Amazon Lord of the Rings TV Show: Why the Tolkien Estate About-Face?

"You shall not pass" no more.

For decades, J.R.R. Tolkien’s library has been carefully guarded and treasured by his son, Christopher Tolkien. Notoriously protective of his father’s works, Christopher has barred others from adapting Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and associated stories time and time again.

Amazon announced Monday, however, that for $250 million it nabbed the rights to make a LOTR prequel television series. Many fans balked at the news that the Tolkien Estate had allowed it, wondering what could have possibly changed Christopher’s mind.

We now may have an inkling as to what is going on. The popular Lord of the Rings fansite TheOneRing.net reported on Wednesday that Christopher Tolkien, 93, stepped down as director of the Tolkien Estate on August 31. If this news is, in fact, true (it hasn’t been confirmed by any official channel), then it seems like a logical explanation for how Amazon was able to buy the rights for its upcoming LOTR series.

Christopher, who acted as the Estate’s proverbial Gandalf (“You shall not pass”), is no longer calling the shots for Middle-earth.


The preface of the most recently published Tolkien novel, The Tale of Beren and Lúthien, which was finalized and edited by Christopher, probably held the first clue that he would be stepping down. In the preface, Christopher wrote, “this is (preemptively) my last book in the long series of editions of my father’s writings.” At the time, many readers took this to mean he wouldn’t be personally publishing any more Tolkien works, not that he’d be stepping down from the Tolkien Estate entirely.

If Christopher really has stepped down, then we might be entering a new era of Tolkien adaptations. Prolific horror author Stephen King has had his fair share of adaptations within the past year. It’s plausible the world is about to be inundated with a similar flurry of Tolkien shows and feature films.

Only time will tell.

Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel series does not yet have a premiere date.

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