The road goes ever on and on where the works of J.R.R. Tolkien are concerned.
Entertainment Weekly reports that Amazon has ordered multiple seasons of a Lord of the Rings prequel series. Now, I’m sure many of you consider The Hobbit the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, but there are plenty of stories to be told elsewhere in Middle-earth leading up to the War of the Ring. In fact, Tolkien Estate and Trust and HarperCollins representative Matt Galsor told the site that “the team at Amazon Studios have exceptional ideas to bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.”
Considering the series is positioned as a Lord of the Rings spinoff, it means a few things are definitely off limits. For one, assume the War of Wrath and any other First Age stories from The Silmarillion are not part of the agreement. If those stories were available to Amazon, they would definitely be highlighted in the announcement. Let’s also assume Bilbo, Frodo and other Fellowship character — except, perhaps, Gandalf — are also out of bounds. But even with those restrictions, there are events like the Last Alliance of Men and Elves, Sauron’s initial deception of Middle-earth in the Second Age and maybe even the Downfall of Numenor to work with.
All are epic ideas with Game of Thrones sized scope, but there is also something more intimate to work with by telling tales of Bilbo’s adventurous Took forebearers; the reason behind Bilbo’s “proper” attitude before the Quest of Erebor.
Then again, we know Amazon is looking for a Thrones-sized genre hit, so one of the more epic stories is more likely. The destruction of Numenor and Sauron’s other Second Age plots would make for some fine TV. It would also allow for something the feature films could never do: feature Sauron as walking, talking antagonist. He could appear as Annatar, a elf-like appearance he conjured up at the beginning of the Second Age, for a long time before revealing his true form. That would be a great first season finale twist.
Granted, I am merely speculating. Though referenced in The Lord of the Rings, Sauron’s ascendancy in the Second Age is spelled out in greater within the pages of the Akalabeth, a section of The Silmarillion. Nevertheless, it would make for a genuinely different Middle-earth project with the trappings of Thrones and the familiarity of The Lord of the Rings.
For the moment, all we can do is speculate as Amazon begins the process of bringing Middle-earth to their streaming platform.