J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Lord of the Rings is the preeminent fantasy novel of our time and has had a profound influence on literature and pop culture. Without Lord of the Rings, there would probably be no Star Wars, no Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, no Wheel of Time, and no Dungeons & Dragons (either the game or the upcoming movie). Turn on your TV and you can find references to Rings in everything from Stranger Things to Better Call Saul, not to mention countless rock and metal songs.
Hollywood adaptations of Tolkien date back to 1977 with Rankin/Bass’s beloved animated TV movie The Hobbit. But it was Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy that turned Tolkien’s classic into a box office and Oscar gold mine that even a Dwarf-lord would envy. And while Jackson’s Hobbit movies weren’t as well-received, they certainly made a lot of money.
So it was only a matter of time before another Tolkien adaptation came along, and Amazon proved rich and ambitious enough to tackle it. But what could they adapt? Jackson’s Rings and Hobbit movies are still too new and iconic to be remade, and the Tolkien Estate refuses to sell the rights to adapt The Silmarillion. But Amazon has found a way. How? Read on to find out.
What Is the Amazon Prime Video Lord of the Rings Show?
The show is titled The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and the first of at least two seasons will debut on Amazon Prime Video this fall.
So, What Specific Books by J.R.R. Tolkien Are Being Adapted?
None! Amazon doesn’t actually have the rights to adapt any book by Tolkien. This isn’t a straight adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or The Silmarillion. Instead, they have the rights to adapt the settings, characters, and histories of the Second Age. They are also not allowed to contradict any canonical events in the First or Third Ages, so already-established characters like Elrond, at least, are safe from a shocking end-of-season decapitation like Ned Stark suffered in Game of Thrones. (Or, if Elrond does get beheaded, he is contractually obligated to get better).
Explain These Ages to Me? I Failed Silmarillion in College
Tolkien wrote about three ages of Middle-earth: the First, Second, and Third. The First Age is largely chronicled in The Silmarillion. That’s the mythic age that characters in The Lord of the Rings look back on, the way we look back on the ages of King Arthur or Hercules.
The First Age is the high tide of the Elves, when they and some Men fought against the first and greatest Dark Lord, Morgoth (Tolkien’s stand-in for Satan), for possession of three holy jewels called Silmarils. Galadriel was a minor player in the First Age and Elrond was born at the tail end of it. Sauron was a major player, serving as Morgoth’s right-hand-man. When Gandalf refers to the Balrog as “a demon of the ancient world,” the ancient world he’s referring to is the First Age.
The Third Age is the setting for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (in fact, they chronicle its end, with the final defeat of Sauron). It’s the twilight of the Elves as they, and other magical creatures like dragons and Ents, have largely faded to the margins and become, for most Men, little more than legends.