Middle Earth. Westeros. Dragonstone and Lindon. It all feels a little overwhelming, doesn’t it? Well, don’t worry. Odanta has got you with the most expansive, yet easy to understand, guide to navigate these worlds with ease.
The fact that this $1 billion series is based off just the appendices from the Lord of the Rings books is a testament to the magic of Tolkein. His world is much denser than Martin’s. There are way more continents, lands, peoples and evil here than we have in Westeros. It is an ancient world, compared to the medieval setting of the Game of Thrones.
The Rings of Power is set during the Second Age, which means that the events of the show happen thousands of years before Frodo held the ring, before Gandalf fought the Balrog and before Aragorn ascended the throne of man. The shows are a prequel to the events of the books and movies, and some of the characters and locations return for this show.
The series starts at the end of the First Age, depicting Valinor, the Middle-Earth equivalent of heaven, and the abode of the elves. Once Morgoth rises and destroys their Eden, the elves fight a century-long War of Wrath against him, which leads to Morgoth’s death, the rise of Sauron (!!) his apprentice, and the Elves leaving Valinor for Middle-Earth, which is the fictional setting of all the Lord of the Rings books and movies that we have read and seen over the years, and the beginning of our story.
In terms of characters: Elron, Galadriel and Sauron are the big three that come to mind. Galadriel was portrayed by Cate Blanchett in the earlier movies as a regal (and sometimes terrifying) queen of the elves. In this adaptation, she is thousands of years younger (as elf don’t age as men do) and more comfortable with a sword on her back than a crown on her head. It is a great decision to stick with a character the audiences might know, as the difference of milleniums between those portrayals provides much room for leeway.
Elrond, the future father of Arwen who marries Aragorn, is a young, savvy politician in the Second Age. He doesn’t yet hold the lands of Rivendell and like everyone, believes Sauron is but a distant myth. And that brings us to the villain in the history of Middle-Earth. Sauron, who was just a fiery ring in the movies, starts out as the apprentice of Morgoth in the First Age, and after the defeat of the dark forces, has disappeared in the frozen north, biding his time. Galadriel’s search for him, the true symbol of evil, constitutes the plot of the first season.
Oh yeah, and the titular rings of power? None of them have been forged yet, but by the time this show ends, we’re sure to see a few. There are twenty rings in total, made for Men, Dwarves and Elves, but Sauron tricks them all by creating the One Ring To Rule Them All. Literal chills.
The age of the dragons.
First things first, if you haven’t watched Game of Thrones, that is completely fine. This show takes almost 200 years before the original, and other than a few threads, nothing will be tough for you to pick up. The Targaryens are the rulers of a land called Westeros, that is divided into seven states. Aegon the Conqueror (aptly) conquered the land with the might of his dragons, and the story starts a couple generations further. The Targaryens are at the height of their power, with ten adult dragons under their yoke. King Jaeherys, the man who ruled peacefully for 55 years, passes the crown down to his grandson, Viserys, and thus sets the bloody stage for the next generation.
Now we come to the good part. This series is loosely based on Martin's book, Fire and Blood, whose big climax (and this show's) is the fabled Targaryen civil war, The Dance of the Dragons. When Daenerys Targaryen hatched three dragons in the first season of the Game of Thrones all those years later, everyone is in awe. The Mother of the Dragons, they call her. The Unburnt. It’s a supernatural feat. That’s because dragons have thought to be extinct for hundreds of years in Westeros. But it wasn’t always so. The reason for that extinction are the events of House of the Dragon.
The first few moments establish how used to dragons King’s Landing is. Rhaenyra, the protagonist of the show and Viserys’ daughter, is shown flying gracefully over King’s Landing and not a single person bats an eye. Once she lands, her dragon Syrax is taken into the dragon pit, a huge structure intended to house the dragons. There is an entire ecosystem created around dragons, which isn’t present in the parent show.
Rhaenyra is our obvious protagonist and hero of the show. She rides her dragon better than most, she has the fire in her that a good ruler needs and something that her father lacks, but unfortunately, she’s a woman. Even though her father makes her his heir to the Iron Throne, men would rather put the realm to torch than accept a queen. If you think it’s a bad time to be a woman now, wait till you see the climax of the first episode. Yikes.
You will hear a lot of mentions of the Targaryens using fire and blood to defeat their enemies. After all, that’s how they conquered Westeros. But a key exchange between the King and the Princess reveals that’s not all that they did it for. A prophecy has been passed down from king to heir. A prophecy that foretells the coming of winter, and with that, an enemy unlike ever before. To battle this foe, humans will need fire. That’s why a Targaryen must be in power. Only a dragon can face the cold. And that’s how it sets up the events of Game of Thrones.
But what happens when there is no one left to challenge them? Will the House of the Dragon destroy itself from within?