‘The Rings Of Power’ Is Abusing Fast-Travel Even Worse Than ‘Game Of Thrones’


I wisely started with a map, and made the story fit (generally with meticulous care for distances). The other way about lands one in confusions and impossibilities, and in any case it is weary work to compose a map from a story.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Spoilers, obviously.

In Episode 6 of The Rings Of Power, Galadriel casts a magic spell: Teleportation.

She transports the Númenorean army around 2,000 miles in a day or two. Either that, or everything in these timelines is occurring at wildly different speeds. Either way, it’s confusing and makes The Rings Of Power feel cheap, rushed and all over the map—literally.

Speaking of maps, here’s one that Amazon released to show how different the Second Age is from the Third Age that we’re accustomed to, and it includes Númenor as well as Middle-earth. Apparently a copy was not sent to the writer’s room:

In any case, the Numenoreans arrive just in the nick of time to save Arondir, Bronwyn and the peasant army from Adar and his orcs. They cross this enormous distance and find the exact location of the village that’s being assaulted on the very morning of the battle and quite literally moments before our heroes are killed by the bad guys.

This is the problem with crunching the timelines not just down in terms of reducing the Second Age to one storyline, but in ignoring time and space altogether. Either our sense of time is very off, and things in the Southlands are taking place at a very different pace than the events in Númenor, or the writers are simply ignoring the distance between places.

Unfortunately, the structure of the show leads us to believe that everything is happening at about the same time even if that’s not the case. So while Galadriel is browbeating her hosts across the sea, Bronwyn is rallying her peasants to war. As the three ships set sail, Arondir and the villagers are setting up and executing their trap. The next night, the orcs attack the village.

The next morning, the Númenoreans have sailed across the ocean, landed in what will later become Gondor, disembarked with all their horses and gear, and crossed the plains and the mountains into what will become Mordor and made it all the way to Mount Doom which, we discover at the end of Episode 6, is right next door to the village! (I told you we shouldn’t build a village next to an active volcano, but did you listen?)

Not only this, but both the Númenoreans and Galadriel wear their stupid, god-awful armor the entire way and then, in full battle regalia, charge the entire way from the sea to the battle at a hard gallop.

Why is Galadriel wearing this ridiculous armor? Why is she wearing it on the ship? Why does they have her nimbly arrow-dodging in bulky plate armor? Why? Answer me!

I know this is “just a fantasy” or whatever, which is what fans will say when presented with this complaint, but even in fantasy worlds things take time. One does not simply charge into Mordor. By ignoring distances you make the world feel small, and what ought to feel epic in scope and scale starts to feel the exact opposite.

Without any knowledge of Middle-earth, if all you had to go by was watching this episode, you could easily assume that Númenor and the Southlands are just a day or two away. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Amazon’s writers are creating “confusions and impossibilities” by ignoring the map, as Tolkien would say, and it cheapens the entire story in the process and makes the Middle-earth of The Rings Of Power seem much smaller than the Middle-earth of The Lord Of The Rings, where even just leaving the Shire or crossing through a thick Old Forest, could be a dangerous adventure.

How Far Is Númenor From Mount Doom?

The distance from the shores of Gondor to Mount Doom is easily 200 miles. From Minis Tirith to the Black Gate is a distance of some 125 miles or so, and took Aragorn and his army about a week to traverse in The Return Of The King. It’s another 100 miles east from the Black Gate to Barad-dûr, which is about 30 miles east of Orodruin (Mount Doom). That’s 70 miles between the mountain pass and the volcano village. Without adding the distance between the coast and Minis Tirith, we’re at around roughly 205 miles at this point.

Now keep in mind, knights would not ride their war-horses all this way and certainly not at a gallop. Knights would ride palfreys to the battle and then mount up on destriers for the charge, which would last no more than a minute or two before battle was joined. (They would also not wear their armor all this way, and the fighting force would include a baggage train to carry things like armor, food and supplies, and would include a number of cooks, servants, pages and so forth, none of which we see here).

With armor and weapons, the need to stop and rest and eat and sleep, water and rest the horses and so forth, at best this force makes 30 miles a day, and that’s slowed significantly when passing over the mountains. Even assuming these are special horses with special riders (though the show has gone out of its way to make the Númenoreans not special in any way) and they covered twice that somehow, we’re still looking at several days of hard riding following a long sea voyage.

How long of a voyage, you ask?

The distance from Númenor to Pelargir (the first Númenorean settlement in what would become Gondor) is 1,800 miles according to the maps in Karen Wynne Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle (a book which Amazon sells but apparently does not reference).


With perfect sailing conditions it would take three to four weeks, even in the fastest ships. Let’s be charitable and say three weeks of sailing and one week of riding, even with the mountains (and this is very charitable, indeed) and you have an army that’s just pressed hard for a month wearing their damn armor the whole time before charging headlong into battle. (Seriously, do you think Galadriel sleeps in her cuirass?)

Okay, but this is fantasy and you’re just nitpicking!

Sorry, but I’m really not. Like Tolkien himself, I believe that a strong story is rooted in time and space. “I wisely started with a map, and made the story fit (generally with meticulous care for distances).” I’m quoting Tolkien once again here just to point out that a faithful adaptation of his work requires attention to details like this.

We need a sense of distance and of time passing to anchor us to the events taking place. The what and the when matter. Otherwise we find ourselves back in the final two seasons of Game Of Thrones all over again. Frankly, when Amazon set out to make their own Game Of Thrones I had no idea they were talking about Season 8, but that’s where we’re at in the very first season of Rings Of Power.

Frankly, it’s extremely lazy for a show with this kind of budget to get this all so wrong.

Okay, but then you should assume things aren’t taking place at the same time!

If each of our four stories is taking place at a different pace, the show’s writers have done a pretty lousy job at making that clear. The comet flew over everyone’s head not that long ago and rooted each of the four timelines in the present. Since then, we’ve seen nothing to suggest that these stories are taking place at wildly different speeds.

Let’s map it out, shall we?

The comet flies over Bronwyn and Arondir at the same time that it flies over Gil-Galad, who has just sent all his best fighters to Valinor.

When the comet passes over everyone, Galadriel is on the ship and as it crashes to the earth near Nori and the Harfoots, she leaps into the sea. So we can root ourselves there. Unfortunately, we don’t know where Galadriel is in relation to Númenor exactly.

In the episodes since the comet:

  • Galadriel is rescued by a group of humans floating on raft that just so happens to have “the king of the Southlands” on it. They’re both then rescued by Elendil, who just so happens to be nearby, and taken to Númenor, which is about 2,000 miles away from Lindon where Galadriel set sail from originally.
  • I’ll just assume that Númenor is fairly close, though it would be a good deal to the south, and I’m not really sure why a ship of Southlanders would have sailed so far out to sea and so far north. Once again, a map:

You can see Middle-earth on the right in the east, the island of Númenor in the dead center and the Undying Lands in the west. Lindon is north-east of Númenor. Mordor is straight east. Halbrand’s ship would have had to go a very long ways away from Middle-earth to end up in the general proximity of Galadriel and Elendil.

But setting all that aside . . .

  • Galadriel sails from wherever they are to Numenor where she spends some undisclosed amount of time with the island’s people, browbeating and harassing them, arguing with everybody and eventually (with the help of a friendly tree) convincing them to go to war. Preparations begin and one assumes take some time, and they’re presented with a setback when a useless side-character burns two of the seafaring nation’s five ships to ash.
  • The ensuing voyage and trek across Middle-earth has already been discussed, but we’re pinning that at about a month (if we’re being very charitable).

Meanwhile, since the comet, over in the Southlands:

  • Bronwyn and Arondir investigate the abandoned village. They split up. Arondir is taken prisoner by the orcs where awakens in chains forced to help dig ditches.
  • Bronwyn returns to her village, kills and orc and convinces everyone to go to the tower where they’ll be safe (later they all leave the tower to go to the village for reasons).
  • Arondir eventually escapes his captors only to be caught by Adar, the evil elf “father” to the orcs, who then let’s him go and gives him his weapons back so that he can take a message to the human villagers.
  • He leaves and goes back to the village, rescuing Theo on the way just in the nick of time. He tells Bronwyn that they can either surrender or fight.
  • What appears to be the next day, Bronwyn makes a rousing speech because I guess she’s the leader now, and half the villagers go with Waldreg to pay homage to Adar. The other half stay. That night, Bronwyn has a complete change of heart when she sees the lights from the orc armies below. But Arondir convinces her to fight and they come up with a plan.
  • “How long?” Bronwyn asks of the orc assault. “Days. Hours,” Arondir replies. The show doesn’t actually tell us how long, but it seems like it happens the next night.
  • At some point in all of this the orc tunnels and ditches are completed. Again, it’s impossible to tell how long this took since they appeared to be mostly done already, though how the elves missed the digging still confuses me.
  • The orcs attack the next night but the tower is empty. Then they attack the village the following night.

As you can see from this summary, it doesn’t seem like very much time has passed. There are clues that some time is passing—the villagers didn’t bring much food so they start going hungry pretty quickly, which is why Rowan and Theo make a grocery store run—but since we’re still hopping back and forth between each storyline, these events appear to be taking place at roughly the same time as Galadriel’s story. You can say “well obviously time passed” but I don’t think the writing team should leave it up to viewers to just assume that. There are methods to make it more obvious that time is passing and this show has utilized none of them (though they did show time/space moving in the Harfoot timeline, oddly enough).

What we’re left to assume based on this show’s four-story format is that while Galadriel is on her ship lecturing Isildur, Arondir is battling orcs, and by the next night Galadriel’s army has finished the voyage, crossed the Southlands and arrives just in the nick of time to save everyone in the village. Faster than even Euron Greyjoy’s magic fleet!

This is absurd and distracting and yet another example of lazy, terrible writing and equally bad pacing in this show. It cheapens the world and makes the plodding story feel slow and rushed all at once.

Fans of fantasy fiction care deeply about world-building. A sense of space and time is integral to any good story, but especially stories in made-up worlds.

My only hope is that the eruption of Mount Doom killed Galadriel and all the Númenoreans and the final few episodes will be about Papa Adar living a nice, quiet life with his orc children in Mordor. Maybe he’ll even teach the Harfoots a thing or two about how to care for one another.

Oh, and at some point we’ll need to discuss Galadriel’s armor for real. Her plot armor, that is.

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