The Lord of the Rings actor Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s trilogy beginning with The Fellowship of the Ring, recently questioned what source material Amazon was allowed to use for their upcoming The Rings of Power series.
Mortensen was asked about The Rings of Power in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter (THR) while promoting his latest film Crimes of the Future.
When first asked about the show and if he planned on watching it, Mortensen replied, “What is that? The TV thing? It is with Apple, or something?”
THR’s Alex Ritman would inform Mortensen the show is being made by Amazon and is “thought to be the most expensive TV series ever made.” Mortensen responded, “Oh, right. Yeah, I’ll watch that.”
He then questioned, “But do you know what source material they’re using? What were they allowed to use?”
Ritman would indicate he didn’t know what source material they were adapting, but did inform Mortensen that the show is taking place “thousands of years before The Lord of the Rings” and that “Isildur is one of the main characters.”
Mortensen simply replied, “Oh, that’s cool! Yeah, it’ll be fun to see.”
While The Hollywood Reporter’s Alex Ritman didn’t know the source material they are adapting, The Rings of Power showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay revealed Amazon only has the rights to The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, the appendices, and The Hobbit.
Payne explained, ““We have the rights solely to The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, the appendices, and The Hobbit. And that is it. We do not have the rights to The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth, or any of those other books.”
So Amazon does not actually have The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, or The History of Middle-earth, books that extensively cover the Second Age, the period of Middle-earth Amazon announced their show will take place in.
Despite not having these rights McKay believes it won’t be a problem, “There’s a version of everything we need for the Second Age in the books we have the rights to.”
“As long as we’re painting within those lines and not egregiously contradicting something we don’t have the rights to, there’s a lot of leeway and room to dramatize and tell some of the best stories that [Tolkien] ever came up with,” he added.
However, the show’s first trailer directly contradicts these statements. As an example, Galadriel is now the commander of the Northern Armies. In Tolkien’s books Galadriel was never depicted as a soldier leading soldiers into battle as the trailer shows.
Instead “she did look upon the Dwarfs also with the eye of a commander, seeing in them the finest warriors to pit against the Orcs,” as Tolkien noted in Unfinished Tales. Looking at something with the eye of a commander and being a commander are two different things.
On top of this the northern army mentioned in Tolkien’s works was created by King Ondoher and led by him when he defended Gondor from invasion by the Wainriders of Rhovanion. Ondoher’s creation of this northern army and its use in defending against the Wainriders was also detailed in Unfinished Tales.
What do you make of Mortensen’s first reaction to The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power asking about what source material the show will be adapting?