Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series has reportedly obtained the rights to J.R.R. Tolkiens’s The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, or at least parts of them. This information comes from a “spy report” published on TheOneRing.net. According to the report, “for the 1st time EVER: elements & passages from ‘The Silmarillion’ and ‘Unfinished Tales’ are licensed by Amazon Studios for this adaptation [we broadly speculate those are sections of the book relative to Númenor and Rings of Power including full rights to stories licensed in the Appendices of “The Lord of the Rings,” which already mention Númenor and much more. Actors had posted instagram pics from Silm over the last 18 months.].” These elements would allow for Amazon’s show to cover major moments from Middle-earth’s history, including the forging of the Rings of Power and the creation of the orcs.
The significance of this licensing deal may not be immediately apparent to some fans, or else confusing to others in regards to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film trilogies. Tolkien originally licensed those four novels in the 1960s, and that deal would eventually yield the two trilogies by Jackson. At the time, he was still working on The Silmarillion and several other stories set in Middle-earth. These tales would be published posthumously by Tolkien’s son, Christopher Tolkien, with the incomplete stories making up the volume Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth.
It is said that Tolkien’s estate considers The Silmarillion to be the author’s greatest work and holds it in special regard. Per Jackson himself, the estate did not love the filmed versions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and showed no interest in licensing Tolkien’s remaining Middle-earth stories.
“I don’t think the Tolkien estate liked those films,” Jackson said during an appearance at San Diego Comic-Con in 2012 (via Tolkien Library). “I don’t think The Silmarillion will go anywhere for quite a long time.”
Jackson being restricted to using material found in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is most evident in The Hobbit trilogy. Portions of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales provide background explaining what led to the Battle of the Five Armies, as well as what happened to Gandalf when he left Bilbo and the dwarf party on their own and disappeared from The Hobbit‘s narrative in the book, much of which had to be omitted from the films. This is also the season why Warner Bros. didn’t use The Silmarillion to make more Middle-earth movies, despite it being the obvious move after making The Hobbit.
But it seems the estate entrusted Tolkien’s remaining works, at least in part, to Amazon to make this new series. It should be no surprise that the report also states that Tolkien’s estate is much more directly involved in the Amazon series than in any prior adaptation of the material. According to the report, three experts on Tolkien and Middle-earth lore were on set during the production, and the estate is “very happy with how things are progressing.”
There has reportedly been some push and pull with Warner Bros. regarding certain shared elements of the Middle-earth mythology. One example is that the Amazon show has to use “Ice Trolls” because Warner Bros. has the rights to “Cave Trolls.” The report does note that Amazon has merchandising rights for material related to its series.
What do you think of Amazon getting rights to The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales? Let us know in the comments.