has foreseen that the elves are fading, and only a magical solution will keep his people alive. Gil-galad will be the first bearer of Nilya, but it will eventually pass to his protege Elrond (Robert Aramayo), just as Narya will initially go to Cirdan the Shipwright before ending up in the hands of Gandalf (who does indeed have an elemental affinity for fire, as The Rings of Power has repeatedly demonstrated with its version of the character). Nenya will be for Galadriel and will make her future kingdom of Lothlorien almost a reserve for the elven glory of The Elder Days, even into later years of the Third Age of Middle-earth.

But there is a significant difference between the show’s script and Tolkien’s books regarding the forging of the rings. In the show, these are the first rings of power to be forged in Middle-earth, and though they required Sauron’s help to make, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) detects Sauron’s hand in the process and successfully pressures him to leave the elven kingdom before the seven dwarven rings or the nine human rings can be forged. Tolkien’s text says that the three elven ring were the last to be made, after Celebrimbor became suspicious of Sauron, and decided to work alone.

One thing we can be certain of is that the three rings are key to resisting Sauron and aiding in his quest to destroy his One Ring.

For more on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, listen to EW’s new podcast All Rings Considered, featuring in-depth episode breakdowns and exclusive interviews.

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