I was reading a couple of posts on forums where people said that "The Silmarillion" would make a great basis for an action movie, a sequel (or would that be prequel?) to LOTR and Hobbit.

But someone went all negative on that idea and said that Peter Jackson can't ever do Silmarillion movie, even if he wanted to, and alluded to the fact that this was a fact and not an opinion.

Is there some proof to that statement and if so, why is that the case?

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    Personally, I liked the LotR trilogy's movies a lot but felt The Hobbit was a little drawn out. Why should The Hobbit get 2 movies whereas each much larger trilogy book got one? Seems like they are just milking it now. How many movies would The Silmarillion blow up into? One for each small section and 3 for the Quenta Silmarillion? Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 15:38
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    @jon_darkstar - LOTR was NOT a trilogy. It was concieved of as one book, and merely split up for publishing reasons Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 15:39
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    It's been a while, but pretty sure it was organized as 6 "books". Either way, doesn't change my opinion about length - each is much larger than The Hobbit. Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 15:41
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    I'd heard that some material from the Silmarillion had been slipped into the Hobbit movies. Wouldn't be surprised, as very little of what has been in these movies so far comes directly from the book, and how else would you expect to pad out such a short book into three 2+ hour movies? Make up completely new characters and throw in people from the other trilogy? (Oh wait...) Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 19:02
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    The Silmarillion, can be neither a sequel or prequel. It is like having a movie on the siege of Athens in the Peloponnesian Wars and then, another movie for the Complete Duration of the Peloponnesian Wars. The first movie is just a detailed part of the second. The Silmarillion is a Superset of Hobbit and LotR, and it includes them both, albeit in less detail.
    – ThunderGr
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 17:45

3 Answers 3


Short version:

  • The rights to "The Silmarillion" belong to Tolkien estate

  • Peter Jackson's movie adaptations were NOT positively recieved by the estate, especially Christopher Tolkien. He expressed that directly to Jackson, and Jackson stated so in an interview. From the article linked below:

    Christopher Tolkien, the son of J.R.R. Tolkien and the editor his father’s posthumously published work The Silmarillion, did an interview with Le Monde and had nothing nice to say about Peter Jackson’s adaptations of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Asked about meeting with the director, Tolkien told the interviewer:

    "They gutted the book, making an action movie for 15-25 year olds. And it seems that The Hobbit will be of the same ilk. Tolkien became...devoured by his popularity and absorbed by the absurdity of the time. The gap widened between the beauty, the seriousness of the work, and what it has become is beyond me. This level of marketing reduces to nothing the aesthetic and philosophical significance of this work."

    As you might imagine, that quote got back to the filmmaker. Later that month, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was part of the Warner Bros. panel at San Diego Comic-Con and Jackson and many members of the cast were in attendance. During the question and answer portion of the presentation, Jackson was asked by a fan if there was any chance he would direct an adaptation of The Silmarillion after the end of the Hobbit movies, and the director quickly shut the idea down. He explained:

    "I don’t think the Tolkien estate liked those films. I don’t think The Silmarillion will go anywhere for quite a long time."

  • Thus, there's low chance that in the near future, Jackson will obtain the rights.

A good article on the topic is here. Among other things, it honestly states that - as much as "creative differences of opinion" between Tolkien Jr. and Jackson - it's at least partially about money:

In an interview with Le Monde back in 2012, Tolkien Estate lawyer Cathleen Blackburn recounted, "These hugely popular films apparently did not make any profit! We were receiving statements saying that the producers did not owe the Tolkien Estate a dime."

Given what happened with Mary Poppins Disney adaptaton (she didn't want to sell, and eventually gave in as she needed money), one can predict that the chances of eventual Silmarillion adaptation are correlated to the amount of greed on the part of Estate owners and the amount of money they expect to make on any licensing/rights deal. But short term, that may be tempered by Christopher Tolkien's opinion.

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    Artificially inflating costs is a common way for studios to avoid paying money to rights-holders. My guess is that the Tolkien Estate will be holding out for a gazillion dollars up-front before they licence out Silmarillion.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 1:14
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    @Richard - I'm sure they would settle for one-fourteenth share of the profits. Or a huge gem. Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 1:15
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    Just to expand on what Christopher Tolkien said - I think his quote seems pretentious without some background. His father spent most of his life working on the LotR universe, and though it might not be apparent to the casual reader of LotR or The Hobbit, his beliefs and philosophy underpin all his works. Things happen because they had to happen that way to fit in JRRT's framework. Since Christopher spent his whole life in his father's works, it's easy to see why he'd feel that way given what happened in the LotR movies. I doubt the rights will be sold as long as he lives, regardless of money.
    – Shamshiel
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 1:20
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    @DVK: um, a share of the profits is exactly what they would (and should) not agree to, see quote above. Actually I'm surprised that they ever did - even 5 minutes of research should have told them how Hollywood accounting works. Either the person who made that deal was astonishingly incompetent, or they deliberately went for a huge upfront payment because they didn't expect the movies to be very successful. Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 10:03
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    @MichaelBorgwardt I think he was joking about the Hobbit... Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 10:30

Aside from the creative differences, there are two different companies involved here.

Middle-earth Enterprises hold the movie (and certain other) rights to the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, which were sold to them (via United Artists) by JRRT himself in the 1960s.

The Tolkien Estate hold the copyright to all of Tolkien's works, including all rights to all other material that was not yet published when JRRT died.

The Jackson movies came about as a result of the Middle-earth Enterprises deal, and are nothing to do with the Tolkien Estate. However, as the Tolkien Estate hold these rights for the Silmarillion and all other works, and are unwilling to sell movie rights, these other works cannot be filmed.

This isn't being negative, it's just the way things are.

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    Good point about different ownerships. Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 1:10
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    I feel like there is a lot of negativity regarding the Tolkien estate. The collective estate may not be approving of PJ's work on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However JRRT great grandchildren Mike and Royd were both in a New Zealand Airline safety video along with PJ. So there are at least some Tolkien family that aren't dead set disapproving of Peter Jacksons work :)
    – Jared
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 0:47
  • @Jared - As I understand it, Christopher Tolkien stopped speaking to his son for years because the son was friendly to Jackson. That doesn't bode well for future collaborations with Jackson.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 21:32
  • My understanding was, that issue between Christopher and his son was money and opinion difference related to PJ's work on the LotR movies. Nothing directly personal with PJ. I'm no expert but I believe all the LotR work could be/was done without interference from the Tolkien estate. Silmarillion however I believe is still owned by Tolkien estate.
    – Jared
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 3:01
  • Wasn't Christopher's son in Return of the King, as a cameo? I think that he was handing out the spears in Osgiliath
    – user001
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 10:53

Short answer: He has no legal right to do so. Now for the long answer:

As has been discussed above, Jackson only had the rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and he got the rights with no help from the Tolkien Estate or Christopher Tolkien. It is extremely unlikely that the Estate will ever sell the rights to anything else to Jackson or anyone associated with him, in light of Christopher Tolkien's overwhelmingly negative response to the LotR movies.

The rights to Tolkien's other work are held by his Estate, which is in the UK. Under British law, copyrights on literature expire 70 years after the death of the author. Tolkien died in 1973, so some of his work may become available for adaptation in 2043.

However, the jewel of the Tolkien catalog is undoubtedly The Silmarillion, and this is a special case, quite different from most of Tolkien's work. Why is it different? Because Christopher Tolkien has an authorial credit on The Silmarillion. This means that only he can sell the rights to it until they expire, and they won't expire until 70 years after he dies. He's an old man now, in his 90's I believe, and probably won't be around for very long, unfortunately. But the fact still remains that the rights to the Silmarillion will not expire until 70 years after he dies, which will be 2086 at the very earliest.

It goes without saying that Peter Jackson won't be around in 2086, so if the rights expire before the Estate decides to sell them, Jackson won't be the guy who makes the films.

As I understand it, anyone can buy the rights to reboot the LotR and Hobbit franchises, as long as whoever owns them is willing to sell. But the rights only apply to the material in the books in question (all three Lord of the Rings books as well as The Hobbit), so no one can make a sequel to any of the books.

If you really want to see more films based on Tolkien's work, your only hope is that after Christopher Tolkien dies, the Estate decides to sell the rights more freely than it has done in the past. This is certainly possible, since the Estate will soon be controlled by people who never met Tolkien, and therefore, might not be as emotionally invested in the works. When people who don't know Tolkien, and never did, have their finger on the button, they may well opt to make easy millions by selling everything they can. As Jason Baker mentioned in his comment below, it is also possible that the Tolkien family will come into some sort of financial crisis and be forced to sell everything to pay the bills. I wouldn't count on it, however.

Otherwise, you'll have to settle for remakes of the existing movies, and - beginning in 2043 - a few bits and pieces becoming available for adaptation. The Silmarillion, however, won't be a movie until someone finally sells the rights, or the rights expire in 2086 at the earliest.

For further reference:

You would do well to begin with Jason Baker's excellent answer here.

After that, check out the following links.



This article points out that, with the LotR and Hobbit films now having raked in over $10 BILLION dollars, it is inevitable that we'll see more of Middle-earth on the silver screen, no matter how long it takes. Hollywood doesn't forget successes of this magnitude.

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    cough Of course the other possibility is that the Tolkien family will have a major financial crisis and be forced to sell off the rights in order to feed themselves. It's happened before (I want to say to "Mary Poppins", but I can't quite recall) Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 21:20
  • @JasonBaker - as you were posting that comment, I was editing the answer to include a link to your much better answer. Great minds think alike, eh? It is possible that the Tolkien family will face some financial distress, but I wouldn't count on it.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 21:24
  • "However, the jewel of the Tolkien catalog is undoubtedly The Silmarillion" Say what? Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 5:04
  • "This means that only [Christopher Tolkien] can sell the rights to it until they expire, and they won't expire until 70 years after he dies." Do his heirs have the ability to sell the rights after he dies? Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 23:23

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