Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Amazon to Adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s Globally Renowned Fantasy Novels (businesswire.com)
45 points by jakarta 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

In case anyone was curious:

> television adaptation will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

So it's not going to tell the main story itself, which is probably wise given the film adaptations aren't even that old.

Maybe it's just me I'm not super-excited by this news. I wish there were more original universes being created with the insane amount of TV money swirling around these days. This just feels like a very safe "me too Game of Thrones" play.

Do you mean original as in first-as-a-series, or original as in something that hasn't been made for tv/movies yet? If the latter, there are tons:

- The Expanse

- American Gods, Good Omens

- Kingkiller Chronicles (being produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda)

- Wheel of Time

However, if you mean the former, then I agree, although there are new shows, they just don't have high budgets like those with followings already.

Syfy has an Expanse show. It's pretty good, imo.

Parent was listing smaller original fiction literature universes that HAVE recently gotten TV shows.

> Kingkiller Chronicles

Sweet, maybe we'll get book 3 on TV before in print like Game of Thrones!

I hope so. I worry Rothfuss has gone full-GRRM; got too successful before the series concluded and now it's up in air if it will conclude.

The only real hope I have is that it feels like Rothfuss wouldn't let his series be finished by TV in the way GoT has for ASOIF. Also Rothfuss claimed to have a 'finished manuscript' in 2014, so there is hope.

You have no idea how you just made me feel...

> So it's not going to tell the main story itself, which is probably wise given the film adaptations aren't even that old.

As far as my understanding of the very complex and sad story of LotR rights goes, they can't/. In a nutshell, JRRT has sold all non-printing rights for LotrR and Hobbit a long time ago, and they are currently held by the entity (currently) called Middle-earth Enterprises [1], a division of The Saul Zaentz Company. This basically boils down to them having the final world on any derivative work that includes the characters, locations and some other elements from the novels.

The rest of the rights belong to the Tolkien Estate [2], which is a legal entity controlled primarily by Tolkien's son Christopher. The Estate have for long been opposed to any derivative works, but they have apparently changed their stance, considering they are the ones Amazon made the deal with.

So I expect we won't see any of the Fellowship, nor places like Rivendell, Moria or Minas-Tirith; but there are plenty of areas in Middle-earth with enough stories to explore -- early days of Arnor and Gondor, Dol Amroth etc.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle-earth_Enterprises

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolkien_Estate

I think tolkien is a good option for "new" stuff, since there are many written stories in this universe about other characters and the created world by him is massive. There is also a possibility to start with his oldest book "silmarillion".

Maybe they could do the "Tale of the Children of Hurin," but the Silmarillion covers thousands of years and hundreds of characters. It would be like a multi-season adaptation of the Old Testament, i.e. a disaster.

That, or Beren and Luthien, or the fall of Gondolin, which are the most fleshed-out episodes, as far as I remember.

The exile of the Noldor could be interesting, but iirc, it's really in the form of a Germanic saga, so it would really need a lot of filling out of details and characterization.

If this means they will be adapting some of the Silmarillion stories then I might be on board. There are some great sketches of stories there that unfortunately were not completed in Tolkien's lifetime. I would love to see them fleshed out.

When publishing these, they try not to modify the original writings, which is nice, but also frustrating, because they aren't written in a way that Tolkien deemed them ready for publishing. What I would really love is for them to publish the originals, but also give them to other fantasy authors and let them adapt it into a complete novel. A TV show is less exciting (for me), but could be interesting.

If they took a (less horrifying) Black Mirror approach where it was stories in the same universe that could be interesting, but I don't think it would play. There's a lot of story fruit still in LOTR universe that hasn't been plucked yet, so I think that they could do something really good that was episodic as well, but I suspect it will end up closer to "Legend of the Seeker" than something with a good, lasting story.

We'd just end up with Sexy Shelob, though.

> This just feels like a very safe "me too Game of Thrones" play.

No more than Game of Thrones was a "me too Lord of the Rings" play. I mean, seriously, Tolkien's work was first in both book and movie/TV form.

I recently started watching Fargo and I'm, for the most part, enjoying what was done there. Captures the source material well while telling a new story in the same universe.

The worst part is that you probably couldn’t pick a worse franchise to adapt into a Game of Thrones-style show. LotR is all about a Manichean struggle between good and evil, and about dreaming and wanderlust and journies. GoT is about cold, brutal, gritty realpolitik and the realities of power, war, and violence. Shoving GoT themes into a world that was basically built for precisely opposite ideas is lazy and will probably produce jarring, unnatural stories.

So young Aragorn and young Boromir killing orcs? Gimli killing elves?

I hope its not the same characters.

Its hard to drum up tension for a battle when you know the hero/ine will survive.

Hm, I disagree. Usually when you read a book/watch a movie, you do have a pretty good idea who will survive. I mean, even in the original trilogy, most people knew how things would go down since the books were well known. I would say more interesting is how it goes down, and you can still have tension even if you know the final outcome. Same thing with folk tales: you know the hero is going to win, but it is still enjoyable to hear the tale told.

I guess you have a point.

But let me try another counter: how much more enjoyable were the big scenes in Game of Thrones? I think you know the ones I am talking about.

I still enjoy rewatching Breaking Bad but the shock and recognition of watching these shows the first time is superior.

Yup, you're right. It does add something for sure. I guess the further away a show/movie strays from common tropes the more important is the value of not knowing what will happen.

How about the origin stories of the Ents and of Beorn

This could be both quite good and original.

LotR takes place at the end of the Third Age and Tolkien expanded that into the three novels, but he also wrote (and his son co-wrote, edited and published) The Silmarillion, which covered everything until the end of the Third Age.

I always thought The Silmarillion contained enough source material to make a dozen "LotR"s and keep everything consistent within the same universe. I hope that do that instead of a "Young Aragorn" type of deal.

The Silmarillion is by far my favorite book in that set. The story of Beren and Luthien alone would make a fantastic series. I hope that's the route they go as well.

Silmarillion is mostly First Age, with scant coverage given to the Second and none to the Third. Personally, even as a serious Tolkien fan in my younger days, I'd find a Silmarillion-based series totally uninteresting and would prefer just about any other part of the canon.

It's good to know that Amazon are right behind creative, contemporary ideas and not simply cynically retreading ground that has been covered already.

Now I get to go back to my friends and say: "Remember when I told you that they would create a film adaptation of the Sylmarillion and Appendices, in 8 installments, and you all rolled your eyes at me?"

If there is any author who has fleshed out their world enough to have an entire TV series focus on minor characters it's Tolkien.

Personally, if they include Tom Bombadil in the show it will be entirely worth it for me.

I like to imagine that the Tom Bombadil Chronicles would look a whole lot like PBS's "The Woodwright's Shop."

A lot of people seem to be down on it, but I'm pretty excited. He's still the standard to which any fantasy book is held to, as well as the standard for worldbuilding. Nothing else really comes close.

I have successfully avoided Prime up to now. This might be the tipping point.

OTOH, despite creative quibbles it's hard to imagine surpassing the film versions, so maybe I can just watch those a few more times.

Hopefully they're incentivized to pour a huge budget into these given the "competition" of the movies (and GoT) and they make it worth the Prime subscription. (Personally Prime has so much value add these days for me I can't imagine not being subscribed anyway.)

When practical, I prefer to buy from specialized retailers (or manufacturers) for stuff I care about, so Amazon is a last resort for me.

The convenience, though, means I buy a lot of stuff I don't care about (or otherwise can't readily find) from them.

There are so many amazing fantasy novels that need movies or TV shows. Tolkien was good, and for his time, amazing. But compared to what we have available today, I wouldn't even put him in the top 10.


Care to offer any recommendations? I'm in the market for new sci-fi / fantasy lit.

    Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan)
    Stormlight Archive; Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson)
    Belgariad and Malloreon (David Eddings)
    Discworld (Terry Pratchett)
    Sword of Shannara (Terry Brooks)

    The Liveship Traders trilogy (Robin Hobb)
    The Earthsea tri(penta)logy (Ursula LeGuin)
    Tigana (Guy Gavriel Kay)
    Gentlemen Bastards (aka Locke Lamora) series (Scott Lynch)
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)
If you're in the mood for something more modern, I'm highly recommending the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.

I found the Runelords series by David Farland really enjoyable and cinematic. Great exploration of a fascinating magic system, with some very memorable characters to boot.

For Sci Fi, Netflix is currently making a series based on Altered Carbon which I'm very excited for - I love that series to death (Richard K Morgan, author).

I've been digging the Frontiers Saga.


Too many of the books/episodes had me going: well i can start reading the first chapter of the next book and it'll be fine at 1am.

r scott bakker; brandon sanderson; steven brust; alastair reynolds; max gladstone; neal asher; harry connolly; joel shepherd.

Try Sapkowski if you didn't read The Witcher yet.

I tend to disagree. Very few live up to Tolkien's level. And it's not about the brand, it's about the depth of the settings he created.

Actually, there is a lot of amazingly detailed settings in fantasy novels -- much more than really good stories set in them. Heck, some fantasy series read like tourist guides through the world with little to no plot and original character development (I'm looking at you, David Eddings).

One advantage of worlds like Westeros and Middle-earth is that they're pretty much immediately familiar to most Western readers: they're basically just a condensed version of Europe and its immediate vicinity -- geography, history and all. There are some amazingly detailed settings which are more difficult to feel immediately connected with, and some of them also feature amazing stories with great characters -- Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea is a prime example (yes, there was a TV series based on it, but we should collectively forget about it; it got wrong everything it could).

As I've said elsewhere, one of the best fantasy series I've recently encountered -- and IMO ideally suited for TV treatment -- is the Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb. While technically set in the same world as the much better known Farseer Trilogy (and its sequels) it is a completely separate, and IMO much better written story.

I like The Witcher by Sapkoswki personally, but he also draws on familiar material.

Now I'm curious: Who would be in your top ten?

For my money, it would include Orson Scott Card, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and Isaac Asimov.

My #1 for a movie/tv show would be The Blade Itself series by Joe Abercrombie. The thought of seeing Glokta and Ninefingers portrayed on screen gives me chills.

How can there not be a Snowcrash movie, right?

Maybe its because of the cell phone problem.

I have no faith that a Snow Crash movie would live up to the novel, as much as I want it to exist anyway. A series would be better, especially one with a planned ending.

Even today, he's the obvious standard for what a great high fantasy novel is as well as the standard every other fantasy author will be and is compared to.

Would be interesting for someone to make series out of Silmarillion. It would probably work better than a regular film medium.

This is a brand recognition play, and LotR has huge (general audience) brand recognition.

I really hope when they say "preceding The Fellowship of the Ring" they still mean Third Age. The Silmarillion stuff is just too big and too unfamiliar IMO. There's plenty to cover with Dol Guldur, Gollum's capture and escape, Moria, Gandalf and Saruman, Wormtongue, Denethor, Aragorn as a younger man, etc. Going further back but still Third Age you have the breakup of Arnor and the rise of Angmar, the founding of the Shire and Rohan, dwarves and dragons, and so on. There's just no need to go all the way back to the beginning, and it would seem too much like a whole different world that I think it would be a mistake.

Personally I would prefer them to go even further into the early Third Age. The Fall of Arnor, the Kin-Strife -- there is a lot of epic events, with a much darker tone.

They might have to. I saw your other post, about who owns the rights, and I've also seen some of that as a LotROnline player. There might be other issues because of the movies, if MEE/SZC gave the studios exclusive (or time-exclusive) rights to the characters and settings. That still leaves a lot, though. Angmar and Dol Guldur are only alluded to in the books, not visited, which makes them Tolkien Estate territory. Gondor's a bit trickier. The kin-strife involved characters not in LotR, but the settings might be contentious. A lot depends on the specific details or the contracts among the various parties, which we don't know.

So hold on, this is literally working with the Tolkien Estate? Is the Estate licensing further works? I assumed before now that the articles referencing the "Tolkien Estate" mostly didn't know what they were talking about, and that the deal was being worked out with the usual suspects (i.e. Saul Zaentz Company) with the Estate keeping up their same position. This makes it more interesting, I guess.

I wish someone would do a proper job on the Earthsea novels. Netflix, are you listening?

LOTR is a bit played out, the Hobbitrilogy kinda beat it to death.

No it isn't. The deal was announced today, the linked article is from six days ago. Speculation and rumors are not the same thing as a done deal.

Sure and you could have another thread when the schedule is announced but that doesn't make for interesting conversation or an interesting front page. There's nothing in this thread that wasn't in last week's thread and chances are there won't be.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact