Not Glittery Gold

Heads up, this post contains some minor spoilers for Rings of Power. Probably not actual spoilers if you were following casting news in the lead-up to the release of Amazon’s shot, but it is about a neat surprise I got while watching, having been ignoring the buzz. Don’t worry, it’s not about who turns out to be Sauron.

Anyway! With that out of the way; in the third episode, Galadriel and her newfound companion Halbrand are rescued from shipwreck by a gruff-looking Captain of Númenor. He takes them captive and brings them back to the island where he brings them before the royal court to decide their fate. It’s right about here that the Queen Regent calls him by his name: Elendil.

At which point I got very excited and a few pieces slotted into place.

Elendil’s an important guy in the grand mythos of things. He’s a Man of Númenor, descended from the Lords of Andúnië, and father of Isildur. He’s the guy who wields Narsil during the Last Alliance in the fight against Sauron, the King whose legacy Aragorn wished to emulate. Elendil is fundamentally a good, noble person; beneath his rough exterior is a brightness.

This certainly befits the ancestor of Aragorn. It’s about the returning King that Bilbo wrote the Riddle of Strider, the poem with the ever-quoted line “not all who wander are lost.” The first half of that couplet (and indeed the first line of the poem), though, is “All that is gold does not glitter.” It’s an obvious play on the idiom, reworded to emphasize that the value does not always seem as such. When choosing to trust the mysterious Strider, he remarks that a servant of Sauron would “seem fairer and feel fouler,” which Aragorn does not — he seems foul but feels fair.

Indeed, Sauron himself seems fair. Before his defeat at the hand of The Last Alliance, Sauron could take whatever shape he wanted. So to weasel his way into Eregion and make some important rings, he took on a fair guise. And Sauron as Annatar was hot, hot enough to make most Elves make bad choices. Of course, he eventually puts aside the disguise and reveals himself as the villain he really is.

The irony of appearances is hardly novel, not even when Tolkien wrote his books, but it does help with making characters more complex than they first seem. Aragorn, the scruffy and haggard Ranger, is actually the King. He’s a fearsome warrior who’s able to keep Ringwraiths at bay with just a torch and (in the books, broken) sword, but it’s also his skilled healing using athelas that keeps Frodo alive until they reach Rivendell. He contains multitudes.

Elendil (and Lloyd Owen’s performance) might be my favorite part of Rings of Power, and certainly the aspect that the Tolkien-nerd in me can wholeheartedly support. He looks stern and harsh, but beneath it, you can see a warmth and light that’s, ultimately, gonna lead the Faithful out of Númenor, found the Kingdom of Gondor, and march against Sauron as part of the Last Alliance. There’s plenty of ground for this tv show to cover, and I feel like they’ve got a pretty solid foundation. Now it’s just a matter of keeping that going.

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