While The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power initially copped a lot of flak for a viral promotional video that was mistakenly shared as the show’s opening credits, fans were able to see the real deal during Episode 2 — and boy, oh boy, was it beautiful.
Set to an original song by the award-winning composer Howard Shore — who did the music for both the LOTR and Hobbit trilogies — and Bear McCreary, the opening credits feature golden sand being shaped into various symbols.
At one point, we even see black sand ‘invade’ the golden patterns, perhaps representing the battles between good and evil that take place in J.R.R Tolkien’s works.
On a surface level, the opening credits are visually stunning and perfectly set the tone for the battles we have yet to see in Middle-earth and The Rings of Power. But there’s a deeper meaning behind it which references several details in Middle-earth lore.
As pointed out by u/Late_Stage_PhD on Reddit, the title sequence is an abstract visual representation that shows the creation of Middle-earth, as well as the world it exists in. This is done through the phenomenon of cymatics — which is the study of the visible effects of sound and vibrations.
In the opening, sound resonance is used to create patterns of fine particles — which, in this case, is the gold and black sand.
So, what does this have to do with The Lord of the Rings? Well, the creation lore for Middle-earth is described in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, which was one of the texts used as inspiration for The Rings of Power.
The opening chapter of The Silmarillion is called “Ainulindalë”, which has been referred to as “The Music of the Ainur” in other editions of the book.
In it, Tolkien writes about how Arda (the world in which Middle-earth exists) was created by a powerful deity called Eru Ilúvatar, who was able to create things from nothingness.
One of the first things Eru Ilúvatar created is the Ainur, who were divine spirits. One of them was called Melkor, also known as Morgoth, who was the first Dark Lord. Both him and his lieutenant Sauron are referred to in The Rings of Power.
Eru proposed music harmonies to the Ainur and together they created the Music of the Ainur. Tolkien’s universe is then born from their music, resulting in the creation of Ada — the world where the children of Ilúvatar (men and elves) are to live.
Melkor — aka Morgoth — strays away from the other Ainur, desiring more power so that he could be a creator like Eru. Instead, he sowed discord and darkness into the music, and later on, waged war on Middle-earth.
Taking another look at the opening sequence, the golden sand granules, sound vibrations and symbols reflect the Ainur singing Tolkien’s word into existence through their harmonies.
Then, when the music gets darker, black sand corrupts the golden patterns, referencing Morgoth singing evil into Ada and spreading chaos.
If we look at the patterns that are being shaped, there are a bunch of LOTR symbols too. We see trees that could be a symbolic connection to Gondor, as well as the eye of Sauron.
While it may look simple at first glance, the opening sequence for The Rings of Power is both visually stunning and incredibly clever at telling the origins of Tolkien’s world. Hats off to the team that created it, as well as u/Late_Stage_PhD for pointing it out.