You know that new “The Lord of the Rings,” series that was just announced by not only Amazon Video and Warner Bros. but the Tolkien Estate?
It has everyone on the interwebs with even a passing interest in Middle-earth speculating on the content, imagining how it will tie in to beloved LOTR characters like Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Gandalf and Aragorn. It has even brought “The Silmarillion” to the forefront of the conversation, with people praying to Eru Iluvitar for an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic, sweeping mythology.
However this series cannot be, and will not be, an adaptation of that work because the rights haven’t been sold. The Tolkien family has clearly decided not to do so. So sorry Silmarillioners — yet, some hope yet remains.
The information given to media, and covered widely from Entertainment Weekly to the Associated press to The Hollywood Reporter, uses “Lord of the Rings” seven times in six paragraphs, but then seemingly contradicts that usage with language that also comes directly from the press release.
“Amazon’s LOTR series will be set in Middle-earth and explore new storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.”
So if we made a TV series about the Great Depression in the U.S. (1929 to 1939) but it takes place during World War I (1914 to 1918) is it really about the Great Depression?
“The Lord of the Rings” title’s frequent use is no accident. It is an intentional marketing strategy employed in the press release. PR writers and lawyers deliberately wrote “The Lord of the Rings TV series” as often as possible and hoped the media would echo it and, it worked. But is it true? How is something set before LOTR a LOTR series?
What didn’t make it into most media accounts, but that you can see at the end of the story, is the press release name drops that also mention Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema, the titles of the three movies and book, Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin and Orlando Bloom and 17 Academy Awards — including Best Picture.
This will be said over and over between now and when the Amazon series goes live for the first time.
Check the quote again:
“… LOTR series will be set in Middle-earth and explore new storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.”
There they go dropping another book title in the story and then clearly state the series explores NEW story lines that happen BEFORE the book begins. It really can’t be much clearer. The events in the series happen before the book(s) and the Peter Jackson films that adapted them.
More on Jackson later.
A little further down the story comes a quote from a representative of the Tolkien Estate and Trust, from a person almost no potential viewer has heard of but who speaks with the authority of Tolkien.
“Sharon and the team at Amazon Studios have exceptional ideas to bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings,” Matt Galsor said.
We like that part: “based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.”
We all know Tolkien’s story has a page one where the story starts. We all know the story ends with THE GRAY HAVENS chapter and the sentence, “He drew a deep breath. “Well, I’m back,” he said.”
So how is this TV series actually a “Lord of the Rings” series that happens before the books begin but also isn’t “The Hobbit” but is based on the author’s original writings?
You may already know. We think of Tolkien selling the story of LOTR but he didn’t. He sold the LOTR as a book, not as a story.
Tolkien managed to get Harper Collins to publish the third part of his “The Lord of the Rings” book with a group of appendices, organized into sections A to F. When Tolkien famously sold the rights of his book(s) to United Artists in 1969, it was about what was between the covers — not the start and finish of the story — and that includes those sections on languages, writing and spelling, calendars and family trees.
But Appendix A and Appendix B aren’t just lists or dates. They offer out what the press release promises, “storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring … based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.”
So yes, the series will explore the past, perhaps the distant past, before the story of the War of the Ring and yet, it will still be based on the contents between the covers in “The Lord of the Rings.”
****** SPOILER WARNING ******
To save you from running to your copy of the books, here is a brief summary of the material that is legally available for production and is part of what Tolkien sold, the book “The Lord of the Rings” :
APPENDIX A – THE NUMENOREN KINGS
You “Silmarillion” supporters, sad because there is no chance of an adaptation of that book, can keep your candle burning. But it might only be a fools hope. The only content legally available is a recap of the Sil in LOTR. It doesn’t have everything but it has some big stuff. We get three jewels, their theft by Morgoth, his fortress called Thangorodrim, war against him from the baddest Elves, and Luthien Tinuviel and Beren getting a Silmaril from Morgoth’s Iron Crown and more, but all of this is just a smattering from the massive scale story of the Elves and Men.
Numenor and its line of kings that eventually lead to ruin and the scattering of the realms in exile, might work as a multi-season series. If you recall, Appenix A also has the kings of Arnor, Gondor the Dunedain — Aragorn’s people — and the Stewards of Gondor.
Oh and the tale of Aragorn and Arwen.
The history of Rohan is there, as is some of the events leading up to the Dwarves’ mission in “The Hobbit,” films, touched on by them in the three-film adaptation.
So Elves and Men with Dwarves available too if needed. And who can tell the story of the downfall of Men better than an immortal Elf? If I were Amazon, I would lock up Hugo Weaving to a multi-season contract ASAP. He could be the character that holds it all together.
Here we find a brief account of the battles in the north during the War of the Ring. It also mentions some wizards and how Gandalf received the Ring of Fire.
We also get some major events of the Second Age dealing with Numenor and the Rings of Power. This content was said to be gathered by none other than Merry, which could provide a narrator to hold the structure together. Is Dom busy?
Thinking this through, it seems probable that the new Amazon series will focus on the kingdom of men and its success and eventual failures, mostly from Appendix A.
Speaking of failures, Deadline reports that Amazon has failed to talk to Jackson and “has not tried to enlist the help of, or even reached out to Peter Jackson.”
In the spirit of full disclosure, Jackson invited me to visit his set for “The Hobbit” films and report on what I saw. He also gave me a lot of access. Some would say that distorts on how I might offer thoughts about his work and his potential work on this project.
Thing is, I can’t fathom that Team Jackson wants to take the reins for the LOTR TV adaptation. I can’t comprehend that he wants to devote more years of his life by returning to Middle-earth. He was hesitant to return for “The Hobbit” and he suffered some backlash for it.
I don’t think he would take the job in either a director’s chair or in a producer’s role.
We can hope other parts of his machine are involved, such as the award-winning Weta Digital and the deeply respected Richard Taylor and his crew at Weta Workshop, but that completely depends on the talent Amazon Video gathers and what they choose to use.
Anyway, that is what Amazon is planning to do. And boss Jeff Bezos, one of the most wealthy geeks who ever lived, is willing to spend to make it happen. Join us as we dread and anticipate the latest adaptation of Tolkien’s works.
Updated 11/3/17 – From time-to-time you, the fans, email TORn about events of interest to other fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and/or Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. As a service to our readers, we decided to created this new feature: a listing of upcoming events to keep everyone apprised of where they can hook-up and commiserate with other fans, learn a thing or two, or just plain enjoy the fandom that we’ve all come to know and love. From Howard Shore concerts in Paris, to fan get-togethers in Kentucky and South Carolina, to exhibitions in Staffordshire, U.K., it’s all listed here! The list will be updated periodically as past events drop off and future events are added. If you know of an upcoming event, please let us know either in the comments section of this story, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. – TORn, ‘Together in Tolkien’
Adding to the list of rich foreigners who are buying land in New Zealand is singing sensation Justin Bieber. Fresh off a tour of NZ, during which he tweeted his love for the place, the ultimate Bielieber has entered negotiations to buy a substantial tract of land at Glenorchy, near Queenstown. The property includes various film sites from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, and is where many Lothlorien scenes were shot.
“What the world doesn’t know is that Justin is a massive Lord of the Rings fan – but the movies only, not really the books which he’s never read,” says a source close to the singer. “Although he knows about Tom Bombadil, he thinks he’s hilarious. He’s seen some Bombadil fan videos online and he wants to create his own, but using these woods that appeared in the films.
“His plans are to build a replica of the horse-people hall and hold big Middle-earth parties exclusively for his friends – but he’ll likely want some local ring-ins as character props, so anyone who looks really hobbity will have a good shot at being invited.”
Bieber spent a few days in Queenstown after his concert in Auckland before jetting off to South America to continue his Purpose World Tour. The source added: “I can say for a fact that he was overheard having several phone conversations with a “PJ.” Whether that was ‘the’ Peter Jackson, I can’t really say. I just know the conversations definitely mentioned Bombadil, something called the Sil-merryland, and roles of interest to JayBee.”
Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien will recognize that the ‘Sil-merryland’ almost certainly refers to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, an epic compilation of stories recounting, in part, the struggle of the peoples of Middle-earth against the dark lord Morgoth. “Getting the film rights was apparently going to be a major hurdle” said the source. “‘Impossible’ and ‘a real long shot’ were overheard quite often.” But apparently Justin hopes to use his considerable influence to sweet-talk some of the members of the Tolkien family and Tolkien Estate who are huge fans, and devoted Bieliebers, to release at least limited rights to some of the Silmarillion stories.
Regarding possible roles for Bieber, one can only guess. Given that his physique doesn’t lend itself to playing the rotund Tom Bombadil, and Bombadil doesn’t appear in The Silmarillion anyway, fans can only speculate that it would have to refer to some other major role. Given Justin’s rather elfin features, the roles of the heroic Fingolfin, or even the proud Feanor come to mind. The mention of “growing acceptance of gender neutrality trends” was reportedly also overheard by our source, so the roles of Luthien or Melian can’t be ruled out completely.
Meanwhile, if the Queenstown land purchase goes ahead, the Mayor of Queenstown Lakes District has promised to name Bieber as an official inhabitant of Middle-earth. “I’m sure I can get Peter Jackson down here to dub him with a replica of Anduril – the guy owes me a favour for having to muck up all the horse poo he left behind after filming the charge of the Rohirrim,” says the Mayor.
It really was the best of times. Not just the opening night of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (or whenever you saw the film for the first time). What about when you first found out that Lord of the Rings films were being made? Maybe, like staffer Garfeimao, it prompted you to start searching the internet and you found TORn. Perhaps, like staffer Magpie, you had been longing for something different and/or better than the animated movies (no matter how sentimental and quaint they seem now). Perhaps you were a lifelong fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, and had misgivings like deej and JPB. For me, it was all of the above!
Please enjoy reading the memories and impressions of some of our core staff, and share your own memories of how you learned of the LOTR movie, how you found TheOneRing.net and/or what your first impressions of FOTR were, either in the comments section, or on our Lord of the Rings Movie discussion forum.
Last month, on the occasion of World Hobbit Day, we collaborated with New Zealand Post on a contest giving one lucky fan the chance to win their very own copy of NZ Post’s “One Collectible To Rule Them All” – a beautiful, limited, one-of-a-kind “Red Book” inspired by the journal written by Bilbo Baggins and his heir Frodo Baggins in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, containing a new, never-before-seen “One Ring” stamp.
Congratulations to Matus Mincak from Slovakia… your prize will be on its way soon!
And thanks to everyone who entered the contest.
You can check out New Zealand Post’s range of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit collectibles, and order your own copy of this book, by visiting the New Zealand Post website.
UPDATE: We have a new winner…
Congratulations to Jenny Fraser from New Zealand. You’re the new winner of this contest! Please check your inbox for my email and get back to me asap.
Have you ever wished you had like-minded friends who love Tolkien’s books as much as you do to discuss them with? A place exists right here on TORn where that’s possible. Over the 17 years TORn has been around, we’ve discussed The Lord of the Rings from beginning to end a total of 6 1/2 times, including the current discussion which is on Book VI Ch 1, The Tower of Cirith Ungol.
The way it works is that volunteers take a chapter and do a number of posts over the course of a week presenting their thoughts and posing questions about the chapter content. How, you might ask, can we possibly find new things to talk about the 5th, 6th and 7th time through? It’s surprisingly easy! New people joining the discussions bring new perspectives and new ideas for their chapter presentations. People use quotes, pictures, historical background from other works by Tolkien, even current events, and combine them to raise interesting, fun, and often challenging questions. Of course, leading a chapter discussion isn’t required. You can simply follow along with each chapter, reading people’s replies, or even better, reply with your own thoughts.
“But, I’m not a Tolkien scholar, I just love reading his books” you might say. No worries! While there are some pretty knowledgeable folks who participate, the discussions are friendly and informal. Having participated in a number of the discussions, I can vouch for how interesting it is to read other people’s perspectives of the same words you’ve read. Sometimes they can be surprisingly different. For example, I thought I knew exactly who killed the Witch King (Eowyn, of course), and was 100% sure Balrogs had wings. Needless to say, I was astounded at the number of people who interpreted the exact same passages of the story entirely differently than I did! To say those questions prompted some lively discussion is an understatement!
Over the years, in addition to discussing The Lord of the Rings, we’ve discussed The Hobbit and Unfinished Tales three times, The Silmarillion four times, and had a full ten discussions of Tolkien’s other works such as The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, and even Letters from Father Christmas!
If following along and/or participating in the current discussion is something that’s of interest, do give the Reading Room a look! You can find the current discussion schedule here (a few chapters are still open for volunteers). You don’t need to register for the forums if you just want to check it out or follow along. Just bookmark this link to the Reading Room. If, after you start reading some of the discussion, you can’t resist joining in, you can register for the boards here.
As we like to say in the Reading Room: pull up a comfy chair, relax, and enjoy!
The recent announcement of the “Middle-earth Limited Collectors Edition Blu-ray Box Set” has stirred up quite a hornets’ nest not only in our message boards, but elsewhere, be it the comment fields of retail sites, or the blogs of people interested in Tolkien, or the home releases of cinematic material in general.
Many are concerned that the reported and rumored price of US$800 for the limited edition is too high, given there is no new cinematic or ‘behind-the-scenes’ material. Some compare the release unfavorably to Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection, which provided a bonus disk. Some point out that you could purchase the Blu-rays, a player and a small HDTV for the price of this set. Others point out that one could fly from North America to New Zealand for that amount.
So yes, one feeling is that ‘this is way too much money for nothing new but packaging.’ But for some, there’s more than just a sense of consumer rejection – there’s a sense of disappointment, outrage, frustration, and even sadness. Why? What drives that?
a) Some fans have been hoping for an ‘ultimate edition’ with bloopers, extra bonus material, and whatnot. This release is not that.
b) Some feel that “The Hobbit”, has not been handled properly from the beginning (too many films, or some other complaint). These fans feel this is yet another example of the studio “blowing it with the material, and with the fans.”
c) Some feel that they are being treated as fools. With no new cinematic material, how is it possible that the studio could think that a shelf, nice boxes, some small posters, a notebook, etc. come with such a high markup? Is the shelving made of wood from the white tree at the heart of Minas Tirith? After all, with the US$800 for this release, I could get the extended edition Blu-ray edition of all six films, hardcover copies of the books, along with The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and the History of Middle Earth, a copy of Jens Hansen’s One Ring, a version of Arwen’s Evenstar pendant, Gandalf and Saruman salt and pepper shakers, and more, and still wonder what I will do with the rest of the money I have saved.
The list of possible causes of frustration goes ever on and on… we Tolkien fans are known to get easily excited!
But let’s take a collective deep breath and do two things.
First, let’s challenge ourselves – should we be so angry? Consider: in the non-Tolkien collecting world, similarly high-priced ‘collectibles’ exist. I can go to a local store and pay about $14 for the a copy of Scrabble, or I can go to a specialty retail store and pay $225 for ‘Premiere Edition Scrabble’. It’s the same game. There are no extra tiles, no new letters in the alphabet, no new special rules for the well-heeled logophile. It’s still good old Scrabble, just packaged a different way. Perhaps those premiere edition Scrabble game purchasers are fools – or maybe they just really like Scrabble and want a really cool looking set as a focal point of their family room to reflect their interest in the game. Similarly, the well-heeled and price-unconscious Tolkien fan can indeed decide to spend $800 on this set – and that doesn’t harm those who choose not to do the same. So perhaps anger over the high sticker price needs to be reduced.
Second, let’s see if there’s something deeper going on here. Perhaps the frustration we are expressing is really just a mask covering a deeper emotion. Let’s face it. Almost all of us sense that, at a global level, the heady cinematic, culture-impacting days of Middle-Earth are really, truly, over. We are sad. At the turn of the century, our dear Middle-earth was shown to the world, and they loved it. We felt everyone got ‘it’, and because of it, got us. Now things our different. Our favorite franchise, books that matter so much to us, seem to no longer matter to the world, or even to their film studio, as much as they did just a few short years ago.
But we knew this would happen one day – popular culture cannot stay focused on one thing for any length of time, or it won’t have room to take on anything new.
We’re sad because, instead of things ending with a bang and applause, like Bilbo’s Long-Expected Party, with the last film loved most of all, and a glorious home release acknowledging a track record of success, we just get a repackaging. No new material. The Middle-earth cinematic saga, the wide cultural exposure to all things Tolkien ends not with a bang, but a whimper.
We are sad – even angry – because we simply didn’t think it would end this way.
But perhaps we are wrong to feel that way. Perhaps it’s important to remember someone’s wise words, and paraphrase them to fit our current situation: “End? No the impact of Middle-earth doesn’t end here. The eventual loss of wide cultural exposure is just another path; one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of decades of niche-interest will roll back, and once again, Middle-earth will be on the silver screen. And then you’ll see it. White searchlights; and beyond, a premiere of a new generation of films, screening at night after a swift sunset.”
This is not the end – this is just the simple pause after a cycle of cultural interest, the end of one long inhalation and exhalation. One day, the world will breathe again. Tolkien fandom has been here before: at the end of a heady time in the 1960s and early 1970s, it went quiet for 25 years, until exploding open in 2001.
Therefore, I believe and hope that twenty years, fifty years, a century from now, our children, their children, and beyond, will continue to find hope and meaning in Middle-earth, and produce new interpretations of it for others to enjoy. On the screen, in plays, in forms and delivery mechanisms not imagined by us now, our offspring will be stirred by Theoden’s re-awakening, by Gandalf’s wisdom, by Sam’s loyalty, and by Frodo’s courage. These new interpretations will be worse than Peter Jackson’s vision in some ways, but also much better in others. For that is the way of such things. But whatever successes and flaws these new versions will have, a few things are certain: they will be amazing and inspiring. They will ignite in a new generation a sense of a nobler purpose in life, a joy of simpler living, and an appreciation of works of wonder, because behind all possible interpretations, supporting them, letting them breathe, will be the timeless, unchanging words of the good Professor.
Our job now, as lovers of Middle-earth, is to carry the hope and deeper messages of Tolkien’s work forward and ensure it is not lost and forgotten, so that one day, perhaps a day that I or you might not see, the world can re-experience the joy we have felt these past fifteen years.
While Tolkien was a British writer, his readership and influence extend far beyond the English language. Middle-earth transcends both time and culture as we have seen again and again when having the pleasure to meet fellow fans from around the globe through both TheOneRing and Happy Hobbit. That said, sometimes it takes a little longer for Tolkien events and/or specials in other languages and countries to reach our ears. Fortunately for you, dear reader, famed Tolkien artist and scholar John Howe sent a message our way via thrush to let us know about a delightful Franco-English documentary he narrated in 2015 about the source material for Tolkien’s The Hobbit titled A la Recherche du Hobbit (Looking for the Hobbit).
You can watch the first episode of five in English below:
If you’re confident enough to navigate the French website (all you have to do is click on the shopping cart icon!) you can purchase a region-free English version here, and the series is available in French on DVD and streaming here (along with a preview). You can also peruse several delightful behind the scenes photos on their Facebook page.
John Howe at Hobbiton in Matamata, NZ.
What’s more, John Howe has taken the time to provide us with his thoughts on why, even after all this time, he was excited to contribute to yet another exploration of Tolkien.
The 2016 edition of Middle-earth Madness officially starts today! We’ve split our field of 64 characters and objects into four divisions: Brains, Beauties, Brawn and Baddies.
This is another new format for the competition this year – a la a certain reality show – Survivor if you don’t watch it; and what better show to emulate for our annual March Madness competition! This year, a few past winners are missing -notably Sam and Thranduil. But, as you can imagine, with hundreds of wonderful Tolkien characters to choose from, every character can’t make it into the competition every year.
A note on how the bracket combatants were determined. TheOneRing.net created a document containing all combatants, sub divided into divisions. We asked staff to cast sixteen votes per division, with the votes having a weight of 1-4. Each staffer cast four 4 votes, four 3 votes, four 2 votes and four 1 votes in each division. We then totaled all the votes from each division to determine their rank, and ultimately placed those into our bracket for seeding.
As you can imagine, our staff is diverse and the results were very interesting! Not only are there some great match-ups in this first round, the final four will be an amazing round to see with the top brain, beauty, brawn and baddie going up against each other.
Voting in Round 1 will remain open until March 21st at 10pm ET. At that point, we’ll calculate the winners and post the next round on March 22nd. Follow after the break for a complete bracket image (download it), and to vote on all of our Round 1 match-ups! [Round 1 Bracket]
Learn how to make a treat that is fit for a king in this latest delicious episode!
THORIN’S TOFFEE BARS
¾ cup butter, room temperature (or melted per Happy Hobbit style!)
¾ cup light brown sugar
1½ cups flour
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups milk or semi sweet chocolate chips
1½ cups Toffee Bits (store bought or homemade — scroll all the way down for the homemade recipe we used!)
1.Preheat oven to 350°
2. Line a 9×13 pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
3. To make the Shortbread Crust, beat butter and sugar together until it is combined.
4. Mix in flour, it will be a bit dry.
5. Press into prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes (or start at 10 just to be safe) or until lightly golden.
6. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
7. To make the filling; in a small saucepan heat sweetened condensed milk and butter together until the mixture is smooth.
8. Pour over shortbread crust. Bake 12-15 minutes until filling is bubbly and browned. (It will start to look browned and slightly caramelized)
9. To make the topping, immediately sprinkle milk chips on top of filling when it comes out of the oven. Place back in oven for around 2ish minutes or until the chips have begun to melt.
10. Carefully spread the chips over the filling.
11. Sprinkle with toffee bits and press them evenly into the chocolate.
12. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. Let them rest up to overnight, or cool in the fridge…that way you can eat them sooner!
13…EAT THEM ALL!
Homemade Toffee Bits Recipe:
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
pinch of salt
1. Place all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil (around 5 minutes)
2. Continue cooking until the mixture is 300 degrees and starts to turn brown.This could be up to 8 minutes of cooking, but in my experience, it is much shorter then that (depending on your stove!) So just be sure to keep an eye on it, or two eyes as Gandalf would do!
3. When it reaches 300 or starts to really thicken and brown, pour it out onto a pan lined with baking parchment.
4. Let it cool completely.
5. Put it into a zip-lock bag and bash it up into bits!
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