As reported on Monday, Amazon Studios has confirmed a multi-season The Lord of the Rings television show set before the events of the book and film series. Due to expensive rights acquisition, the show comes with one of the most exorbitant price tags in the industry. For fans, this momentous news begs the question: what will this television series actually be about?
Sadly, we don’t yet know for sure. Our only clue is a statement from the Tolkien estate saying that the show will “bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.”
Tolkien’s world of Middle-Earth is vast and well-documented. The Lord of the Rings is the foundation of modern fantasy, and mega-hits like Game of Thrones have shown that the genre holds massive potential for TV audiences. Amazon could take their project to numerous places in Tolkien’s writings. Here are some of our favorite potential options.
Aragorn, heir to the crown of Gondor, is roughly 80 years old during the events of The Lord of the Rings. According to Tolkien’s writings, the young Ranger is 20 when he first meets the elf who will eventually become his queen, Arwen Evenstar. It is also around this time that Aragorn rejoins his people, the Rangers of the Dúnedain, and begins guarding The Shire and surrounding areas against Sauron’s minions.
This leaves 60 years of Aragorn’s adult life untold in any other medium. There’s plenty of material to build on: Aragorn grows ever closer to Arwen, protects the hobbits of the Shire, becomes friends with Gandalf and Legolas, hunts Gollum, and serves in the armies of both Gondor and Rohan.
Love, war, intrigue, and the struggles of coming to terms with one’s identity: all the ingredients for a great story are here. Similarly to shows like Gotham, Amazon could explore the backstory of easily recognizable characters without treading on the same stories that people already know. Structuring a series around the life of young Aragorn seems like a promising idea all around.
Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy told viewers a little more about the group of wizards known as Istari working behind the scenes throughout Middle-Earth. There were, of course, Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey, and Radagast the Brown, but there were also two Blue Wizards (Alatar and Pallando) who fans have yet to meet outside of Tolkien’s works.
The Istari are actually Maiar, powerful beings created long before even the Elves. Sauron is also one of these same beings, and at one time no one knew that he was evil. There would have to be a bit of manipulation of the canon’s timeline, but the Amazon series could potentially tell the story of the five wizards while also depicting Sauron during his days of living among the good guys.
Seeing Gandalf interact with his contemporaries before the War of the Ring, including working with Saruman before he ever turned to evil, would be fascinating indeed for fans of Tolkien’s works. Watching Sauron in the early stages of his hidden schemes would also be interesting, to say the least.
Beren and Luthien
If Amazon’s rights acquisition includes posthumous Tolkien works such as The Silmarillion or The Book of Lost Tales, many new possibilities would open up. Among these, the story of Beren and Luthien is without a doubt the most famous and most readily adaptable to television.
In the midst of an ancient war between the Elves and Morgoth, Sauron’s master, a Man named Beren meets Luthien the Elf maiden wandering through the woods. The two fall in love, but Luthien’s father is hesitant to let her marry a human. Luthien’s father commands that before Beren can have her hand, he must first steal one of the great jewels known as Silmarils from Morgoth’s crown. Dismayed, Beren nonetheless goes on a long and harrowing journey to complete the impossible task.
Unlike the first two options, this TV show wouldn’t include any familiar characters (except maybe Galadriel), but the story is familiar. Beren and Luthien are one of only three Man/Elf couples in Middle-Earth history, with another obviously being Aragorn and Arwen. This Romeo and Juliet type of love story will be familiar to Lord of the Rings fans. Also, Morgoth is a very similar “Dark Lord” villain to Sauron, but even more powerful.
Beren’s journey has lots to go on: romance, adventure, unlikely allies, even werewolves. With a little reimagining and expansion, that story alone could at least contain a season of television, if not more.
The tale of Beren and Luthien contains some of the sweetest and most heartfelt moments in Tolkien’s repertoire. In fact, he based Luthien on his wife Edith. Fans would certainly flock to a retelling of this classic story.
The Rise and Fall of the Noldor
Rather than following one storyline, Amazon Studios could follow a more American Horror Story type approach by telling a completely different story every season.
The bulk of The Silmarillion tells a centuries-long tale of the greatest and mightiest race of Elves: the Noldor. Galadriel and Elrond are both of Noldor blood. It was one of the first Noldor who forged the Silmarils, greatest of all jewels, from which the entire book got its name. After Morgoth stole the Silmarils, the Noldor engaged in a long, convoluted, tragic conflict against the lord of all darkness to get them back.
The story of the Noldor’s glory and downfall is composed of dozens of separate tales that weave together to form one unified history. These tales involve essentially every recognizable LotR character who is old enough to have taken part in them.
Instead of expanding heavily on any one story from the Lord of the Rings world, Amazon could decide to string together several tales to form one cohesive arc. There are truly some epic battles, characters, and relationships ripe for the converting to television.
This one is probably the most farfetched idea. Instead of sticking with concepts and characters with whom fans are familiar, this series could go all the way back to the origins of the peoples and places of Middle-Earth and beyond.
Like any good mythology, Tolkien’s universe explains the beginnings of all its inhabitants. From races like the Elves, Men, and Dwarves to familiar locations like Mordor, Erebor, and the Shire, there’s an origin story for each one. The Dwarves, for example, were never supposed to be created in the first place.
While it would certainly defy all expectations, there is enough material for the Amazon series to truly dive into the mythology behind Tolkien’s world. Even characters like Shelob have an origin story that could be fleshed out and tied into some kind of overarching theme.
Those are five possibilities for the focus of the upcoming Lord of the Rings TV show. Given the breadth of source material, there are numerous other potential focal points as well. Which of these options captured your imagination? Are there other choices you’d rather see? Let us know!