"The Silmarillion is unfilmable." That's what they've told us for some fifteen odd years now. Time and again, anytime The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit are discussed with Peter Jackson or one of his production partners, the question would be asked: "What about Tolkien's third book? What about The Silmarillion? Can you make that into a movie series?" And the answer was always a quick and decisive no. The Silmarillion is less of a story than a history, an accounting of thousands of years of Middle-earth's mythology, starting at the very dawn of the universe itself. There's no central, main character. There's no over-arching plot to tie it all together. Locations are all over the map. It is, quite simply, unadaptable.
Another major hurdle was the Tolkien Estate, with Christopher Tolkien a major holdout. He despised Jackson's movies and stated in no uncertain terms that he would never sign off on the movie rights to The Silmarillion, or any other of his father's works — to anyone. Still, the idea persisted. The tantalizing notion of seeing all of Middle-earth's history play out before fans' eyes just wouldn't go away.
How Exactly Did A Lord of the Rings TV Series Come About?
Now, we have the news that Amazon is investing in a TV series set in Middle-earth with at least five seasons planned along with possible spinoffs to air exclusively on its Prime streaming service. Little is known about the project, other than that it's set before The Lord of the Rings.
But here's the big twist. Mixed in with this news is the stunning revelation that the Tolkien Estate is not only on board with this production, they're helping produce it. This jaw-dropper is being treated as a footnote in the news, yet it's hard for serious Tolkien fans to imagine anything more shocking than Christopher Tolkien doing such a dramatic 180. And he didn't; this entire situation was later explained by Mr. Tolkien having retired back in August — and one assumes the Estate began talking to Warner Bros. almost immediately after.
All of this comes together to suggest one exciting possibility. There's far too much material in The Silmarillion for a movie (or three). But a TV show? That's doable. And the only way you could feasibly produce a TV series based on The Silmarillion is if the Tolkien Estate were to sign off on it: which may just be what happened.
As it stands, Warner Bros. and Amazon now find themselves in a unique, unprecedented position: they're holding the keys to the kingdom. All of Middle-earth is up for grabs, and with Tolkien's mythology being one of the richest and most detailed ever created, the sky's the limit. This production could easily pick and choose, conceivably borrowing from any of Tolkien's many texts, including all of the material completed by his son Christopher and released posthumously. It's also possible that the production might create entirely new stories starring new characters that live in Middle-earth. Maybe we'll witness familiar events from Tolkien's fiction from a new point of view.
But in the grand scope of the franchise and fandom, there's one idea to rule them all.
There Is A Way To Do The Silmarillion on TV
It's hard to shake the belief that the best route for the show is to base it largely (or entirely) on The Silmarillion. Of course, there's a lot of intangibles even to the idea. What would that TV show be like? There is, quite frankly, an embarrassingly long list of riches from that one book that Warner Bros. and Amazon could choose to dramatize. They could present it as something of an anthology, with each season consisting of one major tale from the history of Middle-earth; with every new season, viewers would follow a whole new cast of characters having adventures in a different time period.
More than likely, though, if this were to happen it would begin by chronicling the rise of Middle-earth's biggest baddie: Morgoth. Morgoth, also known as Melkor, is basically Satan in Tolkien's creation myth. After he's cast out by Iluvitar, the maker of the universe, he spends centuries in constant pursuit of revenge. Morgoth is banished to Earth (aka, "Eä"), where he enacts multiple schemes to ruin the world and take it over. Sauron was his protege and pupil, who rose to power after Morgoth was defeated for good. And we all know what became of that guy.
Read More: Things You Never Knew About Sauron
We'd learn all about the joint origins of the Elves and the Orcs, where Balrogs came from (they're Maiar spirits fiercely loyal to Morgoth), and what exactly Morgoth's deal is. Loads of major events from Middle-earth history could be included, such as the Fall of Gondolin, the War of the Jewels, and the War of Wrath, where Morgoth finally meets his end.
Amazon and Warner Bros. have assigned an unprecedented budget to the show, rumored to exceed $1 billion, so whatever they're planning we know it's intended to be of a grand scale. Still no premiere date has been set, or even a start of production - we're yet to even get a clue for a showrunner - so, you're in for quite a wait before you get to feast your eyes on whatever they're cooking up. But for now, it might be wise to finally check out that copy of The Silmarillion.