I have a question for God, or maybe Jeff Bezos, that I’ve been thinking about ever since I saw the first two episodes of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. It’s a gorgeous looking show, but every time I see its sweeping vistas practically screaming “Amazon spent yacht money on this!!!” all I can think is: but is it flat, though?
None of this actually matters in The Rings of Power’s slow-burn story, as its myriad pockets of characters all come to reckon with the portents of a changing world, not yet knowing that the reason behind those portents is the rise of evil personified. Or, at least, in the vast chronology of Tolkien’s work, it won’t matter until nearer the end of whatever story Rings of Power has to tell. But, at this point, Middle-earth is actually meant to be a flat plane. As it had been for thousands and thousands of years at this point.
In Tolkien’s vast explorations of the history of Lord of the Ring’s world, Arda, just one world in a larger cosmos called Eä, was created flat when the God of said cosmos, Eru Ilúvatar and his servants in the Ainur created existence. And it actually stays that way for thousands and thousands and thousands of years — from the beginning of creation until almost the end of the Second Age, the period of time Rings of Power is set in.
What makes it turn, well, not-flat you might ask? Well, long story short, the Númenoreans capture Sauron while the Dark Lord is recovering his strength in Mordor, after the whole “so I’ve revealed to the Elves I tricked into making some jewellery for me that there is in fact One Ring to rule them all” situation turns into a massive war between the Elves and Sauron’s forces. The Elves are Not Pleased about this, as the Númenorean and their king, Ar-Pharazôn — who we know is in the show, played by Trystan Gravelle — take Sauron back to Númenor and Sauron does what he does best: promptly start corrupting them.
Sauron’s deceptions eventually poison the Númenoreans into turning against not just the Elves, but the holy Valar and Maiar themselves, convincing Ar-Pharazôn to launch a fleet to invade Aman, the western landmass home to the Valar, their servants, and the Elves that have begun slowly emigrating from Middle-earth back to its shores. This act was so shocking that Eru Ilúvatar himself was extremely pissed, and in his fury destroys Sauron’s physical form (again!), Ar-Pharazôn’s fleet, and even Númenor itself. Oh, and he makes Aman physically impossible for anyone to sail to except for the Elves, by making Arda a sphere and separating the undying lands out of it. Like I said, extremely pissed.
So yeah, it’s only then that Arda as a planet is, well, actually a spherical planet. And it’s something we could potentially see happen in Rings of Power. The major players are in place for us to see it, as we know Númenor is a major player in the series. Its downfall is a vital part of Middle-earth’s history, as the surviving Númenoreans are the people who go on to form Gondor and Arnor. But we’ve also got hints that it’s not necessarily going to be a piece of Tolkien lore Rings of Power takes to heart — when Galadriel and her fellow warriors’ reward for not finding the evil she sought is an all expenses paid trip to Valinor, when we see the Elven boat prepare to arrive, it’s not at the shore of a landmass, but to a wall of clouds that breaks open to allow passage. So maybe it’s already impossible for anyone but the Elves to make the journey to Aman in Rings of Power, and the showrunners simply decided that a casual audience didn’t need the very wild lore that is “God gets so heated he makes the world round.” They can just say it already happened at some point and move on, or never get into the whole is-the-world-flat-or-not thing at all.
With the amount of money Amazon has sunk into Rings of Power to get it looking as good as it does though, if any giant megacorporation was going to attempt to do put it on-screen, I would’ve expected it to have been them.
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