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LOTR series: a view of the Two Trees


Ser Scot A Ellison
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We still don't know which sections they have rights to. Clearly the image of Trees of Valinor took everyone by surprise. Add that to the reported leak about the creation of the Orcs. 

I don't think that for this show we will see more than the origins of the Elves, Orcs, something Galadriel and possibly Fëanor related, and maybe even the origins of Sauron. And with Númenor part of the story, I would venture a guess they also have the rights to show Eärendil and Elwing, and thus maybe the show will start with a setup of the origin of the Elves and the end of the War of Wrath. But they are likely not to show anything about the children of Húrin, Gondolin, and maybe nothing about Beren and Lúthien, or most other main parts of the war between Morgoth and the Elves.

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The elf in the image could well by Morfydd Clark - who is playing Galadriel - from behind.

From what we know, they have the rights to the Akallabeth, Unfinished Tales and LotR (novels and appendices). They also have some rights to The Silmarillion to material that is germane to the story they are telling. It might be that they decided on what Sil elements they wanted to depict and then ran that by the Estate who arranged the respective rights. They don't appear to have the rights to The Silmarillion as a whole.

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2 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

In any case, the two trees are mentioned a few times in LotR and are described in the appendixes. They wouldn't need additional rights to depict them, would they?

Indeed, they should be allowed to reference and depict events and characters mentioned in the book, unless the original contract didn't include the appendices - which doesn't seem to be the case since Jackson apparently used the appendices for his take on the Arwen & Aragorn story.

Basically, you can do the Akallabêth and the story of Eregion if you only have the rights to the LotR. You would have to omit certain details (like the possibility of a romance between Celebrimbor and Galadriel or Sauron using Celebrimbor's corpse as a banner since that's only mentioned in UT) but since you make an adaptation you can easily do that.

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9 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

In any case, the two trees are mentioned a few times in LotR and are described in the appendixes. They wouldn't need additional rights to depict them, would they?

There are limits to that - otherwise you'd be able to depict the Valar, Eru Iluvatar, Morgoth, and the story of Beren and Luthien without Silmarillion rights. You certainly can't show Tirion upon Tuna without Silmarillion rights, and that city is clearly Tirion.

My interpretation is that we're seeing a narrated Prologue by Galadriel, detailing how the Noldor came to be in Middle-earth.

(I think the person in the foreground is Galadriel with done-up hair, though it could conceivably be Celebrimbor with adaptional reddish hair, a la his uncles).

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8 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

(I think the person in the foreground is Galadriel with done-up hair, though it could conceivably be Celebrimbor with adaptional reddish hair, a la his uncles).

Yeah, I hope that despite all this short hair talk, Galadriel does not have short hair. Doesn't her hair capture a bit of the light of the Trees, mesmerizing Fëanor?

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7 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

There are limits to that - otherwise you'd be able to depict the Valar, Eru Iluvatar, Morgoth, and the story of Beren and Luthien without Silmarillion rights. You certainly can't show Tirion upon Tuna without Silmarillion rights, and that city is clearly Tirion.

My interpretation is that we're seeing a narrated Prologue by Galadriel, detailing how the Noldor came to be in Middle-earth.

(I think the person in the foreground is Galadriel with done-up hair, though it could conceivably be Celebrimbor with adaptional reddish hair, a la his uncles).

You could certainly do as much of those stories as is covered in LotR, meaning whoever holds the rights could do his own version of Beren and Lúthien and the characters and places mentioned in LotR as long as they don't mess with things that are mentioned exclusively in the Silmarillion.

Tirion is mentioned several times in LotR and the appendices give the names of the Two Trees and tell us of their destruction, so I don't see why they would have the rights to the Silmarillion if they were to, say, just give us a brief glimpse of the city of Tirion and the Two Trees in a Prologue-like scenario.

Go and read the beginning of appendix A. If they were to keep things as brief and cursory as there - and that would be sufficient for a brief tale of why the Noldor left the Blessed Realm - then they would need no such rights.

Of course, they might need some Silmarillion rights if they wanted to go with Galadriel's backstory as depicted in the Silmarillion.

4 minutes ago, fionwe1987 said:

Was Celebrimbor alive before the Noldor left Valinor?

Depending on which version of his ancestry we go with, he was born in Valinor, yes. His mother, Curufin's nameless wife, remained in Aman. This version is the basis for Celebrimbor being a descendant of Feanor as mentioned in appendix B of the Second Edition of LotR. And one should, I think, take this as the most canonical version since all the others are, frankly, not exactly very good. Although I think there are ways how one could harmonize the Curufin origin story with the Goldolin story, say, assuming that Celebrimbor cut ties with his father earlier than Nargothrond (an invention by Christopher) and ended up joining Turgon's folk when they first founded Gondolin.

An older version has Celebrimbor as an Elf from Gondolin who afterwards became part of Galadriel and Celeborn's retinue. Final weirdo versions in Tolkien's old age make Celebrimbor a Teler, leaving Valinor together with Galadriel and Celeborn (in the version where Celeborn is a Teler himself), and then there is the version where he is a Sinda from Doriath, a descendant of Daeron.

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1 hour ago, Lord Varys said:

Go and read the beginning of appendix A. If they were to keep things as brief and cursory as there - and that would be sufficient for a brief tale of why the Noldor left the Blessed Realm - then they would need no such rights.

I'm not convinced that's how it works legally.

My understanding had been that one can only do, for instance, the "Beren and Luthien" story if one has the rights to and is adapting the primary version of that story, which would be either the Silmarillion or Christopher Tolkien's later standalone publication of every piece of material by Tolkien on it.

As such, it is a murky and contested area legally speaking, to try and depict - based off of the Appendices - scenarios or events that are primarily detailed in other works.

Edited by Krishtotter
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15 minutes ago, Krishtotter said:

I'm not convinced that's how it works legally.

My understanding had been that one can only do, for instance, the "Beren and Luthien" story if one has the rights to and is adapting the primary version of that story, which would be either the Silmarillion or Christopher Tolkien's later standalone publication of every piece of material by Tolkien on it.

As such, it is a murky and contested area legally speaking, to try and depict - based off of the Appendices - scenarios or events that are primarily detailed in other works.

That might be the case in part, but Tolkien sold the rights to the LotR before the Silmarillion was ever published. In that sense, the primary versions of some of the Silmarillion tales are not in Christopher's published book but in the appendices of the LotR.

I didn't say that they could do exactly the story of Beren and Lúthien as given in the Silmarillion. Rather they could use the characters and place names mentioned in LotR and tell their own story about how the two lovers wrested a silmaril from Morgoth's crown.

That said, they would be limited to very brief and cursory things that way, and they would have to make up their own stuff which couldn't be faithful to the Silmarillion. If they want to be faithful to Tolkien's works and/or use as much of his material as possible they would have buy the rights to the material covering the SA in more detail, meaning the Akallabêth, 'Of the Rings of Power' and the SA material from UT.

But they should be able to give a brief summary of the FA on the basis of the appendices of the LotR. If they had been able to buy rights to the Silmarillion stories as such we would likely not get a series based on the SA but rather a Silmarillion series starting with the Ainulindale.

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Of course, they might need some Silmarillion rights if they wanted to go with Galadriel's backstory as depicted in the Silmarillion.

If they have the full UT rights, they can use the (varying) UT versions of Galadriel's origin instead.

5 hours ago, Krishtotter said:

I'm not convinced that's how it works legally.

My understanding had been that one can only do, for instance, the "Beren and Luthien" story if one has the rights to and is adapting the primary version of that story, which would be either the Silmarillion or Christopher Tolkien's later standalone publication of every piece of material by Tolkien on it.

As such, it is a murky and contested area legally speaking, to try and depict - based off of the Appendices - scenarios or events that are primarily detailed in other works.

That's not how it works. There's no such thing as a "primary version of the story," legally. If you have the rights to a story you can adapt it, regardless of if other versions of that story exist.

So the studio could make a Beren & Luthien movie based on the LotR material alone, and fill the holes with their own material. They couldn't even think of looking at the UT or Silmarillion versions of the story, as they'd be open to legal action.

This is even the basis of a joke in the Hobbit movies, where Gandalf talks about the other two wizards (who are mentioned in LotR) but then pauses, looks confused, and says "I can't remember their names." Their names are Alatar and Pallando, but this is only revealed in UT, which the studio did not have the rights to at the time, so they had to steer clear of mentioning them. Similarly, the Battle of the Gladden Fields in the prelude to LotR is depicted completely differently to the version in UT, because if they'd even looked vaguely similar, the Tolkien Estate would have sued them into the ground.

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1 hour ago, Werthead said:

That's not how it works. There's no such thing as a "primary version of the story," legally. If you have the rights to a story you can adapt it, regardless of if other versions of that story exist.

I stand corrected Wert, many thanks for the clarity and explanation! And also to @Lord Varys as well. This had always bewildered me, given the many differing perspectives I've heard on it from other people (including the one I just voiced to Varys, which someone else had actually claimed to me). It's good to know how it actually works.

Edited by Krishtotter
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1 hour ago, Werthead said:

So the studio could make a Beren & Luthien movie based on the LotR material alone, and fill the holes with their own material. They couldn't even think of looking at the UT or Silmarillion versions of the story, as they'd be open to legal action.

That wouldn’t be the story of Beren and Luthien.

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10 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

To clarify: I am not suggesting they have full rights to The Silmarillion (though I think that is their end-goal), but rather that they are licensing certain parts of it, so as to provide Prologues and Flashbacks.

My point was that I don't think they need to license anything from the Quenta Silmarillion portion of Christopher's Silmarillion if they just were to give us a brief summary of the Noldor backstory in Aman.

That said, if they were to depict certain backstory in greater detail - say, the death of Finwe and Feanor, the Kin-strife, etc. - then they would have to buy the rights for that. But that would be pretty much akin to buy the rights to the Silmarillion which they apparently did not.

10 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

So, like the story of their dinner date in Ossiriand after their resurrection?

If you take just the LotR material on Beren and Lúthien you could make a pretty good version of their story fitting the big points of Tolkien's story. Of course, not the details, but you could still get all the big points - their meeting, Beren asking a big Elven king for Lúthien's hand, the bride price, the journey to the throne of the Dark Lord, Beren's death and Lúthien begging the gods to resurrect Beren.

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I had a fairly intense debate with a person in a Tolkien fan group on Facebook yesterday.  This person insists that because Elves have the possibility of resurrection (Glorfindel as an example) they do not “die”.  That they pop up in a new body in Valinor the moment their original body expires, anywhere.

That this means that all of the Teleri killed in the first kinslaying were back in Alqualondë right after the events of the Kinslaying.  That was never my understanding of the Elven life cycle.  I thought they died and were in the Halls of Mandos until Dagor Dagorlad with rare exceptions like Glorfindel.

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison
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