If you’ve been watching fantasy series Rings of Power, you’ve no doubt been struck by the beautiful opening credits. Patterns emerge in sand to gorgeous effect in the Lord of the Rings TV series, very much in line with the magic of Middle-earth. Someone’s broken down the symbolism in the sequence, and the results are startling.
Alexander King composed a Twitter thread on the shapes used in Rings of Power’s opening. He found out they’re Chladni figures, shapes that naturally occur in certain matter when you create particular vibrations or movements. In the drama series, you can see some that are clearly made look a certain way, but others give off the sense they haven’t been tampered with.
Turns out, that are many that are exact Chladni outlines, made by using a violin bow or other form of instrument on the edge of the surface the sand lies on. An example is given in the thread, where grains of sand slide into predictable lines as a box causes their platform to shake.
It’s mesmerising, and makes for great fodder if you’re looking for intriguing credits. More than just cool, it fits with Tolkien’s own ethos towards Middle-earth. In the lore, Eru Ilúvatar is the ultimate god who fills Arda with life. According to Tolkien’s Legendarium, he used the music of angel-like beings the Ainur to do so.
“Then the harpists, and the lutanists, the flautists and pipers, the organs and the countless choirs of the Ainur began to fashion the theme of Ilúvatar into great music,” reads an excerpt, “and a sound arose of mighty melodies changing and interchanging, mingling and dissolving amid the thunder of harmonies greater than the roar of the great seas, til the places of the dwelling of Ilúvatar and the regions of the Ainur were filled to overflowing with music.”
In a post on the opening credits, studio Plains of Yonder explained that this was all intentional. “The sequence conjures an ancient and invisible power, struggling to be seen. Symbols form, flow, push, and disappear as quickly as they came,” reads the site. “The unknowable realms of sound create fleeting visions of conflict and harmony that move in lockstep with Howard Shore’s opening title score.”
So if you’ve been watching Rings of Power thinking it feels deeply Tolkien in ways you couldn’t quite describe, now you know why! Check out the best fantasy movies for more incredible landscapes.