One of the big draws of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is the intriguing twist it promises to bring to the traditional protagonist of the Lord of the Rings universe. Rather than putting players in control of a wide-eyed, naïve Hobbit like Frodo or a sword-wielding hero like Aragorn, this open-world action-RPG will feature a Ranger named Talion who’s been saved from the spectre of death by a vengeful Wraith—and now developer Monolith Productions has revealed the identity of Talion’s not-so-benevolent “other half.” If you’d prefer to remain in the dark, this is one last reminder that spoilers follow.
While the name might be alien to Lord of the Rings fans who only watched Elijah Wood and Sean Astin traipse through the Shire in the movies, Celebrimbor is a vitally important figure in the annals of Middle-earth. He’s the greatest Elven smith of the Second Age, and he forged the Rings of Power for the villainous Sauron—an act whose reverberations we ultimately see play out in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
“He was pretty much the leading guess that people had, but he’s such a good fit with our story—for, of course, all the reasons people were assuming: the connection to the Rings of Power and working directly with Sauron,” says director of design Michael De Plater. “He’s a good window not only to himself as a character, but he also allows us to explore Sauron’s motivations and what would’ve made him and the Elves work together. And, of course, there’s that parallel relationship of having made the Rings of Power—the ones the Nazgûl are carrying—and providing the power to Talion to defy death and extend his life, which, of course, has some very strong analogues with the Nazgûl. So, he sheds a very strong light on the story and its trajectory.”
De Plater explains that Celebrimbor’s identity is revealed “relatively early on” in Shadow of Mordor, which is part of the reason Monolith Productions decided that it was beneficial to make it known before the game’s release.
“It’s been so enjoyable watching the speculation online,” De Plater says. “The big thing we’ve had is debating how much revealing this is a spoiler versus it being a good setup for what then actually happens within the game. Overall, knowing who he is actually doesn’t take away from the twists and turns that we’ll have in our story.”
Elves in Middle-earth—Orlando Bloom preening about as Legolas notwithstanding—tend to be enigmatic types, which also plays into how well Celebrimbor fits as the Wraith, De Plater explains.
“As an Elf, he’s not someone who’s a simple ‘good guy,'” he says. “He’s subject to sins of pride and temptation, and that’s why we ultimately came down on the side of revealing him, because having that background and knowing how fundamental he is to Lord of the Rings actually does provide some good context to make our story deeper—and makes where we take it next even more of a revelation.”