An unexpected journey

Bronwyn and Arondir: Rings of Power tweaks one of Tolkien’s oldest traditions

A Tolkien motif continues in Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel series The Rings of Power. But there’s a critical tweak that makes a world of difference.

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In 2017, upon the posthumous publication of Tolkien’s The Tale of Beren and Luthien, The New Republic writer Jo Livingstone observed the meaning of romance in J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous saga, the Lord of the Rings.

On the romance of Arwen and Aragorn, Livingstone says their love “gives emotional and narrative depth” to the action, while their marriage represents an “everlasting bond between their two races.”

“Romance, in fact, lies at the center of the Lord of the Rings mythology,” Livingstone wrote.

A romance between an elf and a mortal human continues (or, technically, preludes) in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, streaming September 2 on Prime Video. But one doesn’t simply get a love story retold.

In an interview with Inverse, The Rings of Power stars Ismael Cruz Córdova and Nazanin Boniadi tease how the epic prequel brings a fresh spin — one centered on class and privilege — to one of Tolkien’s most popular motifs. And it all happens through their respective characters: elf archer Arondir and human healer Bronwyn (whose son may be connected to evil in a way no one can imagine).

But first, just who are Bronwyn and Arondir?

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

Nazanin Boniadi (left) and Ismael Cruz Córdova (center) in The Rings of Power, streaming September 2. The characters continue a known Tolkien motif in a human/elf romantic relationship, but the actors say the series brings a new twist.

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As Boniadi tells Inverse, Bronwyn originates from the South Lands, also known as the “Dark Land” that lies in southeast Arda. “Her ancestors chose the wrong side of history. They chose evil over good,” she says, alluding to the battle between good and evil that precedes Rings of Power. “And her people are now paying the price for that.”

The South Lands are a “barren” place, says Boniadi. Those doomed to live there have had to learn how to rebuild and regain the trust of Middle-earth’s other peoples following their fall from societal respect. But Bronwyn herself isn’t someone who would just “choose” evil.

“She’s a healer and a single mother of a rebellious teenage son,” Boniadi says. “On top of that, she is in a forbidden romance with the elf Arondir, who has been tasked with watching over her people.”

“He’s a soldier. He’s a quiet, fiery guy.”

Ismael Cruz Córdova, who plays Arondir, playfully describes his character to Inverse as “that quiet homie that doesn’t give away much.”

“You kind of have to see him to get him,” Córdova says. “He expresses himself through his actions. He’s a soldier. He’s a quiet, fiery guy. He’s tasked with watching over the Southlanders but is curious about these people. That curiosity leads him to fall in love with this human that shares a lot of qualities with him, [like a] love for nature.”

Córdova and Boniadi observe major differences between their characters and Lord of the Rings’ Aragorn and Arwen. For one, the Rings of Power pair are peasant outsiders rather than the elite princesses and would-be kings of the world. Such disparity brings a new perspective to Tolkien’s saga — and rich context to the circumstance in which these lovebirds find each other.

A frequent and favorite narrative trope Tolkien famously utilized in his works were romantic relationships between a human and an elf, such as Aragorn and Arwen, seen here played by Viggo Mortensen and Liv Tyler in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy. Another couple were Beren and Lúthien, which Tolkien based on his own relationship to his wife.

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“[Bronwyn is] like the poor man's human, and I view Arondir as the poor elf’s elf,” Boniadi says. “Our union is one of our common struggle to be accepted by our own, to reach out our curiosity for the other. We're sort of grassroots people in the trenches, if you will. We have zero privilege within our kind. I think that lends itself to exploring this [human-elf romance] dynamic in a whole new way.”

In other words, it is Arondir and Bronwyn’s statuses as relative outsiders that brings them together— and, in the long tradition of Lord of the Rings romance, what sets their dynamic apart.

“[They are] kind of outcasts in both of their communities,” Córdova echoes. “There’s that crack in the sidewalk that a rose or a flower rips through. That spark happens and they begin this forbidden love. That’s how their love blossoms.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power begins streaming on September 2 on Amazon Prime Video.

Tolkien’s tradition continues with Nazanin Boniadi and Ismael Cruz Córdova portraying another human/elf pair in The Rings of Power, though the actors say that their stations in life give them a context that hasn’t really been seen in other Tolkien couples.

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