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Rings Of Power Star Hints At The Harfoots' Darker Past - Exclusive

"The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" is introducing audiences to a lot of new areas of Middle-earth. Some of these, like Númenor and Lindon, are lifted straight from Tolkien's source material. Then there are areas like Rhovanion. While the region exists in the author's writings, using it as a home for the Harfoots is something invented for the show. Sure, Tolkien briefly mentions the proto-Hobbit race in the prologue to "The Fellowship of the Ring," but their history this early on, during the Second Age when the show is set, is completely unknown.

Showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay have used this gap in knowledge to flex their adaptive liberties and create a Harfoot culture out in the wild lands on the eastern edges of the Middle-earth map. Unlike the future Hobbits of the Shire, the Harfoots are nomads and wanderers, hiding from the world and surviving through secrecy and stealth (traits that their future descendants will still possess).

We had a chance to interview Harfoot actresses Megan Richards, Markella Kavenagh, and Sara Zwangobani, who play Poppy Proudfellow, Nori Brandyfoot, and Marigold Brandyfoot, respectively. We plied them with questions about Harfoot eating habits and how magic works in this new iteration of Middle-earth. Early on in the conversation, though, we asked Zwangobani what kind of dangers the Harfoots will face during the Second Age. Her answer went much further than the current dangers presented by human hunters, the wolves that follow them, and being "de-caravaned" — it also hinted at a much darker threat that the Harfoots escaped from in the past.

The Harfoots have survived a great war

When we asked what dangers will threaten the Harfoots in "The Rings of Power," Sara Zwangobani replied, "I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that they are definitely world-wary. In response to a great war that came before, they have retreated from the world, and they keep themselves hidden."

The idea of world-wary Halflings watching their backs is nothing new for fans of Middle-earth. What's interesting here, though, is the mention of "a great war that came before" and the way that it influenced the Halflings' collective decision to withdraw from their surroundings.

Now, to be clear, Zwangobani didn't say what role the Harfoots played in that war. Perhaps they were spectators from a distance. Maybe their ancestral homes were ravaged, and they adopted a wandering lifestyle to avoid becoming collateral damage again. Heck, maybe they were directly involved in the action and were so scarred by the experience that they entirely withdrew from the world in response. Whatever the reason, we're hoping more details come out about the part the Little People played in this unpleasant past — and based on the books and records kept by Sadoc Burrows, chances are we'll get some kind of idea as we go along.

What is the great war that the Harfoots endured?

The other curious question is what "great war" Sara Zwagobani could be referencing. It could be an event made up for the show, but if they're pulling from Tolkien's actual text for this one, chances are we're talking about the War of Wrath. This cataclysmic event sank a continent and marked the downfall of the original Dark Lord, Morgoth.

That catastrophe happens at the end of the First Age, not too long before the time of "The Rings of Power," relatively speaking (time is counted in millennia in Middle-earth). Lots of people were involved in the war, so it's not impossible to think Harfoots were actively involved, too. Hobbits do fight in a battle with the Witch-king later on in the Third Age. Even so, the idea still seems a bit far-fetched, considering their conflict-avoidant approach to life. Either way, only time will tell.

"The Rings of Power" premiered on September 2. New episodes drop weekly on Fridays at 12 a.m. ET.