Middle-Earth’s ring of doubt

Amazon Studios’ acquisition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic — The Lord of the Rings — for a TV adaptation has divided fans of the legendarium.

  • Published 7.12.17

Amazon Studios’ acquisition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic — The Lord of the Rings — for a TV adaptation has divided fans of the legendarium.

The news was a surprise since it was assumed that Christopher Tolkien, the author’s son, would never sell the rights again after Peter Jackson’s big-screen adaptation. He made his views clear about Jackson’s treatment of the work in a 2012 Le Monde interview: “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25.”

It has since emerged that Christopher, who had safeguarded the rights to his father’s works, recently resigned as director of the Tolkien Estate — signifying a change for adaptations of Tolkien’s canon.

Now, Tim Haskett, an assistant professor of history at the University of Victoria, Canada, who has taught courses on the legendarium, has expressed doubts over the future of the legendarium. “It can always go badly,” he said.

Haskett explained that television programmes might not reflect the Middle-Earth material, but resemble HBO’s treatment of Game of Thrones, known for graphic sex and violence.

“There could be too many naked elves, too much gratuitous violence and many many dragons we don’t really need.”

Haskett’s apprehensions stem from fears that Amazon executives reportedly see the franchise as having the potential to be as big as Game of Thrones.

Earlier, John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli in Jackson’s films, said: “Why we quite need Lord of the Rings as a TV series baffles me slightly.”

“I mean, poor Tolkien must be spinning in his grave.”

Sean Astin, who starred as Samwise Gamgee in Jackson’s trilogy, said: “I saw that the other day, and I thought that was intriguing. I’ve been saying for 15 years that maybe like 12 years after Lord of the Rings came out, that it would get remade.”

Haskett said the deal didn’t give Amazon the rights to Tolkien’s other works such as The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.

“There are people that would really like to see more of Tolkien’s actual stories filmed,” said Haskett, “This sounds a little more like Amazon doing fan-fiction based on the characters, places and general story that is The Lord of the Rings.”

Although there is no time-frame, with Game of Thrones winding down and HBO developing several prequel series, Amazon reportedly sees this as the best opportunity to fill the void.

As Christopher said in the Le Monde interview: “Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time…”

Subham Mitra