Just over a week ago, Amazon Prime posted a very unusual “teaser.” On Saturday, July 27, a video appeared with the title “Meet our Fellowship.” Amazon was introducing us to the team which has been assembled for the new Lord of the Rings series which is supposed to hit Prime Video sometime in 2021. Both those who loved the books and those who loved Peter Jackson’s sensations should well be excited.
We first learned about Amazon’s intentions to create a Lord of the Rings series in an article in Variety early in November of 2017. All we knew at that point was the series would be set in Middle-earth, and be set sometime before The Fellowship of the Ring. (See my article from December 2017: “Amazon’s Lord of Rings Series: How Did That Happen? What Does It Mean?“) We do know a bit more now, but still very little. The new “trailer” does seem to confirm the time will be in the Second Age. Speculation among Tolkien geeks is the story will center on Sauron’s earlier days. This does make sense, and would explain how the series can carry the name of books about the end of the Third Age. The Second Age includes the time when Sauron forges the Rings.
The new trailer, as I mentioned above, lists names of the team assigned to the project—about 40 names in all! It reads like a Who’s Who in Movies Today. (Watch the trailer below to see the impressive list.) Tolkien aficionados should be excited to see John Howe, one of the official illustrators for Middle-earth, included. His illustrations grace some paperback editions of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the History of Middle-earth series. Even more intriguing is that Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey, who penned J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, has been recruited.
Shortly after the trailer came out, Shippey did an interview for a Tolkien fan website in Germany. Tolkien “purists” should be relieved Amazon, according to Shippey, has certain limitations placed upon them by the Tolkien Estate. He explains:
Amazon has a relatively free hand when it comes to adding something, since, as I said, very few details are known about this time span. The Tolkien Estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenorean expedition, is returns to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenoreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same. But you can add new characters and ask a lot of questions, like: What has Sauron done in the meantime? Where was he after Morgoth was defeated? Theoretically, Amazon can answer these questions by inventing the answers, since Tolkien did not describe it. But it must not contradict anything which Tolkien did say. That’s what Amazon has to watch out for. It must be canonical, it is impossible to change the boundaries which Tolkien has created, it is necessary to remain “tolkienian”. [Emphasis added.]
It remains to be seen how “canonical” the series will be. After all, Peter Jackson went a bit far and afield from what Tolkien wrote, especially in the Hobbit trilogy of movies. And he had to work with an Estate headed by Christopher Tolkien, who was apparently not as adventurous as his successors.
What do you think? Are you excited about the prospects of the new series? Or are you afraid of what they will do to your beloved Middle-earth? Leave a comment below to put in your two cents.