‘Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’: Episode 6, ‘Udun,’ dropped Mount Doom-sized bombshells about Sauron and orcs

Amazon’s epic “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” series finally staged its first massive battle in episode six, “Udun,” but one moment of dialogue was more revelatory than the eruption of Mount Doom. The quiet confession of dark elf Adar (Joseph Mawle) sent shockwaves through the fandom. As his backstory comes into focus, it confirms long-debated details of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth mythology while raising major questions about Sauron.

After a major showdown between the forces of orcs and men, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) interrogates her new prisoner Adar. Galadriel mentions stories she heard as a child of the Morinedor, or “sons of the dark.” These were elves captured by Morgoth, tortured and corrupted until they became a new race entirely: the first orcs. Or “Uruks,” as Adar notes is the preferred name for his kind.

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The origin of the orcs has been hotly debated among “Lord of the Rings” fans for decades. Tolkien never writes anything definitive about the creation of these creatures in the main trilogy, but he suggests they were born from elves in “The Annals of Aman,” which chronicles the creation of the world. In it, the author states: “All those of the Quendi that came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty and wickedness were corrupted and enslaved. Thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orkor in envy and mockery of the Eldar.” This passage was confirmation enough for many readers that orcs began as corrupted elves, but later conflicting writings of Tolkien left the topic up for debate. Clearly, “The Rings of Power” has decided the “corrupted elves” origin is good enough for their version of the story.

While Adar’s story confirms a longstanding hypothesis about orcs, it puts another theory in the grave: he is definitely not Sauron. In fact, Adar reveals that he killed the Dark Lord (“I split him open”) after one too many experiments on his “children,” the orcs. We should be careful to take anything this dark elf says at face value, but he displays a convincing amount of conviction as he recounts the tale. Of course, Sauron is a Maiar, a primordial spirit that could never be killed with a simple slash of a sword. So, even if Adar is being truthful, his murderous coup was obviously not as successful as he thinks.

The story is striking for its attempt to paint both orcs and Sauron in a more sympathetic light than ever before. Adar truly feels like he is the father of all orcs. As he sees it, these creatures did not decide to be born evil and have endured a great deal, thus they are worthy of freedom and happiness like all beings in Middle Earth.

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According to Adar, Sauron spent his days after the War of Wrath attempting to bring the war torn Middle Earth into “perfect order.” Now, one could interpret the word “order” in a peacekeeping or evil-doing manner. Tolkien does, however, provide some canonical examples in “The Silmarillion” to suggest that Sauron may have tried to atone for his actions after the war, before ultimately falling to darkness yet again.

If there is any truth to Adar’s account, “The Rings of Power” might be trying to show Sauron in a more sympathetic light. And if you’re like me, and already suspicious that Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) might be Sauron in disguise, this account brings the Halbrand theory into sharper focus. Halbrand has already made references to a dark past, noting that if the people of the south knew what he had actually done they would never accept him.

And in this episode, Halbrand pins Adar to the ground, growling “Do you remember me?” at the dark elf. It would be an appropriate question to ask the person who killed you, and Adar’s confused “no” response would indicate that he senses something familiar in Halbrand but doesn’t recognize this new body. Spending time with Galadriel’s army would give Halbrand ample opportunity to bend pure-hearted men to his will, and would set up the ultimate tragic twist when this “Secret Sauron” eventually takes up the mantle of Dark Lord once more.

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