Tolkien to Film: What Could Come Next?

It has now been roughly six months since The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies and twelve years since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The two film trilogies were ground-breaking with their use of motion capture technology, bringing life to Gollum (Andy Serkis) and Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). While the Lord of the Rings trilogy was critically acclaimed and won countless Academy Awards, The Hobbit trilogy, however, felt different. Sure, visually it was just as stunning as Lord of the Rings, the cinematography was still as good and absolutely nothing wrong with the acting. But it was the over-use of CGI that gave it a less authentic feel to it and the fact that it was stretched from two films into three, at the request of Peter Jackson. It was clear that The Hobbit films were made merely to make money as opposed to it being an artistic decision. But as everyone knows, if Hollywood has a prize cow, they will milk it for all its worth.

But these are not the only two tales that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, of course, and this begs the question, could Hollywood get their hands on these stories and which one(s) would they attempt to make? The Tolkien Estate (unofficially headed by Christopher Tolkien) owns the rights to other Tolkien properties, such as The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales and it is unlikely that anything from these books will be adapted any time soon, but it is enjoyable to speculate. Fans and critics alike have been speculating for years as to which story they would like adapted. Although we have had student films like Born of Hope, a very well made film in its own right with Aragon’s father Arathorn in the lead role, there would perhaps be nothing like a well-adapted story from The Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales. Here are three stories that could realistically be adapted to the big-screen. There will spoilers from The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales ahead.

Feanor and the Silmarils

Melkor-Morgoth and the great spider Ungoliant.
An illustration of Melkor/Morgoth and the spirit Ungoliant by Alan Lee.

This may be the toughest of the tales to adapt with it also being one of the larger and more important stories. Feanor is one of the big names in the wide world of Tolkien’s legendarium and he was the one who harvested the light of the Two Trees, that gave light to Arda when the world was still young, into the three jewels, known as the Silmarils. To give some sort of perspective on the power the Silmarils held, there is a theory that the Arkenstone that Thorin, Bilbo et al. tried to retrieve in The Hobbit is in fact a Silmaril. Although I personally do not agree with this theory, it is not entirely out of the question considering how much the Arkenstone drove Thorin mad. Whatever the case, these jewels had a hold over anyone who saw them and Feanor grew incredibly protective of them, allowing only his seven sons and father permission to see them.

Among those who coveted the Silmarils was a Valar known as Melkor. An incredibly powerful being and original Dark Lord (he was in command of Sauron before his initial demise) and he first tried to persuade Feanor to hand him over the Silmarils willingly, which Feanor did not agree to. After this Melkor made an alliance with the spirit Ungoliant, whose form was a great spider and was an ancestor of Shelob, destroyed the Two Trees and in the ensuing darkness, stole the Silmarils for themselves. During all of this Melkor killed Feanor’s father, Finwe, as well and Feanor blamed both the Valar and Melkor, whom Feanor gave the name of Morgoth henceforth. From this moment on an oath was made by Feanor, to be carried out by him and his seven sons that hatred and darkness would fall on those who withheld a Silmaril from his family.

At this point Morgoth had travelled with the Silmarils to Middle-earth, residing in his fortress Angband and had the Silmarils encrusted on a crown. Feanor managed to gather a large force of Noldor elves to follow him to Middle-earth. What would happen next is one of the saddest events to happen in Tolkien’s mythology, the Kinslaying at Aloquonde. To travel to Middle-earth Feanor and is host needed the ships of the Teleri elves, but the Teleri did not agree to this. The Noldor drew their swords, the Teleri drew back their bow strings and the first Elf on Elf killings took place. Considering how much the Elves admire their own race, this was an incredibly depressing event that only happened because of the hold the Silmarils had on Feanor.

Admittedly it is unclear as to where this tale would end on film as the Silmarils are entwined with the entire First-Age. A specific ending that does come to mind would be the death of Feanor, as he blindly fights his way toward Angband. He manages to kill several Balrogs before being slain by the greatest Balrog, Gothmog.

It would also be difficult to try and introduce Eru Illuvatar (the being who created the entire world) and the Valar, of which Melkor/Morgoth is one. This tale brings an extensive look into the history of Tolkien’s work, which may be just too hard to put on film. If they were not willing to put Tom Bombadil into The Lord of the Rings trilogy, then it would seem unlikely that they would put in a character like Illuvatar.

As an array of characters, though, this story has one of the best with the degradation of Feanor’s mental state, his arrogance and hot-headed attitude; this could potentially even be a fantasy film that pays special focus to mental illness. There is also, of course, Melkor/Morgoth, who could potentially become one of the greatest film villains of all time. He is quite simply the most evil character to be written in Tolkien’s world and with good reason; every evil creature that lives is under his command and he was even the one to create the race of Orcs after the prolonged torture of imprisoned Elves.

It could be said that a film studio wouldn’t want to introduce a whole new range of characters to a franchise and would perhaps go in the direction of a spin-off, however the Lady Galadriel was alive during this time and some small appearance from her would be a very nice way to connect to The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.

What is so great about so many of Tolkien’s stories, from a narrative point, is that the protagonist is not always a good person or traditionally heroic and they do not always end up being victorious. There is an abundance of tragic tales in the legendarium that could be adapted to the screen and several do, of course, have Morgoth as the central force of evil.

Narn I Chin Hurin aka The Children of Hurin

An interpretation of Turin Turambar and Glaurung.
An interpretation of Turin Turambar and Glaurung by VictorElessar on DevaintArt.

Although Morgoth does not play the role of the primary antagonist in The Children of Hurin he is the one who sets it all in motion when he captures Hurin at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears otherwise known as Nirnaeth Arnoediad. An epic battle of several armies of Elves, Men and Dwarves that went to confront Morgoth and his forces but were all defeated and retreated to safety. In this battle the primary antagonist of the story is introduced, Glaurung, The Great Worm, a wingless, fire-breathing dragon; a creature much larger than Smaug, with immense power and the main weapon of Morgoth.

The are many great moments in this battle such as a host of Dwarves battling Glaurung and carrying their fallen king from the battlefield and when Hurin, now the only person continuing the fight, slays a plethora of Orcs and fights with the Lord of Balrogs, Gothmog. Each time Hurin hits Gothmog he shouts “Aure entuluva!” – “Day shall come again!” – Before he is taken captive by the forces of Morgoth. And there in Angband he is magically bound by Morgoth and is forced to watch the cursed lives of his children.

Hurin has three children, but only two he can see through the black magic of Morgoth. Lalaith is the second child of Hurin, her name meaning “laughter” but it is sadly ironic that she dies as a young child and is the first of Hurin’s children to feel the curse put upon them by Morgoth.

Nienor is the third child of Hurin and the only child that Hurin is unable to see as she was born after his imprisonment. She has an incredibly tough childhood only knowing one member of her family, her mother, Morwen. Her story is perhaps the saddest of the three children. When her and her mother travelled to find Hurin’s first-born, Turin, they are confronted by Glaurung who managed to withhold her memories from her and when he releases her from his psychic grip she is described to run off like a deer and Nienor is not mentioned by that name again until the near end of the story.

Finally there is Turin Turambar, who acts as the main protagonist of the story and his life is the perhaps the most tragic.Turin is forced to leave his home at a young age for his own safety, but years later, after he is thought to have murdered an elf, he flees his adoptive home and joins a group of outlaws. These events along with the unintentional murder of his best friend Beleg are not even the tip of the iceberg.

During a time when Turin is going by the name of Turambar, he finds a naked maiden on the grave of his love, Finduilas. Turin takes her back to where he is living (Brethil) and names her Niniel, meaning “tear-maiden”. Somewhat of a love triangle ensues between a man named Brandir, Niniel and Turin, but it is the latter two that wed and Niniel soon becomes pregnant.

It is around this time when Glaurung is ordered to attack Brethil and in doing so, he draws out Turin Turambar. The two eventually get the fight the tale deserves and Turin mortally wounds Glaurung, but he is put into a short, but deep sleep after the dragon’s blood touches him. Niniel then comes to the place of the battle and Glaurung reveals to her that she is in fact Nienor, Turin’s sister. Glaurung then dies from his wounds, Nienor/Niniel jumps from a waterfall after the revelation. Turin awakes and with nothing left to live for, he impales himself on the black sword, Gurthang, the sword that Turin used to murder his friend, Beleg.

In terms of content The Children of Hurin would perhaps be the easiest to adapt, with versions written in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales and it even had a book published of its own accord that was edited by Christopher Tolkien (and wonderfully illustrated, as all the books are, by Alan Lee). The Nirnaeth Arnoediad and Turin’s childhood could also act as a prologue, a device that has become somewhat of a motif in Peter Jackson’s films, with only The Battle of Five Armies not including one. There is also the chance that we could see the character of Galadriel in this story too as she spent some time in the Kingdom of Doriath while Turin was living there, although this tragic tale would not need to incorporate any familiar character that heavily, if at all. But familiar items, such as the Palantiri could be used with a Palantir being the way Hurin watches the fate of his children.

That is not to say there wouldn’t be any problems with adapting this story. First the money and effort used to make a CGI or motion capture dragon that is much bigger than Smaug and from a story-telling point of view the revelation that Turin is blind seems a little too far-fetched. There is also the complication with Nienor’s character; what would otherwise be a very clever twist and revelation of her being Turin’s sister is not so secretive in the book(s) and if we are to view this film from Hurin’s trapped perspective we would not see the life of Nienor at all. This would leave a tough film-making decision for the director. Do they include Glaurung’s enchantment of Nienor and therefore make the audience aware of whom Niniel is or should that be left out and act as a surprise to the audience later on in the film. That would be a tough decision and there is no easy answer. If done right though, the tragic tale of The Children of Hurin could be a wonderful filmic experience.

Of Beren and Luthien

Luthien and the great hound Huan.
Luthien and the great hound Huan by Canis-Lupess on DeviantArt.

On the gravestone of J.R.R Tolkien and his wife, the names of Beren and Luthien are engraved to signify the love the two had for each other. This in and of itself already shows the importance this tale has to the Tolkien family and fan base. This story is the big one, a tale that is the focal story in The Silmarillion and Tolkien’s work in general and this could well put off film studios from adapting it.

This story is the first that depicts a relationship between a man (Beren) and an elf (Luthien) and the two titular characters fall in love very early on in the story. However, Thingol, Luthien’s father and King of Doriath, was not pleased with the idea that a man like Beren would wed his daughter, so he proposed to Beren that if he completes a task he may wed his daughter. This task was to retrieve a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth. Although seemingly impossible, Beren accepted and left for Angband. Sometime later Luthien would even follow after Beren.

Beren and his company never made it to Angband, however. They were instead captured by a captain of Morgoths and a foe that fans of Peter Jackson’s films will be very familiar with. Sauron. In captivity most of Beren’s host were killed by a werewolf, until the elf Finrod killed it himself, although it resulted in his own death, too.

As Luthien advanced on her journey she was captured by some sons of Feanor, but the great hound Huan defied his masters and freed Luthien. Huan is a magical hound who was permitted to speak three times in his life and it was prophesied that he would one day be killed by the greatest wolf there ever was.

With the help of Huan, Luthien then went to Beren’s aid and Huan managed to defeat many werewolves and Sauron himself in the form of a wolf. Luthien then forced Sauron give up his hold on his fortress, which he did and he fled in the form of a vampire. After this Beren and Luthien continued on their quest.

Although confronted by the sons of Feanor again they managed to finally enter Angaband disguised as the bat Thuringwethil and Drauglin the great werewolf, whom Huan defeated earlier. In their disguises they entered Angband easily and Luthien managed to put Morgoth and his court asleep with a song. Beren then successfully removed a Silmaril from Morgoths crown, but the power of the Silmarils took hold of him and he attempted to get the others out. But his knife splintered and woke the slumbering Morgoth.

As they tried to escape, the two lovers were confronted by the greatest wolf of all, Carcharoth. The great wolf then bit off the hand of Beren which concealed a Silmaril, but the light of the jewel pained Carcharoth so much he ran off in agony. It is also said, that in true Tolkien deus ex machina style the eagles helped the two escape.

Beren and Luthien would wed not long after, even without the Silmaril, but Beren was still to complete his task and with Huan, he went to hunt for Carcharoth. The wolf was killed and the Silmaril recovered but both Huan and Beren died as a result of their fight. Luthien became stricken with grief and then soon after, she died too.

However, in the after world Luthien sang to Mandos (a Valar) who, after speaking with more powerful Valar and Illuvatar, granted her and Beren to live again. This life would be mortal for them both, even so, they found somewhere to live happily until the day they died. This story holds great significance with other Half-elven relationships as other Half-elvens after them would be given the same choice of mortality. Their lineage is also wrought with Half-elven pairings. Their grand-daughter, Elwing, married the elf Earendil, one of their sons was Elrond the Half-elven, whose daughter was, of course, Arwen and who eventually wed Aragorn.

Aragorn actually sings the Lay of Luthien to the hobbits in The Fellowship of the Ring both in the book and on film (although at differing times and places). The scene in the film was actually not used in the cinematic release of the film, but was included in the extended editions. This scene, or one like it, could be used as a way into the beginning of this tale and it would seem fitting if Aragorn, Arwen or even Elrond were the ones telling the story or singing the Lay.

The one potential problem with this tale is that there is no clear primary antagonist. There are arguably four: Morgoth, Sauron, Carcharoth and to an extent, the sons of Feanor. It is potentially an idea that characters could be combined to form a more cohesive narrative structure, a composite of Sauron and Carcharoth, for example, may indeed make sense. But on the other hand the many antagonists could act as a way of going against conventions and trying something slightly different. But as I said earlier, the shere magnitude of this story may work against it.

This story is loved by fans and it is one that was obviously close to Tolkien’s heart and his family and so if, by the of chance, Christopher Tolkien allowed a studio to film something from The Silmarillion he would perhaps do so on a proviso that this tale not be it. The love that this story holds over people may well put fear into a film studio, that should they fail it may end any ambition for any more Tolkien-verse films.

If there is one thing that should happen if another Tolkien film is made, it should be that Peter Jackson not direct it. Although he did an astounding job on The Lord of the Rings and while The Hobbit trilogy still has many qualities, it should be time for a new director. It would be nice if Fran Walsh and/or Phillipa Boyens worked on these films as sole directors or as a team; their work on the previous two trilogies has gone somewhat unnoticed and it could be put on them to take Tolkien’s work into a new direction.

Peter Jackson, the director of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

One thing that is said about The Hobbit trilogy specifically, is that it is somewhat similar to the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Both are set before the original trilogies, both once again have a figurehead in charge of the franchise that was also in charge of the original trilogies and both sets of prequels use significantly more CGI. It is hard to disagree that The Hobbit trilogy fits into the same mould as the Star Wars prequel films and with George Lucas now having passed the Star Wars torch onto JJ Abrams, it should be in the minds of film studios to give a younger director a chance with any potential, new Tolkien film and to keep Jackson on as nothing more than perhaps an executive producer.

Although a new directorial perspective is perhaps needed, the one thing that The Hobbit trilogy was criticised for will need to be kept in tact. The CGI was a huge disappointment in the three Hobbit films, more so considering how brilliantly Jackson and his crew exploited it in The Lord of the Rings. The introduced motion capture technology to the masses with Andy Serkis as Gollum/Smeagol, which they took to the next level with Smaug in Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of Five Armies. But there was still something off with the CGI in the latter trilogy. There was an overuse of the technology in The Hobbit trilogy compared to Rings. Set shoots were used more than on-location shots and CGI and green screen was used so much that it famously made Sir Ian McKellen cry while trying to film a scene.

Now with the potential of huge wingless dragons larger than Smaug, great spiders and even werewolves, CGI will need to be used to some extent. It is not the use of CGI that will ever be in question, but how it is used and how much is used. It has to be done so that it does not affect the authenticity of the film, or rather so that whatever is CGI does not look out of place. This might sound little ridiculous when a fantasy world like Tolkiens is being discussed, but the authenticity relates to this world not our own.

Although it is the CGI that gets a lot of stick, the three Hobbit films add unnecessary filler storylines that are just unwarranted. While the scenes with The White Council and their confrontation with Sauron were some of the better scenes, with five or six incredible actors playing off each other, it takes away from the mystery of Gandalfs departure that was in the book. Gandalf is traditionally mysterious on screen and on paper, so to show most of Ganaldf’s adventure takes away from what his character is all about, especially when compared to his absence from The Prancing Pony, before his surprise return at Rivendell and his death and rebirth into Gandalf the White. We know none of this until Gandalf himself tells us about it, something that was stripped of his character in The Hobbit films.

Another addition to the storyline was a purely invented one, with no source from Tolkien to go on. While inventing a completely new character is not itself a problem it was the direction the character of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) took after her introduction that was poorly handled. Her love story with Aiden Turner’s Kili felt incredibly forced to an extent that it felt like Jackson wanted another big Elf-Dwarf relationship ala Legolas and Gimli. But this was a romantic kind of love and the two races of Elves and Dwarves are traditionally antagonistic towards each other, especially in the context of the Dwarves from Erebor and the Elves of Mirkwood. This can only have been introduced because there is no love story in the original Tolkien novel and it seems Hollywood cannot permit a film if there is no aspect of heterosexual love, making this decision another one purely to attract more of a general audience and therefore to make more money.

These additional storylines take away from what should be Bilbo and Thorin’s narrative and it stunted the growth of their relationship, regardless of the brilliantly written dualogues these two characters had together. Thorin’s film death is a key example of his character arc feeling manufactured to Hollywood demands. As Richard Armitage’s character fights Manu Bennett’s Azog there is always the feeling that Thorin will receive some sort of agency and will kill Azog, something that he is denied in the book (although Azog is a different character in the book). In the book Thorin is mortally wounded by the goblin leader at the Battle of Five Armies and is carried off the battlefield, with Beorn dealing the killer blow to the goblin. Thorin’s agency in the novel is his reconciliation with Bilbo on his deathbed. The deviation to introduce an actual physical opposition to Thorin in Azog means that Thorin cannot have the same type of agency in the film as he did in the books, perhaps because it makes for a better film (or rather, a more conventional film) and it would lead one think whether something similar could happen if there wasn’t a director with a huge knowledge and respect for Tolkien for any potentially new films.

Even so, there are so many stories that could be adapted from Tolkien’s works and so many should get a mention, but wouldn’t work as films just because there isn’t much written on it, such as the Dagor Dagoroth (The Battle of Battles) in which Morgoth comes back into being and the fate of Arda is at play. But even if the Dagor Dagoroth was to be adapted there a still several conflicting prophecies of it (there is only a short prophecy to go on, no full chapters of any sort). There is then something like The Mariners Wife, which is another tragic love story between a King of Numenor and a woman from Middle-earth, this tale perhaps doesn’t have enough legs to go on to be made into a film of its own right. It would also be interesting to see someone adapt something that has little or no source to go on, such as the journey of Alatar and Pallando, the Blue Wizards, into the East.

So as for what could realistically be adapted into a full feature-length film(s) probably fall on Feanor and the Silmarils, The Children of Hurin and Of Beren and Luthien. Three tales that have a lot of material to go off of, with an interesting array of characters and even some lingering connections with the films that have already been released. Right now this is only a dream and is not going to happen in the near future, but Hollywood never quite seems done with a cow that still has milk to give.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. I really don’t think Peter Jackson gets enough credit for the effort he took (and for managing the expense involved) to bring Middle Earth to global theaters with more beauty and accuracy of Tolkien imagery than anybody really had a right to expect.

    • I couldn’t agree more and he is one of my favourite directors, but I think he just lost some of himself (if that makes any sense) with The Hobbit films, which I still very much enjoyed.

  2. peebles

    I hope they never film The Silmarillion. Many of those who’ve seen The Hobbit (I haven’t) say it ‘devalues’ LOTR (that word comes up in conversation quite often, independently). It’s curious that there was enough material in LOTR for six films, and it turned into three, but The Hobbit just about has enough material for one, and it too has been turned into three.

    • BishyBeek

      That’s a weird thing to say. I don’t like the Hobbit movies either, but the LOTR movies are still classics. I don’t understand how their status can be affected by another set of movies released over a decade later.

      • Exactly. Just as the original Star Wars trilogy is no better or worse for the prequel films – or for that matter, the forthcoming episodes, or for all the spin-off cartoons, toys, games and other shit – the Lord of the Rings trilogy stands by itself.

  3. F.Fortner

    I would love more Tolkien adaptations! The battle scenes in Letters ‘to Father Christmas’ and the GGI in ‘Farmer Giles of Ham’ will be brilliant.

    • Mr Duval

      Farmer Giles of Ham would take at least 14 hours of movie time per page.

  4. I always felt The Silmarillion was more suited to a high-end, one-off television production.

    • That’s actually a very intelligent idea and would/could work almost perfectly. The only downfall would probably be the budget it would need for things like CGI Glaurungs or Ancalagons etc.

    • Chiecko

      I have also wondered about this and can’t really figure out how it could be done as a single work. Or even a trilogy or whatever. It’s far too vast and sprawling and covers too large a timeframe. The only way I can imagine it being done is with each chapter being treated individually, but then some would make much longer and better productions than others.

      Of Turin Turambar (Narn I Hin Hurin) and Of Beren and Luthien (The Lay of Leithian) would make standalone movies themselves, perhaps along with a couple of others.

      • One problem with some of Tolkien’s works (which I probably should’ve written about…) is that so many of his stories are incomplete and that a small number are just huge in comparison to others.
        Perhaps the smaller stories could be part of a television series and the larger ones films or the larger stories could have an entire series dedicated to them. There really is no simple answer to how these tales could be adapted.

    • OddballGentleman

      Rather than a one off, I think the Silmarillion would do best as a large number of intertwining TV series, sort of similar to how Marvel is expanding their universe or how Terry Pratchett wrote the Discworld novels. Each series would be a standalone show, capable of being watched without any context. However, as you watch more of the shows you’d see how they all fit together into the greater story of the Silmarillion. It would be ambitious, long, and expensive, but I feel like it would be the best way to do Tolkien’s universe. Of course, it has a nonexistent chance of ever happening, but a man can dream, right?

  5. The best thing about the Tolkien adaptations was the old castles and cities. I’d love to see them recreate numenor, gundolin, all those old places.

  6. delacruz

    I actually think the silmarillon would be good for adaptation. Its a series of related stories with recurring characters, each story is short enough to fit into a 2hr film, flexible enough to expand when the occasion demands it, and its got enough fodder to keep peter Jackson and Adam(?) serkis busy for many, many years.

  7. Jackson was to Tolkien as the last three movies were to Star Wars.

  8. DClarke

    While I have no doubt such films would be beautiful, Jackson and Hollywood in general, has a way of changing the moral/meaning of a story. These “lesser known” stories would be too deep and intricate for a film to fully capture. One would have to know the mythology and back story of Tolkiens world to fully appreciate them. I still think that they would be gorgeous to see on screen, however

    • That may well be why the Tolkien Estate hasn’t given a company the rights to a film company to do these stories. Maybe an independent film company with no attachments to Hollywood could be an option?

  9. If Jackson can get three films out of The Hobbit, how many could he get out of the Silmarillion?

    • HCorePrawn

      LoTR is summed up in about 3 pages of Silmarillion, if that gives you any idea.

  10. I would like to see the Silmarillion be filmed at some point, but after the completely unnecessary additions to The Hobbit, I don’t think I’d want Jackson to direct.

  11. The Silmarillion and all the other extra volumes are quite unreadable, and I’d be delighted if someone used them to make films as good as the LOTR trilogy.

  12. beckman

    There are lots of good fantasy authors that would translate well to the big screen with a decent screenplay and director.

    I’m working my way through all of Joe Abercrombie’s books for the 2nd time and keep thinking what good films they’d make.

  13. It has become too easy to dismiss the amount of work and dedication that has gone into bringing these stories to the screen. INCREDIBLE! and the number of kids who will now read the books will be it’s legacy.

    • Just because there went alot of work in these films doesnt make it incredible filmmaking. The same goes for the use of new technologies. I liked the LOTR, especcialy the first one. But, in my view, it all went downhill from there. PJ went full Lucas, and you never go full Lucas. The Hobbit is just abysmal, with all its senseless action and plastic cgi-scenes it is the equivalent of a bland amusementpark. I am really glad C. Tolkien won’t sell the rights of the other stories. Or at least not untill PJ and production companies can get out of their head that they can direct more of this stuff and a more capable director comes along.

  14. The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films were an incredible feat of distilled storytelling ( which Tolkien would have certainly admired all be it grudgingly) and incredible filmmaking.

  15. These films would be so much better if they weren’t drowned out by all the nonsense rollercoaster fighting and bouncy castle physics. Who remembers the Balrog scene in the first film? Brilliant! After Fellowship ten generic Uruks would die at every pirouetting sword stroke. The Hobbit adaptations are the most egregious offenders . . . Tone them down and accentuate the diversity and culture (and jeopardy!) and these films could go on being made indefinitely . . .

    • Ever since the Fellowship film it seems the heroes can survive anything. When Gandalf was assumed dead and Sean Bean’s character (Boromir?) was killed in the Fellowship these were moving moments. Since then it’s all been CGI computer game battles that get tedious and don’t allow any emotional investment.

  16. AikeHanley

    I was bored with the rings in 2002.

    Jackson needs to diversify. His remake of ‘King Kong’ was probably the best remake of a movie in the last 20 years.

    And let’s free Andy Serkis from green screen. He is a great real life actor.

    • But he’s a brilliant green screen actor.

      • The mo-cap seems to give Serkis that something extra as an actor. He knows it so well, he even has his own business/acting school dedicated to it.
        Also, I think he’s leaning towards becoming more of a director now. Maybe he could do one of these stories…?

  17. Nicholas

    The Silmarillion would be brilliant if left as a series of short animated stories, but I think you could bring in a lot of young and aspiring talent to have a go at that.

    • Arellano

      Good idea. Something in the vein of The Animatrix or Gotham Knight perhaps? Different animators take on different tales. Would be very interesting.

  18. The Silmarillion is probably best suited to be a long, pointless, meandering plotless book.

    • The Silmarillion is not meant to be a cohesive book, per se. While it proceeds chronologically, the stories can be read either cohesively or individually. It is an integral part of the Tolkien’s world-building and, as such, it provides a snapshot of thousands of years of Middle-earth history. I think that this is the magic of Tolkien’s world: you can stick to the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit and love the world, and you can also expand your knowledge about this world and where it derives from.

      The Silmarillion, at its core, is designed for people who want to delve into Middle-earth’s history. It’s not meant to be read like a John Grisham crime novel or Bernard Cornwell historical fiction-not that there is anything wrong with these type of books.

  19. I think the rest of Tolkien’s work is best suited to a series of short stories or episodic scenarios.

  20. Aaron Hatch

    Well made article, and since I am a Lord of the Rings fan, Its criminal that I have not read any of theses stories. I have a feeling that Warner Bros. is waiting to see how Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them does at the box office, and if it does well, we may be seeing stories like The Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales. I say that because there both telling stories way before the character we know and love were ever born, so the stories would have to primarily sell the films on the universe itself, which can be hard to market to a main stream audiences.

    • I don’t think box office will be a problem, but good point nonetheless it would be hard to sell without familiar characters, but that’s where Galadriel could really come in handy. I am sure the universe itself is enough for both the Potter and the Middle-earth fanbases alike. Both sets of fans are incredibly loyal and I’m sure that people would line up to the moon to see these films.

  21. Fredrik

    I’d want to see the first half of Silmarillion directed by someone like Terrence Malick, and the second half by Guillermo del Toro.

  22. Whitaker

    I hope they make a sprawling 6 hour epics of Tolkein’s other works.

  23. Thanks Peter Jackson – it was a wonderful journey that included some incredible cinematic experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

  24. Jeff MacLeod

    I enjoyed this article. I’d love to see a film of the Lay of Beren and Luthien.

    • Thanks, Jeff! Of the three Children of Hurin is my favourite but I would love to see any of Tolkien’s stuff as a film.


  26. Adnan Bey

    If ever they adapt the Silmarilon, it would be all three tales to make up a new trilogy. But since that book is more protected than any other, I wish Hollywood luck in adapting anything from it.

  27. In response to: “there are so many stories that could be adapted from Tolkien’s works…but wouldn’t work as films just because there isn’t much written on it…”

    I believe that the pieces of Tolkein’s work, or anyone’s that leave little to go off of, can in fact be the best sources for new projects because it allows the creator a lot of space to work with, opens their imagination, and allows new ideas to come into an already introduced narrative, scene, or character(s). When there is a lot to go off of, there is less room to make changes without upsetting certain members of the public, and less room for innovation to strike in new directions.

    • It is a double edged sword really. It is a good point that it gives the filmmaker creative license, but it still leaves a lot of work and the “invented” narrative should fit in with Tolkien’s world.

    • It would be interesting to see something like this developed.

  28. Isis Kern

    The only ‘seriousness’ in any part of LOTR is the invention of viable languages; the rest is a not particularly well-written epic.

  29. The Silmarillion is my favourite of his works, though how it would translate onto the big screen is beyond me.

  30. We really enjoyed the three Hobbit movies and, although I despise wearing 3D glasses, the sensation I got was that of watching theatre in the round albeit with some great landscape & action scenes.

    I want more. Give me any adaptation!

    • They were enjoyable films; no where near the standard of Rings but they were good to watch. I think we will get more Tolkien films. One day…

  31. wanitake

    The Silmarillion would only really work as a big budget HBO or Showtime mini series. It’s too dense and fractured to work as movies but 10-12 hour long episodes each focusing on a different chapter and different characters all multi layered into this grand Middle Earth prehistory could potentially work very well.

    • I do think e television series would work really well. Some stories would take up 2-3 episodes, but I have no problem with that. I don’t know the US channels too well (being British and all), but HBO does seem like a good bet.

    • Hadn’t thought of that. Fantastic idea. HBO would make a killing as many would subscribe just to watch the series.

  32. ApeX

    I am of the opinion that Roverandom would make for a fantastic animated film, of the same vein that many Pixar movies fall within. It is a fairly whimsical tale, and was primarily a bedtime story for his children.

    What I like about Roverandom is that it has somewhat darker undertones, akin to Lloyd Alexander’s Black Cauldron. I think it would make for an entertaining movie that both young and old audiences could get into.

  33. I think they should do some original films set in Middle Earth. I’ve just started playing Shadow of Mordor, and it’s great how they tell a different type of story while keeping it recognisably in the same world with the same lore.

  34. Once you get over the added characters/stories, I think the adaptations are really enjoyable films which match the tone of the books nicely.

  35. I wonder what Tolkien himself might have thought of the film adaptations of his stories. I’m sure the The Lord of the Rings trilogy would have won a place close to his heart. They seem to stay true to the spirit of faerie tale. The Hobbit trilogy I’m not so sure. Some of the magic that the first three films captured was somehow lost in the Hobbit films.

  36. My name is Dincil, I just got kicked out of the Bundeswehr because I took too much speed, I cannot leave the drugs it is inexpliccable to me. Obermaat Moeller still hasnt told me why he’s obermaat this question is killing me. West is the best fuck off the rest and then we ambushed the first platoon.

    Kind regards Dincil

    p.s. If you have speed e-mail me.

  37. I am glad that you brought up The Children Of Hurin. I have always thought that this story would be the easiest remaining story to adapt to film. It has a fairly linear plot line compared to many of Tolkien’s other works, and it certainly keeps the audience engaged throughout.

    My ideal would be to see Beren and Luthien on the screen, and I think that the multiplicity of villains would actually enrich the film, despite the challenges associated with adapting this complex plot.

    Maybe this is just a fan-boy moment on my part, but I think that a two or three season television program of the Lord of the Rings would go over well. Obviously, we would need to wait another 10 or 15 years to avoid LOTR burnout, but I think that television can open up a host of new avenues to explore. While Jackson’s films focused brilliantly on special effects and video-game-like techniques, a television program could provide new avenues to develop the plot. Maybe this is a way to integrate Tom Bombadill and the Barrow Downs. The battle scenes would not have to feature so prominently on the whole, but they could comprise one episode in themselves. Maybe the storytelling and singing that occurs in the novel can be exploited to its fullest, therefore expanding the Middle-earth’s history. Like the films, it would attract casual fans and die-hards alike. Might be worth a shot, but I think we’re still a long way away from this idea.

  38. I would love to see some further adaptations in this theme. I remember reading The Silmarillion when I was about 9 years old (some 18 years ago) and being fascinated; that fascination remains today.

    • I’ve got to say, to read the Silmarillion at that age is very impressive. I found it hard reading it for the first time in my late teens. But it’s shows the power of Tolkien’s work that it has stayed with you for so long.

      • It took a lot longer than it would take me now I suspect. Fond memories of having to look up a lot of the words (In a dictionary then – Google didn’t exist, now that’s a terrifying thought) yet a joyous experience nonetheless.

  39. At this point, between the issues with legal rights and the denseness of the remaining Tolkien penned works I think it’d be just as easy to make an original story and set in in Middle-earth a la Shadows of Mordor (except following the rules of the universe a little better) as it would be to adapt anything from The Silmarillion. Some people would be upset that someone not named J.R.R. Tolkien was writing Middle-earth stories, but people would be upset with the necessary liberties that would be taken in developing a further film anyway. Maybe separate canons between the book and film universes? We’ve sort of got that anyway.

  40. Stephen Matthias

    The Silmarillion would be a true challenge to bring to the screen. You could have all the CGI advancements available and still fail to bring that mythology to life simply because all the characters and themes reach a level far more supernatural than those found in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. But who knows, someone might surprise us.

  41. In a sense, we got elements of The Silmarillion in the Lord of The rings trilogy through the love story between Aragorn and Arwen. Their love story was essentially the love story featured in The Silmarillion. A lot of other elements in The Silmarillion like the use of treasures and certain creatures were also featured in The Hobbit trilogy as well. In a sense, we got a thematic and spiritual adaptation of The Silmarillion through the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.

  42. Hale Relic

    If a single story is to be selected above all others, let it be about Tolkien’s one true love, Luthien Tinuviel, and the mortal man she was doomed to love, Behren, son of Barahir. The tale of how they wrested a Silmarill from Morgoth’s Iron Crown will make a spectacular movie!

    Lorde could be cast as Luthien, she fits perfectly ” She was a woman of incomparable beauty and grace, with night-dark hair, sparkling grey eyes, luminous skin, and a clear heartbreakingly lovely voice that was said to cause winter to melt into spring”

    • Lorde isn’t someone I would have thought of at all and she hasn’t done any acting that I’m aware of. Personally, I think Jessica De Goouw matches Luthien’s appearence well. She also has similar features to Liv Tyler who played Arwen, who was a descendent of Luthien.
      Either way my vote would still be for the Children f Hurin if I had to choose one story.

  43. As a massive, lifelong fan of Tolkien and his wonderful world, I really enjoyed the speculation in this article. I wholeheartedly agree with the points made on The Hobbit and equally agree on the other stories that have a (outside) chance of being brought to life. I can only hope that if the Tolkien estate gives permission, the permission comes with the caveat of staying true to form in the ways The Hobbit did not.

  44. “but I think he just lost some of himself (if that makes any sense) with The Hobbit films, which I still very much enjoyed.”

    I totally agree!

  45. Great article!

    I would love to see the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales come to the big screen (or HBO). I loved LOTR and the Hobbit moves.

    They are pretty complex if you have not read the books, so let the directors face that challenge. The movies, took some liberties, but overall the moves were good.

    Game of Thrones, GRRM no longer writes the plot – but it is still turning out well.

    I also don’t fear spin offs for Fan Fiction – Rogue 1 – doing well from all accounts….

    Bring on the moves – and let there be more exposure and conversation!

    Tolkien family – share (And profit) from your Silmarils


  46. Slaidey

    I couldn’t read the article lest I spoil the other books covered but it’s an interesting prospect. What will the eagerness of fans be to a new Tolkien adaptation once they’ve been been let down by The Hobbit trilogy? Only time will tell!

  47. I would like to see some film adaptions of various motifs/story parts of the Silmarillion, however I would like to be them in great variation to the design and aesthetics we have seen on the LOTR and Hobbit movies. I would desire something of a flavour more closely to Tolkiens drawings, maybe even like the old semi-cartoon movie. In that way one could possibly heal the damages the film has done on the individual imaginations. It should become clear that there is not the one and only way how to imagine Arda and Tolkiens beastiarium. In particular a European production could be very interesting, one that is at variance with the Anglo-American style movies out of the tin.

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