An unexpected journey

How Rings of Power’s Harfoots differ from Tolkien’s Hobbits

“Shire” later! The Rings of Power stars Markella Kavenagh and Megan Richards break down what makes Harfoots so different from the Hobbits.

Amazon Studios

Thousands of years before Bilbo left the Shire for the adventure of a lifetime, there walked another society of diminutive beings who tried to stay out of trouble from the rest of Middle-earth. They weren’t called Hobbits, however. They were Harfoots, and there are a few key differences that separate them from their pipe-smoking, ale-drinking successors.

For the first time ever, the events that lead to the forging of the rings in J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous Lord of the Rings series will be told in Amazon’s new live-action series, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, premiering Sept. 2 on Prime Video.

Also read: The Ladies of the Rings: The Rings of Power cast talks representation, secrecy, and Sauron

Harfoots vs. Hobbits

In the series set several millennia before The Hobbit, the societies that dot Middle-earth are a tad different from the ones fans know. For one thing, there aren’t Hobbits anywhere. But there are Harfoots, a nomadic society who are comparatively more attuned to the Earth, as evidenced by their hair adorned with leaves (which happen to make good camouflage for hiding).

“They have the feet.”

One Harfoot the show follows is Nori Brandyfoot, a young thrill-seeker played by Markella Kavenagh. Nori gets more than she bargains for when she finds herself in the company of a mysterious giant who, in all official marketing materials for the show, is known as simply “The Stranger.” (Is he Sauron in disguise? Your guess is as good as ours.)

“We’ve seen Hobbits before,” Kavenagh tells Inverse. “The main similarity is in their physicality. They have the feet. They have the ears. But the main difference lies in their circumstances.”

While the Hobbits have the Shire to call home, Kavenagh says Harfoots “are very much looking and actively searching for their one stable sense of place.” In the meantime, they are nomads who zig-zag across Middle-earth and “move with the seasons.”

Meet Nori Brandyfoot

Harfoots, the nomadic predecessors to Hobbits, appear for the first time in the flesh in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.Amazon Studios

The Rings of Power is no documentary on Harfoots. It’s an epic story about the struggle for power and how even the smallest of people can make the biggest differences. Just as Hobbits like Bilbo and Frodo did (or, technically, will do), so too will Kavenagh’s Nori seize her call to adventure. But just who is Nori, anyhow?

As Kavenagh puts it, Nori is “kind of inquisitive, curious, sometimes stubborn.” She’s also eager to take risks, compared with Bilbo, who famously didn’t want to do anything but stay home. (Relatable, honestly.)

“[Nori] embarks on a lot of mischief and longs for adventure, and sometimes puts herself and others in danger,” says Kavenagh. “But ultimately [she] just wants to find and access a better quality of life for the Harfoot and will subvert tradition to do so.”

Adds Kavenagh, “She just kind of balances a dedication to family and responsibility with an interesting adventure.”

Introducing Poppy Proudfellow

Like Frodo and Sam before (or, technically, after) them, Nori (Markella Kavenagh) and Poppy (Megan Richards) get caught up in an adventure when they meet a mysterious being who falls from the sky.Amazon Studios

Frodo wasn’t alone when he took on the perilous quest to destroy the One Ring. He had faithful Samwise Gamgee with him the whole way. In an echo to Lord of the Rings, the new series pairs Nori with her own scrappy best friend, a “cautious” Harfoot named Poppy Proudfellow, played by Megan Richards.

“She is witty, sarcastic, definitely more cautious of the two of them,” Richards tells Inverse. “She likes to keep Nori by her side and in check as she gets up to mischief. But that’s all out of love and loyalty that she has for her best friend.”

Richards teases some backstory for Poppy, reasoning her caution lies in some of her own lived experiences. “It kind of stems from her past. What she’s been through we’ll get to learn throughout the series,” Richards says. “But she’s a lot of fun. They’re like yin and yang.”

“They’re filled with a lot of heart and some humor.”

Richards says it actually took a lot of work for herself and Kavenagh to find themselves in this previously unseen society.

“We had a lot of workshop time, which involved improvisations for the two of us to explore our characters and who they are, who they were, and how they relate,” says Richards. She adds there was a robust training program that included coaching on the physical movement of Harfoots, as well as dialect coaching with Leith McPherson, “who is just brilliant.”

“For me, discovering Poppy was through those workshops,” Richards says. “Not to mention the collaboration I had with Markella throughout all of that. Getting to know her and to use that in service to the story. We were able to explore before we even started filming.”

Harfoots have learned to hide in nature as they travel, which explains why so many keep leaves and twigs in their hair. It helps to blend in.Amazon Studios

Whether they’re known as Harfoots or Hobbits, the true heroes of Tolkien’s stories aren’t the ones who seek power but are the ones most capable of handling it. While the rest of Middle-earth is about to get caught up in serious geopolitical brouhaha in The Rings of Power, two humble Harfoots will learn for themselves what it takes to confront evil.

“They’re filled with a lot of heart and some humor, and you’ll see them also, potentially, having experiences with tragedy,” Kavenagh says. “Hopefully, people will be able to resonate with them.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premieres September 2 on Prime Video.

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