There were many interesting criticisms that arose throughout the Rings of Power series, especially from fans of Tolkien’s original works, who argued that the Amazon show didn’t accurately represent Tolkien’s writing, lore, or characters. But many other fans who enjoyed the modern rendition of Middle Earth argued that it actually highlighted some of the shortcomings of Tolkien’s books, some of the more problematic elements that have aged poorly, both in their written form, and in the Peter Jackson movie adaptations.

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Although the Lord of the Rings books and films are a much loved and still highly regarded trilogy for many wonderful reasons including the comradery between the fellowship, the power of nature over war, and the love of Frodo and Sam which conquers all and allows them to destroy the one ring, there are undeniable elements to Tolkien’s stories that don’t hold up in modern day.

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It’s important to note that The Hobbit was published in 1937, and the Lord of the Rings books were published in 1954 and 1955 respectively. It is therefore easy for Tolkien lovers to argue that they are products of their time, and that they weren’t written in any way to be deliberately derogatory towards any particular peoples or themes, but were merely reflective of the societal belief of the 50s, and the lived experience of a man who saw much suffering and death during the First World War. However, there are definitely marked things within the stories that aren’t kosher within today’s world beliefs and outcries for positive change within global society. The first, and probably most hotly debated topic is that of representation.

lotr fellowship of the ring members Cropped

The main characters of Tolkien’s books, and subsequently the movie adaptations made by Jackson in the early 2000’s, are almost entirely white, and not inclusive of the wide variety of races, abilities, sexualities and genders that should be celebrated in our modern 21st Century. Although there are several different races of Middle Earth, like elves, dwarves, hobbits, etc, they are largely presented within the stories as a homogenous white-skinned majority, especially when it comes to the heroes of each of his works. And anyone who differs from this, such as the races from the East, like the Haradrim, and the Easterlings, are predominantly evil supporters of Sauron’s war, which unfortunately perpetuates modern problems such as the exclusion of minority groups, and the political divide between the perception of Western culture being somehow better than the East.

Rings of Power made an attempt to rectify some of these issues, by having characters from the Southlands being some of the most admirable and loyal, like Bronwyn who has all the traits it takes to make a Tolkien hero, and Arondir, the elf who fights by her side and tries to help her protect her people from the orc onslaught of Adar’s Uruks.

The Amazon series also tried to increase representation in other areas of intersectionality too, including how the series addresses Miriel’s blindness in a positive and powerful way. However, it is also really important within these modern depictions of any old works to avoid tokenism representation and move towards authentic genuine inclusion. This is also widely addressed within Tolkien criticisms when it comes to his portrayal and representation of women throughout the stories and subsequent film adaptations. Both Eowyn and Arwen had epic battle scenes cut from the movies, and the portrayals of Galadriel’s powers often felt overdone and unrealistic, whereas the Rings of Power series centered around its strong female rulers and leaders.

Miriel and Bronwyn

There are also several lengthy plot devices, pacing choices, and random events that contribute towards making the books and the movies feel poorly transferable to the modern publishing climate and narrative complexities. These include a slow introduction to the narrative, rather than the action-packed hook of modern writing and media, a criticism also found by many of the Rings of Power series, who didn’t agree with why the slow-burn of the first series works.

Then there is the use of seemingly random characters who show up and make grand contributions as if they will be crucial to the story, and then are never seen again, like Tom Bombadil and Goldberry for example. This creates the perception of performative characters that have no real function other than to demonstrate something cool about the lore or the composition of the world.

And at the same time as this unnecessary complication, there are many places where the stories are over-simplified, such as the very clear-cut good vs evil in the tales, which works well in terms of the narrative, but very much lacks the moral gradient that modern audiences have become accustomed to. Especially when it comes to successful villains, another area that Rings of Power has tried to improve upon by giving Sauron more a backstory that makes viewers question if he is inherently evil, or if he could have been turned towards a better path if Galadriel had joined Halbrand to rule Middle Earth.

MORE: The One Rings of Power Scene That Lives Up To The Movies

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