The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power showrunner Patrick McKay explained why he and Prime Video decided to ignore J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing and depict their own creation of Mordor.
McKay spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the show’s sixth episode that showed the orcs dug a giant tunnel into the heart of a volcano. The tunnel was then filled with water after a dam broke. After the massive flood of water made contact with burning hot lava it created an explosion that destroyed much of the surrounding land and covered it in ash.
By the show’s eighth and final episode of the season, Halbrand is revealed to be Sauron and Mordor is shown covered in black with Mount Doom still billowing out smoke and lava pouring down its sides.
McKay explained the scene saying, “A huge theme in Tolkien is the environmentalism and the way machines and industrializations destroys the land. We wanted that to be central and core all the time. It’s a thing that comes up again and again throughout the show.”
He then revealed, “So in the writers room, we asked: What if Mordor was beautiful? All bucolic like Switzerland. And then what could happen that could transform it?”
“We talked about the poisoning of the land — which starts in the first episode with the cow. Then you find out about the tunnels being dug and sulfur is going up into the air. It all builds toward this geologically realistic way of igniting the mountain, which now blacks out the sky for a very practical reason — Adar, our villain, sees the Orcs as his people and they deserve a home where the sun doesn’t torment them. We’re hoping it will take people by surprise,” he relayed.
However, this is not how Mordor came about at all. In fact, the land was not idyllic or bucolic like in Switzerland. It had repeatedly been hammered by the eruptions of Mount Doom over the year and thus was the desolate readers and viewers of The Lord of the Rings know.
In The Peoples of Middle-earth, Christopher Tolkien writes in the Notes section of the book that the name Mordor was “maybe already an Elvish name for that region, because of its volcano Orodruin and its eruptions – which were not made by Sauron but were a relic of the devastating works of Melkor in the long First Age.”
In The Silmarillion, Tolkien details that Sauron made Mordor his home because of the volcano. He wrote, “There above the valley of Gorgoroth was built his fortress vast and strong, Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower; and there was a fiery mountain in that land that the Elves named Orod-ruin. Indeed for that reason Sauron had set there his dwelling long before, for he used the fire that welled there from the heart of the earth in his sorceries and in his forging; and in the midst of the Land of Mordor he had fashioned the Ruling Ring.”
Not only is this noted in The Peoples of Middle-earth and The Silmarillion, but in Letter 131 to Milton Waldman, J.R.R. Tolkien also notes how Sauron’s original intentions to stay in Middle-earth were fair and that those intentions were “the reorganising and rehabilitation of the ruin of Middle-earth.”
Tolkien wrote to Waldman, “In the Silmarillion and Tales of the First Age Sauron was a being of Valinor perverted to the service of the Enemy and becoming his chief captain and servant. He repents in fear when the First Enemy is utterly defeated, but in the end does not do as was commanded, return to the judgement of the gods. He lingers in Middle-earth. Very slowly, beginning with fair motives: the reorganising and rehabilitation of the ruin of Middle-earth, ‘neglected by the gods’, he becomes a reincarnation of Evil, and thing lusting for Complete Power – and so consumed ever more fiercely with hate (especially of gods and Elves).”
If that wasn’t enough the name Mordor is literally translated as Black Land.
An orc named Adar and his followers did not dig a tunnel into a volcano and then release a dam of water to create an eruption of Mount Doom as The Rings of Power falsely depicts. Instead the volcano and its eruptions “were a relic of the devastating works of Melkor in the long First Age.” The land was already the Black Land due to the volcano’s eruptions.
And Sauron chose the location as his base of operations because of the volcano and the fire that welled there.
What do you make of Patrick McKay’s explanation as to why they decided to depict Adar and the orcs creating an eruption of Mount Doom and thus creating Mordor in the Second Age?