When asked about how he created the world of Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien is said to have replied: "I wisely started with a map." Amazon started with $250 million for the rights to the material. The good news is, now it has them, Step Two is all about maps. The show's official Twitter account has been posting several Middle Earth maps over the last few weeks, until it revealed when the new series takes place. These details about Amazon's Lord Of The Rings prequel suggests the series isn't taking fans where they expected to go.
The maps start during the era known as "The Third Age of Middle Earth." This is a time fans are familiar with, the events outlined in The Lord of the Rings trilogy take place towards the end of this era. The passing of the elves into the West in the story's finale represents the end of the Third Age, and the reign of King Aragorn marks the start of "The Fourth Age."
Amazon has billed their upcoming series as a prequel, so it wasn't a surprise the maps began to go backward, with Rohan turning back into the former city of Calenardhon. Then they went back again, to the time when Mordor was not a place of darkness before the Ringwraiths conquered Minas Ithil and made it Minas Morgul.
Then the map went back again, to the one above. Welcome to The Second Age.
What is the Second Age? It was the time before the rise of Men before cities like Gondor ruled the landscape. Instead, the world of men was mostly confined to a star-shaped island, off the coast of Middle Earth, known as Númenor. These were not the regular men viewers know today, but the kind of long-lived ones a certain Stryder descended from. You can see it on the bottom right-hand corner of the map.
Ar-Pharazôn the Golden was the ruler of Númenor before it fell, having stolen the throne in a coup. Jealous of their immortality, hise planned to conquer the world of Elves and rule Middle Earth itself, with the ultimate goal to face down and take down Sauron. It didn't go well. Of those who sailed from Númenor, the only survivors were Aragorn's ancestors, Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion.
To be clear, Amazon isn't confirming this is the story it will tell. However, the choice to go to the Second Age and the inclusion of Númenor on the map suggests very highly this may be a piece of the tale fans will get.
What it does confirm is the show is going way back, much farther back than most had assumed. When Amazon first said this was going to be a prequel, the immediate assumption was that the show would cover "Young Aragorn." If the show is set in the Second Age, there's no way Aragorn is in it. He wasn't even a glint in his great-great grandfather's eye yet.
Like the Game of Thrones prequel, this is going way back, and tell a story audiences don't know at all. Get your copies of The Silmarillion, kids. It's time to learn the true breadth of Tolkien's world building.