The Rings of Power showrunners discuss the birth of an iconic Lord of the Rings location

Warning: The following contains spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power episode 7! Turn back now if you have not seen the latest installment in Amazon's epic series.

The final moments of The Rings of Power's new episode confirm the inevitable: that The Southlands has become Mordor, the cursed location that will one day act as a base for Sauron. Mordor's origins were never previously revealed in detail by J.R.R. Tolkien, the show's writers instead telling their own version of events.

Speaking to an audience including Total Film following a cinema screening of the seventh episode, The Rings of Power showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay revealed that telling the story of the creation of Mordor was almost inevitable when focussing on characters in the Second Age of Middle-earth. 

"From the very beginning in the writers' room, we had a board that had every single one of our characters' stories – Galadriel, Elrond, Elendil – and each of them had an arch going across the board," Payne says. "Running down all of them, there was one event that sort of happened in every single story, and it was basically just a drawing of a volcano. 

"One of the joys of being able to go back so far in time, from a time people know so well in Middle-earth, is to see Middle-earth [when it was] very different. We said, 'Mordor is this iconic place, what if we could actually take something that's like beautiful Switzerland, a gorgeous Alpine territory, and watch it evolve into the horrible hellhole that we know so well?' And this storyline presented itself. One of our writers, her Dad is a geologist. And so we were like, 'Could you actually like make a volcano explode? Is it possible?' And they said, 'Yeah, if you got enough steam pressure, a lot of water all at once, you can actually cause the thing to burst.' So we said, 'Alright, that's the birth of Mordor.'"

The image of an idyllic countryside being destroyed by fire is one that certainly feels Tolkien-esque; the writer was staunchly against the destruction of the countryside. That ethos became a prominent plot point in The Two Towers when the Ents rise up against the barbarians of Isengard after the trees are destroyed in order to service the evil Saruman. It's fitting, then, that Mordor's creation comes at the cost of The Southlands.

The showrunners also hinted that, although The Rings of Power episode 7 tied up multiple loose storylines: "There's at least one strand, if not a couple more, that are still lingering." Get ready for a big finale. For some speculation on what's to come, here are our pieces on the true identities of both The Stranger and Sauron.

Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.