Picked It! Of The Second Age and Unfinished Tales On Screen

So we have the fifth and final Amazon Middle-earth map,  and, well, it looks like my earlier speculative guess ended up being pretty close to the mark, in more ways than one:

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(For a larger version, see here).

Gone are some of the things from the earlier maps. Now we get a forested Eriador, Eregion and Ost-In-Edhil, Amon Lanc, Lórinand in place of Lothlórien, and most obviously, Númenor.

The obvious conclusion? Ost-In-Edhil means we get to see Celebrimbor and the forging of the Rings. Númenor means we get to see Tolkien’s Atlantis – including, presumably, its Downfall. It’s the Second Age of Middle-earth all the way, and given that the series is scheduled for five seasons, I think a narrative that stretches from the forging of the Rings, to Númenor, then to the Downfall, then to the founding of Arnor and Gondor, and finally to the Last Alliance is now on the cards. There is definitely enough material to work with (I don’t think they’ll do Aldarion and Erendis, but we’ll get to that).

Thinking about the aesthetics of the series, it will likely be significantly darker than the Jackson movies. No hobbits, of course. Just Men, Elves, Orcs, and a Dark Lord at the peak of his powers. The forging of the Rings ends with Celebrimbor’s arrow-ridden corpse (think Saint Sebastian)  being hung from a pole as a battle-standard. Númenor goes from being a monstrous, slave-based Empire to a monstrous, slave-based Empire that engages in human sacrifice to Satan (er… Morgoth), and then goes to war with the gods themselves. Even the Last Alliance ends with Isildur refusing to cast the One Ring into the Fire. All very depressing, and potentially Game of Thrones-ish, if they want to go that route – seriously, a decadent, corrupt Númenor, full of political backstabbing, is about as close to George R.R. Martin as you will find in Tolkien. We’ll see if they inject sexual content, but to be honest, it wouldn’t be as jarring as with other Tolkienian settings. Aldarion and Erendis even has characters explicitly talking about their sex lives.

But it isn’t the setting of the series itself that most interests me (though it will be infinitely more interesting than the mooted Young Aragorn nonsense). It’s the fact that the Amazon map confirms they have the rights to Unfinished Tales. That map of Númenor is only found there. This is the first time a screen adaption has got its hands of the rights to a new Tolkien work since Tolkien sold the rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in 1968 – and, well, this opens many, many doors. Celebrimbor’s fate is only featured there, for a start. The Akallabêth – the most detailed account of the Downfall – is not in there, but between Unfinished Tales and the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, there is enough of an outline to fill in the gaps if needed (maybe Amazon has got its hands on the Akallabêth too? We’ll see).

The biggest implication is ironically for those parts of Unfinished Tales that Amazon won’t be adapting. I don’t mean Aldarion and Erendis – which while Second Age, is both too early and too low-stakes for this sort of TV show. Aldarion and Erendis is a domestic drama, not epic fantasy. No, I mean the First Age stories – the Narn i Chîn Húrin, and Tuor’s arrival at Gondolin. Both only contain about half of Túrin and Tuor respectively, but this is the first time any part of Tolkien’s First Age could theoretically be seen on screen (though it won’t be). Consider the sale of the Unfinished Tales rights a trial run, a wedge into the Elder Days – I now think it is only a matter of time before we see the Quenta Silmarillion itself being up for adaptation. Maybe my old post on the subject was a bit too pessimistic about timing…

Update: Someone on a forum pointed out something very interesting. The above map contains the islands of Tol Fuin and Tol Morwen. Tol Fuin only appears on one Tolkien map, contained in The History of Middle-earth Volume VII. Tol Morwen never appears on a Tolkien map at all, and is only represented on other maps via superimposing The Silmarillion’s map of Beleriand. Have Amazon got the rights to Karen Wynn Fonstad’s The Atlas of Middle-earth, or something…? They surely can’t have The History of Middle-earth and The Silmarillion too. That would be insane.

Update II: OK. Turns out Tol Fuin does get mentioned in the introduction to Unfinished Tales (p.19. of my edition). As depicted though, it is only in The History of Middle-earth VII: The Treason of Isengard (p.302.).

Tol Morwen, however, is only referenced in the published Silmarillion and The History of Middle-earth XI: The War of the Jewels (The Wanderings of Húrin). That’s the real problematic one. How do you reference it without the rights to either The Silmarillion or The History of Middle-earth? Dear god. Have Amazon bought The Silmarillion rights too?

5 thoughts on “Picked It! Of The Second Age and Unfinished Tales On Screen

  1. Couldn’t it be possible for Amazon to have bought the rights to all material regarding the second age in the legendarium as published after JRRTs death. That would give them Akallabeth, all second age material in UT, and any second age stuff they find in HoME. But the Tolkien Estate would still keep the first age stuff for future bidding

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    • That would make a lot of sense (basically, treating the Second Age material as a single entity). The only issue there is where do you draw the line? – Tol Morwen is around in the Second Age, but it is only mentioned in First Age material. The Valar (and Eru) are players in the Second Age, so can the series use them outside the Downfall, or would that be cheating? Could we see Maglor, who survived into the Second Age, but who only appears in First Age stories? I could see much potential for problems with that.

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  2. The first thing that strikes one from the Amazon map is “this is wrong”. Numenor is the right size, about 500 miles E-W and N-S, and correctly scaled with the main map — as far as the numbers go. But it’s far too close and far too far south, opposite an uncanonical “bulge of Africa”

    No

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    • Too close to Middle-earth, yes (I’ll forgive them that one, artistic license to include everything on one map). But not too far south. Tol Eressea, visible from Numenor, is stated to be on the Girdle of Arda. Thus, Numenor itself can’t be too far from the equator itself which places it much further south than Gondor. The “bulge of Africa” isn’t strictly uncanonical either, though the details (mountain range and river) certainly are; Tolkien drew a sketch map of Arda circa Years of the Trees in which the resemblance of that southern continent to Africa is very clear. https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-a3da716ab5e6501ed1cdf2e08234147a

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  3. Bree and Midgewater are there. So is the ancient road-crossing. The North-South road was the route between Gondor and Arnor, and should not therefore exist before the Downfall… but perhaps there will be “news from Bree”

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