‘Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’: Who Is Morgoth?

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“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” has arrived, but with the first two episodes dropping, those not deeply versed in the lore of J.R.R. Tolkien likely have plenty of questions. Indeed, “The Rings of Power” is based on additional historical material written by Tolkien as it relates to “The Rings of Power,” which is why you’re probably scratching your head at the continued mention of someone named Morgoth in the first two episodes.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help!

The prologue to “The Rings of Power” recounts a war between elves and Sauron, but also someone named Morgoth. That war is now over in the present day of the series (which is still thousands of years before the events of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings”), but its ramifications cut deep for many characters – especially Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) whose brother died in the war.

Fans know who Sauron is from Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and he’s definitely being set up as a Big Bad of sorts in this new series. But Morgoth is only referenced in the show and not seen, so here’s your brief explainer on this very evil character.

Morgoth was essentially the Emperor Palpatine to Sauron’s Darth Vader. He’s the Big Bad of “The Simarillion,” and was the most powerful of a race of beings known as the Ainur, which were immortal spirits who existed before Creation (yeah, Tolkien’s history books get weird).

Previously called Melkor, he became what’s known as a Valar, each of which is attracted to a particular aspect of the world. Melkor was drawn to violence. After a battle with other Valar during which Melkor literally plunged the world into darkness, he dominated Middle-earth while the other Valar retreated to Aman in the far west, settling in Valinor, which would later become home of the “Undying Lands” for the elves.

After the awakening of the elves, the other Valar waged war against Melkor and defeated him, after which he was sent to Valinor, where he feigned penance but secretly plotted against the elves whom he blamed for his comeuppance. Melkor destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor and was subsequently renamed Morgoth, escaping to Middle-earth where he resumed his rule.

Battles ensued, and those in Valinor were enlisted to help free Middle-earth from Morgoth’s rule, which is when the elves left Valinor as seen in the prologue to “Power of the Rings.” During the 50-year-long War of Wrath, Morgoth persuaded a number of men to join his side and he had Sauron serving as his lieutenant, commanding the stronghold in Angband.

Morgoth was ultimately defeated during the war, and was permanently exiled by the Valar literally outside the world, into what Tolkien described as “the void.”

But while Morgoth was captured and defeated, Sauron escaped. His whereabouts only hinted at, and as seen in “The Rings of Power,” Galadriel is intent on tracking him down despite his presence dwindling to but a whisper.

So Morgoth was a very bad dude, and a spiritual one at that – similar to the gods seen in Marvel’s “Eternals.” He’s gone now – for good, if “The Rings of Power” sticks to Tolkien’s work – but his lingering presence looms large.

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