Back several months ago Tolkien Germany fansite had a chance to sit down with Tolkien historian Tom Shippey. Tom Shippey was one of the few consultants brought on by Amazon Studios for the upcoming TV series. Which is being described as one of the most expensive shows to ever be put into production surpassing Game of Thornes. During the interview, Tom Shippey reveals some key guidelines the Tolkien Estate had given Amazon when the streaming service bought the rights to the lore of Middle-Earth.
According to Tom Shippey, Amazon Studios are strictly not allowed to use anything that is mentioned in Tolkien’s work during the First and Third Age of Middle-Earth. The estate still owns those rights and the studio was only given the rights to the Second Age which is 3,441 years before Frodo travels to Mt. Doom. This means at one point at least the streaming service was considering a retelling of the Lord of the Rings (made famous by director Peter Jackson’s films) but was denied. They are also not allowed to alter any history that Tolkien made canon in the Appendices or Unfinished Tales.
The Tolkien Estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenorean expedition, is returns 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..
He goes onto add that The Second Age technically ends twice with the Last Alliance of Men and Elves being the second time which was featured in the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring:
The Second Age kind of “stopped” twice. Once with the Fall of Númenor and then, about 150 years later, with the Last Alliance and the defeat of Sauron.
He also mentions that Tolkien Estate has implemented a “veto” clause in the contract which means they have the final say on the “original” stories being told during the Second Age. Lastly, he mentions the studio wants to debut the show by 2021 which lines up with the show starting production sometime within 2020 in New Zealand. J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay have boarded the project as showrunners & writers. With J. A. Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) directing the first few episodes and producing.
The Lord of the Rings will stream exclusively on Amazon Prime