Is The Rings of Power a prequel or a sequel?

Which of Tolkien's fantasy Ages will the Prime Video series take us to?

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel in The Rings of Power prequel
(Image credit: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video/Alamy)

Whereabouts in the epic timeline will the show take us?

The Rings of Power release date is here, and with that comes a whole host of questions. The First Age in Tolkien’s universe lasted 600 years. The Second Age came in at 3441 years. The Third Age - where the events of The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings took place - came in at 3021 years. That’s one monster timeline to cover. Now that fans know exactly when they can settle down and immerse themselves in the first 2 episodes, the next question is where exactly in Tolkien’s world will they find themselves in - is The Rings of Power a prequel or a sequel? Here, we have some answers.

This isn’t the only burning question on fans' lips, as they also want to know if Gandalf and Sauron will appear in The Rings of Power. In other spinoff news, House of the Dragon set in the years before the events of Game of Thrones, wasted no time in dropping bombshells for audiences to unpick in the latest episode. We saw it announced that Alicent Hightower will marry Viserys in a move that is set to rock the Targaryen reign. And all whilst terrifying antagonist the crab feeder continues his claim on the Steptones. The two blockbuster franchises will be battling it out for ratings success this September.

Is The Rings of Power a prequel or a sequel? 

The Rings of Power is a prequel as it is set in the Second Age, thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings - which took place in the Second Age. 

However, producers of the show have said they don’t want viewers to view it as a prequel, but as a standalone series. In an interview with EW, showrunner Patrick McKay explained the reasons for this. He said “We were not interested in doing a show about the younger version of the same world you knew, where it's a little bit of a prequel. We wanted to go way, way, way back and find a story that could exist on its own two feet. This was one that we felt hadn't been told on the level and the scale and with the depth that we felt it deserved”.

Another reason for this could purely be technicality. The Tolkien estate continues to have some rights over which parts of his works can be used. The Rings of Power was forbidden from recreating anything appearing in The Lord of The Rings trilogy. This left Amazon with the rights to do a series based on Tolkien’s Third Age, but unable to use much of the source material. Therefore, producers had no option but to base the series on existing material, but not directly tell any existing stories. In this sense, this doesn’t make the show a prequel.  

The Rings of Power: Plot

The series is set in the Second Age at a time Elrond founded Rivendell, and Sauron began his quest to create the Rings of Power from his Mordorian base. The focus will be on elven warrior Galadriel - leader of the Northern armies, and the human Halbrand. The character of Halbrand has been created specifically for the show, and the two meet when Galadriel is pulled from the Sundering Seas and into a wrecked boat where Halbrand is also a passenger. When her elven status is uncovered, Galadriel is again pushed from the boat, which is then attacked by a sea creature. After the attack, Galadriel survives and finds Halbrand is the lone survivor of the boat. These events entwine the two character’s paths.  

The official synopsis reads “Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone”. 

Charlie Vickers as Halbrand in The Rings of Power

(Image credit: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video)

Is The Rings of Power based on The Silmarillion?

The Rings of Power draws on concepts from The Silmarillion, but is not based entirely on it. The show also draws from other aspects of Tolkien’s work.

Alongside references from The Silmarillion, Ideas were also taken from Appendices of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien never outlined the events of the Second Age in detail, and the only description of them can be found in the Appendix, also known as the Tale of Years. It’s also been reported that the producers took inspiration from songs found in the Lord of The Rings, and the tales characters tell one another, to forge connections in the show with original Tolkien mythology. 

However, according to Mashable, the fourth part of The Silmarillion - Akallabêth - takes place in the Second Age. They suggest a version of this will definitely appear in the show. With Akallabêth focusing on the human kingdom of Númenor, this important element of Tolkien's mythology can already be seen in the show and will possibly play a big part. If not season 1, it’s thought events from Akallabêth will play centre stage in season 2. 

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Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.