A new Lord of the Rings book could have a big impact on The Rings of Power

Yesterday was a big news day for fans of The Lord of the Rings. Most of the commotion surrounded the first images of The Rings of Power’s orcs, which were mostly created through practical effects and prosthetics rather than CGI, and for good reason. The lukewarm, almost entirely digital orcs of The Hobbit movies pale in comparison to the rugged, practical effects of Peter Jackson’s previous trilogy, but I need to hear the newcomers speak before passing judgement.

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The Amazon Studios series has caused a lot of discussion in the community, mainly due to the scant details that have been released. Yet another problem is the scarcity of the source material on which the series is based. How can the studio make five series based on around 50 pages of scribbled notes in the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings and a few other references sprinkled throughout the novel? Well, it turns out that they might have had more source material than they originally let on.

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Brian Sibley has compiled The Fall Of Númenor, the latest book in a series of expansions on the world of Tolkien published by HarperCollins. The other entries in this series, except for The Nature of Middle-earth, were edited by the late Christopher Tolkien, the author’s son. These books expand on the details of Tolkien’s universe, collecting references from all over his Legendarium, as well as commentary from his notebooks and letters. Christopher often commented on changes between drafts and editorials, so we can expect Sibley, an accomplished writer in his own right who is most famous for his ‘Making Of’ books for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies. and narrating countless Tolkien audiobooks, do the same. But it is the content of the new book, and the timing of it, that is more interesting than the publisher of it.

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The Fall of Númenor is the greatest event of the Second Age of Middle-earth, and therefore an important topic on which to compile an entire book. It is a story of corruption and arrogance, deception and an almighty fall from grace, figuratively and literally, which, again literally, changes the face of Middle-earth. It’s also undoubtedly what The Rings of Power will focus on. Why else would Númenor be front and center in the first trailer? Sure, there will be Elves and Harfoots and Orcs and Rings, but the series will be about Annatar and his malevolent trickery into Númenorian high society. That’s what I think, at least. Although Galadriel will also have some importance. There are 22 main characters, they can cover it all.


However, there is something about the timing of The Fall Of Númenor’s release that feels strange. It is surely no coincidence that a book detailing the events of The Second Age is published alongside a television series covering the same events. In my opinion, there are two options: either HarperCollins and the Tolkien Estate wanted to cash in on the series with a book that explains the depths and thought processes that went into creating the original story the show is based on, or the showrunners they had access to these notes and this book, and used it to inform their decisions on the show. Both turns of events could be true.

The latter would make a lot of sense. To my knowledge, the only Tolkien work that the showrunners have adamantly denied they have rights to is The Silmarillion. They have also expressly noted the Appendices as their primary source of material. However, if you’ve read any of these HarperCollins books before, you’ll know that they combine material from a variety of Tolkien’s works and add more context, notes, and information.

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Perhaps showrunners Patrick McKay and JD Payne had access to more information than they were letting on. It would also make more financial sense for Amazon to include this book, or its contents, in its deal when buying the rights to the Tolkien Estate, because a quarter of a billion dollars seems like a lot of money for not a lot of Second Age. information.

It seems unlikely that The Fall Of Númenor names the likes of Arondir, Halbrand, or Disa (these are likely new creations of The Rings Of Power), but it may have informed the show’s direction in other ways. Peter Jackson used Tolkien’s own revisions to make meta-jokes about dwarf women and their beards (jokes that have been widely misunderstood), and I don’t see why McKay and Payne would treat the text with any less reverence. The Tolkienists who spoke with them certainly praised their extensive knowledge, that’s for sure.

Whether Sibley’s collection of Númenorian history impacted the development and writing process of The Rings of Power is unknown, and unlikely to be revealed any time soon, but the two mediums are intrinsically linked. Releasing the book as the show’s first season draws to a close is a shrewd business decision, and fans will be in for a treat. We’re getting two new perspectives on the Second Age of Middle-earth this fall, which makes it a great time to be a Tolkien fan.

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