Warning: The following contains spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power episode 7! Come back now if you haven’t seen the latest installment of Amazon’s epic series.
The final moments of the new episode of The Rings of Power confirm the inevitable: that the Southlands have become Mordor, the cursed location that will one day serve as a base for Sauron. The origin of Mordor had never been previously revealed in detail by JRR Tolkien, the writers of the series instead told their own version of events.
Speaking to an audience including Total Film after a cinema screening of the seventh episode, The Rings of Power showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay revealed that telling the story of Mordor’s creation was almost inevitable when it focused on characters in the Second Middle-earth era.
“From the beginning in the writers’ room, we had a board that had all of our characters’ stories – Galadriel, Elrond, Elendil – and each of them had an arc that went through the board,” says Payne. “Ruining all of that, there was one event that happened in every story, and it was basically just a drawing of a volcano.
“One of the joys of being able to go back in time, from a time when people know Middle Earth so well, is to see Middle Earth [when it was] very different. We said, “Mordor is this iconic place, what if we could take something that looks like beautiful Switzerland, a beautiful alpine region, and watch it evolve into the horrible hell that we know so well?” And this story was presented. One of our writers, her dad is a geologist. And so we said, “Could you really make a volcano erupt? Possible?’ And they said, “Yeah, if you have enough steam pressure, a lot of water at the same time, you can actually make the thing explode.” So we said, “Okay, this is the birth of Mordor.”
The image of an idyllic countryside being destroyed by fire is one that is certainly Tolkien-like. the author was strongly against the destruction of the countryside. This ethos became a prominent plot point in The Two Towers when the Ents rise up against the barbarians of Isengard after destroying the trees to serve the evil Saruman. It is fitting, then, that the creation of Mordor rests with the Southlands.
The showrunners also hinted that while The Rings of Power episode 7 tied up a lot of loose storylines, “There’s at least one strand, if not a couple more, that are still there.” Get ready for a grand finale. For some speculation on what’s to come, here are our pieces on the true identities of both the Stranger and Sauron.