Sunday, August 11, 2019

tea leaf

The tea leaf is for the impending Amazon Lord of the Rings-inspired series, and it takes the form of this video, which is essentially a credits reel for the writers, producers, etc. of the series. But it also begins with a map of Middle-earth, and among the credits is one for Tom Shippey with the job title of "Tolkien Scholar."

Now it's interesting in itself that Shippey should have signed on, given that he's pretty much retired from the role of Tolkien Scholar, feeling that he's said what he has to say on the subject and being disinclined to repeat himself. But here he is, and here, ta da, is an interview with him on the video and what he's willing and able to say about the project. Which isn't much. He does observe that the map depicts the Second Age, because Númenor is present. He also notes that some of the names are different, though he doesn't go into specifics. "Calenardhon" was the pre-Rohirric name of Rohan, so that's an understandable placement, but the utter blanks where Gondor and Mordor will be seem problematic. Mordor was first occupied by Sauron relatively early in the Second Age, so that name could be there. But Gondor was probably so named by its Númenórean settlers at the end of the Second Age (see Letters 409), and we don't know what it was called before that, though it probably had the same meaning ("Stone land"). But if the Sindarin name Gondor was only applied then, the same could be true of the other Sindarin names in the area, including Calenardhon, which was then a region of Gondor. Oh, the tangled webs ...

What Shippey does say takes a different angle. He speaks of Amazon having a free hand with the Second Age; that is, so long as they do not contradict any of Tolkien's written material about the period (sketchy as regards Middle-earth, much less so for Númenor), they can make up any additional material they want. But the First Age, which is covered by the Quenta Silmarillion, and the Third Age, the age of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, are "off-limits."

I wonder if that's how it's expressed in the contract. Shippey is concerned with the fact that the Second Age has two parts, before and after the Fall of Númenor, but the question of permitted zones is actually much more complicated than that. First off, The Hobbit takes place in 2941 T.A., leaving nearly 3000 years of very interesting earlier Third Age history potentially available if just staying out of the way of the main plots of those stories is the issue. But perhaps the intent is to leave out any periods covered by the historical material in the Peter Jackson films? The chronologies estimate Gollum to have been about 500 years old at the time of The Hobbit, so that roughly dates Jackson's flashback about his origins. But the battle depicted at the start of the Fellowship movie is at the very end of the Second Age. So is that forbidden to Amazon or not?

We'll find out later on; my only interest here is in pointing out the fuzziness of what we're talking about.

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