Lord of the Rings fans were able to take their latest trip to Middle-earth last year with the release of Prime Video’s prequel series Rings of Power. Its aim, partly, was to bring a version of Tolkien’s world to life that had a different visual style and tone than Peter Jackson’s two trilogies. It also took a looser approach to Tolkien’s lore, changing key dates and characters.
Naturally then, while plenty enjoyed the series, it proved to be controversial among Lord of the Rings devotees. Want some proof? It’s been a year since the series first debuted (and there’s no immediate sign of Rings of Power season 2), but even now the series is still provoking disagreements, with the latest being over the redesign of the wolves.
Posting to Reddit, user crustboi93 (who has clearly seen the Lord of the Rings movies in order more than a few times) started the discussion. “I’m confused as to why the production team decided to use this design for wolves. Not wargs. Not dire wolves. Just standard wolves,” they said.
Need a reminder of the wolves in question? Here you go…
The post continues: “It’s mentally jarring to see them because they look like Entelodonts. Their feet are even hooflike. Why not just make them actually wolf-like? Honestly this design would have been way better for the warg.”
Now, these ‘wolves’ are seen across the season of Rings of Power, tracking Nori and the Harfoot Hobbits. This eventually leads to a confrontation where Nori gets lost in a forest and is attacked by them before being saved by The Stranger (who is now effectively confirmed to be Gandalf). And, as the poster states, these are just typical wolves as far as we know… though at one point we did believe them to be werewolves.
Naturally, others were quick to jump in with explanations for the unusual appearance. “The only speculation I can offer is these are meant to be descended from the evil wolves that Morgoth and Sauron commanded during the First Age,” commented one user, giving a plausible theory.
Opinions on the design followed too, ranging from “It’s a fun unique design,” to “they look like evil capybaras.” Our own view is that the wolves, while definitely distinct, are very confusingly designed, and it seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of Tolkien’s lore.
In Tolkien’s perception of Middle-earth, wolves, wargs, and werewolves are each distinct. Wargs are intelligent and evil and are employed under the command of Sauron in his dark armies, alongside werewolves. These are what we see attack the Lord of the Rings characters during the journey between Edoras and Helm’s Deep. They’re seen in Rings of Power too, and look great (seen below).
Wolves, meanwhile, were natural creatures of Middle-earth that could be found roaming the landscape. They aren’t villainous, twisted creatures, which is what they appear to be in Rings of Power, exemplified by the fact that they look nothing like wolves as we know them.
That isn’t to say that the instinct to change things is bad, or misplaced: we loved seeing the different takes on orcs, elves, and dwarves in the series. But, here, Rings of Power only added more confusion to an already confusing topic.
When Rings of Power season 2 arrives, it could address some of these concerns by expanding on its own lore. Because the Rings of Power cast was so expansive, and because there were so many mysteries and plotlines, there was little room left for worldbuilding and explanations for what appear to be changes to the lore. Now that the characters and plot are established, however, the show might be able to better expand on its vision for Middle-earth, and give more depth to its decisions.
If Rings of Power can find a groove, it could join the ranks of the best fantasy series of the modern era. For now, though, it remains frustrating: it has endless potential and plenty of highlights, but needs more time to figure itself out.
For more on Middle-earth, check out our guide to Lord of the Rings cast, and learn about the new Lord of the Rings movie with our explainer on the War of the Rohirrim release date. Or, see why we think the extended editions aren’t actually long enough.