If you’ve been keeping up with Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series, you might have thought nothing of the title sequence. It may look mundane, perhaps even completely irrelevant to the uninitiated, but there’s a lot more to this sandy mashup than meets the eye.
The studio responsible for the intro, Plains of Yonder (opens in new tab), spoke to me about the hidden meanings behind the concept, and even hinted at some easter eggs the eagle eyed among us should be looking out for.
The Plains of Yonder team said that, when the show first aired, many of the initial comments were in the vein of “Really? They were given how much money and all we got was sand?” Of course, die-hard fans will be aware that the concept is a nod to J.R.R. Tolkien’s world building efforts—a reference to the Middle Earth creation story in which angelic beings called the Ainur called the universe of Eä into existence through the power of song.
“Tolkien talks about the cosmos, and how music is the organising principle around all of creation,” explains Anthony Vitagliano, Plains of Yonder’s Creative Director for the project.
“There’s this amazing cast of angelic beings that he wrote about, that sung the universe into existence. And so we were like, ‘Well, that is kind of an interesting place to start,’ because this is the introduction to Middle Earth, and what the world is.
“That became the insight, and then from that we were thinking ‘How do you represent that visually?’ Because that’s a fantasy idea. People try to draw it, people try to write about it, you can imagine it in your head, and everyone has their own view of what that could be. So how do you capture that in a bottle, and put it on screen?”
That’s when the team stumbled across a scientific concept known as Cymatics (opens in new tab)—a marvel of sound discovered by Hans Jenny, and popularised by Ernst Chladni, that sees sand forming into organic, geometric patterns when resonated at certain frequencies.
Their reasoning for settling on this as a concept? “Because it literally is the only real world phenomenon that connects sound and vibration to Earth,” Anthony says.
It’s a fascinating phenomenon, and using it as a basis for the intro helps to blur the lines between Tolkien’s world and our own, merging the revelations of real-world science with the nostalgic magic of Middle Earth, something the team was bent on achieving.
It was great to hear my suspicions weren’t unfounded, but I had to ask if there were any other hidden meanings people might have missed in the title sequence.
“I don’t think we should give anything away,” Anthony said after some coy chortling, “There’s some hidden meanings within the trees that nobody has seen yet.”
Later, Director Katrina Crawford followed up on Anthony’s comments. “We won’t completely divulge, but if you watch the part where you’re going from the trees, and going forward, you’ll get a little bit of it.”
Some easter eggs in the sequence have already been found by fans, such as the floating island of Númenor, but as Katrina notes, “Everything has different layers of meaning. It could be a simple colour thing that we’ve used at a certain point, that gives you a certain feeling. But there’s larger themes, and then there’s specific meanings to icons. So there are a lot of different levels. And then there’s kind of very general things like sacred geometry.”
As for the easter egg no one has spotted yet, she says “You won’t get that until the last episode, necessarily.”