Why Peter Jackson Will Never Film The Silmarillion

By Olga Hughes -

TN-Turin_Discovers_Nienor_at_the_Mound_of_FinduilasThe release of The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey last December renewed the speculation of 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 installment 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. Tolkien in fact never finished The Silmarillion. It was compiled, edited and published posthumously by Christopher Tolkien. To say that Tolkien considered it his greatest work and that Christopher has an emotional attachment to the book is merely scratching the surface.

The Silmarils are in my heart…tolkien_forest

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 formulation 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, which was of course 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 his 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 size of The Lord of the Rings changed their mind. It is ironic, as the publisher, now Harper Collins, publishes all of Tolkien’s work today. Allen and Unwin finally, after much dithering about the page count, published the The Fellowship of the Ring as the first installment in 1954, and The Silmarillion was again shelved.

Christopher_Tolkien

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. Christopher’s involvement in his father’s work went beyond being told bedtime stories as a child, however. “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 underway. “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…

The film rights to The Lord of the Rings were not, as is often assumed, a spur of the moment decision. JRR Tolkien made this 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. The author 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. No films, however, 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 installment 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 Entertainment Weekly, 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 saidpeter_jackson_oscar

”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.”

It’s a fair enough statement, but not without a touch of bile, and for someone who professes to be such an impassioned Tolkien fan, 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 it, of course, was spent on his beloved family.

A 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 trouble. 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.”

Lord-of-the-Rings-slot-machinesThey “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.” Where is my violin?

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 would be anything less than disastrous. Any Tolkien reader I have discussed it with that has actually read The Silmarillion agrees 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 bare bones of the depth of feeling that is The Lord of the Rings. And 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 anything that would capture the essence of the text?

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
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51 Responses to “Why Peter Jackson Will Never Film The Silmarillion”

  1. Kyr
    September 2, 2013 at 10:56 am

    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.

    • September 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      Thanks :) It’s time people stopped attacking Tolkien’s family for trying to protect his legacy.

    • dread
      January 23, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      THANK YOU CHRISTOPHER!
      I mean it :)

  2. September 2, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    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
    September 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    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?

    • September 2, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      Because there is even more death and tragedy than Game of Thrones? How would the regular folk cope?

      • Kwyjibo
        September 3, 2013 at 10:01 pm

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

  4. September 3, 2013 at 2:14 am

    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. September 3, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    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. Dem
    September 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Well written and insightful article. Thank You!

  7. Paul
    October 18, 2013 at 1:24 am

    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.

  8. mentallect
    November 19, 2013 at 9:33 am

    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.

    • November 19, 2013 at 10:43 am

      I’m not old. Far from it :)

    • ProfNickD
      December 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm

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

    • Feanorian
      April 10, 2014 at 6:06 am

      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…

  9. Goran
    November 26, 2013 at 11:57 am

    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
      November 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm

      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

      • November 29, 2013 at 11:35 pm

        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.

  10. Learsi Krats
    December 22, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    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?

    • December 23, 2013 at 8:54 am

      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.

  11. Omar
    December 31, 2013 at 5:24 am

    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.

  12. sharks2431
    January 4, 2014 at 4:31 am

    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
      January 4, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      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.

      • January 6, 2014 at 8:43 pm

        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
          January 6, 2014 at 10:33 pm

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

          • January 7, 2014 at 12:11 am

            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.

  13. Joey
    January 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    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..

    • January 7, 2014 at 12:19 am

      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.

  14. Joey
    January 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    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.

    • January 7, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      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
        January 7, 2014 at 6:37 pm

        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
        April 10, 2014 at 7:06 am

        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
          April 10, 2014 at 10:53 pm

          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
          April 11, 2014 at 11:40 am

          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.

  15. Graeme
    January 7, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    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.

    • January 7, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      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
      January 12, 2014 at 3:19 am

      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.

      • January 12, 2014 at 12:04 pm

        This is the original interview at le Monde in French
        http://www.lemonde.fr/culture/article/2012/07/05/tolkien-l-anneau-de-la-discorde_1729858_3246.html The link to the English translation is in footnote 2.

        Thanks for the clarification on the inheritance tax.

        “it takes away the meaning and impact of Gimli’s (wholly non-sexual) admiration for Galadriel and her response to him over it.”

        This ^ We’ve discussed Tauriel in another article. It is just another example of having to try and cater to a film audience. You should see some of the fan art online. It’s rather alarming :)

  16. Winrobee
    January 12, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    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
    Self-explanatory
    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
    Self-explanatory

    • Winrobee
      January 27, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      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
        January 27, 2014 at 5:07 pm

        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.

  17. Saighead
    January 21, 2014 at 2:01 am

    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!

  18. Ben
    February 9, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    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
      February 17, 2014 at 11:47 am

      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.

      • February 20, 2014 at 9:55 pm

        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.

  19. February 20, 2014 at 4:12 am

    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.

    • February 20, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      Imagine the extended versions for dvd :)

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