J.R.R. Tolkein

Multiple media outputs are reporting on the news that apparently Amazon Studios, Warner Brothers and the Tolkien Estate have begun negotiations to develop a television series based on the epic fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Most claim that they are adapting The Lord of the Rings book trilogy themselves, though that would be an odd choice, as it has barely been 14 years since the last film of Peter Jackson’s trilogy. Some fans have begun to hypothesize that The Silmarillion could be the property in development. The events in this book take place thousands of years before the others, in the First Age and Second Age of Middle-Earth. The Silmarillion started as a collection of stories written as a foundation for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and posthumously edited and published by his son Christopher Tolkien. 

There are literally dozens of stories in The Silmarillion that could be adapted into a multi-season series. There are also tons of stories based around the time of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in the appendices at the back of The Return of the King. The Tolkien Estate currently has not sold the rights to adapt The Silmarillion, but there could be substantial material there should they decide to do so. The universe of LOTR is so well established and has so many backstories, though, that it wouldn’t be hard to mine the original books themselves for material for a new series.

Amazon Studios CEO Jeff Bezos has gone on record stating that he wants to develop a fantasy television series to rival Game of Thrones on HBO. Though there are many great fantasy novel series that have been published since Tolkien, even scholar Tom Shippey has said, “I do not think any modern writer of epic fantasy has managed to escape the mark of Tolkien, no matter how hard many of them have tried.”

The addition of the Tolkien Estate in negotiations to the story is certainly an interesting development, as they only recently settled a legal dispute with Warner Brothers over the use of Tolkien characters in video games and the Jackson films. As well, Christopher Tolkien has gone on public record before on his personal disappointment for the Jackson films, saying “they eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25.” Perhaps a television series would allow for more world-building and exploration of the lore of Middle-Earth as in the books, but the Tolkien Estate is obviously going to be very sensitive to the proposed writing and storytelling any new series would involve.

All of these are very early developments, and any of it could change at any time. Krypton Radio will stay on top of it for you. Watch this space.

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