The Silmarillion is J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterwork, an incredibly complex and detailed work on the history of Middle Earth from its creation through the end of the First Age. Like the Song of Ice and Fire series once was, The Silmarillion is famously unfilmable, often for good reasons. Nevertheless, Lord of the Rings fans have hoped for years that we’d get a movie out of The Silmarillion. But those fans should adjust their hopes… and wish for a Silmarillion TV show from HBO instead.
HBO Should Adapt The Silmarillion After Game Of Thrones
A Song of Ice and Fire was considered unfilmable—by George R.R. Martin no less—because it simply had far too many characters, too many battles and too much scope. The Silmarillion is like that too, and more than that, the bulk of the narrative covers a span of five centuries. The plot isn’t as nuanced as Game of Thrones, and the characters are harder to relate to. Most of them are thousand-year-old Elves. There are no hobbits and precious few Men to speak of. Still, characters are more gray than in Lord of the Rings. The heroes, the Sons of Fëanor, are pretty villainous themselves, and even the Dark Lord Morgoth—of whom Sauron was but a lieutenant—is more of an actual character than the nameless evil force that Sauron is.
The Silmarillion would be an incredible successor to Game of Thrones on HBO, not least because the two would be so different. The Silmarillion is firmly set in the epic vein, in the realm of the mythic; Game of Thrones is a story of kings and princes, but has always been down to earth, even in its new epic fantasy phase. The battles in The Silmarillion are more elemental; these are wars between Elves and dragons, Balrogs, giant spiders and endless hordes of orcs, and sometimes the gods themselves intervene. But the story itself is incredibly interesting—it has the depth and complexity to carry a series, even one that’s more directly fantastical than Game of Thrones.
Could it happen? It’s not impossible. The Tolkien family still holds the film rights to The Silmarillion, and Christopher Tolkien has made it very clear that Peter Jackson isn’t getting those rights, not after the debacle of The Hobbit movies. But that doesn’t mean no one is getting them. HBO has shown itself a relatively careful steward of such properties, and it’s willing to invest in the money and talent to do such shows right.
Game of Thrones is ending in just two years, but our appetite for complex and epic fantasy won’t end with it. HBO, bring it home with the greatest epic fantasy series of all. Make The Silmarillion happen. For Gondolin!