One burning question fans have had is what material does Amazon have the rights to for The Rings of Power show? Well we know have an answer courtesy of the showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay in a recent interview with Vanity Fair. The trade was asking questions fans wanted to know the answers to and this was definitely one of the questions that was endlessly debating among the Tolkien fan base.
So what did Amazon buy? “We have the rights solely to The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, the appendices, and The Hobbit,” Payne says. “And that is it. We do not have the rights to The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth, or any of those other books.” That takes a huge chunk of lore off the table and has left Tolkien fans wondering how this duo plans to tell a Second Age story without access to those materials. “There’s a version of everything we need for the Second Age in the books we have the rights to,” McKay says. “As long as we’re painting within those lines and not egregiously contradicting something we don’t have the rights to, there’s a lot of leeway and room to dramatize and tell some of the best stories that [Tolkien] ever came up with.”
“We took all these little clues and thought of them as stars in the sky that we then connected to write the novel that Tolkien never wrote about the Second Age,” Payne says. The duo cites songs like “The Fall of Gil-galad” or “The Song of Eärendil” or Fellowship chapters like “The Council of Elrond” and “The Shadow of the Past” or the “Concerning Hobbits” section of the prologue as sources for significant lore dumps. Beyond the premiere, there aren’t, however, any significant time jumps or, thus far, episode-long journeys to the past. The rights to the First Age material from The Silmarillion are still owned by the Tolkien estate.
“We worked in conjunction with world-renowned Tolkien scholars and the Tolkien estate to make sure that the ways we connected the dots were Tolkienian and gelled with the experts’ and the estate’s understanding of the material,” Payne says.
Well there go those rumors that the first two episodes would all be a prologue of The First Age then. However, there are moments from that First Age which also crop up in what Amazon has the rights to. For example the Lay of Luthien. That is the song of the story of Luthien and Beren and there first love between Mortal and Immortal. Perhaps the most famous of all First Age tales, you just never know? There is also the fact that that teaser image we all saw, (below), definitely shows Valinor during the First Age. In other words this is still pretty confusing, which I think is on purpose.
Then there’s the fact Tolkien Scholar Tom Shippey was sacked from the show. The rumor is for violating an NDA by saying that Amazon had the rights to Unfinished Tales. There’s some more confusion for you.
Ultimately we must remember that at heart, The Rings of Power is really just expensive fan fiction. Tolkien simply never got round to finishing all his stories in his lifetime. The works from The Silmarillion, which are the most complete form of the First and Second Ages themselves, are still incomplete. Christopher Tolkien tried to find the most complete versions for the book. However there were details Tolkien worked on and hadn’t finalized by the time of his death.
We are just going to have to wait and see how all this effects what we see in the show? What material does Amazon have the rights to for The Rings of Power show? The official stance is listed above. However I can’t help think that all feels a little funky to me. Sound off below.