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Aside from Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle Earth, the Silmarillion and the Children of Hurin, which were all primarily Tolkien's work, has his estate ever considered allowing other authors to write additional stories within the setting of Middle Earth?

Would the passing of Christopher Tolkien change the Tolkien Estate's current position?

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  • 11
    I can't stop laughing. Christopher Tolkien is very very guarded about even making films of the books, let alone allowing other authors to create an extended universe. As far as I can tell he wants the sole source of new Tolkien-related works to be himself, and even then only as a ghost-writer for his father, "discovering" old notes and manuscripts.
    – Valorum
    Jan 19, 2016 at 21:32
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    Regardless of the Tolkein Estate's position, the legality of such writing (even commercially) varies from country to country. So, for example, Kirill Yeskov's The Last Ring-bearer was originally written and published in Russian, but translated and sold commercially in other countries. The author did not want to get into the legal biz with the T.E. in the UK or US, so, although the book is arguably in part a transformative satirization of LotR, made the English translation free and non-commercially distributed. Good read!
    – Lexible
    Jan 19, 2016 at 22:52
  • And what should we do if the Tolkien Estate sells their rights to Disney and the whole universe gets a makeover? They'll probably rename Aragorn's son after Gandalf or something. Jan 20, 2016 at 5:32
  • @Valorum "as a ghost-writer for his father, "discovering" old notes and manuscripts" - are you implying that the books which Christopher publishes are his own inventions (and that he "ghostwrote" them)...?
    – Wade
    Aug 28, 2021 at 19:13
  • @Wade - a lot of this stuff is 'black box' where we really have no idea what's Tolkien's original work and what isn't.
    – Valorum
    Aug 28, 2021 at 19:23

1 Answer 1

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No

From the FAQ of the Tolkien Estate's website:

Is it possible to write stories that are set in Middle-earth?

The short answer is most definitely NO!

We understand only too well the fascination and enjoyment that the world of Middle-earth can bring, but the fact remains that this is an imaginary world, created by the author on his own terms and in his own right. So, however tempting, to publish this type of fan-fiction for personal or commercial purposes, even online, is absolutely not authorized.
In the era of the Internet, with people selling ‘homemade’ literary works on websites all over the world, it must be unambiguously stated that the Tolkien Estate has never authorized the commercialisation or distribution of such material, and has no intention of doing so.

The Tolkien Estate’s mission is to defend and protect the integrity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. As literary executor, it has always been Christopher Tolkien's goal to publish the writings of his father—both finished and unfinished—in the most faithful and scrupulous way, without adaptation or embellishment.

Until such a time as Middle-earth is in the public domain1, the odds of being granted a licence to produce literary works in Middle-earth are slim to none.

Whether or not this will change after Christopher Tolkien's death is unknown, and depends on who he appoints to be the literary executor.

However

While not strictly what the question is asking, the Tolkien Estate has given their blessing to scholarly-type works by other authors.

The prime example that springs to my mind is The History of the Hobbit, written by John Rateliff and first published in 2007. The book is a historical analysis of The Hobbit, similar in style to the History of Middle-earth series. Although not actually written by him, Christopher Tolkien reportedly read the final draft of the book and gave it his blessing.


1 Disclaimer: top-voted answer is mine

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  • Aside from the good answer, the T.E.'s position of "not possible" is not, strictly speaking, accurate. See my comment to the OP.
    – Lexible
    Jan 19, 2016 at 22:53
  • In the LotR film's extras Peter Jackson (I think it was him, at least) mentions that Tolkien was trying to set out to create a whole new mythology, something bigger than him. If that's true, it seems kind of sad that the estate guards it so heavily now.
    – Bob
    Jan 19, 2016 at 23:09
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    @Lexible True, they're oversimplifying a bit; it's "not possible" to create authorized adaptations (except for certain films but that's a different issue), but copyright being the delightful mess that it is there are ways to make unauthorized adaptations Jan 19, 2016 at 23:30
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    Isn't the answer YES (they've considered it, and prohibited it)?
    – Hugh
    Jan 20, 2016 at 1:31
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    @Bob: Yes, it's true, and yes, it's sad. From Letters #133, also quoted, I think, in the Foreword to Lord of the Rings: "But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend ... which I could dedicate simply to: to England; to my country. ... I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. ... leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama." Jan 20, 2016 at 8:17

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