Orodruin’s major eruption just cast the Southlands into permanent darkness.
In this week’s shocking episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, viewers were given a front-row seat to one of the most important events in Middle-earth history. It’s one of the most significant natural disasters in all three Ages, and changed the entire ecosystem of every region in Middle-earth.
The Rings of Power has presented us with a major detail about this event, though, in that it wasn’t a naturally occurring disaster at all. The dormant volcano was a very specific and integral part of Sauron’s plan after Morgoth’s defeat, and its eruption was deliberately caused.
Orodruin and the Evil Forces of Middle-earth
According to J. R. R. Tolkien, the volcanic mountain of Orodruin has stood as a lone mountain peak since it was created in the First Age by Melkor, the first and most evil Valar who would later be given the name Morgoth. While most of the beings in Middle-earth were content forging weapons, armor and mystical artifacts by building fires in their own forges, the Dark Lord preferred to use the fire from the molten rock deep in the earth. This is why, after Morgoth’s defeat, Sauron is determined to make a home in the Southlands, with Orodruin standing in the middle of a vast land protected on three sides by immense mountain ranges.
Adar’s Plan Started in the First Age
As we saw in the second episode, Adar (Joseph Mawle) has been terrorizing the Southlands with his army of orcs for a long time, killing the humans living there or kidnapping them to put them to work digging their trenches and tunnels. The latest episode shows that all those tunnels are leading into the magma chamber in Orodruin. Once the tunnels are prepared, though, there is one integral item he needs to enact the final phase. The Tower of Ostirith has been standing since the First Age, and in The Rings of Power, the tower has been occupied by the elves policing the Southlanders ever since the fall of Morgoth. It becomes apparent, though, that this tower was originally built by the servants of Morgoth and, while it serves the obvious purpose of damming the lake above the valley, it was built with a much more sinister purpose.
The Shard of the Morgul Blade
The hilt shard of the Morgul blade that Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) found under Waldreg’s (Geoff Morrell) floorboards has a much darker purpose than being a magic weapon powered by blood. Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) begins smashing it with the hammer in an effort to destroy it but finds that it’s magically indestructible. When the orcs finally regroup and return to the village, the battle culminates with Adar’s orcs killing hostages one by one until they give him the shard.
Once the Númenorians arrive, all hell breaks loose, and it seems that Adar is going to get away with the shard. While Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) believe they recovered the hilt shard and stopped Adar’s plan, Adar has secretly swapped the hilt for a hatchet and sent Waldreg to the Tower of Ostirith. After using his blood to activate the Morgul blade, Waldreg inserts the sword into a slit in the stone beneath the carved visage of Sauron. This begins the final stage of the plan that was staged by Morgoth’s servants in the First Age.
Covering All the Lands in Darkness
Once the Morgul key is turned, the dam holding the water back begins folding in on itself, causing a flood to start rushing down through the valley. Because of all the tunnels the Uruk prepared, the water travels underground, channeled directly into the heart of Orodruin.
The impact of the cool water on the chamber of magma immediately causes the volcano to erupt. The pyroclastic flow that emanates from this eruption sends rock fragments, clouds of ash, and hot gasses flying through the atmosphere and spreading over the land. The amount of debris this eruption sent into the air was exactly what Adar had been working towards this entire time, hoping that the sky will forever be darkened, and his children can live on the land without fear of being burned by the sun ever again.
Adar Believes the Uruk Have a Divine Right to a Homeland
Adar was tortured and twisted after being captured as an elf by Morgoth and made into a new and ruined form of life called the Moriondor, the first orcs — or “Uruk,” as Adar calls them. After being twisted into this new, horrific life form, the Uruk begin to burn in the light of the sun. Adar believes wholeheartedly that, despite those who disagree with him, this plan to build a homeland for his people is a good one. All the beings in Middle-earth consider the Uruk’s life worthless and deserving of death.
After Adar is captured, he’s interrogated by Galadriel and reveals this belief by invoking Eru Ilúvatar, the creator of all things in the Tolkien universe, stating how the Uruk were created by “the Master of the Secret Fire” and that they were just as deserving of life and home as the rest of Ilúvitar’s creations. He still believes that, even though Middle-earth banded together to stop Morgoth from achieving this, the Southlands will be theirs.
The Fate of the Southlanders
Many of the Southlanders, when faced with the option of fighting or joining the enemy, opt to surrender and do Adar’s bidding. This implies that there are still people among them that would complacently allow evil to take over the world, even going as far as to help them with the hope that they won’t be killed if they do.
This selfish desire to survive no matter what happens to anyone else dooms them all, though. Waldreg is responsible for using the Morgul blade that destroys the dam, destroying his own way of life in the process. Adar’s promise to not kill him if he joined their side didn’t ensure his survival at all but made it far less likely that he would survive in the future. After Halbrand returns with the Númenorians and helps save the Southlanders, he accepts his role as their lost King returned just moments before the volcano erupts and destroys his homeland. With how reluctant he was to return and take his place as king before, there’s not much indicating that he will be able to become the leader that his people need him to be.