TORN’s Spy Report on the Amazon LOTR/Second Age Series

It’s been a while since we got an update on the upcoming Amazon Second Age series. Not since the leaked Synopsis. The poor fandom twisted itself into knots speculating about supposed nudity in a Tolkien adaptation, and then… nothing.

Well, that has suddenly changed. The One Ring.Net has been sending out crebain to spy on proceedings, and they have turned up a fair amount of information. Maybe. I am still taking this with a grain of salt. It’s possible the production has leaked misleading information, or that the crebain have got the wrong end of the stick… but, for now, it is all we have to work with.

First off, we’ve got some legal confirmation: we’re talking a licensing deal for Unfinished Tales, and the Second Age-relevant parts of The Silmarillion. Implicitly, I think I’m fairly safe in betting that they have access to ‘A Description of the Island of Númenor,’ ‘Aldarion and Erendis,’ ‘The Line of Elros,’ ‘The History of Galadriel and Celeborn,’ ‘Akallabêth,’ and ‘Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age,’ plus the appendices of The Lord of the Rings. More speculatively, they may also have licensed enough to establish Sauron’s earlier backstory, perhaps through a flashback to the War of Wrath. Ditto enough to show Morgoth corrupting the Orcs. And if we’re talking about bits from The Silmarillion that are theoretically there in the Second Age, maybe even enough to show a surviving Maglor (a man can dream…).

(There’s also the possibility that they will eventually show the Disaster of the Gladden Fields too, depending on whether they want to tie this series to the Jacksonian Prologue. The Druedain are also a possibility. We’ll wait and see, I suppose).

It is also interesting to note that the Tolkien Estate is happy with progress, and that they are more involved than previously. This, of course, is partly a result of changing leadership (Christopher Tolkien would not have been keen), but also suggests that Amazon is on its best behaviour, in the event that the First Age rights ever become available. I have long thought that this series is really one very expensive trial balloon, with the long term goal being the Quenta Silmarillion itself.

Secondly, the production seems to be separating out the storylines involving Men, Elves, and Dwarves. Maybe also with some chronological jumping around, a la The Witcher television series. Speculatively, I’d suggest we’re looking at parallel stories – Númenor (Men), versus Eregion (Elves). The rise of Númenorean Imperialism on one hand, the forging of the Rings on the other, with the two eventually merging when Númenor bails out the defeated Elves. The Dwarf storyline is more intriguing, since the Dwarves don’t actually do very much canonically in the Second Age. It is possible that the production might be moving Durin’s Bane to the Second Age, but otherwise we’re looking at something invented whole-cloth.

(I wouldn’t actually be opposed to Durin’s Bane making an appearance. Giving the Dwarves their Downfall moment is thematically appropriate, considering what happens to the Elves and Men).

And then there is an array of other interesting details:

  • Proto-hobbits is something I genuinely was not expecting. This really could go in multiple directions… maybe a tribe of small people, whom the Numenoreans stumble across during their explorations? In that case, they might be more a shout-out to The Lord of the Rings than something that directly affects the plot of the current series. Or maybe the proto-hobbits will play more of an ‘audience surrogate’ role, to ease the viewer into this older (and more alien) version of Middle-earth?
  • The existence of Ice Trolls implies that we’re seeing bona fide fighting in the first season, and not just intrigue and build-up. Maybe something to do with the invented Dwarven storyline?
  • Nudity is non-sexual (told you!), and will be played for concentration-camp-style horror. As I noted previously, nudity can be a powerful visual demonstration of humiliation or vulnerability, and this appears to be going for that, in the context of the (First Age flashback?) creation of the Orcs. Very ambitious, and I fully approve of such an artistic depiction.
  • Short-haired Elves. I’m guessing they mean something like Jenny Dolfen-style Maedhros, rather than buzz-cuts, but it would be a pleasant break from the uniformly ethereal platinum-blonds of the Jackson adaptation. Generally speaking, if an artistic choice moves this adaption away from Jacksonian visuals, I am on board. Though the question then becomes how you visually differentiate Elves from the Numenoreans…
  • Annatar’s reveal being delayed. I take this as meaning that we’ll see Annatar in the first season, but the series won’t reveal who he is until later. Sure, anyone with access to the Internet (or who has read Tolkien) knows who this chap is, but I think it can still be milked for dramatic irony and Hitchcockian suspense. We know who Annatar is, but Celebrimbor doesn’t, and that itself creates tension.

All told, it’s an interesting accumulation of rumour. Well done to the crebain for this one. 🙂

2 thoughts on “TORN’s Spy Report on the Amazon LOTR/Second Age Series

  1. Brilliant spot, thanks Dan.

    I’m worried the Amazon show is being delayed until 2022.

    Is there a market for a Silmarillion adaptation? Put it this way: I’m English. I hate The Silmarillion. I’ve had the book on my shelf for about 33 years and I never read it through as a story. Many Americans love it. Are there enough?

    Liked by 1 person

    • They wouldn’t adapt it as a single story. You’ve got five big First Age narratives: the Fall of the Noldor, Beren and Luthien, The Children of Hurin, The Fall of Gondolin, and The Voyage of Earendil/War of Wrath. That’s far more material than the current show.

      In terms of popularity, the biggest barrier to reading The Silmarillion is its textbook nature. An adaptation would just focus on one of the aforementioned narratives, rather than chucking worldbuilding at us. The Second Age series works as a trial balloon, because it is seeing if there is a market for Middle-earth adaptation without an overt hobbit focus. I think the conventional wisdom is that there is.

      Liked by 1 person

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