It is a question that just about every Tolkien fan asked, and sadly the answer is not very comforting.
For those of us unfamiliar with The Silmarillion, here’s a quick recap:
The Silmarillion is a book that J.R.R.Tolkien never fully completed, and started with even before The Lord of the Rings. Christopher Tolkien took upon himself a very big task after his father’s death. After becoming the guardian of the copyright of his fathers work, he started working through the 70 boxes of archive material left by his father, each box filled with thousands of unpublished pages. Together with the acclaimed fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay, Christopher collated, edited and expanded the undated and unnumbered pages, producing The Silmarillion in 1977.
If The Lord of the Rings is 3 movies, The Silmarillion can easily be made into 9 movies. It contains some of the greatest elves, humans and villains. Villains that would make Sauron run away in fear. It has some of the most epic Battles and valiant tales of heroism and love unlike the world has ever seen. Imagine an army of Balrogs!
The compilation of the Silmarillion was just the beginning of one of the most impressive literary achievements in history. Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, a collection of stories and essays that were never completed by his father, was also edited and published in 1980. Then, for eighteen years, and with absolute dedication to preserving his father’s legacy, Christopher Tolkien worked on editing the remaining unfinished material, gradually releasing a massive twelve volumes of The History of Middle Earth. In 2007 he released the completed version of The Children of Hurin, which was originally conceived by his father in the late 1910s and had in parts been published before – in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The Book of Lost Tales and The Lays of Beleriand.
So, Will Peter Jackson Direct The Silmarillion After The Hobbit?
The reality, however, is that The Silmarillion will most probably remain unfilmed. As Peter Jackson explained recently at a press conference at Comic-Con International:
“J.R.R. Tolkien sold the film rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in the 1960s. The Silmarillion wasn’t written yet. It wasn’t even written in his lifetime. It was written by him and, partly, his son finished it after his death and published it after the professor had died. So, the film rights are with them, and the estate doesn’t have any interest in discussing film rights with anybody. So that’s the situation there. They’re not as untangled as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.”
Of course we all know that Tolkien began working on the stories that would become The Silmarillion in 1914, long before selling the movie rights of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and wrote and rewrote many of the tales for the rest of his life.
It took a very long time for Christopher Tolkien to finally give us his opinion – which he did in an interview with LeMonde, one of his first in forty years. It is clear that the appalling treatment both the family and Tolkien’s publisher’s have been subjected to over the last decade by the film studios has finally taken its toll. Having carefully avoided the press and never before released an official opinion about Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Christopher finally burst out:
“They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25. And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.”
There you have it. This pretty much settles it for me, we will NEVER see the Silmarillion as a movie adaptation. Perhaps Professor Tom Shippey gave us the best summary of the situation in the essay on Peter Jackson films that was added to the third edition of The Road to Middle-Earth. Shippey observes that Jackson “is quicker than Tolkien was to identify evil without qualification, and as a purely outside force… there is the kernel here of a serious challenge to Tolkien’s view of the world, with its insistence on the fallen nature even of the best, and its conviction that while victories are always worthwhile, they are also always temporary. And this could, at last, be a problem not created by any failure to perceive ‘the core of the original’ but a grave and genuine difference between the two different media and their ‘respective cannons of narrative art’.”