Teaser poster for 'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,' featuring Tyroe Muhafidin carrying hi...

An unexpected journey

Rings of Power: How one relic will “drive” the Lord of the Rings prequel

In a saga full of magical items, there is one in The Rings of Power that could have special importance.

Amazon Studios

When you really think about it, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is filled with a lot of stuff: Magical rings. Mithril armor. Bows and axes. Po-ta-toes. And quite a few broken swords.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power adds one more magic artifact to the pile: a blade of special interest and unknown origin. At present, it doesn’t yet have a name, and the identity of who it was forged for — and who used it last — are shrouded in mystery.

We only know two things about the artifact:

  1. It harbors unspeakable dark energy. (The smart bets are that it’s Gurthang or Sauron himself possessing the sword, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)
  2. It’s held by the last person on Middle-earth who should probably have it.

Enter Theo, played by Australian actor Tyroe Muhafidin, a young man of humble means from the desolate South Lands who, somehow, owns this ancient sword that he keeps stashed like a precious baseball rookie card.

“Theo finds this thing, which he wasn’t supposed to find, or maybe he was supposed to find,” Muhafidin tells Inverse.

Like the other actors in The Rings of Power, Muhafidin can’t reveal too much about what’s in store. All he can offer is that the sword will play a key role in the story of the series. “It’s got some cool things about it,” Muhafidin teases. “And it does maybe drive the storyline a bit.”

Of the many threads in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, one centers on a South Land boy named Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) who owns a mysterious, and maybe evil, sword of great power. But whose sword is it, really?Amazon Studios

Set thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit, The Rings of Power is expected to end with the forging of the mythic, titular jewelry, including the all-powerful One Ring (that rules them all). But that’s in the future. At present, we are at the start of a long journey during which a dormant evil begins its first steps to reawakening.

Theo’s eerie sword is the first real piece of evidence that evil isn’t just waiting for its cue — it may be closer than the residents of Middle-earth realize.

“Our series begins where all the kingdoms are in a relative time of peace,” says actor Benjamin Walker, who plays Gil-galad. Gil-galad is the High King of the Elves, and he senses evil in their midst.

“I think [peace] just creeps Gil-galad out,” Walker tells Inverse. “With his experience and understanding, that kind of Elvish ‘spidey sense’ that he has, it keeps him up at night.”

In the two-episode premiere, Gil-galad seems confident that evil is gone from Middle-earth, but a dark omen at the end of Episode 2 suggests otherwise. Amazon has also hinted that he'll be one of the few characters to identify the rise of Sauron before it becomes obvious.

Actor Benjamin Walker stars in The Rings of Power as Gil-galad, a paranoid king who senses the imminent return of evil.Amazon Studios

There’s little at the moment that clearly connects Gil-galad to Theo, who resides far away from Gil-galad’s kingdom in Lindon. As previously told to us by Rings of Power actor Charlie Vickers, Theo’s South Land home is populated by humans who supported the evil Morgoth eons prior. Because Morgoth (and his apprentice Sauron) lost, the humans who inhabit the South Land live a life of struggle and are generally ostracized by the rest of Middle-earth.

But if there’s one thing true about Tolkien’s storytelling, it’s that characters’ destinies are intertwined, regardless of one’s background. While it’s unknown if Gil-galad’s heightened senses are directing him to Theo’s shattered sword, it’s clear Gil-galad knows better than to put his feet up.

“He is very, very uneasy,” Walker says. “It plays out in his relationship with Galadriel and with Elrond. His goal as a leader is to protect and empower his subjects, but it’s a bit like herding cats.”

Theo’s sword is a clear echo of other relics in Tolkien’s saga, like Narsil, which was wielded by Isildur to sever the One Ring from Sauron. But like a lot of things in The Rings of Power, there is a new story being told here, one that no one can predict no matter how much they know about Tolkien.

“His goal as a leader is to protect and empower his subjects, but it’s a bit like herding cats.”

As for Muhafidin, he’s just happy the sword is already reaching iconic status. At San Diego Comic-Con 2022, Muhafidin had a pinch-me moment when he learned the convention’s attendee badges sported the image of the weapon.

“The badge of Comic-Con was that hilt, which was kind of a huge moment for me, actually,” he tells Inverse. “People were like, ‘No, that’s not yours.’”

Are they right or are they wrong? We’ll know the answer soon enough.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will begin streaming on Prime Video on September 2.

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