How "The Rings of Power" Ties Into the Lord of the Rings Timeline

Amazon's hotly anticipated "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" will be a brand-new exploration of the world of Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien's writings explore thousands of years of this fictional world's history, giving the creative team a huge amount of material to choose from. So how exactly will the new series fit into the Lord of the Rings timeline? It's a prequel — by a couple of millennia, no less.

When Does "The Rings of Power" Take Place?

In March 2019, Amazon revealed that "The Rings of Power" would be set in the Second Age of Middle-earth via a pair of tweets that depicted a Second Age-era map and a simple "Welcome to the Second Age." Tolkien aficionados will recognize this setting as an era thousands of years before the events of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy during a time of great turmoil in Middle-earth.

Since it's set so long before the trilogy, you won't be seeing many of the familiar characters you already know and love. No Frodo, no Samwise, no Aragorn, no Éowyn, and so on. That doesn't mean it will be completely bereft of familiar names and faces, though! One of the main characters in the series will be Galadriel, the royal elf seen as an ethereal and ancient being in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Here, she's thousands of years younger and trying to raise the alarm about impending dangers that no one else seems to see. Elrond, another major elf character in the original trilogy, also plays a major role in the new series.

The most significant part of this era is the act that defines the later adventures of Middle-earth: the forging of the Rings of Power.

"Rings for the elves, rings for dwarves, rings for men, and then the one ring Sauron used to deceive them all. It's the story of the creation of all those powers, where they came from, and what they did to each of those races," showrunner Patrick McKay told Vanity Fair in February. The show also plans to cover other "ancient" events in Middle-earth, including the rise of the evil Sauron and the fall of the island kingdom of Númenor.

Is "The Rings of Power" Based on a Book?

The answer to the question of whether "The Rings of Power" is based on a book is a little more complicated. Technically, yes, "The Rings of Power" is based on material that Tolkien wrote — but not in standalone novels. Instead, most of the material is pulled from the lengthy and dense appendices at the end of his Lord of the Rings novels. These appendices contain detailed "histories" of the Second Age, and those will be the inspiration for the Amazon series.

What's less clear is how elements from other Tolkien texts will be incorporated and how much of the show will be invented from scratch. Tolkien did write "historical" prequels, including "The Silmarillion" and "Unfinished Tales," which span several thousands of years of Middle-earth history. Some elements already confirmed to be part of the show, such as the history of Númenor, are described in these books, not just in the appendices of the Lord of the Rings. The showrunners have also confirmed that the show's timeline will compress the events of the Second Age as laid out by Tolkein, fitting it all into about the length of one human lifetime.

"The Rings of Power"'s first two episodes premiere Thursday night, Sept. 1. New episodes are released Fridays.