British Columbia

UVic professor concerned about possible marring of Tolkien's legendarium

Tim Haskett, an assistant professor of history at the University of Victoria, says Amazon acquiring the rights to The Lord of the Rings could lead to a television series untrue to the source material.

'This sounds a little more like Amazon doing fan fiction based on the characters'

Author JRR Tolkien is having one of his most famous works turned into a television series. (The Associated Press)

The passing of the fictional Middle-earth from the Tolkien estate and into the hands of Amazon has an expert of J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium worried future projects won't stay true to the source material.

Tim Haskett, an assistant professor of history at the University of Victoria, says relinquishing the global television rights to The Lord of the Rings is a milestone decision for the Tolkien estate.

Amazon has announced it will be making a television series preceding the events of The Lord of the Rings, with a multi-season commitment.

The entirety of J.R.R. Tolkien's mythopoetic writing, known as the legendarium, had been closely guarded by the late author's son Christopher Tolkien, 93, until Amazon's purchase. 

Haskett has taught courses on the legendarium and says the sale could mark the beginning of a whole new plethora of media being created out of the intellectual property.

"It can always go badly," said Haskett. "It could be very very bad."

He's worried the purchase could lead to a television program being aired that doesn't reflect the vast amount of written Middle-earth material, and instead may closer resemble HBO's series Game of Thrones, which is known for depicting sex and violence.

"There could be too many naked elves, too much gratuitous violence and many many dragons we don't really need."

He said the deal doesn't give the company rights to other Tolkien works such as The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.

"There are people that would really like to see more of Tolkien's actual stories filmed," said Haskett.

"This sounds a little more like Amazon doing fan-fiction based on the characters, places and general story that is The Lord of the Rings."

He said there is a large fear among fans that the story will be re-jigged to include elements not in the original work that would cater to a broader television audience.

"People will say there can be great damage done, just by having the rights to play with The Lord of the Rings characters."

Haskett is heartened however, by the inclusion of film director Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema, the creators of the previous The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in the upcoming television series.

With files from On the Coast