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Everything You Need to Know About Morgoth in ‘The Rings of Power’

Morgoth painting by John Howe

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is taking fans on a deep dive into Middle-earth history. This Amazon series is the first live-action adaption of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work since Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. However, rather than serving as a sequel or continuation of the trilogies, The Rings of Power takes place thousands of years before the events of those films. Instead, it is a retelling of the history of the Second Age of Middle-earth.

Parts of The Rings of Power are derived from a variety of Tolkien’s books and appendices, while other parts are original and inspired by Tolkien’s works. As seen in the first two episodes, the battle between light and darkness is a prominent theme in the series. This was to be expected, as we’ve known from the summary and trailers that the series will focus heavily on Sauron’s rise to power during the Second Age. After all, Sauron was the one who facilitated the forging of the Rings of Power in the first place (to cunningly give himself enough power to dominate Middle-earth).

However, darkness wasn’t born with Sauron, nor was it always a feature of Middle-earth. As Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) recalls in The Rings of Power prelude, the elves once lived an idyllic life before darkness struck. Their world was lit by the Two Trees of Valinor—Laurelin and Telperion. However, both the trees and the idyllic times faded away when Morgoth and his armies tore through Middle-earth. The name Morgoth, originally known as Melkor, is one that is bound to be mentioned frequently throughout the course of The Rings of Power, but it’s not one every fan will be familiar with.

Who is Melkor in The Rings of Power?

Morgoth and The Trees of Valinor in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

The reason that Morgoth might be unfamiliar to some is that he was never depicted Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film series. This is because, by the time these stories take place, Morgoth has been imprisoned for millennia. He is only ever mentioned in the books, as well as in the films. Initially, he was named Melkor and was a being created by Eru Ilúvatar, the deity of Arda, or Earth. While Eru was the master designer, he created 15 beings called the Ainur, who went into Earth to guide its progression. Of these 15, 14 went on to become the Valar, the greatest powers of Arda, who maintained balance.

However, one of the original 15 Ainur, Melkor, disagreed with Eru’s vision for the world. Melkor was also the most powerful of the Ainur and could actually hold his own against all the 14 other Ainur. For a time, he destroyed every effort they made to shape Arda. This continued until more beings were introduced to the world and, an overpowered, Melkor fled Arda for a time. He continued to return and threaten the Valar, though, who eventually retreated to the continent of Aman and built Valinor.

While the Valar occupied Valinor, Melkor slowly began to gain control of the rest of Middle-earth. He filled it with many dark creatures and created the first Orcs out of Elves. He also built his own fortress called Angband, which he put in charge of his apprentice, Sauron. When the Valar realized what he was doing to the Elves, they finally took action to topple Melkor’s reign over Middle-earth, sparking the Battle of the Powers. This resulted in Melkor’s imprisonment for three ages. However, unable to understand the evil that resided in Melkor, the Valar freed him once more.

Melkor’s transformation into Morgoth

Sauron with the ring of power

Upon his release, Melkor continued his evil plans, using manipulation to turn the Elves toward the dark side. And he became even bolder, teaming up with the spider Ungoliant to destroy the Trees of Valinor, leaving Valinor in total darkness. Once these were destroyed, the only remaining light of the two Trees was in the Silmarils. These jewels contained the essence of the Two Trees of Valinor and were kept by Fëanor. However, Melkor quickly killed Fëanor’s father and took the Silmarils for himself. When Fëanor learned what Melkor had done, he named him Morgoth, which means Dark Enemy.

For the next few hundred years, Morgoth waged war against the Elves. He created dragons to slay them, swayed Men toward his cause, and completely destroyed nearly all of the great kingdoms of the Elves. Eventually, though, the Valar returned, joining forces with the Elves and Men against Morgoth in The War of Wrath. This proved to be the biggest, most devastating battle of the First Age, and perhaps the biggest war of all Middle-earth history.

Morgoth and his armies were eventually defeated and he was cast by the Valar into the Timeless Void. And he remains imprisoned there, though he is prophesied to return one day. The defeat of Morgoth marked the end of the First Age (and of Morgoth’s dark reign). However, he had brought darkness into Arda as the First Dark Lord, and there it remained. Meanwhile, his apprentice, Sauron, survived the fall of Morgoth and waited in hiding to make his return to Middle-earth and continue Morgoth’s mission.

(featured image: John Howe)

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Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.