The release of The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey last December renewed speculation about whether or not director Peter Jackson was going to take on the project of filming The Silmarillion. It seems quite a lot to ask, Jackson has been involved with his adaptations of JRR Tolkien’s books in one way or another since 1995. One might assume he is ready to begin a new chapter in his life when post-production on the final instalment in The Hobbit trilogy is complete. When questioned by a fan last year at Comic Con whether he planned to continue making films based on Tolkien’s books and specifically The Silmarillion, he responded:

“I don’t think the Tolkien estate liked those films. I don’t think ‘The Silmarillion’ will go anywhere for quite a long time.”

This reasonably ambiguous statement was interpreted by all to conclude that Jackson had actually asked for the rights to make the film and was refused. You could go with that theory, or that Jackson already knew that he would be unable to obtain the rights so there was little point in pursuing the matter. Whatever the case, the frenzy surrounding the question of whether or not he will make the film continues.

To begin, let us accept a fact.

He will never get the rights

Peter Jackson will not obtain the rights to make a film adaptation of The Silmarillion in his lifetime, and nor will any other film-maker. Unlike The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Christopher Tolkien, JRR Tolkien’s last surviving son, owns the rights to the book. In fact, Tolkien never finished The Silmarillion. It was compiled, edited and published posthumously by Christopher. To say that Tolkien considered The Silmarillion his greatest work and that Christopher has an emotional attachment to the book is understating things.


The Silmarils are in my heart…

In a letter to Stanley Unwin in 1937 Tolkien expressed his gratitude that The Silmarillion was not “rejected with scorn”. What had begun on scraps of notepaper dating back to 1917 would not see publication in his lifetime. Tolkien had submitted Quenta Silmarillion, an early form of the book to his publishers, Allen and Unwin, who had asked for a sequel to The Hobbit. It was rejected, somewhat firmly, and while Tolkien obviously could not have been happy with the outcome, he bravely turned to discussing ideas for the next book with Stanely Unwin, while still demurring “what more can hobbits do?”. 1

It took him twelve years to finish the manuscript for the ‘sequel’, The Lord of the Rings, the final stages completed in 1949. A dispute with Allen and Unwin saw the actual publication put back another five years. Tolkien intended to have The Silmarillion published along with The Lord of the Rings, and after the initial rejection by Allen and Unwin, he offered it to Collins. Although Collins had initially expressed the interest in taking on both books, the length of The Lord of the Rings changed their mind. Ironically that publisher, now Harper Collins, publishes all of Tolkien’s work today. Finally Allen and Unwin, after much dithering about the page count, published the The Fellowship of the Ring as the first instalment in 1954, and The Silmarillion was again shelved.


I grew up in the world he created…

Christopher Tolkien still has the foot-stool that he used to sit on, at age six, listening to his father’s stories. Tolkien’s children were always closely involved with their father’s work, they heard much of the work in progress that became The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and the series of stories posthumously published as Tales from the Perilous Realm. But Christopher’s involvement in his father’s work went beyond bedtime stories. “My father could not afford to pay a secretary,” he says. “I was the one who typed and drew the maps after he did the sketches.” Enlisted in the Royal Air Force, Christopher left for a South African air base in 1943, where every week he received a long letter from his father, as well as chapters from the novel that was under way. “I was a fighter pilot. When I landed, I would read a chapter.” But Christopher knew his father had not forgotten The Silmarillion. It was understood between them that Christopher would take up the task if his father died without having completed it.

I was in my father’s office at Oxford. He came in and started looking for something with great anxiety. Then I realized in horror that it was The Silmarillion, and I was terrified at the thought that he would discover what I had done – Christopher Tolkien discussing a dream

Christopher felt a heavy sense of responsibility after his father’s death, which must have been further compounded by the inheritance of 70 boxes of archives, each stuffed with thousands of unpublished pages. With the assistance of acclaimed fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay, Christopher collated, edited and expanded the undated and unnumbered pages, producing the completed Silmarillion in 1977. He did not stop there. He resigned from New College at Oxford, where he had also become professor of Old English. With absolute dedication to preserving his father’s legacy, he spent eighteen years editing the unfinished work, producing twelve volumes of The History of Middle Earth. In 2007 he completed The Children of Hurin, which was originally conceived by his father in 1910 and had appeared in part in The Silmarillion, and this year published The Fall of Arthur, written in the earlier part of the 1930s. 2

The Tolkien Family

The Tolkien Family

“The canons of narrative art in any medium cannot be wholly different”

Selling the film rights to The Lord of the Rings were not, as is often assumed, a spur of the moment decision. JRR Tolkien made the above, rather hopeful, statement to Forrest J. Ackerman in a letter in 1957 . He had been approached by Ackerman, Morton Grady Zimmerman, and Al Brodax, who wanted to produce an animated version of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was not a rich man yet, and the problem of his children’s future inheritance tax weighed heavily on his mind. Tolkien was not entirely averse to the idea of his work being adapted into an animated film, but he was still protective of his work and rejected them on the basis of the script, saying “The Lord of the Rings cannot be garbled like that.” 3 He eventually sold the film and derived product rights to United Artists, in 1969, for £100,000. However, no films were completed in his lifetime. He died at age 81 four years later.


“He cashed the check, and he enjoyed the money before he died”

The film rights were sold to Saul Zaentz in 1976, who has since formed Middle-earth Enterprises. The animated versions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were released in 1977 and 1978. There was no interest in the film rights until Peter Jackson decided to try and obtain them in 1995. By the end of 2001 the first instalment of Peter Jackson’s ground-breaking Lord of the Rings trilogy was about to hit the screen. The Tolkien family had kept quiet, and had not offered an opinion to the dismay of many fans, until the week before the film was released. Christopher Tolkien issued a statement through his lawyers.

‘My own position is that ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ is peculiarly unsuitable to transformation into visual dramatic form. On the other hand, I recognize that this is a debatable and complex question of art, and the suggestions that have been made that I ‘disapprove’ of the films, whatever their cinematic quality, even to the extent of thinking ill of those with whom I may differ, are wholly without foundation.”

Peter Jackson gave an interview the week before the film’s debut to EW, and was undoubtedly feeling a bit harassed. The British press were accusing his film of having caused a rift between Christopher Tolkien and his son Simon, and Jackson was anxious to set things straight. However when questioned about the statement Christopher had released he said

”They can have opinions about the movie, but to have an attitude about the fact that the film got made in the first place is a little bit unfair to the people that own the rights because the rights were sold by J.R.R. Tolkien himself in 1968. He cashed the check, and he enjoyed the money before he died. The people who bought the rights off Tolkien should be allowed to make the film that they paid for.”

That statement, while factual, was not without a touch of bile, and for someone who professes to be such an impassioned Tolkien fan, it was disappointing.

As for the supposed wealth Tolkien enjoyed from selling the film rights, that went to said taxes. He did however spend some of the fortune he was accumulating from the sales of books in his retirement, while his wife Edith was treated to a new wardrobe, Tolkien developed a penchant for brightly-coloured velvet waistcoats. Most of the money was spent on his beloved family.

Lord-Rings-Slot-MachinesA history of dispute

Those who did write on such (copyright) matters were often rewarded in unexpected ways; breeder of jersey cattle asking if he could use the name ‘Rivendell’ as a herd-name received a letter from Tolkien to the effect that the Elvish name for Bull was mundo, and suggesting a number of names for individual bulls that might be derived from it.4

It was, in fact, New Line and Middle-earth Enterprises that started all the bad feeling. Firstly New Line failed to pay out royalties. Harper Collins and the Tolkien Estate sued them for $150 million, as well as observers’ rights on the next adaptations of Tolkien’s work. The original contract stated that the Tolkien Estate must receive a percentage of the profits if the films were profitable. Cathleen Blackburn, lawyer for the Tolkien Estate in Oxford, said, “These hugely popular films apparently did not make any profit! We were receiving statements saying that the producers did not owe the Tolkien Estate a dime.”

It took until 2009, and a change of studios, to settle the lawsuit, which had halted production of The Hobbit. It’s worth noting that Peter Jackson also had to sue New Line over unpaid royalties.

After the lawsuit was settled, Warner Bros. President and COO, Alan Horn said “We deeply value the contributions of the Tolkien novels to the success of our films and are pleased to have put this litigation behind us.”

They “deeply valued” the Estate enough to go ahead and continue flouting the original contract, which only allowed tangible products to be sold. Warner Bros. instead started selling downloadable video games based on Tolkien’s stories, and in a disgusting move which outraged fans, attempted to enter into a contract with a casino to license Hobbit-themed slot machines. They had been successful in licensing Lord of the Rings-themed slot machines and this time Harper and Tolkien Estate were determined to stop them, slapping them with a £50 million lawsuit. Warner Bros. then counter-sued, claiming that the lack of branded slot machines in casinos and arcades, along with online games, damaged the profitability of the first film in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. They stated the lawsuit “has harmed Warner both in the form of lost license revenue and also in decreased exposure for the Hobbit films.”

Meanwhile the money-grubbing leech Saul Zaentz bullied a small pub in Southampton last year, called of course, The Hobbit, which had been established as a homage to Tolkien’s work for more than 20 years, demanding they re-brand entirely or face legal action. It was not only fans who had had enough at this point. After Zaentz caved in to public pressure and agreed to sell them a license, The Hobbit stars Ian Mackellan and Stephen Fry paid for the license out of their own pocket. Fry said “Sometimes I’m ashamed of the business I’m in. What pointless, self-defeating bullying.”

 Tolkien has become a monster…

“…devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time,” said Christopher Tolkien. “The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away.”

It took a long time for Christopher Tolkien to break his silence, the interview with LeMonde was his first in forty years. It is clear that the appalling treatment both the family and Tolkien’s publisher’s have been subjected to over the last decade by the film studios had finally taken it’s toll. Having carefully never offered an opinion of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Christopher finally said

“They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25. And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.”

SilmarillionI am sorry the names split his eyes…

I do not think it would have the appeal of the L. R. – no hobbits! Full of mythology, and elvishness, and all that ‘heigh style’ (as Chaucer might say), which has been so little to the taste of many reviewers – JRR Tolkien 5

The “eye-splitting” Celtic names, along with the deep philosophical and theological themes that pervade The Silmarillion are among just some of the factors that make it a difficult read. Even some of the most devoted Tolkien fans struggle with it; it is a little disjointed, episodic and lacks a central character and the narrative that would follow. It’s not coincidental it is often likened to the Old Testament, it is essentially a creation tale, with the perspective Christopher Tolkien described as “the novelist inventing the story, and so retains omniscience: he can explain, or show, what is ‘really’ happening and contrast it with the limited perception of his character.” 6

The book was not well-received when it was published, as Allen and Unwin had feared forty years earlier, and as Tolkien had feared himself. The common complaints being the difficult names, the archaic text and the lack of central characters for the reader to identify with.

The heart of the matter

I am doubtful myself about the undertaking [to write The Silmarillion]. Part of the attraction of The L. R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background: an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist. To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new unattainable vistas are again revealed JRR Tolkien 7

It is at this point we have to consider why anyone would think the translation of The Silmarillion into film, in the authirs opinion, would be anything less than disastrous. It is not, in essence, filmable. The very depth, scope and gravity of the book does not lend itself to an action-adventure film. Doubtless there are those who have read it and think it would make a wonderful film. I suspect they are overestimating Peter Jackson’s abilities. A great film-maker he may be. The task of adapting Middle-Earth to film is no mean feat and on the whole they did an excellent job, but several of the additions they made to the story of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, have ranged from unnecessary to embarrassing. Jackson’s ardent desire to create his Warrior-Elf-Princess may have been finally realised in The Hobbit, but the vicious backlash of fans at his attempt to treat Arwen in the same manner in The Lord of the Rings trilogy forced him to withdraw her scenes at Helm’s Deep from the film.

Herein lies the problem. A film-maker must cater to the audience. And where Jackson was compelled to do so he lost the heart of the book along the way. The film, in fact, only represents the surface of The Lord of the Rings, it cannot claim the philosophical depth of the text. If JRR Tolkien really only considered The Lord of the Rings as a sequel to his “real” work, The Silmarillion, what chance does a film-maker have of creating its equal in film?

Perhaps Professor Tom Shippey summed it up best. In his largely complimentary essay on the Peter Jackson films that was added to the third edition of The Road to Middle-Earth, Shippey observes that Jackson “is quicker than Tolkien was to identify evil without qualification, and as a purely outside force…there is the kernel here of a serious challenge to Tolkien’s view of the world, with its insistence on the fallen nature even of the best, and its conviction that while victories are always worthwhile, they are also always temporary. And this could, at last, be a problem not created by any failure to perceive ‘the core of the original’ but a grave and genuine difference between the two different media and their ‘respective cannons of narrative art’.”8


A clarification on copyright: Christopher Tolkien holds the authorial copyright on The Silmarillion, not J.R.R. Tolkien. Harper Collins has confirmed with us that, under current copyright laws, the copyright will therefore not expire until 70 years after Christopher’s death, and not in 2043 when the copyright on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien will expire. (Updated 25/01/14)




  1. Carpenter, Humphrey The Letters of JRR Tolkien Harper Collins 2006, pg 26
  2. Christopher Tolkien Interview at LeMonde/Worldcrunch
  3. Carpenter, Humphrey The Letters of JRR Tolkien Harper Collins 2006, pg 270
  4. Carpenter, Humphrey JRR Tolkien A Biography Unwin 1978, pg 242
  5. Carpenter, Humphrey The Letters of JRR Tolkien Harper Collins 2006, pg 238
  6. Tolkien, Christopher The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Harper 2002, pg 2
  7. Carpenter, Humphrey The Letters of JRR Tolkien Harper Collins 2006, pg 333
  8. Shippey, Tom The Road to Middle-Earth Harper Collins 2005, pg 422-3

109 Responses

  1. Kyr

    well done! this is an article i could have written myself, i instantly recognized the parts from the book of the lost tales. Thank Eru greedy holywood will never get to ravage Gondolin, Thangorodrim, Turin or Valinor.

  2. Tony Brown

    There is enough material in the Hobbit films to justify a ‘Rise of Sauron’ storyline… who wouldn’t want to see that young mans rise to rule a city of were wolves and ultimately become a force of evil in the …. woops, sorry, I was channeling the Star Wars prequels then 🙂

  3. Kwyjibo

    Excellent article! The Silmarillion is my favourite Tolikien work, but I agree, it is nearly impossible to translate it to film. However, in my wildest dreams, there’s a mini series about it, or an animated series, why not?

      • Kwyjibo

        Haha, true that. Imagine all the Thurin saga, too much feelings right there.

  4. james

    Amazing article, great job on showing us good overview of the actual situation. Sad to hear all these problems arose from such a beautifully written series of books.

  5. TheFran

    Great article. I so desperately want the silmarillion movie. man.. but perhaps only one of the tales, like Beren en Luthien.. oh boy that would be awesome!

  6. Paul

    Excellent article, thought provoking and very well written. I’m a massive fan of Tolkien’s but I’m actually rather glad The Silmarillion will never be butchered by Hollywood.

  7. mentallect

    Tolkien’s family whine about adapting the book to film. Tolkien himself had no problem selling the rights, so they are not protecting his legacy, they are diminishing it. The Bible was made into movies.

    JR Tolkien did the heavy lifting, not his children. The author makes no points which are credible. I think its the generational divide. Old people sanctify age as holy, and refuse to move forward in life.

    Tolkien’s big negative was that he was a racist, and that he didn’t sell all the rights before he died.

    • ProfNickD

      Sorry, you’re going to have to toss a quarter in the bucket for that accusation of Racism™.

    • Feanorian

      Who are you to label professor Tolkien a racist…What sanctified minority are you a member of and how did Tolkien ever reveal any racial overtones of any kind in his work. You would be pilloried for making such an outlandish and accusatory accusation to the public at large. This is a man who fought for freedom in world war 1 in the trenches, facing an enemy more deadly to our real world than 10 saurons. You should be ashamed, defamed and dismissed for your baseless complaint about 1 of the greatest authors of the modern age. You have orc blood running in your veins you useless halfwit…

  8. Goran

    No one is talking about how the LotR movies rekindled interest into that which can never be altered and which, in the end, really matters – the source material.
    If everyone is so concerned about the spirit of the books, well… At any rate, the immortality of the books remains there, undisturbed. If an ecranisation is not entirely successful and faithful to at least some degree of the essence, it will be forgotten. Hollywood’s love of amusing crowds with action scenes is probably just a fad, one that will be looked down upon by our posterity. But if it actually manages to become a transcendent entity in the likes of 2001 A Space Odyssey, it will only exalt its author even more.

    So why not give them a try, it’s a win-win, no?
    Reading what I wrote to this point, I get terrified at the notion of how money-oriented this world is. If it is money people are really concerned here about, that will come as well, and it will be spent. Until then, I don’t see the need to decry any takes at this masterpiece, especially if it’s made with as much love as Lord of the Rings trilogy was…

    • Goran

      Ugh, I meant to write that one sentence as “But if the ecranisation actually manages to become…”. Without that word, it looks like I’m supposing Hollywood’s stupid action scenes will be timeless. xD

      • Olga

        Sometimes I wonder if the films will become one of my “cheesy favourites” in twenty years time.

        I think people keep glossing over the way the actual film studios have treated the Tolkien Estate. They keep trying to sensationalise the matter into a dispute between Jackson and Christopher Tolkien, now keep in mind New Line didn’t pay royalties to Peter Jackson for the LOTR as well as Harper Collins and the Tolkien Estate. The reason they hired Del Toro to direct the Hobbit initially most likely had to do with the fact that Jackson was suing them and one of the studio heads said he never wanted to work with Jackson again.

        Christopher is in his eighties, I am sure he has no desire to spend the next ten years chasing WB to make sure they’re not breaching contracts. The Tolkien family was well-off from the sales of the books and associated merchandise well before the movies were made. Another thing the press rarely mentions is that the Tolkien family runs their own charity and gives a lot of their money away.

  9. Learsi Krats

    The Silmarillion is an immense collection of foundation material for Middle-Earth in it’s entirety. It takes you from it’s very creation to the threshold of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Surely, there are the Silmarills themselves and their origins, beauty and purpose, not to mention other ‘gems’ such as the beautiful ‘Lay of leithian’ [Of Beren and Luthien] which scream out for cinematic treatment, not on the side of special effects, CGI, and battle/action scenes so much, but rather their need to be treated in the “classic” style of a ‘Gone With The Wind’ or ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. What, I believe, would really “save” such an undertaking as a cinematic version of ‘The Silmarillion’ (if indeed Peter Jackson was either unwilling [having exhausted his interest in the Tolkien paradigm or unable to procure rights from the respective Estate]) would be an undertaking by another director(s) not unlike, say, a Stanley Kubrick, a James Cameron or, dare I say, Wolfgand Petersen…if you take my meaning. There is an awful lot of rich material to consider both in the way of sheer imagery and not less than incredible story telling and character development on the whole to be sure; for any who have read this most excellent and original of fantasy epic sagas. The Silmarillion and all of it’s posthumous counterparts published by Christopher Tolkien from his fathers turbulent archives is probably some of the rarest storytelling and richest collection of narratives to be offered up by any one individual of human extraction in literally hundreds of years (if not longer…). No wonder the inquiries just continue on and on. It is within the grasp of our time to see these things perchance to become manifest in the right hands! What do you think, ‘am I just a dreamer?

    • Olga Hughes

      No I don’t think we’re going to see it in anyone’s hands quite frankly. Christopher still has two children the copyright will pass to and family members run the estate. By all accounts they all live a quiet life and as I noted they are already very wealthy and run a charity. I doubt any family member is going to be tempted to give the rights up for any sum.

      James Cameron? Visuals aren’t everything. I don’t know who I would like to see make it to be honest. I have seen fans throwing around the idea of it presented as a sort of docu-drama which I actually think would work well.

  10. Omar

    Don’t be fooled by Peter Jacksons protestations that he doesn’t want to make more Tolkien based films. He wants it, all his thoughts are bent on it. Even now as I write this he is pressing his advantage.

  11. sharks2431

    I’m not going to speak to controversy between Jackson, New Line and the Tolkiens because I know nothing about it, but I do want to speak towards the content of the book. I believe the Silmarillion is perfectly suited to either a TV series or a series of movies.

    Why? Because, the majority of tales in the book are segmented. This ‘disjointed’ nature I would argue works great for television because each story would be standalone and distinct. The crossover between the tales would also help viewers understand the broader picture.

    Let’s take a movie series for instance. The first movie could start with a ‘flashback’ type of event, with narration of the creation of the world (Ainulindale and Valaquenta). It would then follow the saga of the Quenta Silmarillion up until Feanor’s death. The 2nd movie could tell the tale of Beren and Luthien, ending with Melkor’s victory against the Noldor. The third movie would star Hurin and Turin (introduced briefly in the 2nd movie) and end with Turin’s death. The 3rd movie would deal with the Fall of Gondolin and so on until ending with the 2nd age.

    Admittedly, a series of movies like these would definitely have to buck some Hollywood trends – most noticeably, the penchant for happy endings. But in the end I think a series like this could done quite well.

    • Goran

      Am I the only one who sees a problem in depicting divine intervention? Eru Ilúvatar is quite literally – God. He removes Valinor from the world, bends the world into a sphere, destroys Numenor, speaks to certain characters, and is directly depicted in the “before the dawn of time” parts of the book… It must be a sensitive subject, at the very least.

      • Olga Hughes

        I think a lot of fans (and the film-makers) are aware that the religious imagery is a contentious issue. You only need to look at the mess they made of His Dark Materials.

      • Goran

        And Aslan from Narnia. Most people are like “…Wait, what?” when they realize that he is basically Jesus.

      • Olga Hughes

        I think they could afford to be a little ambiguous with Aslan in the Narnia films though, most kids reading the books will ignore the religious imagery even if they understand it, I know I did. But then again even if they do reboot the film series they could never shoot Last Battle. You can get away with a little creationism, it is used often enough in mythology and fantasy, but not heavy Christian imagery of judgement and apocalypse, it is too much.
        His Dark Materials could never have been a good Hollywood film, they had to strip the guts out of it and try and make it an adventure film, it just didn’t work.

    • Alatar

      I agree with you. A TV series would be the best way to adapt the Simarillion. Each season focusing on a mayor event (and one or a couple of main characters), this would make them somehow independant (only conected by some elements and characters that will carry from one season to the next). The first season would be focuss on Feanor until his dead (all the previous tales, the creation of the world, etc. could be included through the story in the form of legends). The next one would feature Thingol, narrating the adventures of the Sindar and the first Beleriand war (before the arrival of the Noldor). The third season would focus on the events form the second to the fourth beleriand war, featuring Fingolfin. The fourth season would narrate the story of Beren and Luthien. The fifth would focus on the Nirnaeth Arnoediad (featuring Maedhros perhaps, and presenting Hurin and Huor). The next season would narrate the history of Turin and his sister. The seventh season would focus on Tuor and Gondolin. The eight season would feature Earendil all the way until the Final battle. There could be a nine season about Numenor and the Second age of the Sun, and another one about the Third age, finish in the siege of Mordor (the battle at the begining of the Felowship of the Ring movie).

      • Winrobee

        I agree that that is a good agenda. There is certainly enough material in The Silmarillion for the basis of a decade-run between one or more television series. Of course there would have to be all-new minor plot lines, interpolation between parts of The Silmarillion, story lines for supporting characters–in short, umpity-two times the level of invention for which Peter Jackson is (in my opinion, quite unfairly) lambasted.

        My main concern is that, with a television series, there will be things like characters being played by different actors in the event of a contract dispute (which would confuse the audience over an already confusing cast of characters which will have to be followed over thousands of years), and above all, the fact that a seven-year run of a television series is considered lucky. Star Trek lasted only 3 years. The peccadillos of studio management might cancel the great show any season. If there were a seven-year run of Silmarillion episodes, that would be an almost astounding show of good fortune.

        Besides, audiences are accustomed to the form of an epic fantasy series for LotR. There should be, in any event focus on six stories in particular, whether movies or television, The Flight of the Noldor, Beren and Luthien, The Children of Hurin, The Fall of Gondolin, The war of Wrath, and the Downfall of Numinor. And a film series is more likely to get that far, I believe. (I do think television would be in some ways superior, though.)

  12. Joey

    If they “did” allow somehow, someway to make this into a film it would be possibly the most epic and impossible fantasy story ever seen by mortal eyes…

    Imagine armies of Balrogs… The celestial creatures and massive destruction and simutaneous creation of middle Earth… And massive waves wiping out an entire continent?!

    I think that this would probably be the BEST book to make into a movie actually… The Cinematics would be unreal.. And that fact that it is so hard to read and comprehend means that way more people could at the very least get a taste of this masterpiece and be able to enjoy it.

    Otherwise it will remain safe as an obscurity in popular literature known only by the elite few..

    • Olga Hughes

      What looks awesome in your head is not necessarily going to look awesome on film. What did you think of the Nercromancer/Sauron images from the last Hobbit film? Because even after the second viewing I didn’t like them. With that said I think they would do an amazing Glaurung, Smaug surpassed my expectations, I thought he was brilliant.
      The fact that is is difficult to read is where it is going to be difficult to translate it into film, the Hobbit is suffering the same problem even though it is easy to read. With LOTR they had vast dialogue to draw on, they were using Tolkien’s words. With the Hobbit they are filling in a hell of a lot of dialogue and it’s sounding like Hollywood rather than authentic Middle Earth dialogue. The same would happen to the Silmarillion. Of course I am discussing the current film-makers here.

  13. Joey

    I agree that it might not be what I see in my head.. Smaug was great, I didn’t mind how they did the Necromancer.. But what’s up with she-elf warrior falling in love with the Dwarf? Don’t remember that part ha ha but was long ago when I read.. I am still mad that they totally cut out the part in LotR of Tom Bombadil that character was immune to the effects of the one ring and established to the readers that not all creatures of middle earth were the same. Some were just above it all.

    • Olga Hughes

      Tauriel was created for the film so they could have a female lead, which is fair enough. I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it was just going to be a sort of Gimli/Galadriel admiration thing, but no. They made it really lame instead.

      No-one will ever forgive Jackson for Tom Bombadil, ever. It’s a shame he couldn’t have made the Hobbit first, they might have let him do six films for LOTR

      • Joey

        Yes, and not even a mention of him in the “extended edition” :/

        As for Silmarillion… If I was to write a script for a film adaptation I would try to be ethereal as possible in terms of location (mostly CGI)

        I really want to see the very powerful creatures take shape and battle each other. And watch the dynamics involved with these wonderful characters.

      • Feanorian

        To Olga, Peter Jackson is a hack. Plain and simple and to insert himself into the film at several different points speaks to the hugeness of his personal vanity. More shocking is the complete dismissal of the most important part of Tolkiens story – that being “the scouring of the shire” which to me was the very best part of the book. It showed how events of greatness mold us into the persons we become over the span of time. Having Gandalf summarize that ” you are all, meaning the hobbits… quite prepared to deal with your own problems and that being seasoned by glory and bitersweetness they were ready to govern and remedy all the trouble at home that transpired while on their journey. What a terrible thing to dismiss the fact that Pippin and merry having been changed by the waters of the ents and how they became unique in that they were the largest hobbits and capable of serving out revenge and punishment and how the journey had damaged poor Frodo so badly that he no longer could enjoy his life back home…

      • C S Hughes

        I think given the opportunity, any fan would love to take on a role, however minor, in Tolkien’s much treasured world. Alfred Hitchcock is famous for cameos in his own films, spot the director becomes a bit of fun, an eccentricity, it certainly doesn’t make the director a hack. Jackson is clearly a fan.

      • Olga Hughes

        I agree with Craig on the cameos, I don’t find them odious and it is just a bit of fun.
        I was very disappointed they left the Scouring of the Shire out, one of the greatest chapters in the genre. They were limited with running time of course and it is really difficult to decide what should have been left in or out of the films. They left a great deal out that I would have liked to have seen included.
        However I would prefer things to be left out rather than changes which alter the true nature of a character, such as Faramir. I really don’t understand why they felt the need to do that.

  14. Graeme

    The rights to ‘The Silmarillion’ expire in 2043, I believe. A long time off, but that doesn’t mean it will never be adapted (not likely by Peter Jackson, of course). I’m actually really interested in how any filmmaker would go about trying to film it: which parts? How would the setting be established? Would a TV series or serialization have the resources to do the stories justice? How would he or she handle the relentlessly dark tone of the book (it being essentially one long story of defeat)?

    I’m of two minds about the film versions of LotR (one of the best film series ever made, in my mind, though still overly divergent from the book) and ‘The Hobbit’ (not to the same standard, thought the source material is quite different): I’m really glad they were made, and I feel they had to be made at some point, so better Jackson than many others. They are entertaining, in places brilliant, and yet also stubbornly, aggravatingly imperfect (what are perceived to be “unnecessary” changes are the most difficult to bear, of course).

    I respect Christopher Tolkien’s feelings about the film adaptations, but I wonder if he’s being entirely reasonable. It seems he would be opposed to any and all adaptations, despite his father’s expressed desire to

    “…make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story – the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendour from the vast backcloths… I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.”

    Is ‘The Lord of the Rings’ really “peculiarly unsuitable” to be adapted to film, or would Christopher simply prefer no one try? Regardless of his impression of Jackson’s films in particular, is there any possible adaptation he would ever support?

    Finally, interesting point about JRR Tolkien selling the film rights to LotR to pay for his children’s inheritance tax, but what did he own that was worth so much that this was such a concern? I had read that he wasn’t a particularly wealthy man during his life, but the need of raising 100,000 pounds in 1968 to pay for inheritance tax suggests he had holdings worth a fair bit.

    • Olga Hughes

      I must stress again that we are not trying to present this as a personal dispute between Jackson and Christopher Tolkien. If Christopher was eager to denounce Jackson’s films he could have done it years ago, he waited more than ten years to comment on them. This is the film studio’s fault, if they were concerned about a good working relationship with the Tolkien family they would have allowed them observer’s rights and they would cease to produce merchandise that they are not legally entitled to.
      I don’t think Christopher would be happy to see anyone adapt the Silmarillion. Despite what you have quoted there, if you read the letters regarding the first attempt to adapt it into film (which I have covered briefly) you will see how Tolkien felt about keeping the script close to the original work. Again I am sure that when someone is in their eighties they have little interest in spending another decade or two battling film studios. Perhaps his children will consider it, but I doubt it is going to happen anytime soon.
      Tolkien was not a wealthy man before the sales of the books picked up, he was only a professor after all. But he was earning quite a lot of money towards the end, the books were a huge hit. I am not really familiar with British tax law but I know that inheritance tax was always a concern for large estates.

    • Pigeon

      AIUI Tolkien amassed a significant collection of valuable ancient manuscripts over his lifetime, which was worth a fair chunk, and the income from his own works began to seriously take off in the last few years of his life. Inheritance taxes were particularly high at the time. By selling the film rights while he still had several years to live he converted that part of the value of his work into actual money, which he could then find ways to pass to his descendants while he was still alive and avoid at least some of the loss to tax. He also eased the task of his executors and relieved them of the possible need to sell part of their inheritance at what would likely be less advantageous terms to cover the tax.

      He also made some comment at the time to the effect that he thought it unlikely that anything significant would ever come of it. I would imagine that he thought the popularity of his works to be a relatively short-lived phenomenon and so the commercial desire to make a film would pass before anyone had found a way round the obvious difficulties. He also could not have anticipated the developments in special effects technology which would give film makers a way around some of the major problems (or at least to think they have a way around them; Jackson’s LOTR films may have been praised for their CGI but for me it just makes far too many of the scenes look blatantly artificial and horrendously unrealistic).

      I haven’t yet tracked down the original Le Monde article but I have seen a translation and I thoroughly sympathise with Christopher Tolkien’s views.

      A film of The Silmarillion? No thanks. The book is essentially a history presented in outline form, with huge epic events covered in a few paragraphs or even sentences. The only way it could be faithfully represented in any kind of screen presentation would be as something like a Jackanory-style reading. To actually film it would require the construction of a vast amount of extra material to transform its brief, summary descriptions into watchable scenes. The original book would form so small a percentage of the final script that the result simply would not be Tolkien in any meaningful way. Jackson’s productions so far are ample evidence that this would be a particularly significant failing were he to make the attempt.

      If Jackson wants to film a story in which a female elf warrior falls in love with a dwarf, then he should either find a story in which that happens or write one himself. Not take a story in which there are no female characters at all, set in a world where the very idea of an elf/dwarf romance is all but unthinkable, and nail on to it extra bits of plot which sound like something a teenage movie-fangirl who hasn’t read the books would write. Not only does it not fit with Tolkien’s background, it takes away the meaning and impact of Gimli’s (wholly non-sexual) admiration for Galadriel and her response to him over it.

      I would hate to see a film purporting to be The Silmarillion which by the very nature of the book would inevitably be at least 95% stuff like that, and I am rather glad that by the time there is one, if it happens at all, I will probably not be alive to hear of it.

  15. Winrobee

    What we get from a cinematic experience is entirely different from what we get from a literary one. What we get from epic material as grand as The Silmarillion is more different still. Of course everyone compares the movie version with their idea of a movie version, that’s a lot of the appeal, but in the case of this story, the makers of the films in the franchise decided to add a number of details, some of them camp (Trashiel?). If you are a particular film goer I would recommend taking in the technical mastery and cinematic art of the films, which I feel are up there with best-examples of modern cinema, and to have a sophisticated enough sense of suspension of disbelief to treat the Tolkien story line and the Jackson storyline as supplementary tales only, “not in the same Eä”.

    I do think successful movies could be made out of The Silmarillion, very, so here, as Tom Leher said, is my modest example:

    I imagine a series of about 8 films made in the Jackson format, probably with a good number of different directors, to be released over a period of about a decade:
    Part 1: Revolt of the Noldor
    A whirlwind tour of the making of Arda, from Music of the Ainur, the tens of thousands of years of work (if translated to years of the Sun) before the fall of the Lamps, to the coming of the 144 “Adamic” elves, to the Chaining of Melkor. Then the main story line from creation of the Silmarills till the elves drive Melkor to Thangorodrim ending with a cut to Morgoth making men mortal at the old Ormal site.
    Part 2: Beren and Luthien
    Parts 3 through 5: the Hurin-Huor-Turin-Tuor movies
    Apportionment amoung the 3 parts to be worked out (I’m just now reading The Children of Hurin).
    Part 6: The War of Wrath
    Ends with Eonwe judging the Belerianders, the awarding of Numinor, and the mis-apprehension of Sauron.
    Part 7: The fall of Numinor
    Starts with the forging of the Rings of Power, ends with the reshaping of Arda and the establishment of Gondor as chief power.
    Part 8: The Last Alliance

    • Winrobee

      There are groups which have worked on proposals for Silmarillion movies. Storm over Gondolin was one attempt to produce a movie taken from scenes in The Silmarillion. The movie was going to be nonprofit-online before being nixed by the Estate camp.

      • Winrobee

        Clearly we are talking about a far-off time when other-minded Tolkiens are running the Tolkien Estate. Christopher Tolkien will never sell the rights to make a movie out of his material, no way, not before somebody invents a way to replace gasoline with plastic packing peanuts and swizzle sticks. The Silmarillion might not be made while movie-making is the same as today-online options could change the buisness. And if somewhere in our remote senicence the movie is made, will the maker be allowed to take chances, for art’s sake?

        That much disappointingly being said, here is an excellent example of fan fiction comprising a Silmarillion script:

        (link removed)

        The name of the script’s movie is The Fall of the Noldor.

  16. Saighead

    Leaving aside the intractable commercial and legal disputes, from a creative standpoint, I agree that the Silmarillion may be “unfilmable” approached as a single stand alone book.
    Rather, I see at least half a dozen stories that can be extracted and filmed as stand alone stories, just as Narn i Chin Hurin has been.
    How could Beren & Luthien be unfilmable? If they can pad out The Hobbit to three films (none of which I will see), how can there be no way to translate any number of the “episodes” that were edited into the Silmarillion, already a literary “invention”. It needn’t be Jackson, who did a fine job w/ Lord of the Rings, IMO, but who’s metier may not be best matched to the subtler themes of the First Age. By the way, here we are at the anniversary of The Great War, which directly fed those themes: what better time to bring forth such a project.
    I was sorely disappointed that they followed up Lord of the Rings w/ The Hobbit vice say, Beren & Luthien, or Turin’s story, or Feanor & Bros and the Silmarils, or Earendil & Elwing, or…

    I think this is an enormous lost opportunity. But, if they can’t generate a profit from Lord of the Rings, there’s a problem w/ the business model!

  17. Ben

    This would be absolutely epic if PJ managed to get his hands on the rights. However I don’t think he could adhere strictly to the book I foresee that being an almost impossible undertaking given how disjointed it is. I understand the point of how badly the Tolkiens were treated, which is obviously disgraceful, but I’d like to think they could find a way to put it some what behind them. For me anything that puts more Tolkien out in centre stage is a win. After all only 1 In a thousand people have read the Silmarillion which Is a shame considering what a wonderful book it is and how a man spent his life creating it.

    From a realistic standpoint people with A LOT of money like production companies have a knack of getting what they want. However we can only hope that Christoper isn’t too badly stung by his previous dealings with film companies.

    I disagree that it couldn’t be made into an epic film franchise like LotR or the hobbit. I doubt that PJ would go into it if he and his writing team couldn’t get something they thought was epic nailed down. After all, the Tolkien films so far are his legacy, and I doubt he wants to ruin that.

    • Sybille Stahl

      You say that only one in a thousand people has read the Silmarillion. Why is that a problem? Does everything have to be dumbed down for the consumption of the marginally literate?
      I am with the earlier poster who was confident that any filming of the story was so far in the future that s/he would be gone.

      • Olga Hughes

        Well things do need to be “dumbed down” for cinema but I wouldn’t call those who haven’t read the Silmarillion marginally literate. It’s more a case of style, there are LOTR fans who don’t enjoy reading it. I certainly found it difficult the first time.

  18. gary herrmann

    having read LOTR for the first time 37 years ago i must admit that i´d have liked a more mature film adaptation, too.

    but as soon as you go with the premise of them being nothing else but interpretations, the movies might prove delightful … with two exceptions, as far as i´m concerned:

    1) what proved as catastrophe for me was the multiple pathetic happy-endings of RETURN OF THE KING, which made the whole trilogy and book-adaptation obsolete.

    2) another problem for me is the over-exaggerated pathos in EVERY SINGLE WORD AND SENTENCE. brrrrr.

    as for a SILMARILLION-adaptation: even IF jackson got he rights, what would he do? make it an installment with 20 sequels? SILMARILLION 1 – 20 ? 30 ?

    hahahaha. naaah.

  19. What are you watching? - Page 91

    […] to The Silmarillion as he does to the LoTR and Hobbit. For a further point of view, see "Why Peter Jackson Will Never Film The Silmarillion". Win7/Foobar2000 >> Schiit Bifrost Uber DAC >> ARC LS9 preamp >> […]

  20. Winrobee

    I recently came across some good fan video giving the history of Middle-Earth in a very Peter Jackson vein.

    For anybody who wants, they are available under the titles The History of Middle-Earth parts 1-8 on Youtube. You will find this, I’m sure, the best example of concatenated Middle-Earth footage to date!

    • Winrobee

      For instance, History of Middle-Earth part 1 deals with the Silmarillion from Anulindale to the rising of the Sun and Moon. This is mainly with found footage some of which you may have seen, but the effect of telling the whole history of Middle-Earth as spectacle is breathtaking. You have to see.

  21. Moonshine

    I wouldn’t have taken any interest to read and COLLECT the works of Tolkien if I hadn’t seen the movie The Fellowship of the Ring. I’ve never heard of Tolkien until I saw the movie — he isn’t popular where I come from. The movie inspired me to read the LOTR trilogy and eventually fall in love with the Silmarillion (even before the sequel came out). I am completely mesmerized with the world Tolkien has created, much more than I ever did with Greek mythology. And the language! I struggled at first until eventually — every now and then, I just need to have a dose of old English.

    I guess, it’s the same issue/debate with those people who hate the filmmakers of Jane Austen’s novels. I only started reading and became crazy with the novels after I saw the movie Sense and Sensibility. Sorry to those who would disagree, but my fave among the masterpieces is Anne and Captain Wentworth’s love that was never truly lost.

    Sometimes I just can’t stand the movie bashing! Just because it isn’t completely consistent with the book. Or the imagery of the movie is far from how they imagined it when reading the book.

    I just want to say, if it weren’t for these movies, these classic works (of Tolkien and Austen, etc.) would have never been made READILY available and eventually become popular where I come from. I had to order online then. Or maybe that’s it, some of you just don’t want to share that excitement. You just wanna keep it to the elite few.

    Well, that’s not me. It excites me more to know that other people are fascinated with the Silmarillion (or Persuasion or Bloodline, etc.) as much as I am! Now, thanks to the movies, whenever I re-read the books, my pleasure is increased when I play the soundtrack in the background.

    I can’t wait for the Silmarilliom to be made into one of the most spectacular movies of the 21st century! And, finally put a face to King Elwe and Queen Melian! (Just to begin with.) ;D

  22. Winrobee

    The estate should let the Silmarillion out of their Formenosian coffers and into the popular culture of the Third Millenium. After all, that really is ironic, the Silmarillion literally filling the role of the Silmarills in the Feanorian guarding by said Estate. Haven’t you learned from the Noldor? Please release the aught but demised aesthetic and beauty from the last millenium so that the light therein can rekindle the morals and the faith in wisdom of mankind for the later age. For surely if we do not pass on societal standards and dreams now the light will be forgotten and evil will grow with abandon!

    • Olga Hughes

      Long time no read Winrobee! You know I love your enthusiasm but I don’t think the Tolkiens are reading…

      • Winrobee

        This is my current suggested treatment. Note that this is similar to posts here before, but after I got around to finishing The Children of Hurin…

        Part 1: Revolt of the Noldor
        A whirlwind tour of the making of Arda, from Music of the Ainur, the tens of thousands of years of work (if translated to years of the Sun) before the fall of the Lamps, to the coming of the 144 “Adamic” elves, to the Chaining of Melkor, all in the first 25 minutes. Then the main story line from creation of the Silmarills till the elves drive Melkor to Thangorodrim starting the Seige of Angband, ending with a cut to Morgoth corrupting men at the old Ormal site.
        Part 2: The Siege of Angband
        The founding of Gondolin, introduction of Maeglin and Glaurung, breaking of the Siege
        Part 3: Beren and Luthien
        Part 4: Nirnaeth Arnodiad
        Hurin, early Turin
        Part 5: Turin Turambar
        self explanatory
        Part 6: The Fall of Gondolin
        concluding Hurin, escape from Gondolin, fall of Doriath
        Part 7: The War of Wrath
        Earendil. Ends with Eonwe judging the Belerianders, the awarding of Numinor, and the mis-apprehension of Sauron.
        Part 8: The fall of Numenor
        Starts with the forging of the Rings of Power, ends with the reshaping of Arda and looks in on the establishment of Gondor as chief power.
        Part 9: The Last Alliance
        Self-explanatory. The connection to the beginning of The Lord of the Rings.

      • Winrobee

        The purpose of making these suggestions, I might add, is not to nurse an acquired habit of whining, but rather to promote some chance of introducing the etiquette and the chivalry of the first three-quarters of the 20th century to peoples of the internet-flattened world.

        Most of the people who remember the moral lessons of the World Wars are now passed, but when the Silmarillion came out in the 70’s there was no confusion that Tolkien and others like Tolkien had something to say you might want to consider about improving the world, just because they were successful in a world that thought that improvement was laudible. An excellent few more Tolkien movies, and particularly the Silmarillion material, might serve to keep the morality and the worths of the 20th century in the world awareness.

        And by the way, that is entirely apt an analogy, that the guardians of the material are Feanorianally withholding the jewels, The Silmarillion, from need to rekindle the light of the world. Morgoth hasn’t stolen the jewels yet, so display your pure light!

    • Olga Hughes

      “to promote some chance of introducing the etiquette and the chivalry of the first three-quarters of the 20th century to peoples of the internet-flattened world.”

      That’s an interesting comment Winrobee. I’m a sceptical being, however, and I am never convinced that screen-adaptations can capture the same essence as the books, especially when to comes to ideals. I’ve been watching HBO perform character assassinations on various of George RR Martin’s characters for the last four years. There has been some characters pushed far beyond their moral boundaries, the ideals of chivalry have been almost completely omitted. I enjoy Game of Thrones, and I book my tickets for Peter Jackson’s films on opening day along with everyone else. But there are certain restrictions all film-makers have when it comes to adapting scripts and much of it is based on budget and target audiences.

      In that case I am sure fans would do an excellent job doing an adaptation of the Silmarillion because they have no restrictions.

      • Winrobee

        That is what I had been thinking, fan tributes. And if The Silmarillion copyright policy is maintained in the current state for the possible, what, 70 or 75 years after Christopher Tolkien’s death, we should hope for some great fan cinema to bide us!

        But right now current Estate policies include quashing tribute non-profit fan film attempts (like Storm Over Gondolin). I would every instance defend Christopher’s moral and legal rights to do this: he is a sort of a hero who kept the Silmarillion out of oblivion. But let’s face the facts-he’s living in his own world; the man keeps wild boars on his property to keep out intruders! I wish him long life-the month the final installment of The Hobbit comes out, he’ll be ninety-but I do hope for rights to be let out for The Silmarillion, et cetera, someday.

  23. Winrobee


    By someday, I meant someday well within most of our lifetimes; and by great fan cinema, I had meant works made under the nonprofit aegis that match or surpass films such as Born of Hope and The Hunt for Gollum made before the copyright is available.

    • Olga Hughes

      I find that a bit odd actually, that they asked for them to stop work on Storm Over Gondolin. I don’t know Winrobee, I would speculate that because Christopher has no control over the other two works in regards to copyright that he is far more resistant to letting the Silmarillion go. That and of course he has a lot of emotional investment in it.
      Much of this ill-feeling could have been avoided if the studios had merely allowed the family observers rights on the movies, instead they continually flouted contracts and tried to thwart their involvement.
      Warner Bros. couldn’t get away with that behaviour with JK Rowling, who only sold them the rights to the first four books initially, by the time they had to purchase the rights to the next three books she had a lot more bargaining power. They have allowed Jo a lot of involvement in the movies of her books (she is even writing the scripts for some spin-offs at present). Why could they not have done the same for the Tolkien family?
      If they had a smidgeon of the respect that Harper Collins has for Tolkien’s work they would have wanted the family involved.

      • Learsi Krats

        I couldn’t agree with you more on the point that you make regarding J.K. Rowling’s “special treatment” by WB (albeit very shrewd on her part, business-wise anyway) and the tragic disconnect on the other hand with the Tolkien family ( if anyone knows anything about Christopher Tolkien’s intrinsic “role” in the entire matter of all things J.R.R. Tolkien; it is absolutely anathematic by the film company to be so callous…they may have courted issues very differently)…alas. BTW, although I enjoyed the Harry Potter stories, they’re just not in the same “league” as the Tolkien corpus (IMHO) though the contrast and comparison via the disparaging treatment dealt the Tolkien family is a good one.

      • Olga Hughes

        Oh well, I wasn’t really inferring they were in the same league, although I love Harry Potter. But in terms of an author protecting their work JK has easily been the most successful.
        It is easily time that is on JK’s side of course, and that her books have become so successful. But then there are still plenty of authors who are fleeced nowadays. Susan Cooper was terribly unhappy with the ‘Seeker’ or whatever that dreadful movie adaptation of the Dark is Rising sequence was called. The producers completely ignored all of her letters.
        Disney recently released a rather propaganda-laden depiction of PL Travers’ Mary Poppins being adapted for film, where Travers was all teary with joy after being difficult in the beginning. The truth is she loathed the movie (with good reason).

  24. Winrobee

    There is an old story that New Line offered participation to the Tolkien Estate, and the Estate wanted complete control or nothing; and they got nothing. We get the idea that the Jackson team wasn’t taken seriously by the Tolkiens. (And after all, there had been innumerable false starts over the decades.)

    The Harry Potter franchise showed that such a thing is indeed possible. Participation by J.K. Rowling was said to be to an unusual, even unique, extent for a big-budget franchise. Miss Rowling’s participation was the dominant force in shaping the success of Harry Potter, even to the choice of whether the actors were English. Apparently the Tolkien Estate didn’t exercise the diligence required to attain supervisory status.

    • Olga Hughes

      According to Jackson they didn’t want it to be seen as officially endorsed by the Estate, I’d forgotten that, sorry. But then Jackson said he’d prefer them not to be involved (understandable in a way). Harper asked for observer’s rights on the next adaptations (I assume the Hobbit) after they sued New Line for not paying the Estate and Harper their share of the profits. Jackson also had to sue for his money, which is ridiculous.

      JK Rowling had a lot more bargaining power, the Tolkien Estate basically had none, the rights were already sold. Jo was already hugely successful and WB had a guaranteed hit if they came to terms so I think they would have been eager to please. I’m not sure if we would have seen Jackson’s adaptation at all if JRR hadn’t sold the rights. I don’t think Christopher would have sold them.

  25. Quora

    How do you feel about the extensive changes Peter Jackson made in The Hobbit; The Desolation of Smaug?

    He didn’t have any say on the changes as the movie rights were sold by Tolkein himself while still alive, long ago – and Christopher Tolkein hates what they did to it but can’t do anything about it. But for sure Peter Jackson isn’t going to get the…

  26. Winrobee

    My Quora Comment:

    Peter Jackson made the best movies out of Tolkien’s works, this really should be admitted, to beyond what anybody really had a right to expect. Sure, 9-figure projects will consider the benefits of catering to massive audiences, and this is what we should laud.

    I personally do not expect a book-study from production of a grand project, like the that pulled off by Jackson, but some naysayers expect that the Hobbit could have been delivered in form unaltered from the book. I think the presentation of the cultural icon to audiences acclimatized to LOTR’s pace and manner in the fashion of one 6-movie piece is granting us a major work of fantasy, and of defining the fantasy genere, which will go down to be a significant cultural resource of the early 21st century.

    Let’s make The Silmarillion movie while the creative fires are hot, say about the mid-20s to let the Tolkien Estate contemplate matters. Cartoons have their place, but if The Silmarillion, in disuse decades from now, gets made into a Rankin-Bass-style, or even a Bakshi-style animated feature THAT WILL BE A CRYING WASTE.

    • Olga Hughes

      The Hobbit could have been delivered in form unaltered from the book? I doubt we’d have gotten a whole movie worth of the Battle of the Five Armies.

  27. Winrobee

    I recently found you can look up the 2011 film Wings Over Arda: The First Age for a story about The Silmarillion.

  28. Learsi Krats

    I’m thinking (aside from Stanley Kubrick, with his unrelenting attention to details and epic themes; some of his best known traits, god rest his soul) the only director ‘qualified’ to have been able to deliver The Silmarillion from the heart of cinematography would have to have come from the creative genius of Ingmar Bergman (see Criterion Collection; ala – ‘The Seventh Seal’ for a primitive example of what I’m getting at here). Just imagine what Bergman (R.I.P.) would have been able to deliver with today’s unbridled technological cinema to any facet of The Silmarillion. That, coupled with his inimitable treatment and development of characters in a story… the possibilities!

    Since we’ve lost these recent (relatively speaking that is) film making giants, I really think it boils down to new geniuses as yet un-thought of whose very creativity within the film medium on the whole would convince the future ‘badgeholders’ of the Tolkien Estate to potentially reconsider; given the benefits to each camp (financially and in the maintaining of the ethics and pathos to the author, credibly, that is) and the effort to not repeat the folly of issues associated with LOTR or The Hobbit ventures (Peter Jackson aside). That, combined with essentially great casting and it could see the light of day yet. I mean, c’mon, weirder things have happened…

    I can dream of an honest crack at it with the right director within our lifetimes can’t I? What do you think?

    • Olga Hughes

      Yes well all of the passionate responses from readers who want to see the movie made have almost changed my mind Learsi 🙂 Almost.
      Not Christopher’s however. I am not sure there’s a director who could have convinced him either, but I would have loved to see Kubrick adapt some Tolkien.

      • Learsi Krats

        I’m afraid you’re right when it comes to Christopher (and one could hardly blame him for previously stated reasons).

        I love Christopher Tolkien for collating and publishing his father’s work posthumously; warts and all! Have you ever heard the album (LP) that was released in the late 70’s where Christopher reads ‘The Lay of Leithian – Of Beren and Luthien: Escape From Bondage’ from the Silmarillion, among others? It’s absolutely awe inspiring; he reads with a passion and authority for the material that few could surpass. There is also one record of J.R.R. himself reading his own works (excerpts from LOTR, etc.) recorded in the late 50’s and early 60’s – it is another rare gem to look for out there. It’s really interesting and insightful to hear either of them deliver readings from these works, it kind of sheds new light on the subjects if you will.

        Yeah, I was just thinking maybe when the rights reach younger hands and the hopeful rise of a new great director… forgive my starry-eyed overly optimistic enthusiasm!

      • Olga Hughes

        I have heard them both reading Learsi, and it’s amazing. In fact I wish people would realise just how emotionally connected Christopher is with the books, and it should be obvious.
        I am not sure Christopher’s son would sanction anything later, but then again I am sure there will be plenty of fan adaptations to tide everyone over.

  29. Winrobee

    I am always hopeful of more Tolkien material coming to light, be that of the literary or film canons. I am afraid, though, the wait might not be for a paltry length of time. The following is from an interview with Adam Tolkien, JRR’s grandson who corroborated with his father Christopher Tolkien to produce The Children of Hurin, in the French L’ express Livres, which interview I found in the Tolkien Library site:

    Adam Tolkien: My father knew J.R.R. Tolkien and his work very well. Like my grandfather, he was professor of philology in Oxford. Then he worked for thirty years on the papers of my grandfather, to organise and publish The Silmarillion and the twelve volumes of The History of Middle-earth, which retraces the development of this world and its myths founders. So he had a sufficient knowledge to carry out the assembly of The Children of Hurin, which, in addition, comprised of sufficient completely written parts so that he could do it without having to re-write anything.
    Q: Do there exist other unfinished novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, which could be “gone up”?

    Adam Tolkien: There exist other tales, but which have much less body than this tale. My father always refused to make them in a coherent book and will undoubtedly never do so. Moreover, neither will I. We do not want to make a business around the name of Tolkien.
    Q: But, if the novel was almost ready, why did it take thirty-five years after the death of J.R.R. Tolkien to publish it?

    Adam Tolkien: Because my father initially worked on The Silmarillion, then on 12 volumes of The History of Middle-earth, according to the will of his father, who had named him as literary executor. Only in 1996 he started to work on The Children of Hurin. But he was not persuaded if he could turn it into a novel. Maybe, because he had become rather tired! Then the three films from Peter Jackson were released, which did not concern us directly.
    Q: How that?

    Adam Tolkien: My grandfather sold the rights in 1967 and we did not have any right to interfere. The simplest was thus not to worry about it. When the movies were released my father even stopped to work on any Tolkien related material for a long time.

    • Olga Hughes

      Well the interview is from 2008. We’ve had Sigurd and Gudrun,The Fall of Arthur and Beowulf since then. There’s material from the first drafts and revisions of the Hobbit in the History of the Hobbit, and we’ve had the Children of Hurin, 12 volumes of Middle Earth history, I don’t see how much more material Christopher can release. And if he even has anything left that is worth putting into a book.

      • Winrobee

        I have thought that the most obvious stratagem about releasing The Children of Hurin would be to publish a group of stories each in extended, book form. I am aware that Hurin had the most material to work from, and the popularity was such that perhaps the other 2 of the “Big Three” stories from Beleriand, Beren and Luthien, and The Fall of Gondolin, could follow, preferably in that handsome new letterhead on the cover. In fact, if things go well there could be a Flight of the Noldor and a Downfall of Numinor novel, too. We have the right to speculate, if we like…

  30. Ninthwraith

    I suspect if the Tolkien family ever need money, Christopher will sell the rights.

    • Olga Hughes

      There’s been a bit of discussion about that already Carl if you have a look in the comments.

  31. StuOhQ

    Thinking that it’s un-filmable and thinking that Jackson shouldn’t be the person to do it are two different things.

    A supervised series, that breaks the notable stories into one-hour vignettes would be wonderful to see. Also, having different – preferably art-house – directors attached to each segment, while retaining production and crew throughout, would help with giving each portion its own flavor and artistic merit.

    • Robert Bayer

      That’s laughable as a suggestion as the opportunity for coherence and continuity would likely be lost. Save this idea for a movie adaption of Sandford and Son.

  32. World

    “He cashed the check, and he enjoyed the money before he died.”

    Says so much about Jackson.

  33. Robert Bayer

    I think the world of Peter Jackson’s LOTRs. Simply 3 brilliant, though slightly flawed movies.

    But alas ….Peter Jackson’s twisted version of the Hobbit does worse than simply not resemble the story of The Hobbit in theme, spirit, or story …but instead defines its primary “artistic” purpose in giving geeks CGI highs that are the whole point of the film .. where story and character development and the theme of the story are totally ignored for cheap jokes and cheap surprises that go against the very nature of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, misrepresenting every character in regard to their personality and personal goals .. and essentially the very story itself..
    There is nothing wrong with liking all of this .. Enjoy it all ..I mean this post more as defiance to Peter Jackson than to anyone who will watch and enjoy any of PJ’s Hobbit “trilogy.”
    I get that a movie director should have some leeway in changing the story .. I even like the elvish warrior lady Tauriel … but so many of the changes are simply stupid … Gandalf goes off to this mountain to meet Radagast?! Because? Did they really need to go there to decide to go to Dol Guldur? And what exactly does Gandalf hope to accomplish? In the book there was an actual battle, an attack by the forces of the White Council. Why not do just that?! It would be far cooler than Gandalf getting stuck hanging in a bird cage.
    So Smaug is fighting 10 dwarves and 1 hobbit, all unarmed, and cannot kill a single one? So he goes to Lake Town rather than simply continue the fight with these unarmed foes? Why in the world would Smaug leave the dwarves and Bilbo in possession of Erebor and its staggering treasure so he could make an attack on Esgaroth, a place he could attack and obliterate any time after he kills and eats the dwarves and one hobbit? There are so many of these staggering dumb plot devices like this that it is just shameful that Tolkien’s name has to be associated with this pile of golden dung. We can only hope that someday some director with a bit more class and common sense and artistic integrity, will give a far better interpretation of a classic fantasy story rather than mangling one into something absolutely pathetic.
    Therefore this is NOT JRR Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” in any sense. This is Peter Jackson’s garbage flung to the four winds for the sole purpose of making money. To suggest otherwise .. based on a few paltry details of similarity .. where even Bilbo is a minor character .. with Hanna Barbara laws of physics whenever the dwarves have a fight … and where the characters do the most inexplicably stupid things time after time without any other basis than pushing Jackson’s dumb childish plot devices that are for pure shock .. pure schlock value .. is simply being disingenuous and shallow as all get out ..
    Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy is nothing but a big EFF YOU to JRR Tolkien. This is a sham of a fake of a do-it-for-the-money film project .. nothing more .. nothing less ..
    Peter Jackson … a big middle finger to you for not having the courage nor the integrity nor the talent to write your own original fantasy story using your own original characters without needing to stand on the Internationally acclaimed merit of a classic story that will far outlive this heaping steaming pile of CGI dung and idiocy you have drudged up from the dredges of your ‘creative’ team’s witless, feeble minds.
    Frodo could have been speaking of Peter Jackson when he said, “The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own ….it only ruined them and twisted them …”
    In summary, there is no way in Sam Hill or Sam Gangee that Peter effin Jackson deserves a shot at the Silmarillion.

  34. Winrobee

    I risk cluttering your site, I know, with long pasted material, but I should like to pick a sample scene from one of the Silmarillion Movies’ scripts and demonstrate that honest attempts can be made to create theatrical treatment.

    Scene 14 of the Beren and Luthien script-

    Scene 14: Menegroth

    (The whole court is gathered in the throne room of Menegroth. Thingol and Melian are seated. Beleg and Mablung flank their thrones. Celeborn and Galadriel sit together to one side; Galadriel is smiling secretively. Daeron, with a sword at his side and no harp, is among the others. Beren and Luthien enter splendidly and kneel before the thrones; Galadriel has apparently decked Beren in more splendid clothes, robes of blue and a cloak of silver. The ring of Felagund flashes on his hand. Luthien is in the blue dress we saw her in earlier, her hair bound with gold again.)

    THINGOL: (scornfully) Who art thou, that come hither as a thief, and unbidden dare to approach my throne?

    (Beren moves his lips, but cannot speak.)

    LUTHIEN: He is Beren, son of Barahir, lord of Men, mighty foe of Morgoth, the tale of whose deeds is become a song even among the Elves.

    THINGOL: Let Beren speak! What would you here, unhappy mortal? Can you show reason why my power should not be laid on you, in heavy punishment for your insolence and folly?

    (Beren looks at the King; then at Luthien; and finally at Melian.)

    BEREN: (looking back to Thingol) I came here through perils such as few even among the Elves would dare. (The court is shocked; Daeron mutters something to Beleg.) And coming here I found not what I sought; but this finding I would possess forever. It is above gold and silver, beyond all jewels, even the Silmarilli in Morgoth’s crown. Neither rock nor steel nor the fires of Angband shall keep me from the treasure that I desire. For Luthien your daughter is the fairest of all the Children of the World.

    (Daeron lays his hand on his hilt, but stands stock-still. None of the others move. Even Galadriel is shocked.)

    THINGOL: (slowly) Death thou hast earned…with these words. Death you should find…but that I swore an oath in haste. I repent that now…baseborn mortal…who in the realm of Morgoth has learnt to crawl in secret as the Dark Lord’s spies and thralls.

    BEREN: Death you may give me, earned or unearned; but not the names of thrall, baseborn, nor spy. (He holds up his hand with the ring of Felagund.) By the ring of Felagund, that he gave Barahir my father on the battlefield of the North, my house has not deserved such names from any Elf-be he King or no.

    (Beleg, Daeron and Mablung all draw their swords. Melian raises her hand, staying them.)

    MELIAN: (whispering to Thingol) Not by your hand shall Beren be slain; and far and free does his fate lead him; yet it is wound with ours. Take heed.

    THINGOL: (turning back to Beren) I see the ring, son of Barahir; I see thou art proud, and deem thyself mighty. But a father’s deeds-even hadst his service been rendered to me-avail not to win the daughter of Thingol and of Melian. See now! I too desire a treasure that is withheld. (Melian looks at him curiously.) Rock and steel and the fires of Angband indeed distance this trinket from me. (Melian looks horrified.) Thou hast said Luthien is beyond even the Silmarils. Go and fetch me one. Bring me in thy hand a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown, and I shall render up my jewel. (The court bursts into mocking laughter. Galadriel looks furious; Melian stricken with sorrow. Luthien is close to tears.) And though the fate of Arda lie within those gems, yet you will hold me generous.

    (Beren laughs lightly. Everyone else falls silent.)

    BEREN: For little price do Elvenkings sell their daughters: for things made by craft. If this be your will, Thingol, I will perform it. When we meet again my hand will hold a Silmaril from the Iron Crown. You have not looked your last on Beren, son of Barahir.

    (He stands, looks at Melian, bows to Thingol, kisses Luthien’s hand, and departs.)

    • Erulasse Aranel

      I like this… I would sort of enjoy the Silmarillion in film because it would be impossible (or at least I’d like to see them try) to add the, mmm, more modern humor that was put into Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit so it would appeal more to audiences… (Not including myself). Then again, it would probably be only dedicated fans (this time myself included 🙂 that would want to see the film just because of the “high tone”.

  35. Erulasse Aranel

    I… wow. Before I really looked into this, I used to be sort of mad at Christopher Tolkien. Now, I certainly see his point and it is true that commercialization gets to everything… It’s truly a shame that these greedy companies had to go and try to make as much money as they could off of something so beautiful… Have they no appreciation for art? As for the Silmarillion, I’m reading it right now ^u^ and really enjoying it; it is very complicated, but also very beautiful and I personally don’t mind the “high style”. I suppose I’d have to agree that it’s not the type of thing that could be made into a film… Wait a minute, Peter Jackson tried to make our beloved Arwen Undomiel into another Tauriel??!! How. Dare. You. We have Tauriel already; she was bad enough! Thank you, Enraged Fans, for causing the removal of *shudders* her Helm’s Deep scenes.

    • Olga Hughes

      Just the thought of Arwen at Helms Deep makes me want to boil my head. Bad enough they left Erkenbrand out…

    • Olga Hughes

      You know $900-1500 seems rather cheap for a book that only has 50 copies. It would be nice if Christopher could get around to having that one re-published.

  36. Winrobee

    A note regarding the Tolkien Estate:

    You might well describe what Christopher Tolkien did in saving The Silmarillion from oblivion out of his father’s papers 40 years ago in terms of cultural heroism. In terms of JRR’s “intents” for creating about the Middle Earth legendarium, the artifice by which the further stories beyond The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings manifest in the manner of social and cultural entities, and indeed of all of them, has been by the dedication and goodwill of the people in the Tolkien Estate.

    Clearly Christopher and the others with with him, are more than any others behind the defining and the functioning of the entire “legendarium” concept. And our luck has been extreme that anybody should have been willing to take up the task. Through Christopher we have gotten 2 lifetimes of an author, if you will, of dedication to the creation and furtherance of the seminal high fantasy fiction works and their evoked universe. And that has remained the main origin of the great vehicle of modern fantasy to this day.

    The question of correct portrayal of Middle Earth is in fact being defined to be that of the Tolkien Estate’s and this example will carry on through all modern story telling and accounts in capacity of cornerstone of people’s culture and traditions for the time that memory of our civilization survives.

    But the state of the copywriting end of things is rather less idyllic; in fact that’s a decade plus in trainwreck. While the global culture clamors for more of this central masterpiece of Western literature, not to mention the ancient ideals the Professor vouchsafed here, we are told not ONE WORD of Tolkien writing will ever be released beyond what JRR sold in the 60’s. Clearly, crying over spilt milk (or spilt Melk) has become a spectre. I advise handling of this treasure, in the decades to come, to be with a greater tone of promotionalism.

  37. Winrobee

    “To begin, let us accept a fact.

    He will never get the rights

    Peter Jackson will not obtain the rights to make a film adaptation of The Silmarillion in his lifetime, and nor will any other film-maker.”

    Chris Tolkien, like I’ve said, did a wonderful job of keeping safe and pure the sanctity of high fantasy, while executor of the Tolkien Estate. But while the forces of his principles drove him to rarify the substance of the dreams he had been so involved in creating, the forces of global culture pressed for more of the heavenly nectar of stories of Middle Earth; thus Amazon’s expenditure of nearly a quarter billion dollars US to bring more of them to a new medium, streaming TV. Not a victory for the almighty dollar inasmuch that this is proof that beauty will out in the doings of man.

    • Olga Hughes

      I am convalescing this year but I don’t think I’ve heard any confirmation that Christoper has agreed to sell his rights to The Silmarillion. Only that the Tolkien Estate has sold The Lord of the Rings television rights.


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