Warning: Contains SPOILERS for The Rings of Power season 1The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1 featured several references to the power of the so-called “Unseen realm.” The term mainly comes up when referencing the Rings of Power, as Celebrimbor says that they harness the power of the Unseen realm. This same realm has been featured before in The Lord of the Rings when Frodo puts the One Ring on. When he has the ring on, he sees a realm of magic through which both good and evil things can influence the world of Middle-earth, providing a further glimpse into The Rings of Power‘s mysterious Unseen realm.
The Unseen realm is inhabited by the presence of several beings in Tolkien’s lore, most notably the 15 Valar (the demigods of Middle-earth). In addition to them, there are several Maiar who also possess the ability to enter the Unseen—though they are much less powerful than the Valar. The Stranger, who is an Istari (or Istar, in the Rings of Power) are of the Maiar. Despite having lost his memory, the Stranger possesses the ability to draw power from the Unseen realm, and may even learn how to enter it in Rings of Power season 2. However, ahead of this moment, much about the Unseen realm remains mysterious. Here is The Rings of Power‘s Unseen realm explained.
What The “Unseen Realm” Means In The Rings Of Power
The first common misconception about the Unseen is that it is not necessarily a physical place that one can travel to—rather, it is more of an alternative dimension that is parallel to the real Middle-earth. It is akin to a “spirit realm” where angelic beings, demonic beings, and ghosts dwell. When hobbits—who aren’t fully corrupted by the One Ring—such as Frodo and Bilbo put it on, they shift into this Unseen realm and are no longer visible in the Seen realm. Despite this, they are still “present” in Middle-earth and can influence and be influenced by things still in the Seen realm. For example, Frodo gets his finger bitten off by Gollum at the end of Return of the King despite having the Ring on and being in the Unseen.
Rings of Power has yet to show anyone actually in the Unseen realm, but the realm’s power has clearly been shown through the Mystics who chase the Stranger. Through the use of magic from the Unseen, the Mystics are able to summon fire to burn the Harfoots’ camp. They are also able to change their appearance and disguise themselves as others (though their eyes give them away). It is also quite possible that when the Mystics became ghosts they did not die, but merely entered the Unseen realm as wraiths of their former selves. If true, it is entirely possible that they can still return in Rings of Power season 2.
The Unseen Realm Is In Lord Of The Rings Too
Despite not being mentioned by name as heavily, the Unseen realm is also very present in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy. Most notably, the Unseen realm can be “seen” whenever someone wears the One Ring. While Frodo is able to perceive other beings in the Seen, he becomes invisible to them. However, when Sauron wears the One Ring he is able to perceive and influence anyone who is also wearing one of the Rings of Power. Similarly, Galadriel—despite differences in her character between the show and movies—is able to summon a certain amount of power from the Unseen during her speech to Frodo in the Fellowship of the Ring using her own Ring of Power.
Aside from Sauron and Ring-bearers, there are other beings in Lord of the Rings who have ties to the Unseen realm. As a Maiar, Gandalf draws his power from the Unseen. This can be seen when he yells at Bilbo at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. He appears to grow larger, drawing shadows about him, and his words become loud and commanding. Gandalf also uses the power of the Unseen realm throughout the series when battling beings such as the Balrog and the Witch-king of Angmar. Finally, Gandalf, much like the Stranger in The Rings of Power, uses a staff to channel power from the Unseen into the Seen world.
Like the Valar and Maiar, the Ringwraiths are also beings that straddle the border between both the seen and unseen worlds. While once human, the corruption caused by their Rings of Power drew them into the Unseen. By the time of the Lord of the Rings, the majority of their souls lie within the Unseen, while their black, shadowy forms in the Seen world are merely an echo of their former human selves. Furthermore, the Morgul blade the Witch-king carried was so potent because a shard from the knife had the power to draw someone into the Unseen realm.
The Unseen Realm Will Play A Big Role In Rings Of Power Season 2
There are several reasons why the Unseen realm will be much more heavily featured in Rings of Power season 2. The Stranger is heading to Rhûn, an area Tolkien barely explored. According to the Mystics, the Stranger will learn more about his power (supposedly his ability to tap into the Unseen) in these new lands of Rhûn to the East. It’s possible that the star constellation—which the Mystics call the Hermit’s Hat—could lead to a gateway to the Unseen realm.
In addition to the Stranger’s quest, the newly-forged Elven Rings of Power are also tapping into the power of the Unseen realm—a fact Celebrimbor makes clear. Forged with a small portion of Mithril—which contained trace amounts of the light of the Silmarils—the rings now possess a magical power unlike any other currently in Middle-earth. It’s important to note that without Halbrand’s help in forging the Rings of Power, the Elves wouldn’t have gotten far in harnessing the power of the Unseen. Halbrand, who is Sauron in disguise, is a Maiar—who by nature have powerful ties to the Unseen realm.
Finally, Rings of Power season 2 will explore the Unseen realm through the Ringwraiths, who will soon present themselves in the series. Once the other Rings of Power have been forged, Sauron—possibly under the guise of Halbrand—will present nine rings to several kings of men. Whether those men have been seen in the show yet is unclear. In addition to revealing the Witch-king of Angmar, Rings of Power season 2 will also likely reveal Khamûl, the king of Rhûn. This Wraith is known as Sauron’s second-in-command among the Nazgûl, and may already have ties to the Unseen realm by hailing from the land of Rhûn. Since the Stranger is heading to Khamûl’s land to learn more about the Unseen realm, the Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power season 2 is sure to delve further into the puzzling dimension of Tolkien’s lore.
All episodes of The Rings of Power season 1 are available on Amazon Prime
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