Amazon Prime is producing a television series based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, drawing on the author’s voluminous tales of his imaginary world.
Amazon paid the Tolkien estate $250 million for the rights, and the budget for the series is reportedly $1 billion, making it the most expensive project in television history.
The production is underway, and the show is slated to be released for streaming on Prime in 2021. Five seasons are being planned.
The focus will be the Second Age of Middle Earth. (The Lord of the Rings was about the Third Age.) That period lasts 3,441 years, so there are lots of possibilities. But here is a summary of what happens and what will likely be featured in the television series, from Tyler O’Neil:
The Second Age spans more than three millennia. In that time, men and elves form an alliance and the Valar (angels underneath an all-powerful God) invite men to live in Numenor, a large island between Middle Earth and the Undying Lands. Men prosper, but Sauron rises. The rings of power — featured so prominently in the Peter Jackson trilogy — are forged.
Sauron battles with the elves, and he loses. But eventually, Sauron rises from prison to advise a king of men, making him suspicious of the fact that men are not allowed to partake in immortality in the Undying Lands. He fosters rebellion, and he ensnares the nine men who will become the Nazgul, the Ringwraiths of The Lord of the Rings.
The Second Age ends with Numenor sinking into the sea, another massive battle with Sauron, and Sauron’s loss of the Ring of Power — the moments at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.
Note the Christian themes. It will be interesting to see whether the flavor of Tolkien’s fantasies will come through. Amazon owner Jeff Bezos is said to have the ambition of creating another epic fantasy to rival HBO’s Game of Thrones, though he is also a big Tolkien fan. One can hope that he will aim at high fantasy, rather than the dark, sex-and-brutality quality of Game of Thrones.
For more details, see Lord of the Rings TV Series: Everything We Know So Far and What to Expect from Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV Show. Amazon has released some Tolkienesque maps of Middle Earth to tease the series, hinting at the storylines. For an analysis of what those maps suggest, go here.
Illustration: “Elves Leave Middle Earth,” Araniart [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)] via Wikimedia Commons. No changes.