Amazon is spending $1 billion on a Lord of the Rings streaming television series. The company sounds like they're going to be getting a lot of Middle-earth for their dollar. In an era where most prestige series put out a dozen or fewer episodes in a season, a JRR Tolkien expert working on the Amazon series says the show's first season will have an episode count closer to a traditional network series.
Tom Shippy is a retired professor of Middle and Old English literature. He's also an authority on Tolkien and his works hired to consult on the Amazon series. Shippy spilled some details about the series when he spoke to German Tolkien fansite Deutsche Tolkien. According to Shippy, "There's supposed to be 20 episodes for the first season. So until they've decided what the end is going to be, they can't start filming."
Shippy also commented on the freedom Amazon has with the new series taking place during the Second Age, an era of Middle-earth history spanning almost three and a half millennia before Isildur slays Sauron by cutting the One Ring from the tyrant's finger. Despite being such a long period, that era is explored not in novels but mostly in appendices from sources like The Silmarillion. That means there are plenty of blanks for Amazon to fill in.
"The Tolkien Estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered," Shippy says. "Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenorean expedition, is returned to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenoreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same.
"But you can add new characters and ask a lot of questions, like: What has Sauron done in the meantime? Where was he after Morgoth was defeated? Theoretically, Amazon can answer these questions by inventing the answers, since Tolkien did not describe it. But it must not contradict anything which Tolkien did say. That's what Amazon has to watch out for. It must be canonical, it is impossible to change the boundaries which Tolkien has created, it is necessary to remain 'tolkienian.'"
Amazon has hired Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director JA Boyana to direct the pilot episode of its the new series. "JRR Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team," said Bayona when the news broke. "I can't wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never before seen story."
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(h/t Winter Is Coming)