Just about everyone has seen the meme about how “one does not simply walk into Mordor” made popular by The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re likely aware that Monolith Productions is about to prove that old adage quite wrong.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor releases today and will help bridge the gap in the LOTR timeline between The Hobbit and the original trilogy. As such, you’ll be running into a notable character or two that you’ll recognize from the films. But it could be said that the biggest figure that this game borrows from the world of Tolkien is the setting itself.
Mordor is often talked about but rarely seen in the LOTR films, giving the place a special aura or mystique in the minds of many LOTR fans. Hell, thanks to that Internet meme, you’re probably aware of how special Mordor is supposed to be, even if Tolkien isn’t your thing.
Shadow of Mordor has already received some great reviews (our review is incoming) around the Internet, so it’s likely that plenty of people will be playing this game who don’t know the Shire from the Lonely Mountain. To commemorate the release of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, we thought it’d be fun to put together a quick primer for some of those poor, uninitiated souls. And unless you sleep on Frodo-themed bed sheets, even long-time fans of Middle-earth will likely find something here worth brushing up on. Here’s our concise timeline of the events that led up to Middle-earth as you will see it in Shadow of Mordor:
If You See A Firey Eyeball, You’re Gonna Have a Bad Time
The plot to Shadow of Mordor has you playing as Talion, a ranger who was killed along with his family by the army of Sauron. Before you head off to get revenge, the first thing you need to realize is that Sauron isn’t exactly a baddie along the lines of a Bowser or Ganondorf. In a franchise called The Lord of the Rings, Sauron is… well… the Lord. The Dark Lord, to be exact. This is a dude that was once an “Ainur,” which for our purposes let’s just say is a spiritual being created even before the beginning of the world.
During the First Age, Sauron was originally a good being who focused on maintaining order and perfection in the realm. The first “Dark Lord,” named Morgoth, would use this trait to get Sauron to turn. Sauron became a part of Morgoth’s army and served with great devotion. But after Morgoth’s defeat, Sauron went into hiding, only to return 500 years later. Sauron set in motion his plans to take Morgoth’s place and began establishing his power by building the Dark Tower of Barad-dur. The tower’s location? A land called Mordor.
One Ring to Rule Them All
Sauron sought to extend his power by building large armies of orcs and trolls, and even held men under his sway. But there was one group that was a bit harder to control. In order to get the Elves on his side, Sauron took on the form of the “Lord of Gifts” and seemingly returned to his previously noble self. He helped the elves craft great Rings of Power and distributed these rings to the leaders of the elves, dwarves, and men throughout the world. What Sauron didn’t tell them is that he also crafted the One Ring at Mount Doom in Mordor.
The One Ring had so much of Sauron’s dark essence crafted into it that it had the ability to control all other rings… and therefore the leaders who wore them. The One Ring had one little side effect though that Sauron found unwelcome. He had put so much of his power into its crafting that he literally could not exist without it. In other words, destroy the ring, destroy Sauron.
This is the quest at the heart of the original movie trilogy. In order to destroy the ring, Frodo and company must “simply walk into Mordor” and return the ring to the place where it was forged, Mount Doom.
I’m of course glossing over quite a few details in an effort to keep this article at lesser length than the works of Tolkien, but here’s the rub:
In Shadow of Mordor, those Rings of Power that Sauron crafted with the help of the Elves will play a large role. I won’t spoil anything, but a key character that helped craft the rings is involved. Proceed with caution and know that Sauron… is always watching.
So Why Was It So Hard to Simply Walk Into Mordor? Because The Black Gate
Mordor was selected for Sauron’s re-emergence for several reasons, but one is that it is an area of Middle-earth that features a great deal of natural fortification. Vast mountains made the area nearly impossible to penetrate, except for one area to the northwest. It is here that Sauron built the Black Gate. The Black Gate was a massive structure made of nearly indestructible stone that kept outsiders out and kept those in Mordor locked in. It was guarded by thousands of archers and other members of Sauron’s army. Like the Tower of Barad-dur, it was built with some assistance from the One Ring.
The Defeat of Sauron (But Not Really)
It took the Last Alliance of Elves and Men to come together in the Second Age and finally penetrate the gate. This army fought Sauron’s army and WTF PWNED them. But Sauron still hid in his tower for seven years, because he was a big sissy. (Don’t tell him I said that.) Eventually, Sauron confronted the army in person and got what was coming to him.
The good guys destroyed his “body” by cutting the One Ring from his hand. Sauron’s spirit, however, remained strong enough to live on, but now greatly weakened without the One Ring. During this time, the Black Gate was placed under guard to prevent Sauron’s return. Sauron essentially went into hiding as a bodiless evil, now greatly weakened but still plotting his revenge.
The Abandonment of the Gate (Seriously, WHY Would You Abandon the Gate?!)
As the years drew on, the forces of good sometimes strayed in their duties to keep the Black Gate under lock and key. This protection was necessary because some of Sauron’s forces were still around, so the Black Gate was kept barricaded to keep Sauron and his army from returning. Things finally came to a breaking point when a Great Plague wiped out a great deal of people and fortifications on the wall had to be lowered. This abandonment finally allowed Sauron’s forces to re-enter Mordor, pushing the storyline on its way towards the original movie trilogy.
Shadow of Mordor begins after the abandonment of the gate, although it should be noted that the timeline in the game doesn’t quite match up with the books. You’ll be playing the game at a time when Sauron’s forces are once again strengthening and plotting their world domination… all while the spirit of Sauron watches over them, waiting for his chance to strike. In other words, your character will have no problem “walking into Mordor”…. but it’s what you’ll find once inside that might make you want to question that decision. Fun times, eh?
If you want to learn more about Mordor, you can also give J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, which chronicles the First and Second Ages of Middle-earth, a good read.