Rings of Power Episode 5 rewrites the origins of Middle-earth's most precious resource
Let’s talk about that mithril flashback in The Rings of Power’s latest episode.
Across its first five episodes, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has placed a lot of importance on the discovery of mithril. Mining the new ore, which Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur) describes as “lighter than silk” and “harder than iron,” has even become a point of real obsession for the dwarves of Khazad-dûm. Unfortunately for them, it’s their drive to acquire as much mithril as possible that will eventually lead to Khazad-dûm’s destruction.
Before it gets to that fateful moment, though, The Rings of Power is focusing on exploring mithril’s impact on the kingdoms of Middle-earth and the ore’s origins. In doing so, the Amazon series has offered a mithril origin story that will probably come as a surprise to both meticulous J.R.R. Tolkien book readers and casual Lord of the Rings fans alike.
The Discovery of Mithril — In The Rings of Power Episode 5, Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) reveals that he is, indeed, aware that the dwarves of Khazad-dûm have discovered mithril. In fact, not only did Gil-galad secretly send Elrond (Robert Aramayo) to Eregion in the hopes that he’d eventually discover Khazad-dûm’s mithril mines, but he did it in the sole hope that his right-hand elf would be able to confirm his suspicions about the dwarven kingdom.
In order to quell Elrond’s understandable anger over being deceived and manipulated, Gil-galad asks him to recite “The Song of the Roots of Hithaeglir.” The story, which Elrond notes is nothing more than an “obscure legend,” tells of a battle between an Elven warrior and a Balrog atop the peaks of the Misty Mountains. In between the two foes stood a tree that, apparently, contained “the last of the lost Silmarils.” During their battle, the Elven warrior poured all of his light into the tree in the hopes of protecting it, while the Balrog channeled all of his darkness into it.
Eventually, lightning struck the tree, imbuing it with a power that Gil-galad describes “as pure and light as good, as strong and unyielding as evil.” According to legend, the tree’s power then seeped into the very roots of the Misty Mountains, where it has been waiting ever since to be discovered. Gil-galad, understandably, believes that mithril is the very power described in “The Song of the Roots of Hithaeglir,” and he asks Elrond if the dwarves of Khazad-dûm have truly discovered the ore that contains “the light of the lost Silmaril.”
The Song of the Roots of Hithaeglir — While this sequence is undeniably impressive, Rings of Power viewers may be surprised to learn that it isn’t necessarily canonical. That is to say that Tolkien never wrote a story known as “The Song of the Roots of Hithaeglir,” and the author never wrote an origin story for mithril like the one described in The Rings of Power Episode 5 either.
That is, of course, partially, because mithril is not an ore that is canonically exclusive to the Misty Mountains in the way that the story told in The Rings of Power suggests. As a matter of fact, in Tolkien’s writings, mithril could also be found on the island kingdom of Númenor. There also, notably, isn’t such a thing as a “lost Silmaril,” either.
That’s because the fates of all three of the Silmarils have already been sealed by the time The Rings of Power begins. It is, therefore, surprising to hear Gil-galad and Elrond discuss “the light of the lost Silmaril” in The Rings of Power Episode 5.
That said, it’s worth noting that the inclusion of a Balrog in the episode’s Elven story is a nice bit of foreshadowing on The Rings of Power’s part. It is, after all, only after years of mining beneath the Misty Mountains for mithril that the dwarves of Khazad-dûm accidentally awaken a Balrog at some point during the Third Age of Middle-earth.
The Inverse Analysis — Gil-galad and Elrond’s conversation in The Rings of Power Episode 5 does a lot to help explain why the Elves of Middle-earth are so fascinated by the mithril that has been discovered in Khazad-dûm. Additionally, it’s ultimately to the show’s credit that — even though “The Song of the Roots of Hithaeglir” is a totally original creation — the Elven legend still fits well into the world and known history of Middle-earth.
New episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premiere Fridays on Prime Video.