The Rings of Power Cast Talks the Orc in the Room and the Bane of Durin’s Life

Kim Taylor-Foster
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The following article contains SPOILERS for the first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Proceed at your own risk.

Never mind Durin’s Bane. You know, the hellish Balrog of Morgoth that was reawakened by the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm only for the creature to go on to kill the reigning Dwarven King, Durin VI, and lay waste to their underground kingdom. No, the bane of Prince Durin IV’s life is Elrond.

In Episode 2 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power — Prime Video’s brand new imagining of JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth writings — we are introduced to Owain Arthur’s Durin IV when Robert Aramayo’s Elf Elrond visits the Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dûm, from lush Elven hang-out Lindon via Realm of the Elven-Smiths, Eregion. We learn that the two are friends – or at least, used to be – as Elrond identifies the Dwarven prince as somebody who can help fellow Elf, Celebrimbor, Lord of Eregion, to construct a tower containing a powerful forge that will enable him to create precious matters to rival his grandfather Fëanor’s feted work on the Silmarils. You know, the powerful jewels that contain light from the Two Trees of Valinor and which were stolen by overlord-of-evil Morgoth, when he was otherwise known as Melkor.

But when Elrond pitches up at the front door of Khazad-dûm, he’s met with a frosty reception. Turns out, Durin is angry at Elrond for not being around for the past 20 years, missing both the Dwarf’s wedding to his love, Disa (Sophia Nomvete), and the birth of his two children. Elves live a lot longer than Dwarves, and for Elrond, 20 years passed in the blink of an eye. For Durin, however, it’s been a lifetime.

That Elrond-Durin Falling Out

Lord of the Rings: The RIngs of Power Elrond and Durin
Durin and Elrond have a friendship that Elrond has neglected -- but why?

“It’s a big slip up from Elrond,” Robert Aramayo tells Fandom as we talk about the Elf’s friendship with Durin, explored during the first two episodes of the series. “Because he, I think, prizes himself — or will come to pride himself — on his love for mortality. And so to create such an egregious, apparent error is a big failure on his part. But I think he’s been in Lindon enjoying his heraldry and writing [King] Gil-galad‘s speeches and serving him and it’s just slipped his mind.”

It’s Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) who sends Elrond to help Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) in the first place, to find a way to construct his tower. The scenes featuring Durin, Elrond, and Disa are among the best of the first two episodes and are packed with heart. It’s clear that Durin is deeply hurt by the absence of an Elf he seemingly believed a close friend, so how did they forge this close friendship in the first place?

“There is a version — a sort of origin story — that’s explored in the show between the three of us about how me and Durin met,” says Aramayo though he leaves it untold to allow us to discover it as it unfolds on screen. Suffice to say that Disa is a bit more forgiving of Elrond than Durin because she knows the depth of their bond.

“He prizes himself — or will come to pride himself — on his love for mortality. And so to create such an egregious, apparent error is a big failure on his part.” Elrond actor Robert Aramayo on the Elf’s 20-year absence from his friend Durin’s life

“We had discussions about how miserable [Durin has] been whilst he’s kind of not at our wedding and stuff,” says Arthur.

“She knows,” says Nomvete of Disa. “She certainly knows Durin’s heart and she quickly figures out and connects to Elrond. And so she’s kind of watching from a peripheral understanding that this is a unity [beneath which] flames need to rekindle for everyone to be happy. So she’s softening, softening, softening [the wall between them].”

Nomvete adds, “This is my husband and this is somebody who I newly adore and have heard about for the duration of my life with Durin. So this is about a celebration of another love. We love each other and have a big sum of respect, Durin and Disa. And so, to see an extension of that in other ways, and invite somebody else into our world, is nothing but love for Disa.”

The ‘Human’ Side of Elrond

Elrond has a 'human' side and is also confounded by 'human-ness'.

On the surface, Elrond and Durin appear so different, and while relations between the two races have encountered bumps over the years, according to Tolkien’s writings, historically they’ve had a mutual respect. But while we must wait to find out how the two became erstwhile solid pals, we are able to delve into what they like about one another. We certainly see in the first two episodes that Elrond hugely admires the progress that Durin and his individuals have made on the impressive Khazad-dûm in the time the two have been apart.

“What do you like about your best friend? It’s a difficult thing to explain,” says Aramayo. “There’s a connection between the two of them and then by extension to all the Dwarven world and Disa and the kids. I think he sees Durin’s heart. And I think he understands Durin’s complicated relationship with his dad [King Durin III]. I think that becomes quite important. It’s just a connection. And there’s something glorious about that.”

“There’s a level of ‘humanness’ to Durin that I know he [Elrond] doesn’t always understand and that’s where Durin has his fun.” — Actor Owain Arthur on what his character Durin enjoys about his friendship with Elrond

And what about vice versa? What does Durin like about Elrond?

“I think Durin sees Elrond and sees the ‘human’ side of him,” says Arthur. “And also he really loves the Elven side of him; the funny Elven stuff that he does. I think that’s entertaining for Durin because there’s a level of ‘human-ness’ to Durin that I know he [Elrond] doesn’t always understand and that’s where Durin has his fun.”

For Elrond, there’s also the warmth of Durin and Disa’s home that he’s drawn to.

“They have a real home,” says Aramayo. “And I think that means something to Elrond. When you walk into their house, it feels like a home. And it’s what these two bring. It just feels like you’re somewhere that is safe and [brings] all the matters that are resonant with home, which is an important thing for Tolkien. And definitely a complicated thing for Elrond. So I think that’s another thing that endears him to this family.”

Nori and Poppy: Yin and Yang

Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards, left) and Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh, centre) are set on helping The Stranger (Daniel Weyman, right).

The show is already set on exploring relationships on three counts – friendship, as we’ve discussed, and also familial, and romantic.

One relationship that crosses the friendship-family divide is that between Harfoots Nori Brandyfoot and Poppy Proudfellow. This young duo of hobbit-ancestors is glued together by a sisterly bond that is both affectionate and cantankerous. In the series, Nori’s adventurous nature leads the pair to discover and take under their wing the ‘meteor man’ who falls to the ground in a fireball from the sky. He’s otherwise known as The Stranger, as he’s called in the credits, or ‘the giant’ as Nori and Poppy call him.

“Poppy and Nori are very much like yin and yang; you can’t really have one without the other,” says Megan Richards who plays Poppy. “It’s a very equal relationship, too and there’s a lot of loyalty and love there that especially built up surrounding the circumstances of the Harfoots. They are a nomadic community, and they have rules that ensure safety for everybody.”

“The further Nori falls down the rabbit hole, the more their relationship also gets tested.” — Actor Markella Kavenagh on her character Nori and her relationship with friend Poppy.

Nori pushes the boundaries, and likes to take risks which doesn’t go down too well with the cautious community.

“And their personal life experiences,” adds Nori actor Markella Kavenagh, suggesting that what’s happened in their lives has helped cement their bond. “We had this idea that they were kind of tied together by this bungee rope [or] elastic band. And every time Nori steps out of her comfort zone, and she pulls Poppy with her, and Poppy resists, it just becomes more and more taut and more strained, essentially. And so the further Nori falls down the rabbit hole, the more their relationship also gets tested. So it was really important to build some kind of a foundation of a close dynamic, which we did by hanging out in various forms in preparation. And to create sure that was there, so that we could then move away from it.”

When The Stranger Falls

Sir Lenny Henry as Sadoc Burrows.

Into the mix steps older, wiser Harfoot Sadoc Burrows, played by Sir Lenny Henry, who is an elder in the community.

“These individuals have elders that are the Judge, and Jury — individuals you can go to in times of trouble,” says Henry. “Sadoc collects all the records of what happened: when, how, what was the sky doing? What were the stars doing? He’s the keeper of those books. So he knows what should be happening in any given season. And at the beginning of the story, you see that matters are out of whack, and Sadoc notices.

Crucially in terms of his relationship to Poppy and Nori, Sadoc also acts as a substitute parent, whenever the parents aren’t around.

“So when these guys are out of order, Sadoc has every responsibility to say, ‘Hey, you’re not supposed to be doing that, go back to your cart, do what you’re supposed to be doing.”

It’s not a stretch to visualize he won’t much like discovering what the pair of them have been up to, then.

“The whole community is furious with them for doing what they did.” — Sadoc actor Sir Lenny Henry on how the Harfoots feel about Nori and Poppy helping The Stranger

“Sadoc spends a lot of time warning and telling them, protecting,” explains Henry. “So his thing is, don’t obtain involved. This is a strange, bizarre thing, we shouldn’t obtain involved in this. And he’s absolutely furious. The whole community is furious with them for doing what they did. So Sadoc’s role in this is to warn and protect people, because he cares about this community. And he missing his wife some years ago, and so he doesn’t want that to happen to anybody else.”

Given that most of this nomadic community of Harfoots is seen to be cautious, it’s interesting to dig into what it is that makes Nori so eager to help The Stranger.

“I think that there’s something when they first meet that she recognises that is familiar to her, which is this longing to be heard and to be seen and understood,” says Kavenagh. “I think she’s often misunderstood. And I think she’s often believed to be quite naive and selfish. And it was important for me to ground her curiosity in wanting to actually help the Harfoot community, in a way. She just believes it’s through taking risks, which is not what a lot of our community thinks. So I think there’s a connection to The Stranger because [suddenly] there’s someone else who feels like an outsider and so they have that moment of connection.”

Could The Stranger be Gandalf as some fans suspect? The show wants us to think he could be Sauron — his mysterious emergence, connection with ‘cold’ fire (synonymous with evil in the series opener), and the evocation of the Eye of Sauron as he lies in the foetal position at the centre of the flaming crater suggest as much. However, not only does the wizard’s literary history tie in with fan theories about Gandalf but Tolkien has previous with introducing good characters in suspicious ways, first presenting Aragorn as a potential villain in the guise of the shadowy Strider before revealing him to be the hero we know and love.

Nori’s instincts about him lead us to believe he’ll at least be a good character, if not Gandalf, but we’ll just have to wait and see as the mystery unfolds on screen.

An Illicit Relationship

Bronwyn and Arondir's 'secret' Elf-Human relationship is forbidden.

Another three-way relationship in which there’s more than a touch of tension is that between Southlands healer Bronwyn, her son Theo, and Elf, Arondir. Arondir has been stationed at Tirharad, the village of Men where Bronwyn and Theo live, for 79 years — ever since Morgoth was first vanquished at the end of the First Age. The official line is that Arondir is tasked with keeping an eye on the potential re-emergence of evil, but there is mistrust between Elves and Men because of the alliance some Men forged with Morgoth during his tyranny. On both sides, there are those who believe that the Elves are really watching the Men themselves.

Needless to say that the individuals of Tirharad are resentful of the Elven presence and actively show their hatred for their race. All except Bronwyn, that is, who has begun an illicit love affair with Arondir in the wake of the departure of Theo’s father – who is away in the series and may or may not have run off.  The cast is tight-lipped on what might have happened to him, but it’s reasonable to say that his absence has been hard on young Theo who is also struggling to adjust to the rumours of his mother’s relationship with Arondir.

“They are both outcasts. And they’re seeking in each other this sense of the curiosity for ‘the other’.” — Bronwyn actor Nazanin Boniadi on her character’s relationship with Arondir

How did Arondir and Bronwyn’s relationship start, given the challenges they faced?

“I think you’ve got an interesting dynamic between them,” says Nazanin Boniadi who plays the headstrong and resourceful Bronwyn. “They are very different in apparent ways — an Elf and a Human — but they have a ton of similarities. Their love for nature, for example. But also, they are both outcasts. And they’re seeking in each other this sense of the curiosity for ‘the other’. And I think that union is a microcosm of what the greater world could be if those bridges existed between individuals who are different. I think it symbolises so much more than just their love for each other.”

Ismael Cruz Córdova, who plays Arondir, agrees: “In a chaotic world, it’s those two weirdos that find each other, and that finally find a respite in the other. But there’s a complete wall that’s been built between them. So I think that’s the beginning of what you’re seeing.”

The Evil Sword

The sword Theo finds is really important to him, actor Tyroe Muhafidin explains.

And caught in amongst all that’s going on is young Theo – who finds an evil sword seemingly belonging to Sauron and keeps it hidden. What drives him to keep it a secret?

“I think we find Theo in a time where he’s angry at the world and his circumstances,” explains Tyroe Muhafidin, who plays Theo. “And I think he feels like he’s losing himself, or he can’t find himself, and he doesn’t know who he is or who he is to be. He finds something [the sword fragment] that almost gives him a purpose, and it drives him. I think he thinks if he tells his mum, or if he tells people, it can be taken away from him, and he goes back down into the pit that he was in before he found it.”

“He finds something [the sword fragment] that almost gives him a purpose, and it drives him. I think he thinks if he tells his mum, or if he tells people, it can be taken away from him, and he goes back down into the pit that he was in before he found it.” — Theo actor Tyroe Muhafidin

Muhafidin says that finding the sword is almost like he’s found himself a friend. He’s drawn to it – and in the moments that he spends looking at the sword you can see flashes of enchantment of the kind we’ve seen when Men have kept the Rings – the very Rings of Power that this series is about.

“If we look at Men in the history of the canon, like Isildur or Boromir, looking at how their minds were corrupted by the ring, there’s the idea that Men are hungry for power,” continues Muhafidin. “I think the corruption of Theo’s mind almost wouldn’t be [in the form of becoming] hungry for power, because he’s sowever youthful, but almost hungry for a purpose, and hungry for belonging. And that’s what the sword brings him.”

The Orc in the Room

Despite Theo’s troubled mind, it’s clear there’s a strong bond between mother and son – and this is cemented when together they face the orc that invades their home. One thing that strikes you about the sequence is the pair’s resourcefulness – and amazing fight skills that see them overcome the strength and resilience of this evil creature. It results in Bronwyn hacking off the orc’s head and presenting it to the gathered villagers at her native before advising that they obtain the hell out of Dodge.

“Her ‘mama bear’ power comes out; her inner conviction to protect her baby, her son.” — Nazanin Boniadi on where Bronwyn finds the power to beat the orc

“I love that you don’t see it coming with Bronwyn because her ‘mama bear’ power comes out; her inner conviction to protect her baby, her son,” says Boniadi, addressing just where she finds the ability to fight off the orc. “I think that instinct, that maternal instinct, just kicks in and says, ‘No, no, no, I will do everything I can to protect my son.”

But Theo also has some of that fight instinct – although we see him hiding when Bronwyn first arrives and discovers the orc, the two of them united seems to give him the strength and wiles to defend and attack. He’s also clearly driven to protect his mother.

Muhafidin adds, “[He’s] probably got a lot of bottled up anger, he can take it out on this thing. I think it’s the fight or flight [choice] and the fight kicked in.”

Isildur’s Fractured Relationship with His Family

Maxim Baldry as Isildur in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Family dynamics are also something we’re set to explore soon between some key Númenoreans. Episode 2 ends with a shadowy figure looking down on a shipwrecked Galadriel and Halbrand (more on them shortly) who this writer would put money on being Isildur. Or his father, Elendil, perhaps.

Both established characters in Tolkien lore, Isildur is known as the Man who would go on to reduce the One Ring from Sauron’s finger, glimpsed in flashback in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Elendil, meanwhile, who we also saw in Jackson’s films and whose name in Quenya means “The Elf-friend”, is the 7’11” Númenorean who led the survivors of the Downfall of the island kingdom to Middle-earth and safety to establish Arnor and Gondor.

Maxim Baldry, who plays Isildur, says that when we first meet his character, there’s a bit of family strife going down. Along with his siblings, Eärien and Anárion, and his father, they’re mourning the loss of their mother.

“He’s got a bit of an issue with authority. I think, if you’re grieving — because the family is going through a period of grief — authority can be somewhat overbearing, and you see him trying to break free from that and try and find his own path and way through that. So, that kind of fractures your relationship with your family, especially his father, who is making him go down a path that he’s followed, and Isildur’s kind of rebelling against that.”

Burning Pharazôn’s Legacy

Kemen (left) played by Leon Wadham with his father Pharazộn (Trystan Gravelle).

And then there’s Pharazôn, played by Trystan Gravelle, and his son, Kemen, played by Leon Wadham.

“There’s a division in Númenor,” begins Wadham by way of explaining the tension between father and son. “There are the individuals who would like to move back toward that Elvish way of doing matters — the old alliance with the Elves — and the individuals who want to forge a new path. Nationalists, who want to stamp out that Elvish influence and create their own legacy. I’m in the second camp. I’m a young would-be politician. My father Pharazôn is a beloved influential political figure. He’s the chancellor; his cousin is Queen Regent Miríel. Kemen likes the idea of following in his father’s footsteps, but he’s too young to really know what that means yet, and he’s about to find out.”

As the chancellor of Númenor, and consul to the Queen Regent, it’s Pharazôn’s job to maintain the peace and harmony, and create sure they’re all going in the same direction, says Gravelle.

“I’m just so excited for how the storyline goes to find the island, which is really special.” — Isildur actor Maxin Baldry teases the highly anticipated introduction of Númenor

“On the island of Númenor, being mortal, death is all around us. It is inevitable. And I guess with that comes legacy. Not just for myself, but for future generations to learn from as well. I think that’s something that perhaps Elves don’t have to worry about. And this young tyke [Kemen] is burning my legacy. So we’re at loggerheads about that. You know: ‘What are you going to do with your life?’”

Baldry says that it’s all about legacy on Númenor, an island brought up out of the sea by the Valar as a gift to Men after the destruction of Beleriand during the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age, in which Elves and Men united with the Valar against Morgoth.

“It’s such a focal element of our island,” he explains. “And you can see it a lot in the architecture of the buildings. You see that progress of Elven architecture versus new architecture, and it’s kind of built into our city. The way that the whole island comes about into the storyline is also amazing. I’m so excited for you to watch that. Because I love that. As a fan of the show myself … I’m just so excited for how the storyline goes to find the island, which is really special.”

Galadriel and Halbrand: A Match Made in a Fiery Pit of Hell?

Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) are thrown together by the sea and forced to help one another.

Speaking of the tension between Elves and Men, the meeting of Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel and Charlie Vickers’s Halbrand is the embodiment of this bitter imbalance. When the two are literally thrown together by the sea after Galadriel ditches her Valinor-bound vessel intent on shipping her off to her retirement, and Halbrand is seemingly cast adrift fleeing his orc-infested home, they are mistrustful of one another. However, they are forced to work together to stay alive.

With Halbrand one of the show’s more mysterious characters – some fans believe he could be a shapeshifting Sauron in disguise or connected to the Dark Lord of Mordor in some way, and there are lots of clues in the show so far that point to this – does Galadriel wind up trusting him after this incident?

“She’s almost more distrustful of Halbrand than anybody else, because he meets her when she’s vulnerable.” Galadriel actor Morfydd Clark

“I don’t think Galadriel trusts anybody at this point,” says Clark. “She’s very alone in thinking that evil is rising, and even her own people, the Elves, aren’t on her side. I think she’s almost more distrustful of Halbrand than anybody else because he meets her when she’s vulnerable, which is not a comfortable space for Galadriel to be in.”

And what about Halbrand? Does he trust Galadriel at this point?

“Certainly not when he meets her, he doesn’t trust her,” says Vickers. “But I think he has no selection but to trust her when it comes to saving his life. He doesn’t think he can necessarily survive this predicament that he’s in without her help. So he has to trust that they will work together in order to survive. But if he trusts her beyond that I’m not so sure.”

Vickers says that Halbrand is shaped in part by existing characters from Tolkien’s books – and mentions Boromir and Aragorn as well as two characters known to fans from The Silmarillion, Túrin and Beren.

Beren notably had a relationship with an Elf named Lúthien, and given the strong chemistry between Halbrand and Galadriel, could we see a relationship develop between these two?

“It certainly develops — I mean, a relationship. You watch it develop throughout the season,” says Vickers enigmatically.

Clark cuts in, “What I love about Tolkien is that whatever the type of relationship, there’s always such depth. And so it was really fun to just go wherever these characters go together.”

“It’s complex,” adds Vickers.

A bit like JRR Tolkien’s fantasy world, full stop. And if Halbrand does turn out to be Sauron in disguise, that would certainly create for a complicated relationship.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is streaming now on Prime Video.

For more revealing interviews from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power cast, check out the video from San Diego Comic-Con in the article above. Click on the link below to find out more about pivotal Elf Celebrimbor — actor Charles Edwards gives an in-depth insight into his character.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.