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A Defense of ‘The Rings of Power’: Not All Inclusion is Forced

Rings of Power, EFE

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SET in the Middle-earth universe, The Rings of Power, Prime’s new series, premiered last week, and with its first two episodes achieved an audience of over 25 million people worldwide; a record for the platform, and a feast for controversy. It is certainly not perfect, however…

The Rings of Power is a good, worthwhile series. The wave of negative reviews it received has much more to do with a visceral and capricious reaction from a part of the “fandom”, than with the quality of the story itself.

That said, it is true that the story we are seeing on screen does not faithfully follow the canon written by J.R.R. Tolkien and consolidated by his son Christopher, for two reasons:

  • Amazon does not have the rights to The Silmarillion (book where Tolkien explains what happened in the ages prior to the events of The Lord of the Rings), but only those of the “Appendices”. Therefore, the series must adapt and adjust details to build a coherent story that can be explored over several seasons (the project consists of 5).
  • The resulting story must be understandable and appealing not only to those of us who have read The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and the 8 volumes of the History of Middle-earth, but to the general public. The truth, as clear as it is painful (for some) is that a series of this scale cannot be a niche product.

However, it is enough to watch the “Xray” section on Amazon Prime Video or listen to interviews with the series’ team to understand that those who wrote The Rings of Power do know Tolkien’s work and sought to be reasonably faithful to it, and that the changes they made were those they considered strictly necessary to make the series viable.

“It’s that the inclusion is forced…”

Beyond the minor changes they endlessly cite as justification for their anger on social media, purists are angry at Rings of Power for three things: the color of the characters’ skin, that the dwarves don’t have beards, and that Galadriel is given a much more active role in the war. Well, let’s see in detail:

  • The skin color of the characters. Sorry, but this complaint seems more and more absurd to me. Beyond skin color, what matters in a character is the essence he or she conveys; and at least so far, that essence is maintained. Elves feel like elves, dwarves feel like dwarves, hobbits feel like hobbits, regardless of their melanin levels.
  • Female dwarves don’t have beards. So? It’s an irrelevant detail, it should make those who claim to be so concerned about maintaining gender roles happy, because the series makes it clear who are men and who are women.
  • Galadriel is given a much more active role in the war, “It’s that Galadriel is a wise woman, who fights with her mind rather than with her fists, they changed her here”. Let’s see, first of all, we will have to wait for the character’s arc, which seems to evolve towards a more reflective and less impulsive Galadriel. Secondly, what bothers some people is the supposed “feminist empowerment,” and I think they are wrong.

Why? Because not all female empowerment is “feminist.” Galadriel (at least so far) doesn’t look down on men for being men, she doesn’t lash out against the “hetero-patriarchy,” and she doesn’t paint her armpits.

She’s a strong, arrogant woman, true, but so she was even in Tolkien’s mind.

Was she? Yes. To the extent that in the First Age she refuses to give a single one of her hair strands to Fëanor (the most powerful elf in the world at the time), defies the Valar by marching into Middle-earth, crosses the almost impassable Helcaraxë in the frozen far north with a group of elves, and then perseveres for millennia in the fight against Morgoth and his servant Sauron.

Okay, that’s a lot of weird names, but the key fact is that Galadriel is, as always: powerful, persevering and a bit capricious, but also wise and influential. And those traits are present in Rings of Power, though adapted to the specific narrative needs of the series.

Hey, but Rings of Power is not exactly like Tolkien…

True, but remember that J.R.R. Tolkien conceived these stories, especially those related to The Silmarillion, as a mythology; and, like any mythology, Arda’s will grow and adapt. That, plain and simple, is how the world works.

So, here are two pieces of advice:

  • If you don’t know the mythology created by Tolkien, stop feigning indignation in supposed fidelity to a world you don’t even understand. And don’t “it’s just that I watched Peter Jackson’s trilogy and skimmed The Hobbit 5 minutes in an aisle of Barnes & Noble.” It does not count as knowing Tolkien’s work.
  • If you do know the mythology created by Tolkien, then take your pick. If you are willing to enjoy a good adaptation, then enjoy The Rings of Power without over whipping yourself for changes. Otherwise, stick with the books, which in and of themselves are second to none.

And one more bonus tip:

  • Diversity in casts is an inevitable result of the globalization process, and it’s not going to stop. Yes, there are cases of inclusion by decree that need to be denounced and fought. However, not all inclusion is “forced,” and understanding that, will be key to not making life bitter.

Gerardo Garibay Camarena, is a doctor of law, writer and political analyst with experience in the public and private sectors. His new book is "How to Play Chess Without Craps: A Guide to Reading Politics and Understanding Politicians" // Gerardo Garibay Camarena es doctor en derecho, escritor y analista político con experiencia en el sector público y privado. Su nuevo libro es “Cómo jugar al ajedrez Sin dados: Una guía para leer la política y entender a los políticos”

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