For its upcoming Lord of the Rings series, Amazon Prime Video is throwing it back.

The as-yet-untitled show, set for 2021, journeys into an even older version of Middle-earth than The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. And though details are being kept locked tighter than Gandalf in Isengard, the project (developed by JD Payne and Patrick McKay) is slowly taking shape.

Map of Middle Earthfrom 'The Lord of the Rings'
Credit: John Howe/Amazon

The streamer has started to tease the prequel by releasing an array of increasingly detailed (and extremely geeky) maps over several weeks, tapping renowned Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey and illustrator John Howe to create them. The final map, seen here, confirms the show’s setting: Tolkien’s Second Age, set thousands of years before any Bagginses or Gamgees walked Middle-earth.

If you don’t have time to skim The Silmarillion and get the full lowdown on the Second Age, EW is here to break down the map’s most notable revelations — and what they might mean for the show.


Map of Middle Earthfrom 'The Lord of the Rings'
Credit: John Howe/Amazon

In the center of the map is Eregion, the area Frodo & Co. would journey through years later on their way to the great Dwarf kingdom of Moria. (At this point in time, Moria is still called Khazad-dûm, suggesting we may get to see the ancient mine in its full glory, before a certain Balrog moved in.)

During the Second Age, Eregion was an elven hot spot, where skilled smiths forged the Rings of Power. They were assisted by an extremely beautiful and charming figure named Annatar, who was secretly Sauron (yes, that Sauron) in disguise. Which raises the question: Who will be recruited to play sexy Sauron?


Map of Middle Earthfrom 'The Lord of the Rings'
Credit: John Howe/Amazon

The map’s biggest reveal is the island of Númenor, home to a proud, powerful society with a life span of centuries. Númenóreans — from whom Aragorn is descended — ruled the seas in the Second Age before growing restless and power-hungry, and Sauron persuaded them to sail west to the land of the gods and try to seize everlasting life. Not the smartest plan. The gods punished them by sinking Númenor, forever changing the shape of Middle-earth. It’s a tale of hubris, manipulation, and greed — one that makes Game of Thrones’ machinations look like checkers.


Map of Middle Earthfrom 'The Lord of the Rings'
Credit: John Howe/Amazon

Amazon’s map extends much farther east than Tolkien’s traditional map, giving us a better look at areas like Harad, Khand, and Rhûn. These regions are barely mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, except that their people allied with Sauron. This map suggests that the show might explore some of these distant corners of Middle-earth, each with its own histories and traditions.

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