Episode 6 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power surprised us with the origin story of one of the most crucial realms in the entire history of JRR Tolkien’s writings. Of course, we are talking about Mordor, as the eruption of the volcano called Orodruin caused the entire landscape to change before our very eyes. This surprised everyone in the vicinity, as the Southlanders saw their home was about to get destroyed. So, does that mean that the Southlands are actually Mordor?
According to the maps of the Southlands and Mordor, they are one and the same. The Southlands was what Mordor used to be when it wasn’t the dark and desolate place that Mordor is during The Lord of the Rings. And the eruption of Orodruin was what eventually transformed the Southlands into Mordor.
In a way, The Rings of Power is not only a series that will serve as the origin story for the titular Rings of Power and the One Ring but has also served as the origin story for Mordor and Mount Doom. After all, Sauron’s rise to power after the fall of Morgoth needs to be told so that we would get a better understanding of how things became what they are in The Lord of the Rings.
Are The Southlands Mordor?
For as long as we’ve known, the one place that everyone has dreaded throughout the history of The Lord of the Rings is Mordor, which is the realm of the Orcs and the place where Sauron calls his own land. Unfortunately for Frodo, he needed to go to Mordor because this was where his ultimate destination, Mount Doom, lies. It is only through the fires of Mount Doom that the One Ring could be destroyed.
However, when The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power started, the word “Mordor” was never mentioned at all. That’s because it is yet to exist during the timeline of The Rings of Power, which is set in the Second Age and several centuries after Morgoth was defeated in the First Age. Of course, Sauron’s whereabouts and identity are still unknown, and that means that many of the things that we saw in The Lord of the Rings do not exist in The Rings of Power.
Galadriel’s quest was to find Sauron or, at the very least, go on a search for the Orcs throughout Middle-Earth so that they could find any clue in relation to where the dark lord could be. While she initially failed in that regard and was given the opportunity to go to the Undying Lands called Valinor, she was able to get to Númenor, where she learned a good deal about what Sauron had been planning.
That was when Sauron’s sigil, the very same one that was etched on her brother when he was killed, was not a sigil at all but as actually a map that signaled the Orcs scattered throughout Middle-Earth to go to the place that resembled the map. And Galadriel found out that the map was actually that of the Southlands, and that was why she wanted to muster an army of Númenoreans to go to the Southlands and save the Men there before the Orcs could overrun the entire realm.
Galadriel also found out through her research in Númenor’s Hall of Lore that Sauron’s plan was to create an entire realm for his Orcs in case Morgoth were to fall. In the past, the Orcs had a home in the form of Utumno, which was also called Udûn because it is a hellish place. However, since the fall of Morgoth, the Orcs struggled to find their own realm, one that could help keep them from the sunlight that they dread so much. And that was when Galadriel realized that Sauron was planning on transforming the Southlands into his own realm.
So, in short, the Southlands is what Mordor used to be before it became Mordor. Other than Galadriel’s own findings in relation to what Sauron was planning to do to the Southlands, we also have geographical accounts that would prove that the Southlands used to stand in the place that we called Mordor during the events of The Lord of the Rings.
This explains why Mordor was never mentioned by anyone at all during the events of The Rings of Power. That’s because the Southlands still stood as a realm of Men instead of Orcs. And it was through the events of episode 6 of The Rings of Power that the Southlands ultimately transformed into Mordor.
How Did The Southlands Become Mordor?
Galadriel, in her research, discovered that Sauron wanted to transform the Southlands into his own realm. However, back in the events that were happening in Middle-Earth, it was clear that the one leading the Orcs was not Sauron but was a Moriondor called Adar, who cared for the Orcs as a true father would.
While Númenor succeeded in defeating the Orc army and capturing Adar, we learned from the Uruk himself that he “killed” Sauron because he could not stand to see his Orcs suffering at the hands of the dark lord, who was experimenting with the Orcs in a way that tortured them. He wanted to give his Orcs that freedom that he thought they deserved because they are also races that belong in the world and have their own identities and names. That was the reason why Adar was searching for the sword hilt that Theo found in Waldreg’s barn.
Of course, during the final part of the episode, we learned that the sword hilt that Galadriel recovered from Adar was nothing but an axe and that the real one was with Waldreg, who activated a mechanism in the fallen tower using the same sword hilt, which served as a key. This allowed the waters under the Southlands to release and flow into the dormant volcano called Orodruin.
When the waters reacted with the dormant lava inside the volcano, a huge eruption was triggered. This cataclysmic was so strong that it shook the very foundations of the Southlands and caused the land to transform before the very eyes of everyone who witnessed it. Balls of flame were crashing down onto the land all the way from the volcano, while a sea of ash, smoke, and flame engulfed everything, all while Galadriel stood there feeling powerless at what she was witnessing.
This is the very event that caused the entire Southlands to transform into a dark and desolate place. The ash and smoke from the volcano covered the sky and kept the sunlight away. Meanwhile, nothing could ever grow on the land that had already been touched by lava and could no longer see sunlight. This is the very essence of what Mordor is, as the eruption of Orodruin was the event that triggered the transformation of the Southlands into the realm of the Orcs.
So, in a way, the events of The Rings of Power do not only tell the story behind the creation of the Rings of Power and the One Ring. It also tells the story behind the creation of Mordor and the rise of Sauron to power. And whoever and wherever Sauron may be, he must be delighted at the fact that phase one of his master scheme was now completed.