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Why the ‘LotR: Rings of Power’ isn’t Based On a Book Tolkien Wrote

4 Minute Read
Aug 12 2022

Don’t expect the Rings of Power to adapt a Tolkien novel.

J.R.R. Tolkien was one of the greatest and most influential writers of history. His legacy has affected and been fought over by many. Now with Amazon’s The Rings of Power coming out soon, people are revisiting his world. Yet there is still a lot of confusion over what part of his world they are visiting. Which of his books is the show adapting? Well, the answer is none of them.

It’s Not a Silmarillion Adapation

“Two Trees of Valinor” by Roger Garland

One of the big misconceptions about The Rings Of Power is that it’s an adaptation of The Silmarillion. It’s not. The Rings of Power isn’t based on a book Tolkien wrote. While there is some confusion on what Amazon has the right to, we can be pretty sure they don’t have the rights for the full Silmarillion. But even if that wasn’t the case, we already know it’s not an adaption of that story. The Silmarillion is mainly focused on the early ages of the world and the end of the First Age. It does not chronicle the events of the Second Age, which is when this story takes place.

A portion of the book, the Akallabêth and a chapter titled Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age does cover Second Age events. They mostly deal with the fall of Númenor, but also touch on the creation of the Rings. However, these sections are relatively brief and do not have a ton of detail. Even when considering that some parts of The Silmarillion might be drawn on as inspiration for The Rings of Power, there is something else to remember. 

Tolkien Didn’t Write The Silmarillion

Many people either forget or don’t realize that JRR Tolkien did not write The Silmarillion. The book was published several years after Tolkien’s death and was comprised of unfinished writings collected and edited by his son Christopher Tolkien. Christopher Tolkien had to dig through pages of notes and pick through many different versions of the same stories, written over close to a 50-year period, to make up the book. He even had to write a few sections himself. So while Tolkien wrote most of the world in it, The Silmarillion is not a book that Tolkien himself wrote. Unfortunately, we can’t know his exact intentions for the world he created.

In fact, outside of The Hobbit and The Lord Of Rings (the whole trilogy), every book in the setting was published after his death. We are extremely lucky to have so much of his writing. It created a vast and rich world that would have been lost to us if not for Christopher Tolkien. But we also have to understand that it was unfished and unedited (by JRR). As such, it’s a little silly to treat these works as inviolate words of god.


So What is The Rings of Power Based On? 

In the end, The Rings of Power isn’t based on any one book Tolkien wrote. Tolkien never wrote a book about the Second Age, and then is when the series is set. He did write some information about the events in that time period, but they were unfished and published by his son. Ultimately The Rings of Power is going to be the story of the Second Age, or maybe just its end. It is inspired and based on the characters and works of Tolkien, but not a direct adaptation of any works. And that’s just fine.

Tolkien left a huge gap in his story, even in his unfished works. Filling it in doesn’t rewrite his history – his history was never written. Many people, from Peter Jackson to RPG and video game creators, have been doing this for decades. Having this kind of freedom could be very good or bad, but it’s not, as some seem to think, an inherently bad thing.

Let us know which works you think the Rings of Power will draw on the most, down in the comments! 

Author: Abe Apfel
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