Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit movie has come and gone. And while some Tolkien fans—and non-fans—were upset by how he interpreted the book, watching The Hobbit and the fall of the Necromancer on the screen is still an exciting prospect. Likewise, even though Jackson made some distasteful changes to The Lord of the Rings, those films are still excellent depictions of one of the greatest pieces of writing in English literature.
So of course, some of us are wondering: will Peter Jackson ever make The Silmarillion Movie? And many others, in turn, are wondering: what is The Silmarillion?
The Silmarillion is a collection of Tolkien’s histories of Middle Earth, set thousands of years before The Lord of the Rings; they were unfinished when he died, and his son completed and published them.
The titular tale, and the centerpiece of the book, tells of the rebellion of the elves against the gods and the fall of Morgoth, an evil Vala whom Sauron at the time served. The Valar—the “gods” in Tolkien’s universe—brought many elves to Valinor, the Undying Lands. There, a powerful elf, Feanor, created the Silmarils, wondrous jewels that captivated all who held them. Around this time, Morgoth attacked the Valar and stole the Silmarils. Feanor led his people—the Noldor—to Middle Earth to recover the jewels, rebelling against the Valar in the process. The Silmarillion tells of the Noldor’s rebellion, the establishment of elf realms in Beleriand (then the western region of Middle Earth) the fight against Morgoth and the ultimate fall of the Noldor.
It’s a massive, tragic tale full of epic battles, exotic locales, heartwarming romance, and treacherous betrayals. The problem is, it’s told as a kind of history. There’s not much narrative, and even if there were it would take about 14 full-length books to tell the entire tale.
But I am of the opinion that Peter Jackson could—nay, must—bring it to the screen. I’m envisioning a seven-film series, like those used for Harry Potter and Twilight. This would keep fans in the theaters for years, and make the studios very happy. And, if done right, would be the ultimate tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien and the wondrous contributions he’s made to the fantasy genre, and literature in general.
So here are my ten reasons why Peter Jackson should make The Silmarillion Movie. For those of you who haven’t read the book, be warned there are several spoilers in here.
A Silmarillion movie series would give us a lot more of Galadriel.
Galadriel, a powerful elf ruler, figured prominently in The Lord of the Rings, giving shelter and advice to the fellowship after they escaped Moria. And thanks to Peter Jackson’s changes to The Hobbit, she will feature prominently on those movies. In the first installment, she showed up at Rivendell to back Gandalf in an argument with Saruman, and I’m sure we’ll see more of her as the White Council moves against the Necromancer in later movies. Throughout all this, Galadriel is a powerful, compelling female character that brings a lot to Tolkien’s tales.
Galadriel also plays major part in The Silmarillion. Galadriel appears early in the tale as one of the Noldor. She has numerous adventures—including leading her people across the dangerous crushing ice strait that then separated Middle Earth from the Undying Lands. And she settles down with Celeborn, with whom she supports the elves’ and humans’ fight against Morgoth.
So a Silmarillion film series would be good news for Galadriel fans, which, really, is anyone who enjoyed The Lord of the Rings.
9. He’s Already Referenced Gondolin
In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Elrond and Gandalf discuss the provenance of the swords recovered the troll caves. They discuss their origin in Gondolin, mentioning the name of this long-lost elf city with some awe.
And for good reason. In The Silmarillion, Gondolin was founded by Turgon, a Noldor Lord, as a refuge against Morgoth. The city existed in secret for hundreds of years, until it was revealed through treachery and was destroyed.
The mention of Gondolin in The Hobbit was a nice flourish by Tolkien that connected his children’s story to the broader mythology he had created. Its retention in the movie was a similar move by Jackson.
But it also created a precedent for The Silmarillion. Just as the discussion of how Bilbo found the Ring in the Lord of the Rings films whetted fans’ appetites for The Hobbit, so too should the Gondolin reference key in audiences to the grand history behind the swords the dwarves find in a troll cave.
8. He Loves To Make Stuff Up
Yeah, I know, I should let this go. I will eventually. But as I’ve already complained about, Peter Jackson et al (including scriptwriter Philippa Boyens, above) love to add elements to Tolkien tales that comes from appendices and background material Tolkien had written, but were never set into narrative form.
Leaving aside whether or not this is good (it led to both the excellent depiction of the Battle of Isengard and the irritating reworking of Faramir’s character, both in The Two Towers), the Silmarillion would give him a lot more opportunities to do this. The Silmarillion is basically books and books waiting to be put into narrative form. Tolkien had written a few poems based on the events in the books, but even this would require translation.
How could Peter Jackson et al pass this up?
7. There’s A Young Elrond
Just as the Silmarillion would give us greater insight into Galadriel’s past, so too would it for Elrond. In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Elrond is the lord of Rivendell, a powerful elf. He is a key figure in the fight against Sauron, a close ally of Gandalf, and the father of Arwen. He also helps our heroes at key points in their journeys.
But Elrond’s life stretches back into the days of The Silmarillion. Elrond was the son of Earendil and Elwing, two important characters from The Silmarillion. Earendil was a great mariner who would eventually sail to the Undying Lands and convince the high elves and gods to return to Middle Earth and defeat Morgoth. He also wielded the last Silmaril in his ship, which sailed around the Earth and was still visible in The Lord of the Rings-time as the holy star, Earendil. Elwing, in turn, was the daughter of Beren and Luthien—an early human-elf pairing—and was essential to Earendil’s quest. Elrond’s brother, meanwhile, was Elros who became the first king of Numenor (from whom Aragorn is descended).
Silmarillion movies would give us a chance to see Elrond as a child, and even depict the interesting choice he and Elros were given; whether they wanted to be elf or human.
6. There Are Numerous Female Characters
I’ve already complained about Peter Jackson et al’s need to add female characters to Tolkien’s stories. This primarily comes from scriptwriter Philippa Boyens, who appears responsible for Evangeline Lilly’s female elf character in upcoming Hobbit films. They want female energy in stories full of males, so why not come up with a character or, as in the case of Lord of the Rings’ Arwen, give a character who was discussed mainly in the appendices key scenes?
Well, if Jackson makes The Silmarillion this particular line of attack against him will disappear. This is because it is full, full, of powerful, important female characters. I’ve already mentioned Galadriel and Elwing. There’s also Luthien, who—with Beren—stole a Silmaril from Morgoth. And Morwen, the mother of the famous human hero Turin Turambar, who becomes an important figure in her own right. And Idril, the mother of Earendil, who devised a secret escape from Gondolin that helped to save many of that city’s inhabitants.
I’m probably losing readers who’ve never opened The Silmarillion now. But my point is there are a lot of female characters, so Peter Jackson et al could make the Silmarillion movies without either ruining Tolkien’s stories with poorly-written female characters or appearing to endorse a patriarchal system.
5. There Would Be Lots Of Opportunities For Epic Battles
One of the many things Peter Jackson is great at is battle scenes. This includes small-scale melees like the fight between the fellowship and the orcs at the end of Fellowship of the Ring. And massive sieges, like the battles of Helms Deep, Isengard and Minas Tirith. He loves big battles so much he adds them even when they weren’t in the book, like the transformation of the Goblin King scene in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from a brief scuffle into a 30-minute dizzying conflagration.
Well, he would love The Silmarillion, then. It’s full of epic battles that I personally would love to see Peter Jackson bring to the screen. This includes The Battle of Sudden Flame, when Morgoth caused the volcanoes around Angband to erupt and sent dragons out to destroy the elf and human armies surrounding his realm. And Beren and Luthien’s assault on Angand, which includes a fight with the giant wolf Carcharoth.
There’s also the fall of Gondolin, when Morgoth sent his forces into the hidden city from the northern mountain slopes; this involves an awesome scene in which the people of Gondolin see the fires of Morgoth’s dragons coming, and think for a second it’s the sun rising from the wrong direction.
And the battle I’ve always wanted to see: The War of Wrath. After Earendil convinces the Valar to help Middle Earth, the hosts of the Valar and the high elves assault Morgoth and defeat him completely. In the process, Middle Earth is transformed, with Beleriand disappearing under the ocean. It would be tough to pull off a fight between the gods in which half of the Earth is destroyed, but if anyone can do it, it’s Peter Jackson.
4…And Exotic Locales
In addition to the epic battles, Peter Jackson is also great at creating exotic settings from the books, many of which he based on influential artwork inspired by Tolkien. He captured perfectly the autumnal beauty of Rivendell, as well as the fey and quiet grandeur of Lothlorien. And his depictions of Isengard and Mordor demonstrated the mechanistic, despoiling evil that is Sauron.
The Silmarillion contains many more opportunities for Peter Jackson to show off his gifts. I’ve already mentioned Gondolin, the wondrous city in a hidden valley of the mountains. There’s Menegroth, hall of the elf king Thingol (father of Luthien). Menegroth was also known as the “Thousand Caves,” and was hewn by dwarves to resemble a subterranean forest. And the sylvan dwelling of the Laiquendi of Ossiriand, green elves who had hidden dwellings in the trees.
There are also plenty of settings that would let Jackson utilize his skills in the grotesque. I’ve mentioned Angband. There’s also Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the fortress of Sauron, where he was joined by his powerful servants Draugluin the werewolf and Thuringwethil the vampire. And several scenes feature post-combat destruction, such as the ruins of the elf city Nargothrond, in which the great dragon Glaurung dwelt.
3. Great Opportunities For Creature Creation
Another excellent element of Jackson’s directorial skills is his creature creation. The live action orcs in The Lord of the Rings were a welcome respite from the CGI overload of the Star Wars prequels. The motion-capture technology used to create Gollum was brilliant. And Jackson also brought to life several of Tolkien’s more unique creations, such as the tree-esque Ents.
He could do even more of this with The Silmarillion. Unlike the shadowy figure he became by the time of The Lord of the Rings, Sauron was a flesh-and-blood (more or less) entity in The Silmarillion, and it’d be great to see how Jackson interprets that. Likewise, we would see the Valar during the War of Wrath, and I’d love to see Jackson’s take on a god.
Even the elves would require some creativity. The slight figures of the elves in The Lord of the Rings was the result of thousands of years of living. During the time of The Silmarillion they were stronger beings, and some of them—those that had lived in the Valinor—had godlike qualities.
2. It Could Lead To A Clone Wars-Esque Spinoff Series
One of the few things George Lucas got right about the Star Wars prequels, in my opinion, is The Clone Wars animated TV series. These series tell the tale of what happened in the Clone Wars, which broke out at the end of Episode II and ended in Episode III. This includes greater insight into the characters of Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi, as well as more details on other elements of the Old Republic, including relations between the Jedi and the clone troopers and tensions between core and periphery worlds.
These cartoons give Star Wars fans more of what they crave, gives kids an accessible entry into the Star Wars expanded universe, and guarantees LucasFilm—and now Disney—a steady stream of Star War-related revenue.
I could see a similar spinoff from Silmarillion movies. Even with seven movies, there’s no way Peter Jackson could depict everything going on in Tolkien’s history. A TV series could show some of the cool back story of people like Beren—who adventured in the wilderness before meeting Luthien—or Turin, who led a company of outlaws for awhile. Yes, it might become an attempt to make as much money as possible from Tolkien’s stories, but it would also give us chance to watch all of The Silmarillion.
I could live with that.
1. It Would Show Everyone The Brilliance Of The Silmarillion
The most important reason why Jackson should make The Silmarillion into a film series is what it will do for the book itself. As I’ve noted, a lot of people who love The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit haven’t read The Silmarillion. It’s long and, again, is written more as a history textbook than a novel.
And even people who do read it often don’t enjoy it. They skip the tedious historical passages, jump ahead to the chapter on Beren and Luthien, and never really finish it.
But reading and enjoying The Silmarillion is essential to understanding what Tolkien tried to do with his writing. The Lord of the Rings is the end point of an ages-long struggle between good and evil. Sauron’s deceptive ways, the tension for the elves between saving Middle Earth and leaving forever, and the strengths and weaknesses of humans all have their roots in The Silmarillion.
And The Silmarillion provides insight into many aspects of The Lord of the Rings, making reading it a more rewarding experience. It explains why elves don’t trust humans, why the servants of Sauron are scared by cries of “A Elbereth Gilthoniel,” and why the light of Earendil—captured in Galadriel’s gift to Frodo—is so powerful.
The Lord of the Rings movies brought a book series that was popular, but kind of weird for outsiders, directly into the mainstream. A Silmarillion film series could do something similar for a book whose fans are seen as dorky—as I’ve often been told about myself—even by lovers of The Lord of the Rings. I couldn’t imagine a greater tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien than that.