The Tolkien Estate Gets to Veto Amazon

There’s apparently a trailer, or a teaser, or whatever, for the new Amazon series, but I’ll be damned if I can find it.

The important fact is, Amazon doesn’t get to hose this the way everyone expects they will.

Amazon has a relatively free hand when it comes to adding something, since, as I said, very few details are known about this time span. The Tolkien Estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenorean expedition, is returns to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenoreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same. But you can add new characters and ask a lot of questions, like: What has Sauron done in the meantime? Where was he after Morgoth was defeated? Theoretically, Amazon can answer these questions by inventing the answers, since Tolkien did not describe it. But it must not contradict anything which Tolkien did say. That’s what Amazon has to watch out for. It must be canonical, it is impossible to change the boundaries which Tolkien has created, it is necessary to remain “tolkienian”.

The Time Span referred to is The Second Age, the period when Aragorn’s ancestors lived on an island in the middle of the ocean called Numenor. It’s also the time when the Rings of Power were forged. So it’s a giant LOTR prequel, really.

But if there’s an army of canon-experts making sure that canon isn’t violated, then I’m suddenly much more comfortable with this.

If only someone at Lucasfilm cared this much.

Fun Facts about the Tolkein Family

You can knock Wikipedia all you like, but I discovered some truly interesting information about the descendants of J.R.R. Tolkein, just by doing a bit of research on the Mabinogion.

To wit:

  • Christopher Tolkein deserves all the credit in the world for the existence of The Silmarillion. It was he who edited his father’s chaotic papers and drafts into the grand manuscript of the First Age. Plus, Christopher was actually part of the Inklings, the club of scholars and writers who included C.S. Lewis. J.R.R. called Christopher “his chief critic and collaborator”. He also drew many of the original maps of Middle Earth.
  • Simon Tolkein, Christopher’s son, is a novelist in his own right, and publicly broke with his father over the reaction of the Tolkein estate to Peter Jackson’s films. There was rumor that Christopher even disowned Simon over it, but they have supposedly since reconciled. His most recent novel, set during WWI and published coincident to the Battle of the Somme, is at least a partial homage to his grandfather’s experience in that battle.
  • Nicholas Tolkein, Simon’s son, is a playwright and director in Los Angeles. His first play premiered this past summer.

Quite the lineage, if you ask me.


And now, some Tolkien Nerdery…

First, the same chap who cheekily questioned Aragorn’s claim to the throne of Gondor lists the Most Metal Deaths in Middle-Earth. From the Feanor entry:

While Ecthelion, Glorfindel, and Gandalf all bit the dust fighting individual Balrogs, Fëanor died in battle with a platoon of them. Not only that, his spirit was so fierce it incinerated his body as it left him. That’s so metal I am literally crying as I write this.

Good stuff, and I agree with his number 1 choice.

And I don’t know why I haven’t linked this before, but it’s sublime.

Tolkien wins, obviously. The Master is not to be trifled with.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Legal Conundrum

Over at Wired, a lawyer named James Daily has done a quick (to the extent that lawyers do anything quick) analysis of the legal contract drawn up between Bilbo and the dwarves in The Hobbit It’s a fun read for those interested in the intricacies of law, and manages to avoid turgidity. For the most part, Daily concludes, the contract appears solid, but he does fund a possibly significant hole:

The one thing that leaps out at me about this contract is that it doesn’t contain a choice of law clause.  Such a clause allows the parties to specify what jurisdiction’s law will govern the contract. This is particularly useful when multiple jurisdictions may potentially apply. The area of the law that deals with figuring out which court has jurisdiction and which law applies is known as conflict of laws.

Conflict of laws is a complex subject. Typically it is a stand-alone course in law school. So we won’t go into too much detail here, but suffice to say that arguably both the law of the Shire and the law of the Dwarven Kingdom could conceivably apply to this contract. Some of the factors that a court might consider include:

  • The parties are a Hobbit of the Shire and a group of Dwarves.
  • The contract was signed in the Shire.
  • The contract concerns services to be performed in the Dwarven Kingdom.
  • The most likely source of the breach of the contract occurs in the Dwarven Kingdom.

Since the applicable law is debatable, this is precisely the kind of case in which a choice of law clause makes sense, so its absence is notable.

This is the sort of question that leads to other questions:

  1. What Dwarven Kingdom? At the signing of the contract, there is no Dwarven Kingdom to have jurisdiction. Thorin is a King in exile, and the re-establishment of the Kingdom Under the Mountain is a result of the Adventure that neither party can reliably foresee. Unless the Dwarven realm of the Iron Hills counts as a Dwarven Kingdom, but I believe that the Iron Hills and Erebor were founded at the same time, and not one as a successor to the other. Then again, Dain Ironfoot, the ruler of the Iron Hills, is universally accepted as Thorin’s successor.
  2. What Shire Law? The Shire has a Mayor, and Shirrifs, and a postal services, and Bilbo’s journey does seem to create some issues about the ownership of Bag-End, so they obviously have some kind of legal framework. I suspect that a good bit of it is a common-law tradition deriving from the law of the Kingdom of Arnor, to which the Shire was initially subject. The Thain of the Shire held a kind of feudal sovereignity granted by the King of Arnor. Of course, at the time of the contract, there is no such Kingdom anymore, nor has there been for some time. The Shire is in this sense a rump state, and I don’t know how much respect the laws of such a small, unknown place commands. It’s hard to see Thorin willingly submitting to that Law.
  3. What About the Lakemen? If the Dwarves have respect but no regime, and the Hobbits regime but no respect, the men of Esgaroth upon the Long Lake near Erebor have both. In fact, you could make a pretty fair case that the Lake-Men have local jurisdiction, inasmuch as theirs is the only jurisdiction anywhere near the Lonely Mountain. But it’s a jurisdiction of Men, not of Dwarves or Hobbits (even if Hobbits are essentially of Man-Kind). The Men of the Lake certainly feel as though they have a claim upon the treasure of Smaug.

I have no good answers to these questions. Contemplating Tolkein sometimes bears resemblance to contemplating the Divine Mysteries (a comparison that would have gratified the old master, I am sure).