Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Rings of Power Episode 5 The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power puts the mythos into mithril with a ridiculous twist that’s actually not as crazy as it sounds. Episode 2 of Rings of Power revealed that Moria’s father-son duo, Durin, made an enlightening discovery deep within their mountain. Commonly known as mithril, this rare substance is the material from which Frodo’s shirt is woven in The Lord of the Rings – a metal so light and strong that it was worth more than gold to the Dwarves. The timeline might be off a bit, but Moria discovering mithril in the Second Age of Middle-earth broadly matches JRR Tolkien’s legend.
Rings of Power episode 4 then saw Durin IV tell Elrond that mithril represented a better future, but the mining process involved great danger. King Durin III was also terrified of the Elves learning Moria’s new mineral and coveting mithril for themselves, meaning Elrond is forced to sign Middle-earth’s equivalent of an NDA.
Thanks to The Lord of the Rings, audiences knew that the elves would eventually discover mithril, but that detail aside, the mithril backstory of The Rings of Power seemed complete. About that… Rings of Power Episode 5 (“Partings”) reveals a huge secret behind mithril that completely upends the mythology of Middle-earth and makes the ore more important than anyone would have guessed.
How Mithril was REALLY created in the Rings of Power
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power writes an entirely new origin for mithril. According to High King Gil-galad, the Elves have an old legend that many consider to be a fairy tale called the Song of the Roots of Hithaeglir. Once upon a time (the date is not given, but given the context we are looking at at the end of the First Age, around the time of Finrod’s death), an unnamed elven warrior faced one Balrogs of Morgoth on the Misty Mountains. This elf had discovered one of the three precious Silmarils hidden in a tree on top of the rocks and sought to retrieve it, while the Balrog wanted to extinguish the stone instead. The Silmarils were jewels made by Fëanor, but stolen by Morgoth and taken to Middle-earth. Fëanor swore an oath to himself and his descendants in the name of recovering them, meaning that the nameless elf in this legend is likely a son of Fëanor fulfilling his family duty.
According to the legend of the elves, this elf poured his light (more on that later) into the tree to protect it. The Balrog responded by bombarding the tree with its darkness. Along came a lightning bolt to strike the tree and combine the light of the Silmaril with the nearby forces of good and evil, sending a wave through the mountain. This process created a special ore within Moria that shone with the glow of a Silmaril, possessed the strength and courage of a Balrog, but had the weightlessness and grace of an elf. The Dwarves of Khazad-dûm would later discover this mineral, and mithril was born.
How The Rings Of Power Silmaril Myth Rewrites Canon
The Rings of Power’s New Mithril Mythology is a pretty blatant rewrite of several aspects of JRR Tolkien’s work, starting with how a Silmaril got stuck in a tree. The movements of the Silmarils are well documented after their arrival in Middle-earth: two were guarded by Morgoth and then quickly lost forever after his defeat – one under the sea, the other deep underground. The third Silmaril was taken from Morgoth and passed from one owner to another (never farther east than modern Lindon) before ending up on Eärendil’s head, and The Rings of Power has already confirmed that the he story of Elrond’s father is television canon. When and how a Silmaril ended up in a tree atop the Misty Mountains is therefore a mystery.
The elven warrior in the myth of Gil-galad might be a son of Fëanor, and the Balrogs were Maia corrupted by Morgoth, so the battle itself goes well. Alas, the elf pumping his magical light into the tree has a less obvious connection to Tolkien’s lore. The Calaquendi were elves blessed by seeing the Two Trees of Valinor, and they became more mystical and powerful than parents who had never seen those shining trunks. The Rings of Power interprets the Calaquendi more literally. The living elves of Middle-earth are spoken of as batteries filled with light. They can distribute this gift to others, but eventually need to be recharged in Valinor.
But by far the biggest change in The Rings of Power is the reframing of mithril as a creation born from three forces of Valinor – light, darkness, and a Silmaril. In Tolkien’s lore, mithril was natural – just a really useful substance that dwarves mined from rocks.
What Gil-galad means by the fading light of the Eldar
The Rings of Power mithril retcon is such a grand explanation of what is basically just a piece of ore – good ore, but ore nonetheless. Mithril plays a small role in the history of Middle-earth – the Gates of Durin, the Baggins shirt, how the Balrog awoke… and that’s about it. And yet, in the name of creating a new origin for this substance, The Rings of Power reworks both the history of Silmaril and the biology of the Elves, as well as creating an entirely new legend of the First Age. It’s like going to the trouble of buying an entire house just because you like the shed in the backyard, but The Rings of Power’s illuminating mithril lore actually serves a deeper purpose…
Gil-galad and Celebrimbor let loose a huge secret about Elrond: the Elves are gradually disappearing. As The Rings of Power explains, living in Middle-earth away from the light of Valinor is bad for the health of the Elves, and when the glow within them fades, the Noldor themselves will apparently diminish. . There are two possible solutions to this pointy-eared predicament – return to Valinor and bathe in its light again (but abandon Middle-earth to Sauron), or find a source of that light somewhere in Middle-earth. Mithril is that alternate source, and if Gil-galad can convince the Dwarves to part with enough, they can stay in Middle-earth for another 3,000 or so years.
Disappearing Elves is sort of inspired by Tolkien. By the time The Lord of the Rings begins, the Elves have begun to feel diminished and are migrating across the sea to Valinor where the effects will end. But their fading wasn’t caused by a lack of light juice or anything so tangible. Tolkien’s idea was that as the Second and Third Ages progressed, the Age of Elves would come to an end and the Age of Men would begin. The “fading” was a natural transition from one race to another, but going west would ease the weariness of the Elves. Tolkien never suggested that sticking two pieces of mithril in an elf’s ears would keep him in Middle-earth.
Rings Of Power’s Mithril Retcon Explains Every Mystery
The Mithril-ology of the Rings of Power can be wild and can deviate massively from established continuity, but Gil-Galad’s story of the Elf and the Balrog makes more sense than you might think at first glance. Mithril has always been found exclusively in Moria, and the anomalous origin of the Rings of Power would explain why the mineral is restricted to a single location in Middle-earth. We can also possibly assume that the Balrog who struck the tree with darkness is Durin’s Bane and that he may have descended into Moria wanting to defeat the Silmaril light trapped in mithril.
Tolkien wrote that the Elves of Gil-galad heard rumors of the discovery of mithril and established Eregion with the intention of trading with the Dwarves of nearby Moria. Although these events are reinterpreted for The Rings of Power, the myth of the Elves about a lightning-struck Silmaril atop the Misty Mountains could explain the beginning of these “rumors”. Finally, audiences can also rest easy knowing the reason Durin finally gave the Elves access to mithril after initially going to great lengths to keep the discovery a secret. The very existence of the Elves depended on mithril, so either the Dwarves weren’t callous enough to let an entire race die, or (more likely) Durin and his people realized they could literally charge the Elves anything for their mithril and get away with this.
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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power continues Thursday/Friday on Prime Video.