When is The Rings of Power set?
(Image credit: Amazon Studios)
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Prime Video’s epic take on the world created by J.R.R. Tolkein, is finally here. Middle-earth has an illustrious history, of which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies only scratched the surface, and The Rings of Power shines a light on another period of time altogether.
Set thousands of years before those movies, The Rings of Power’s place on the Lord of the Rings timeline is actually quite a tricky thing to surmise: compared to the Appendixes, on which The Rings of Power is based, the events of the so-called Second Age are actually expedited. Let’s get into it…
When does The Rings of Power take place on the Lord of the Rings timeline?
The Rings of Power is set during Middle-earth’s Second Age. This epoch spans nearly three and a half thousand years, with many of the series’ events taking place around the middle of this period, circa SA 1500-1701. During this period, Celebrimbor starts the creation of the One Ring and the other rings of power after he’s twisted unknowingly by Saron – expect to see the rings in the show (as heavily hinted by the series’ title).
However, those who know their Tolkein may wonder why characters who lived in a later period of the Second Age – like Elendil and Isildur – are also present. That’s because the events in the show are also closer together compared to Tolkien’s work as the timeline has been condensed. We know, for instance, that Isildur will cut off Sauron’s hand, thus bringing the Second Age to a close and starting the Third Age – we see this event take place in the prologue to Peter Jackson’s movies.
Why condense the timeline? Realistically, if the show stuck to Tolkien’s work exactly, only the Elven characters would be in every episode, as they’re the race with the longest lifespans – hence why Galadriel and Elrond appear in both The Rings of Power and the movies, whereas other characters do not.
Speaking to Total Film earlier this year, showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne explained how a non-linear series was considered, but that would have stopped the audience from emotionally investing in the show. Payne points out how plenty of real-life historical dramas do the same thing and says their guiding principle was respect for the “spirit and feeling” of the Second Age.
The Second Age is pretty much the middle part of Middle-earth’s known history. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy take place in the Third Age, while the First Age (which is split into two halves, the Years of the Trees and the Years of the Sun) is when the first Elves and Dwarves were awakened by the supreme deity Eru and the first Orcs were created by Morgoth – essentially, the inception of Middle-earth as we know it. The First Age ends with Morgoth’s defeat.
Where did Tolkien write about the Second Age? The majority of the era’s history comes from the Appendices at the end of The Return of the King, the final installment of the main Lord of the Rings trilogy. These appendices chronicle the events of the Second and Third Ages that lead up to the start of the trilogy.
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is being released weekly on Prime Video every Thursday. Make sure you never miss an episode with our Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power release schedule.
I’m an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering everything film and TV-related across the Total Film and SFX sections. I help bring you all the latest news and also the occasional feature too. I’ve previously written for publications like HuffPost and i-D after getting my NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism.