The Rings of Power & the strange parallels to S’pore society

Fantasy stories are especially good at letting people draw parallels to how their own everyday circumstances and problems might be represented.

And for this particular social moment, Rings of Power offers an object lesson as to how openness to highly-skilled foreign talent can benefit a society. 

You know you’re back in Middle-Earth not long after the first episode starts.

There are graceful Elves. There are short, cheerful people with a love of land and family as big as their oversized feet. The camera lingers tenderly over splendid landscapes. There is even a prologue about the great events and sorrows of this richly-imagined fantasy world too, narrated by the Elven Lady Galadriel just as in two decades previous

This prologue is needed. Rings of Power is set thousands of years before The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, with Middle-Earth at the height of splendour. 

It is so early in the world, in fact, that the great cities of Men, Dwarves, Elves yet thrive under great leaders. The Shire is not yet settled for hobbits to welcome wizards and hoard a precious ring.

Galadriel (Morfydd Clark, of Saint Maud fame), though, feels ancient evil is stirring once more, and as one of Middle-Earth’s most highly-talented Elves, she roams the land with her military squad in order to vanquish it. Clark puts in a splendid performance here, part #girlboss, part unyieldingly intense veteran soldier, and has an engagingly tense chemistry with Charlie Vickers’s (Medici) Halbrand, a roguish human shipwreck survivor from uncertain origins.

Elsewhere, Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kevenaugh, Picnic at Hanging Rock), a curious girl from a nomadic community of Harfoots (the ancestors of modern hobbits), wishes to leave the well-trodden paths of her tribe. The Elf and human lovers Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova, The Mandalorian) and Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi, How I Met Your Mother) grapple with local unrest, parental duties and his impending reassignment far away from her Southland village.

And back in the Elven capitol, the laconic diplomat Elrond (Robert Aramayo, Game of Thrones) receives a new assignment: help a master smith forge powerful artefacts that will “transform Middle-Earth”.

Oh dear.

New talent for a thriving city and community

Seeing the lush, technologically-advanced island city-state of Númenor onscreen is naturally one of Rings of Power’s biggest highlights for Petir.sg. 

This is also since Rings of Power is a gorgeous show. Its colours pop and so many of its shots are framed like living portrait masterworks. It makes other recent big-budget fantasy TV series — His Dark Materials, The Wheel of Time and yes, Game of Thrones — look cheap. 

Galadriel’s early experiences in the city are mainly misadventures, that said. Númenor’s Queen gives her a frosty reception. Heated rhetoric (“Elf-lover! Elf-lover!”) greets her and her companion in the streets. This very ugly xenophobia mars the beauty of the city. 

But Galadriel could, offhand, train Númenoreans in soldiering and woodcraft as well as open up Elf-human trade networks. A useful transfer of her skills in a time when disruption is constant and when an evil empire will soon threaten the world . 

Perhaps there should be a certain pass for a top talent such as herself to add her skills to Númenor. Or for these top talents to aid other island city-states elsewhere in staying open and connected to the world around them.

This pass wouldn’t be a zero-sum game either. Everyone, from top talent to ordinary everyday salaryperson benefits.

Many meetings

There’s a similar lesson on the necessity of accepting top-end foreign talent in Nori’s Harfoot storyline; she adopts an amnesiac Stranger who falls from the stars.

The Harfoots are skittish at the Stranger initially. But he soon proves his worth, personally hauling the heavy cart of a Harfoot family who’d otherwise get left behind and lost as the community progresses their customary march. 

That the Stranger speaks, looks and acts very much like a certain wizard of good from the Lord of the Rings movies does drive home this lesson too:

Who else to help his new community to be resilient against dark times? Middle-Earth, as does real life, is facing a worldwide shortage of sufficiently advanced technology professionals who have skillsets the future economy needs. 

The Harfoots have one such professional with them now… it wouldn’t be the wisest thing in the world to drive him away, would it? If not him to help them once the inevitable occurs, then who?

Also, without veering into spoiler territory, Rings of Power does show the wisdom of having safeguards which confirm that top talent are indeed who they say they are.

At the end of Season 1, though, It is uncertain how Rings of Power’s multiple storylines will converge. They meander some even now. It looks like the series will get more complicated over time, which will be an off-tone shift for a storyworld which is much more direct in its messaging than other fantasy juggernauts.

Regardless, these are yet early days for Rings of Power (the first four episodes of Season One out of a projected five seasons). There is still time for a fellowship of heroes to come together, make mistakes, learn to live, work and play with each other — and shape the future of Númenor, Harfoots and Middle-Earth.

This season is very worthwhile viewing.