Any fandom will expect a lot from a new adaptation based on their favorite work, and that seems to double for The Lord of the Rings. I’m more positive than most about the upcoming Rings of Power TV show and plan to wait to see it before passing judgment. Others are not so charitable.
I don’t mind that Disa, the show’s main dwarf, doesn’t have a beard – mostly because Tolkien revised his own thoughts on female dwarf facial hair several times, eventually writing it out of canon. . The time compression worries me a little, as does Durin’s line, but I’ll give these tradition transgressions the benefit of the doubt until I see how it works in the finished article. I love the footage we’ve seen of the warrior Galadriel, but I hope she’s three-dimensional and has more than just a soldier. These are all questions and queries I have about power rings, things that I’m not sure will work, but we won’t know until we see it.
According to Tolkien experts, showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay have extensive knowledge of the lore and use it to fill in the gaps in Tolkien’s rare Second Age writings. I don’t mind filling in the gaps as long as nothing contradicts what Tolkien wrote, but the character nicknamed “Meteor Man” by fans and officially known as The Stranger seemed like an addition too far. Until I discovered that it might actually be based on some obscure Middle-earth lore written by Tolkien himself.
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is a collection of poetry written by Tolkien, intended to be read as Middle-earth legends and songs passed down from generation to generation. The book is complete with a “fictional scholarly preface” and introductions by critics and in-universe characters. One of the poems in the collection is titled The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon, and this is where Meteor Man is mentioned.
The poem builds on the popular legend of the Man in the Moon, but it is the sixth stanza that seems particularly prescient for The Stranger in The Rings of Power. It’s here:
“He shimmered his feet thinking of meat,
pepper and punch galore;
And he stumbled without realizing it on his oblique staircase,
and like a meteor,
A star in flight, before yule one night
wobbling he fell
From her ladder path to a bubble bath
in the windy bay of Bel.
The poem is said to be sung by the Gondorians, and although it speaks of man in pride and envy of the moon, it could have originated from stories of the Stranger falling from the sky. But how does it work if it’s Harfoots who discover Meteor Man?
For starters, the latest Rings of Power teaser shows everyone watching the meteor fly through the sky. Everyone from Elves to Ents (and potentially Entwives?) sees the meteor, so it’s understandable that Men see it too, although it’s not shown in the teaser. The show clearly changed Meteor Man’s landing spot from Belfalas Bay to a more Harfoot-friendly location, but that’s a minor change from adding a whole new character, as I thought previously. It should be noted that Belfalas Bay was considerably smaller at the start of the Second Age, so the location where the meteor landed could be in the area of the Third Age Bay. It doesn’t explain the fisherman who brought him ashore, but what do songs and poems do when passed down from generation to generation? They are exaggerated and expanded as each storyteller adds their own flair to the tale.
A horribly logical problem is that of rights. The showrunners of Rings of Power do not own the rights to The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Was this whole article a waste of time? Yes. Just kidding, there’s also a mention of the man in the moon in The Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo sings a different poem, apparently written by Bilbo, which describes similar events. The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late is a much more silly poem, where the eponymous man voluntarily leaves the moon to drink a few pints. It ends up rotting on dark beer and needs to be rolled up before the sun sees it, but Frodo’s portrayal in The Prancing Pony would give the showrunners the rights to that story. From there, they could use their creative license to have it hit Middle-earth with a meteor – a reference to another Tolkien work for those in the know, but not necessarily a breach of contract.
Meteor Man may not go to the pub in The Rings of Power, nor may he follow the story of The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon (where he also ends up in an inn, but the wine does not is not to his satisfaction). Tolkien wrote these tales as folklore, songs passed down from generation to generation. Maybe Lenny Henry’s Harfoots wrote the songs after finding The Stranger, and the Gondorians had their own story too, based on the rough geography of where they thought the meteor would land. Both have been twisted over time, and that’s why we ended up with the drunken tales in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.
Neither poem gives a clue to the actual identity of the man on the moon, but that doesn’t matter to their stories. The common presumption in the community is that the poems refer to Tilion, a Maia who guided the moon, but this is never explicitly confirmed by Tolkien. If the showrunners decide the poems started when Harfoots fell on Sauron’s wretched body, then I’d be more than happy. He can betray the Harfoots and head south to reveal himself as Annatar as The Rings of Power closes the gaps in the Legendarium. Maybe he won’t, and we’ll be disappointed with the departure from established tradition. We don’t know until we look at it. For me personally, I just hope he ends up in the pub.
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