It is now official. Amazon has closed a massive deal – allegedly paying an estimated $250 million – to purchase the global rights to create a TV series based on the novels written by J.R.R. Tolkien. The streaming service known for such acclaimed shows as The Man in the High Castle and Patriot has committed to multiple seasons and a possible spin-off, all set in Middle-earth.
“The Ring has awoken, it’s heard its master’s call”
“I amar prestar aen…
The world has changed.
Han mathon ne nen…
I feel it in the water.
Han mathon nen chae…
I feel it in the earth…
A han noston ned gwilith…
I smell it in the air.”
These words spoken by Lady Galadriel (at least in The Fellowship of the Ring movie; in the books it is Faramir who says it, only without the Elvish part) seem to perfectly describe what is about to go down with The Lord of The Rings franchise.
So far, little is known about the new series. Still, as one might learn from multiple leaks, interviews, and countless articles covering the topic, it will “explore new storylines preceding The Fellowship of The Ring”. Well, the movie at least. Everyone who read The Lord of the Rings books knows that the movies directed by Peter Jackson left out certain storylines. And let us be clear about one thing: it would have been a hell of a difficult job to recreate the success of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. The actors who starred there are now considered to be icons, thus they are almost impossible to replace. So let us assume that Amazon will not attempt this nearly impossible task and deliver their promises by creating something entirely new. When thinking about it, I cannot stop wondering what the best source material might be…
“Someone else always has to carry on the story”
Oh, I can hear you all shouting “Silmarillion, of course!”, “Well, Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth, duh!”, and “Hey! What about the twelve volumes of The History of Middle Earth?! That’s like over 5000 pages of source material!”. I hear you all. The beauty of this universe lies in the fact that it is not difficult to find a fascinating story to base a TV series on – the problem lies in selecting the right one to be translated onto the small screen. There are so many characters, intrigues, locations (Tolkien himself drew the maps of the world he created), creatures, and… Do I really need to count it all?
The possibilities are endless. I mean, who would not like to see Tom Bombadil, Morgoth, Ungoliant, and so many more? But what if the books are to serve merely as an inspiration for the new show? And what if… there were another medium hiding stories from Middle-Earth that the creators of the series could draw from? What if the screenwriters decide to intermingle the themes known from the books with the ones we know (or are going to learn about) from the video games inspired by Tolkien’s works?
Tolkien's Legendarium is the name of the collection of his lifelong work that has been continued by his son long after his death. The mythos was started in 1937 by The Hobbit. Due to the popularity of the novel, Tolkien was soon asked to write more – and this is how The Lord of the Rings was created and published in 1954. The last piece concerning Middle-earth that was published during Tolkien’s life is a collection of poems called The Adventures of Tom Bombadil – some of these poems were present in The Lord of the Rings.
After his father’s death in 1973, Christopher Tolkien inherited the control of all Tolkien’s unfinished works, some of which were published posthumously. These include The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, and Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth. There is also the twelve-volume The History of Middle-Earth comprising many drafts, sketches, notes, and backgrounds to the stories presented in the other books.
“The great storm is coming, but the tide has turned”
And it is time for yet another disclaimer: no, I am not saying that the video games based on the stories from Middle-Earth are just about right to provide the entire source material for the new TV series and force out all the stories from the books. What I am saying is: what if certain characters, elements, locations, or even entire events from the video games were to serve as an inspiration for the show? No, not the loot boxes. There is a whole separate feature on this right here.
Let us start with The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring released in 2003. This RTS is unrelated to the movie trilogy, nonetheless, it is licensed by Middle-Earth Enterprises – a company that owns worldwide exclusive rights to several elements of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. In the game, players can side with either the forces of light or darkness and fight in the War of the Ring. Even though the Good Campaign focuses on the adventures of The Fellowship of the Ring, the Evil Campaign revolves around the Witch-King, who lays the foundations for Sauron’s return. The game also introduces a new character – Saleme, who is a huntress and an assassin from Harad, serving the Dark Lord. A character from an RTS game does not make a series, not even a single episode; however, the land inhabited by Haradrims remains a mystery to The Lord of The Rings fans. A mystery to be uncovered, for sure…
Then, there is the 2004’s The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. The game tells the story of one Berethor, who travels to Rivendell in search of Boromir. After being attacked by the Nazgul, he is rescued by Idrial – an elf serving Lady Galadriel. During the game, players get to follow their adventures as they chase the Fellowship of the Ring and witness the aftermath of what has happened to the Ring-bearer and his companions. Allow me to say this: seeing the same locations with different characters would not be very interesting, nonetheless, the idea of discovering the results of the Fellowship’s actions and the aftermath of the war would be a sight to behold.
A similar approach can be seen in The Lord of The Rings: War in The North, where three entirely new characters pursue their own adventures taking place concurrently to the main story of The Lord of the Rings. Unlike the Fellowship of the Ring, Eradan, Andriel, and Farin (the main protagonists of the game) venture north to fight different battles of the same war against Sauron. The game develops the story of Rivendell (who would not like to see more of Rivendell?!) and focuses on the forces of Darkness stationed in the north of Middle-Earth. Personally, I think that is yet another interesting foundation for a story to be told.
Due to the popularity of the movie trilogy, there are many games that are based on the events presented therein. There are such titles as The Battle for Middle-earth (with a sequel), The Lord of the Rings Online, Aragorn’s Quest, Guardians of Middle-Earth, and many others that simply present the same events from a different perspective and using different gameplay mechanics. There are, however, two more games I would like to mention here.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Middle-earth: Shadow of War both tell the story of Talion, a Captain of Gondor. After being attacked by Sauron’s Orcs, Talion ends up merged with a wraith, who – before becoming an undead – was the Elf Lord Celebrimbor, the one who forged the Ring of Power for Sauron. And this is where it gets really interesting. The story of both games takes place before The Lord of The Rings. It connects the characters from Tolkien’s books (Celebrimbor, Shelob, Gollum, The Black Hand of Sauron, and many more) with entirely new heroes and places them in Mordor, before it is entirely corrupted by the darkness. I don’t know how about you guys but I would be very interested to see the events after Sauron fled Dol Guldur and began establishing his dominion in Mordor, which at the time was controlled by the Knights of Gondor. We got to follow the adventures of the good guys, so why not learn what the forces of evil were plotting and how exactly Sauron assumed the form of the Great Eye…
“All's well that ends better”
As I said before, the possibilities are endless. The rumors suggesting that the new show is to take place before the movie trilogy can mean anything – this might include different characters, entirely new locations, and even previously unknown conflicts. Not to mention several thousand years of the history of Middle-Earth.
Let us hope that the new TV series will live up to whatever fans got used to when watching The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Still, I think that no matter how hard they try, they will never be able to equal one thing: the inimitable soundtrack written by Howard Shore. Am I right?