It’s nuts to think that a character like Celebrimbor is so critical to The Lord of the Rings lore and yet Tolkien barely touched on him in his books. Though Tolkien did once write, in a letter to his publisher, of welcoming the idea of other creatives coming in the future and elaborating on the worlds that he created.
Well, Tolkien strewed plenty of seeds ready to be gathered up and sown — allowing the team behind Prime Video’s new landmark Middle-earth based series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power to grow a new screen adventure from his writings. Celebrimbor is one such kernel, the regal Elf who is both mentioned in The Lord of the Rings and features in Tolkien’s appendices – the source material which inspired The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The character is responsible for both crafting the three Elven Rings and keeping them out of Sauron’s reach.
Celebrimbor’s story is a fascinating one – and one which the new show is set to explore and build on in some depth. We can’t wait – and if you’re a Tolkien fan you probably can’t either. But wait we must, at least until the show premieres in September. So, before then, we’re bringing you tantalizing exclusive first-look images of the character of Celebrimbor as he will appear in The Rings of Power, alongside an overview of the character as outlined by Tolkien — and an in-depth chat with actor Charles Edwards, who plays the pivotal Elf, shedding new light on the role Celebrimbor plays.
Celebrimbor and the First Age
We already know that The Rings of Power is set during the Second Age and is a prequel story to both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the events of which take place in the Third Age. Celebrimbor’s background, as detailed in the books, extends back to the First Age. As a Ñoldorin prince, he was the last in the line of the House of Fëanor, the head of which was his grandfather. Fëanor himself was the son of Finwë, the first High King of the Ñoldor, also known as Deep-elves, and celebrated as the greatest of the Eldar Clans when it came to lore and craft.
Fëanor’s greatest achievement, as the Clan’s greatest artisan, was crafting the three jewels known as the Silmarils – a feat that has echoes in Celebrimbor’s legacy. It was over these gems that the War of the Jewels was fought as the Elves of Beleriand (the continent largely perished – all except the area known as Lindon — at the end of the First Age) took on Morgoth’s forces alongside their Edain (aka The Three Houses of Men) and Dwarf allies.
Celebrimbor took part in a number of battles during this war, which ended with some of his kin leaving Middle-earth while he remained, settling in Eregion in the Second Age – which is where The Rings of Power finds him.
Relationship With the Dwarves
“He’s the Lord of Eregion — and being a lord is something akin to royalty — which is very close to Khazad-dûm,” says Charles Edwards as he begins to explain Celebrimbor’s place in the story. Khazad-dûm is otherwise known as Moria and is the ancient underground kingdom of the Dwarves of Durin’s Folk that existed beneath the Misty Mountains. “He’s actively trying to turn Eregion into a place of excellence. And he is working with the Dwarves towards that end to try and capitalize on their talents and their creativity.”
Tolkien has said that in the Second Age, there had never been a time when the Dwarves and Elves worked so closely together and got on so well.
“In our story, Celebrimbor encourages and assists Elrond to visit Khazad-dûm and to court the Dwarves,” adds Edwards. “He may have an ulterior motive for that, but Celebrimbor is very much in support of working together … neither race would have produced the wonders that they had, that they created, without the aid of the other. So clearly, we’re in a time of peace, certainly in terms of working relationship, and [Celebrimbor] has a great respect for them. And Dwarves have a reputation as being fanatical workers, and jewellers and crafters, and Celebrimbor very much respects that.”
Sauron in Disguise
The beginnings of Celebrimbor’s alliance with the Dwarves is what Season 1 of The Rings of Power explores and it’s a partnership that Sauron, under the guise of another form, seeks to take advantage of. In the books, Sauron, calling himself Annatar, ‘The Lord of Gifts’, befriended the Elves of Eregion and instructed them in the craft of ring-making. Under the instruction (and manipulation) of Sauron, the smiths made rings as they learned the craft — which would result in the forging of 16 of the 19 Rings of Power.
Celebrimbor himself forged the three Elven Rings without Sauron’s help. However, he was unaware that the craft itself as taught by Sauron was designed to incorporate a binding magic into the Rings – which meant that the Elven Rings, regardless, were tied to and controlled by the One Ring just like all the other Great Rings.
The One Ring was forged by Sauron in secret, to behave as a master ring to rule over the lesser rings and their beholders. This was designed to give him the power to rule Middle-earth. The story goes, according to Tolkien, that Celebrimbor and the Elves of Eregion withheld the Rings they’d made from him on learning that he had manipulated them.
“He’s in pursuit of something bigger that no one else understands. And therefore he can be single-minded. He can use people, but just to get somewhere he thinks is going to be for the betterment of everybody and bring him great glory. He’s very vain.”
The greatest of these Rings were those created by Celebrimbor himself, which were never touched by Sauron and remained uncorrupted by him albeit still susceptible to the power of the One Ring. This made those Rings — the three Rings of the Elves — the fairest of the Rings of Power. Celebrimbor named them Vilya, Narya, and Nenya after the principal Middle-earth elements: air, fire, and water. He would send the rings away in order to keep them safe – two to Gil-galad in Lindon and one to Galadriel in Lórien. He would also end up sending the mightiest of the seven Dwarven rings, best known as the Ring of Thrór (which we saw on screen in The Hobbit trilogy) to Durin III of Khazad-dûm.
“What we are spoiled with in this enterprise, particularly in my case, is that Celebrimbor is mentioned in The Lord of the Rings as the forger of the Rings — briefly,” says Edwards. “He’s not a footnote, but he’s a sidenote. The other source for our shows is the appendices for The Lord of the Rings, in which Tolkien makes lots of notes and ideas about characters that aren’t quite set in stone. Tolkien had two or three versions of Celebrimbor, none of which he settled on.
“There’s actually a little note scrawled in a margin by Tolkien saying ‘not sure about this, should have changed it’, or something along those lines. In order to start building a character, that’s very exciting. There’s a blueprint, but there hasn’t been any colouring in and it’s down to me and everyone else to create him. That has been really exciting. So, considering the two or three versions that Tolkien had of the character, which in themselves differ from each other, our version is a composite. And then a little bit more.”
Celebrimbor: Ambitious and Vulnerable
So what’s the Rings of Power version of the character like, then? Edwards assures us he has pointy ears, which you can see in our exclusive images, and reveals he’s a very private Elf.
“He’s cautious, he can be quite gullible,” says Edwards. “He’s vain. He’s a brilliant craftsman. And he’s very meticulous. He can be a bit of a user. But he can also be used. He’s proud. He prefers seclusion; he’s not a people person. He is not terribly socially interested. He can be quite blunt. He’s very ambitious. Colossally ambitious.”
“[He invented the name ‘mithril’ for the precious metal that the Dwarves mine and] that’s very cool, isn’t it? There’s no doubt about it. He’s a very cool guy. He invents a lot of stuff. And when you see inside his workshop, you will marvel just as much as I did when I saw it for the first time.”
Ambitious, huh? So what drives him?
“He’s reached a point, in our story, in his existence where he is starting to doubt himself,” explains Edwards. “And I think what drives him is a manic obsessive desire to create. Above and beyond what he has already created, he wants to surpass all that has gone before. And because he’s reached this juncture, he starts to doubt himself and his validity. He lives in a very long shadow of an ancestor, shall we say, whose achievements were considerable. And he has always wanted to try and eclipse [that]. Some would say he’s already done that, but he doesn’t believe that he has.”
Could Edwards be talking about Celebrimbor’s grandfather, Fëanor? Highly likely — unless the series of course has taken a turn in another direction. If you’ve seen the character posters, you’ll have seen a pair of hands holding a golden scroll containing Elven scripture. Edwards confirms that these hands belong to Celebrimbor. We don’t yet know what role the scroll plays in the series, but Edwards does let slip that the scroll contains plans of some sort.
“He’s searching; he wants something which is as yet unknowable,” Edwards continues. “We find him in quite a confused place. But this rocks his belief in himself and makes him vulnerable, and vulnerable to predators. He’s become very single-minded about wanting to conquer, creatively, and to come up with something that’s going to be the be-all and end-all.”
Enter Sauron in disguise, then. Later, after duping Celebrimbor and the Elves into doing his dirty work, Sauron would place the One Ring on his finger and seize mastery over all the Rings of Power and their bearers, and the Elves became savvy to his true identity and purpose. In retaliation for the Elves hiding the Rings, Sauron attacked Eregion and captured, and tortured, Celebrimbor.
He Has a Velvet Chaise Longue
Edwards says that one of the most challenging things about playing Celebrimbor – aside from the responsibility of fleshing out a character lifted from a “Tolkien written sketch” – was to keep a lid on his excitement when he saw the set.
“Obviously, when you’re building a character and starting to work towards a performance, you can’t wait to see what’s going to be brought to you, in terms of what he is and in terms of costume, which are extraordinary,” says Edwards. But it was his first glimpse of Celebrimbor’s workshop that almost threatened to derail the shoot.
“His abode, his place of work,” marvels Edwards. “When I walked on set I was astonished –bowled over — simply to see the forge … and all his extraordinary antiquities around the place. To see his tools, and he has a little antechamber with a velvet chaise longue in it. Love that. I didn’t know that that was going to be there. I love that … he likes to go and have a little lie down on his velvet chaise longue when things get [a bit much]. Made total sense to me. And the challenge that day was not to just run around like a puppy looking at everything. [People would say] ‘Yeah, Charlie, can you come on now, we need to get on’ because I was just going, ‘Look at this!’”
Peter Jackson and Getting the Tone Right
One of the biggest question marks over this series is how much it might have been influenced or informed by Peter Jackson’s visualization of Middle-earth. Edwards says that the showrunners, JD Payne and Patrick McKay, put it very well when they say that in this production they are not trying to compete with Peter Jackson, the man behind a handful of revered, Oscar-winning, Tolkien adaptations you might have heard of.
“This is set some 3000 years earlier,” says Edwards, making a clear demarcation from the stories Jackson was responsible for telling. “I think in both instances, and in any adaptation of Tolkien, the vital element is to get the tone right. The moment we stray — or anyone strays — from that, that’s when it becomes false. And I know for certain that simply doesn’t [happen here]. That’s out of the question in our series; we’ve achieved that [tone].”
Edwards says that in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, they’ve been presented with a unique opportunity to run with Tolkien’s invitation to others to expand on the incredible fantasy universe he created.
“That’s precisely what’s happening, and that makes it a very unique opportunity. And one that, as you’ll see, has been seized with all hands and made [into] something really very special.”
The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power premieres on Prime Video on September 2, 2022.
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