In a recent interview with the BBC, Lenny Henry dishes on his Harfoot role in the billion-dollar TV series.
Today on BBC Radio, as part of a wide ranging interview about his career, he talked briefly about joining Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” series and might have spilled a bit more than anyone anticipated. Listen to the interview here and skip to 29 minutes for the relevant LOTR part: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0010fk3
TheOneRing.net was first to report on Lenny’s role, with the earliest rumors being someone of short stature (dwarf king? proto-hobbit?) which eventually landed on Harfoots, one of Tolkien’s three “tribes” of early halflings appearing in Middle-earth.
Lenny might have said a bit more than Amazon Studios would have liked, but core fans can appreciate everything he said in which many of the previous rumors are now validated, including potentially Galadriel’s leading role in the overall series:
“For the last two years I’ve been working on Lord Of The Rings and it’s an extraordinary thing, it’s the biggest television show that’s ever been made, in terms of money and head count. Literally, a hundred people on set glaring at you and trying to work out what you’ll look like four feet tall… I’m a Harfoot, because J.R.R. Tolkien, who was also from Birmingham, suddenly there were black hobbits, I’m a black hobbit, it’s brilliant, and what’s notable about this run of the books, its a prequel to the Age that we’ve seen in the films, its about the early days of the Shire and Tolkien’s environment, so we’re an indigenous population of Harfoots, we’re hobbits but we’re called Harfoots, we’re multi-cultural, we’re a tribe not a race, so we’re black, asian and brown, even Maori types within it. It’s a brand new set of adventures that seed some of the origins of different characters and it’s going to take at least ten years to tell the story. Because it’s based on “The Silmarillion” which was almost like a cheat-sheet for what happens next in this world in the Second and Third Ages. And the writers have a lot of fun in extrapolating it all out, and it’s going to be very exciting. There’s a very strong female presence in this, there’s going to be female heroes in this evocation of the story, there’s going to be little people as usual.”– Lenny Henry, on BBC Radio
Sir Lenny Henry was one of the biggest casting announcements from Amazon as a respected comedian, author and thespian, creator of Red Nose Day and the Comedy Relief charity programs. Sir Lenny holds a doctorate in media representation and is an absolute icon of both the British stage and the world of comedy.
Bringing it back to J.R.R. Tolkien, Sir Lenny’s casting as a Harfoot aligns with the very brief descriptions of the antecedents of those halflings we met during The War of the Ring. Both Tolkiens (J.R.R. and Christopher) acknowledge that while Men & Elves kept records of history, those records were only related to people they encountered, opening the door to halflings or other folk staying “undiscovered” for centuries.
Quite literally; the Professor mentions in Appendix B: The Tale of Years for the Third Age Year 1050: “The Periannath are first mentioned in records, with the coming of the Harfoots to Eriador.” Which immediately begs the question of how many centuries the Harfoots were not mentioned in records, being overlooked by others who took it upon themselves to bother to record any history. To quote our earlier rumored report of Harfoots:
Middle-earth is lucky to have such a high-caliber performer joining the latest adaptation, and there is strong potential he could become a fan favorite in the show. Sir Lenny exactly the right person to expand our knowledge of halflings and bring to life the long (yet shrouded in mystery) history of Shire-folk.
What seems odd at first sight is the mention of “early days of the Shire” because what we learn from the Appendices in the back of ROTK is that King Argeleb II grants the land (that would later become the Shire) to the Periannath in 1601 of the Third Age. This is many thousands of years *after* the events of the Second Age, and the general area was unpopulated (considered the hunting grounds of the King). So it appears we can expect a greater probability of “time crunching” in the narrrative of this new show.
Maybe we should brace ourselves for all kinds of “time crunching.” Working within Tolkien’s given historical timeline is an important aspect of the terms of the deal with the Tolkien Estate: we shall see how fast and loose the Writer’s Room is going to play with the timeline.
It is also quite noteworthy that Sir Lenny spilled the beans about “The Silmarillion” being a source upon which “some” or even “much” of this streaming series is based. Without any other official statements from Amazon Studios on *exactly* what they have licened from, say, “Unfinished Tales” or “The Sil,” now we have it right out in the open. Confirmation keeps coming from various places that matches all those Instagram postings seen from various cast members last year, all of them showing off their copies of “The Silmarillion.” The two late chapters in that book are specifically centered on Second Age concerns; while most of it is quite obviously from the Age of the Lamps, the Trees, and the First Age. It seems Amazon Studios has, per the terms of their deal with The Tolkien Estate, legally licensed material from Tolkien books that have NEVER been licensed before.
It is indeed an unprecendeted time in Tolkien fandom; filled with surprises and much excitement. Small leaks and wild rumors abound – and they will become either quite real or utterly discarded right before our very eyes as we learn more each week.