The first image from Amazon’s highly anticipated Lord of the Rings TV series came as a major surprise to J.R.R. Tolkien fans everywhere — and not just because it’s our first official look at the project.
The image itself, which depicts a mysterious figure standing before a gorgeously rendered fantasy city, is undeniably breathtaking, and it effectively shows off the series’ massive production budget.
This sneak peek also confirms a long-held fan theory about the series. Namely, one way that it will pay homage to Peter Jackson’s beloved Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
A First Look — Amazon hadn’t released many details about its Lord of the Rings series up to this point, but the streamer has previously confirmed this series is set during the Second Age of Middle-earth.
For context, that’s the era immediately preceding the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which the Rings of Power are first forged. However, the image Amazon released from the series earlier this week doesn’t appear to depict any moment from the Second Age.
Instead, the photo seems to be pulled from a scene set prior to the First Age of Middle-earth. What that suggests is that the show may very well (as fans have theorized for several months now) begin with a prologue dedicated to setting up the entire history of Middle-earth leading up to the Second Age.
If true, that would mean the series will open very similarly to how Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring film does — with an extended prologue that gives viewers all the information they need to know about the story that’s about to be told.
Enter the Undying Lands — At first glance, it’d be easy to assume the first image from the Lord of the Rings series is of a Númenórean city. That’d make sense given the show’s confirmed Second Age setting and the fact that Númenor itself was a key location during that time period. However, closer inspection makes it clear the city seen in the image is absolutely not Númenórean but rather a location in Valinor better known as the Undying Lands.
The biggest tell: Laurelin and Telperion, the two massive trees seen standing far beyond the image’s central city. The photo makes it seem like the trees are the source of all the light in the land, which means that the scene itself is set prior to their destruction — a major happenstance long before the Second Age.
As for the figure standing before the city, it’s hard to say who that is. Some Tolkien fans believe it to be Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel, while others speculate the series is teasing another important Elven character. Then again, it could be a member of another race altogether. The possibilities, while not limitless, are still vast. But when it comes to the identity of the city featured prominently in the image, many believe that’s either Valmar or Tirion. The city’s placement in a mountain pass suggests it’s likely the latter.
Either way, it’s most definitely a city in Valinor, and those are almost certainly the Two Trees of Valinor, which means the series will feature at least some scenes set during the Years of the Trees prior to the First Age of Middle-earth.
The Inverse Analysis — Amazon didn’t reveal any official details about the Lord of the Rings TV series when it announced the show’s 2022 release date, nor did it include a description of the image released.
Nonetheless, the image’s inclusion of the Two Trees of Valinor reveals that Lord of the Rings fans can expect live-action scenes set prior to (and likely during) the First Age of Middle-earth. Of course, it remains to be seen how the show’s pre-Second Age sequences actually play into its grander narrative.
Will the sequences like the one teased in the image above appear as flashbacks throughout the show? Or will they all be contained in one important prologue? It’s impossible to say for sure, but it certainly seems likely the series will take the latter route.
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series will premiere on September 2, 2022.