‘The Lord of the Rings’ Sequel Sued by JRR Tolkien Estate

in Entertainment, Movies & TV

Aragorn on the left and Gandalf on the right in 'Lord of the Rings'

Credit: Inside the Magic

There’s a storm brewing around the “Lord of the Rings sequel”.

Frodo (Elijah Wood) with the One Ring falling onto finger, from Lord of the Rings
Credit: New Line Cinema

Related: Fans Upset as Amazon’s “God-Awful” ‘Lord of the Rings’ Character Photos Spark Major Debate

JRR Tolkien’s renowned high-fantasy saga, “The Lord of the Rings”, debuted in 1954 as a follow-up to the more lighthearted “The Hobbit” (1937), created for a younger audience. Since Tolkien introduced his captivating realm of Middle-earth to the world, there has been a nearly unending enthusiasm for his world and works. This fanbase encompasses diverse individuals, including comedian and talk show host Stephen Colbert (who proudly embraces his mega-nerd status), young children, adults, and even scholars specializing in Tolkien’s writings. Each passing year sees the influence of Tolkien expanding as new fans discover his earlier works — including the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by director Peter Jackson.

With such unfailing interest surrounding the world of Middle-earth, it makes a lot of sense that other actors want a slice of that lucrative fantasy pie.

Aragorn talking to Gandalf in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Credit: New Line Cinema

The Lord of the Rings spin-offs

The highly-regarded series by the late JRR Tolkien has several spinoffs and “sequels” — some authorized by the Tolkien estate, which handles the rights to the intellectual property (IP) — and some decidedly unauthorized.

Currently, the most well-known property is undoubtedly the Peter Jackson films, however, it is not the latest venture into Tolkien’s world. Instead, a Middle-earth-based spinoff series set in the Second Age of Middle-Earth, expanding on Tolkien’s partially unfinished lore and tales has taken center stage. In collaboration with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, Harper Collins, and New Line Cinema (the studio responsible for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies), JD Payne and Patrick McKay have developed a new Amazon series titled The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (2022). This highly anticipated series premiered exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on September 2 of last year. Amazon invested generously in its production, making it the most expensive series ever created with a US$1 billion budget, collaborating with New Zealand-based WETA Workshop that spearheaded the original film series’ groundbreaking special effects. This lavish expenditure may come as no surprise, considering that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is reportedly a Tolkien fan himself.

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel in Amazon's Rings of Power
Credit: Amazon Studios

The spinoff follows in a similar vein to those theatrical epics though not explicitly related to Jackson’s film canon. In its first season, The Rings of Power delved into various interconnected storylines, with a particular focus on Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), portraying the character as a much younger elf compared to Cate Blanchett’s rendition in The Lord of the Rings, and Elrond (Robert Aramayo), originally portrayed by Hugo Weaving.

Notably, (for those who don’t mind spoilers) the character of Halbrand, portrayed by Charlie Vickers, is revealed to be Sauron — hinting at darker themes that lie ahead. The series also follows the adventures of Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete), Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), Marigold Brandyfoot (Sara Zwangobani), Largo Brandyfoot (Dylan Smith), Nor/Elanor Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), Elendil (Lloyd Owen), Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle), Isildur (Maxim Baldry), and The Stranger (Daniel Weyman).

Galadriel (left) and Halbrand (right) charge on horses, Rings of Power
Credit: Amazon

The legal drama surrounding The Rings of Power, and the Lord of the Rings “sequel”

Ultimately, Season One of The Rings of Power concluded with a somewhat lukewarm reception, largely due to the fact that the series did not stay true to JRR Tolkien’s intention and worldbuilding — consequently upsetting a large portion of the existing Tolkien fanbase. In an effort to curb the upset, producers promised that Season Two would be markedly different and pay closer homage to Tolkien’s legendarium.

But the prominent series isn’t just drawing fan ire — it was in fact sued for $250 million recently by writer Demetrius Polychron, who accused the show of stealing plot points and characters from his book, “The Fellowship of the King”. Amazon owner Jeffrey Bezos and execs were explicitly named, as was the Tolkien estate. Now, it seems like those over at the Tolkien estate are filing their own lawsuit in retaliation.

Orlando Bloom as Legolas
Credit: New Line Cinema

Bloomberg Law via Fellowship of Fans broke the news that the Tolkien estate considered the sequel by Polychron “unauthorized” and that the writer would be sued for “writing and selling” the book, that follows Samwise Gamgee’s daughter Elanor on her quest to fight a new darkness in Middle-earth:

Bloomberg Law reports that the JRR Tolkien estate recently had a “copyright lawsuit filed in Los Angeles federal court”, accusing Polychron of infringement. Polychron’s book takes large swathes of Tolkien lore and repurposes it for his own fanfiction-esque story, lifting concepts, characters, and lore directly from the original source.

An excerpt from the book’s description reads as follows:

Elanor, two Hobbit friends, the Crown Prince Eldarion of Gondor, his Elvish uncles the Princes Elladan and Elrohir of Gondor join the Wizards Alatar and Pallando of Aman in a war across Middle-earth fighting for their lives.

If they fail, they will witness the return of the Valar Morgoth, the source of Evil and former Master of the long defeated Sauron. With all the Rings of Power at his command, Morgoth will enslave the whole of Middle-earth – forever.

What do you think about the Tolkien estate suing writers like Polychron? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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