Rings Of Power Has Revealed A Brutal Truth About The Harfoot Way Of Life

The Harfoots may look like Hobbits, but their way of life is anything but second breakfasts and parties.

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There are a lot of funny and/or relatable parts of Middle-earth spread all across the Lord of the Rings universe, but the Hobbits easily sit at the number one spot on the list. This is by design--Tolkien specifically crafted the Hobbits to be a sort of fantasy everyman, based partly on himself and his own hobbies (smoking, holing up in his garage to write and work, loving fireworks) and partly on what he believed to be "universal morals," a direct quote from a 1967 interview called "The Prevalence of Hobbits" from London's The Sunday Times. Even now, decades later, the idea of Hobbits as the characters we can point to and say "they're just like me" persists--who hasn't made a second breakfast joke at some point?

But Hobbits are one of the youngest races in Middle-earth, and as such they're actively missing from the Second Age, where we land for Prime Video's Rings of Power TV show. Instead of Hobbits, we meet the Harfoots--and, at least in the first two episodes, the differences between the two were negligible at best. Sure, the aesthetics might be a little more nature-based, and they appeared to have a more direct fear of outsiders which prompted them to do all sorts of quirky, charming hiding and camouflaging, but for all intents and purposes in Rings of Power's premiere, the Harfoots were just Hobbits with the serial numbers filed off.

And then Episode 3, Adar, dropped a particularly bleak bombshell on us, with regard to Harfoot culture. This week, we learned that the Harfoots practice a, frankly, brutal version of survival of the fittest, and that part of their culture means anyone who "falls behind" in their great migrations is consigned to certain death. This, of course, is an issue because Largo's ankle has been badly injured, meaning the Brandyfoot family will no longer be able to keep up with the caravan as they pull their cart. Largo's plan to mitigate this is to claim a spot at the front of the line, which would in theory mean they get to control the pace of the migration, but Nori gets herself in trouble and inadvertently gets her family punished in the process, assigned a spot in the back where they'll almost certainly be unable to keep up.

At first, it genuinely seems like the threat of being "left behind" is a more existential one--getting separated from the group is scary! We already know that the Harfoots have a healthy fear of outsiders and change, so of course being outside of the caravan would be a harrowing thing. But we soon learn that it's more than that as their leader, Sadoc, leads the group in a pre-caravan ritual, remembering everyone who fell behind and, well, died. The call and response is to name the people who were left and answer with "we'll wait for you." Because, apparently, they couldn't wait for them in the past. Some of the deaths are natural disasters--mudslides, storms--but others are simply things like broken wheels.

While the Harfoots may seem like an idealized community, the message is abundantly clear: absolutely no one is going to stop to help, especially if it means risking themselves, and they'll gladly let one another die if it means keeping up the pace set by their leaders.

As far as commentary is concerned, it's not exactly subtle: The Harfoots, though they may look quaint and idealized fantasy everymen, are actually completely ruthless and mercurial in their will to survive, and they're willing to be totally complicit in the death of their friends if it means a greater chance for the group. Of course, this in itself is a prickly issue--but one that layers into some of the bigger themes that Lord of the Rings (greed, corruption, an all consuming belief in power above anything) picks apart.

In the original stories, the lessons that Hobbits had to learn were all about the scope and scale of their own impact, and their ability to make a difference in the face of insurmountable odds--even if those odds and those problems feel like they're a million miles away. In Rings of Power, their ancestors have to learn a similar but opposite lesson about the responsibility they have to one another, and the importance of their own, charmingly eccentric community. Every Harfoot for themselves is, clearly, not going to do anyone any good.

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power debuts new episodes each week on Prime Video.

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