When it comes to fantasy books, we can all agree Tolkien’s works are some of the best. The love for this epic author and his wondrous, fantastical world of magic can still be seen and felt today. For example, musical artist Grimes recently got an amazing J.R.R. Tolkien tattoo and she took to Instagram to show it off.
If you are one of the many for whom hobbits, wizards, and tales that include liberal amounts of drinking, singing, and fellbeasts make you feel a certain kind of way, then you have undoubtedly heard about the Lord of the Rings prequel series that Amazon’s cooking up. In cooperation with The Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Trust, New Line Cinema, and HarperCollins, the humble fans of Tolkien’s universe will once again get to see the legendarium come alive on screen. Assuming they’re paying for Prime, that is.
If you’re worth your mettle as a purveyor of fantasy television, then you’re probably drawing up your own theories of what ground this series will be covering. The Chair of the Tolkien Society, Shaun Gunner, has left us a major hint about the nature of the series. Gunner said:
There will be undoubtedly be some apprehension within the Tolkien community about how faithful this will be to the books, however, there is also a lot of excitement about the possibility of exploring the epic saga that is The Silmarillion, or even a series focused on Aragorn’s background. Christmas has come early for many of us today.
It has indeed, Shaun Gunner. So let’s temporarily push aside our doubt, and unpack this tantalizing statement with some of our own thoughts on what this new series will be about!
1. Beren and Luthien
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Beren and Luthien are, in a fashion, the prequel to the story of Aragorn and Arwen. It began in 1917 with “The Tale of Tinuviel” from The Book of Lost Tales, and after transforming into an epic poem for a time (titled “The Lay of Lethian”), the story then made its way into a chapter of The Silmarillion in prose form, before being published this year by Christopher Tolkien and Alan Lee as a hybrid volume entitled Beren and Luthien, which combines the timeless love story with a scholarly look at the story’s evolution over the years.
Beren is a Dorothonian mortal who must cut a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth as the price to marry Luthien, daughter to King Thingol. The tale details the quest of the two as they encounter all manner of evil as they journey to Angband to acquire the Silmaril so that they can be together despite their differences. It offers a moving story of love, death, renewal, and if that is not endorsement enough, the monikers Beren and Luthien are engraved onto the headstone of J. R. R. Tolkien and his wife Edith.
2. War of the Last Alliance
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We get some glimpses of the Battle of Dagorlad in Peter Jackson’s trilogy, where we see a few moments of battle in front of the Black Gate (Elrond looking as dour as ever) followed by Isildur taking up Narsil to strike down Sauron. However, the war itself has a rich tapestry of events, which could come alive fully on screen if given the chance. A host of elves led by Gil-Galad and Oropher, joined by King Elendil’s men, unite as the Free Peoples of Middle-earth in order to throw down with the forces of Mordor.
This is not only the last time we see the elves able to muster their full forces in arms, but the War of the Last Alliance is the predecessor to the War of the Ring. It therefore would make sense to be taken on as a prequel series, considering it is the spiritual beginning of the large-scale war of the Free Peoples against the hosts of Sauron in Middle-earth. The Last Alliance itself and the legendary elves and men which comprise it offer up some great opportunities for characters, which provides the depth and heroism fans expect.
3. Fall of Numenor
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Numenor, the land brought up out of the Great Sea as a gift for Men, fell after the Numenoreans grew envious of the everlasting life the Valar enjoyed and rebelled against them. The men led by Ar-Pharaon sailed westward to wage war against the Valar and seize the Undying Lands. Sauron, of course, played a role in stoking the Numenoreans’ fears of old-age and death, and as we well know about anything that Sauron incites, it did not end well. In fact, when called upon, Illuvatar not only crushed the armada, but broke and changed the shape of the world so that Numenor sank into the sea’s abyss, all of its inhabitants drowned (except for the spirit of Sauron, because of course), and the world became round so that no mortal would be able to sail to the True West ever again.
Waging war against powerful immortal beings may not be the wisest choice, but no one can argue that it wouldn’t make for some fantastic television. What with all of the hubris, destruction, and actual world-breaking, the Fall of Numenor could make for an excellent, albeit highly budgeted series. And importantly, it does check the box of being a tale that is detailed in The Silmarillion, and it also concerns Aragorn’s ancestors, the Numenoreans and the Dunedain. So it does loosely relate to his origins (if we squint our eyes and really try). I’m not making any promises, but keep your hopes up and we just might get it.
4. War of Wrath
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The excitingly titled War of Wrath is also found in The Silmarillion, and is in fact the greatest war ever fought in Middle-earth…which is saying something. Beleriand was destroyed as the armies of Valinor and Morgoth clashed in what became a decades-long conflict. The war concludes with Earendil sailing his sky-ship alongside a host of eagles to fight the dragon horde in a twenty-four-hour-long sky battle. Balrogs are slain, Morgoth is chained, and two Silmarils are reclaimed in what makes for a multi-race entanglement that rings in the end of the First Age.
Everything about this would make for some epic viewing. However, as you have probably guessed, the series exploring a war of such sizable proportions is ambitious to say the least. While not the most likely option, the War of Wrath does present some over-the-top action set pieces. It also offers new characters that are dealing with fraught times and heavy choices, which we all know is the backbone of good fantasy.
5. Aragorn’s Background
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While this topic has a notably less exciting title, Aragorn II Elessar son of Arathorn, High King of Gondor and Arnor is obviously a goldmine for Amazon. Descendant of Elendil, one of the last Dunedain, lover of Arwen Undomiel, and undead-raising military leader in the War of the Ring, Aragorn’s character has a rich backstory from which the series could pull.
Before ever laying eyes on Frodo Baggins, Aragorn was fostered in Rivendell, where his true identity was long kept secret. He came of age and became a Chieftain of the Dunedain and Rangers of the North where he eventually met Gandalf the Grey. Aragorn and the Rangers protected the lands of the North (including the Shire) and fought alongside Gondor, as well as undertaking many journeys of his own. If the series went in this direction, it could further explore one of the trilogy’s most beloved characters, bring back old favorites such as Gandalf (and Sir Ian McKellan), and present a narrative to the lands of the North prior to the events of The Lord of the Rings.
Between 1920 and 1943, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote and illustrated letters in the voice of Father Christmas to be delivered to his children every Christmas Eve. The amount of sheer joy, magic, and warmth this brings to my cold, warped heart is voluminous. As far as loving gestures go, this one’s epic in scale. Now fans can see these letters firsthand at Oxford’s Bodleian library between June 1 and October 28, 2018.
Image Via The Guardian
After his three-year-old son John asked Tolkien where Father Christmas lived, Tolkien embarked on the twenty-three year tradition of writing letters in Daddy Xmas’ voice. The letters tell stories of life in the North Pole, and sagas involving Santa’s sidekick: Polar Bear. That’s the sidekick’s full name: Polar Bear. Allegedly, according to Father Christmas, Polar Bear accidentally flipped on the Northern Lights in 1926. Oopsie!
As the kids grew older, Tolkien’s Christmas tales became more adult too. In 1932, for example, Father Christmas told the Tolkien children about thieving goblins who attempted to steal all of the presents. It’s not the only time Tolkien wrote about conniving goblins.
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The letters are very interesting to Tolkien fans because the later ones were written while he was working on The Hobbit and the early Lord of the Rings books. The letters not only give fans a glimpse into how Tolkien’s mind worked, but also the warm family dynamic he maintained with his children.
The curator of the upcoming exhibit, and Bodleian Tolkien archivist, Catherine McIlwaine, said of the letters:
The other reason I find the letters so touching is there couldn’t be a clearer demonstration of how important his family was to him. He was orphaned from the age of 12, when his mother died, and then he spent years boarded out in lodging houses in Birmingham. He actually met his wife, Edith, as a fellow boarder: the family home they made together, and their children, meant everything.
For fans of Tolkien and the holiday spirit, a 2018 trip to Oxford is in order. Oh, and if you can’t make it to Oxford, you can check out the letters in Letters From Father Christmas…it just won’t be the same.
“The Lord of the Rings” may be the most fully-fleshed out fantasy series of all time. J.R.R. Tolkien’s attention to detail is famed. He constructed usable languages and maps to make the world as immersive as possible for readers. Botanist Walter Judd and artist Graham Judd have taken that level of immersion a step further in the new book “Flora of Middle-Earth.”
Judd uses the real-life origins of Tolkien’s flora to examine how the plants fit into Middle-Earth. When the book examines coffee, for example, Judd writes:
[Tolkien] considered the presence of coffee in Middle-Earth as representing an independent, and earlier, introduction from the mountains of northeastern Africa — a plant brought into lands controlled by Gondor as a result of its trade with Haradwaith and Khand … Additionally, he may have thought that coffee (in contrast to the tomato) was more in keeping with the essentially English nature of the Shire.
So Tolkien considered the climate of each region he invented, what flora might grow there, and how that flora might be traded to different regions in Middle-Earth. These entries will be joined by Graham Judd’s drawings, which demonstrate the flora in the world. This book will break fun facts down, and will assuredly make your next read through of the series that much more gripping!