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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Middle-earth TV Series Discussion:
Istari and Nazgûl in the Second Age

Marmoon
The Shire


Mar 8 2019, 11:37pm

Post #1 of 10 (1091 views)
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Istari and Nazgûl in the Second Age Can't Post

Sorry, this is a longer post. But hopefully worthwhile in fostering conversation.

My premise is that a wizard-free Middle-earth could be a problem for the Amazon show. Wizards are not essential to tell a good story and Tolkien did not give many strong details about wizard activities outside what Gandalf and Saruman achieve during the War of the Ring, but I think Amazon will want to have wizards as a draw for audiences (capitalizing on the success of Jackson’s adaptations, particularly Ian McKellen’s iconic Gandalf). If the new series is set in the Second Age, it will predate the arrival of three of the five wizards: Olórin (Gandalf), Curumo (Saruman), and Aiwendil (Radagast) appear in about the year 1000 of the Third Age. None of these well-known wizards should even have cameos in the Second Age unless there is a gross upset to the timeline. If Amazon’s latest map is an indication, one interpretation of it could put the setting around Second Age 1600. And that would be a great choice because there was so much going on in Middle-earth then.

You might guess my next step but stay with me till the end…

In his later writing, Tolkien revised his original scheme to have the so-called “Blue Wizards” arrive around Second Age 1600, along with a reborn Glorfindel. There is debate about these wizards’ names - Alatar and Pallando / Morinehtar and Rómestámo (maybe the second set were their Maiar names?) - and Tolkien also reconsidered whether they wore specific colors. Regardless, what is fairly certain is their roles in the Second Age, thereby validating the earlier arrival: “They must have had very great influence on the history of the Second Age and Third Age in weakening and disarraying [Sauron’s] forces of East”. In previous writing, the Blue Wizards were actors in both the enemy-occupied East and South. That conception might explanation Amazon’s expanded map in both directions. However, Tolkien was also clear that these blue wizards were “far out of Númenórean range”. This presents a problem for a show now strongly speculated to follow the activities of the High Men of Westernesse but also needing wizards, if you follow my premise.

What will compel our protagonist(s) to venture into the distant lands? Please indulge my theory…

Supposing we are treated to the forging of the Rings of Power (hopefully!), then we may well see Sauron begin selecting recipients or even disseminating these instruments. Of the nine that were given to Men, it was said that three were to lords of Númenor and one a king among the Easterlings. The Nazgûl officially debuted in Second Age 2251, but in the intervening years they were busy amassing power and wealth. Among them were “kings, sorcerers, and warriors” - we do not know for sure if the Nine’s power and prestige came about before or after their possession of the rings, but it stands to reason Sauron would not have selected bearers who had not already demonstrated their capability in wielding them or, better yet, their susceptibility to corruption.

Seeing firsthand the corruption of one of the Númenorean lords, our protagonist seeks the counsel of the Elves (who are themselves implicated for a time due to their long-standing friendship with Sauron, whose Annatar disguise is now gone). Eventually the Elves send the protagonist into the East to search for one of the Blue Wizards; along for the journey is our good friend Glorfindel, who knows the wizards and will serve as a guide (because he is also an emissary of the Valar, he may play a familiar role akin to a certain traveling grey wizard in the Third Age). In the East, they meet one of the blue wizards (the other is in the South). We are introduced to the wizard’s apprentice, a young and ambitious Easterling prince, Khamûl. We may also meet Dwarves of the Red Mountains around this time. Do the Ironfists, Stiffbeards, Blacklocks, or Stonefoots already possess Rings? Perhaps Khamûl entered his apprenticeship as a way of challenging the Dwarves’ new power (specifically in the form of their newfound wealth), and in doing so he will later prove himself a worthy candidate for a ring of his own. Unfortunately, this blue wizard is unaware of his apprentice’s dark aspirations until it is too late; the wizard’s time is then consumed trying to clean up his mess and is not much use to our protagonist. Still desperate for help, the protagonist travels to Far Harad and finds the other blue wizard. Maybe this wizard is a little more helpful, having found the friendship of the hospitable Haradrim...

Do you think the inclusion of wizards is likely if set in the Second Age? If so, how might they fit into the known stories without the need for the extend of invention I proposed? Do you want to see some pre-Nazgûls rising to power? Would you be opposed to Amazon inventing a complete origin for the Witch-king?


(This post was edited by Marmoon on Mar 8 2019, 11:51pm)


balbo biggins
Rohan


Mar 9 2019, 1:28am

Post #2 of 10 (1032 views)
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Wizards [In reply to] Can't Post

The blue wizards should not be used at all. It's one of the magic things about middle earth, and if they did have any influence on people's that Tolkien wrote About, he would have written about them. So no, Don't touch. We are going to have plenty of Cool stuff, why do you need a wizard when you can have eonwe herald of Manwe. And eru himself destroying numenor, there's will be plenty of draw much greater than mere wizards! Lol

Though I agree that moment when annatar leaves a little gift for his new numenor buddy... Will be sweet


squire
Half-elven


Mar 9 2019, 1:30am

Post #3 of 10 (1034 views)
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How infinitely depressing [In reply to] Can't Post

Your scenario works fine, because nothing in Tolkien's overlapping and self-contradictory notes about the reinvented Blue Wizards coming in the Second rather than Third Age, scrawled in a hand so difficult that his son took twenty years to decipher it, contradicts anything else he wrote in a more definitive way.

Now, does a Second Age Tolkien story actually need wizards? How should I know? If so, to attract and retain the audience from the New Line films, doesn't it need hobbits too - and Druedain (for the book fans) and Ents as well? If it needs any of those things, in the opinions of the producers and writers, do we really imagine that they will scour the footnotes of History of Middle-earth looking for authorial approval to justify their choices? Or will they, as you do, simply make up what seems like a great story - liberally sprinkled with names from the actual books (Glorfindel! Khamul! Haradrim! Blue Wizards!) to give it all that authentic Tolkien sheen?

No offense to you, given the impressive amount of work you put into your scenario. My point is, that's the same impressive amount of work we can expect this show's writers to put into their scenario. And with just as little support from Tolkien's extremely scanty, if not contradictory, texts regarding the "Second Age" - a period he invented nearly at the end of his major late 1940s creative phase of uniting his Lord of the Rings / Hobbit stories with the long-established tales of the Silmarillion. He needed an intermediate period that would create an appropriate distance in time between the two independently-created legendaria, so he sketched it out, cramming in his also independently-created myth of Numenor from the 1930s to add some narrative color and drama. By the time he was done, it all made sense, because he was an excellent craftsman and world-creator. But the Second Age remains an enigma and a paradox for which there are no actual complete tales, because it was originally simply a place-holder between two fully thought-through narratives.

If fan-fiction thrives in the holes and gaps the original author left in his work, the Second Age can only invite the most fan-fiction because it has by far the most holes and gaps in all of Tolkien's grand unified scheme. Welcome, Amazon fan-fiction screenwriters - welcome.



squire online:
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Althoun
Lorien

Mar 9 2019, 1:53am

Post #4 of 10 (1021 views)
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That's the reason why the Second Age is best for a TV show... [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
And with just as little support from Tolkien's extremely scanty, if not contradictory, texts regarding the "Second Age" - a period he invented nearly at the end of his major late 1940s creative phase of uniting his Lord of the Rings / Hobbit stories with the long-established tales of the Silmarillion.


The partially undocumented and rather rudimentary nature of the Second Age, about which we know the broad-strokes well enough to have a compelling narrative centred around some of the most seismic and dramatic events of the entire legendarium, but regarding which the finer details are not pencilled in.

As a result, writers of quality will be able to put their own authorial input on the material, while staying within the overall plot and spirit of the source text.

Really, this offers the best of both worlds for an adaptation, far better than adapting the trilogy straight or the Hobbit.

Are you against the principle of professional screenwriters adapting plot points into more detailed scripts? If so, why?

I guess I just don't share your skepticism about the art of scriptwriting adaption from the broad, but in themselves compelling, plot points of a broader narrative.


(This post was edited by Althoun on Mar 9 2019, 1:56am)


Marmoon
The Shire


Mar 9 2019, 2:30am

Post #5 of 10 (1010 views)
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Just a scenario [In reply to] Can't Post

No offense taken, my good squire. I am merely trying to anticipate what conduction Amazon will develop for the thirsty public. Wizards seem like a tempting option. If we see Sauron’s early days as the Lord of the Rings, we could see the rise of his servants. I would not say the Second Age stories are so lacking that they need sprucing up with these sorts of inventions. But inventions are coming, whether you like them or not.

As long as any inventions fit within the gaps and do not contradict anything major (like hobbits keeping a low profile), I think the book is fairly wide open. Forging the One Ring with a wise-cracking, sardonic Sauron? A rom-com with the Entwives in their gardens before the War of the Last Alliance? The secret lives of the eagles around Sorontil? Six seasons about the building of Pelargir? Take your pick.


squire
Half-elven


Mar 9 2019, 2:38am

Post #6 of 10 (1007 views)
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professional screenwriters gotta do what professional screenwriters gotta do [In reply to] Can't Post

You asked "Are you against the principle of professional screenwriters adapting plot points into more detailed scripts? If so, why?"

It's a fair question. My answer is that I've acquired a lot of skepticism about "professional screenwriters" when it comes to capturing what makes Tolkien's stories so remarkable. It's not his plots, or his characters, which are cliched or mundane. It's his voice, his tone, his attitude - combined with his remarkable ability to evoke with words a landscape, a history, a linguistic culture of a new world.

Language, in other words, defines Tolkien. And language is element number four or five in making a film, after kinesthetics (filmed motion), lighting, setting, character acting, and music. So modern screenwriters, in my opinion, have learned their craft of minimizing or simplifying language so that it doesn't get in the way of the filmic elements they're being paid to facilitate. Difficult, challenging, inspiring, antiquated, courtly, eloquent, quaint, earthy, everyday, folkish, magical language may not be impossible for them to write, but it's not what they're trained to do.

Now, it's easy to concede that a filmed Tolkien story is going to have to have less dialogue. That's the nature of the beast: a film shows rather than tells, as the cliche goes. But what dialogue is left needs to be as true to this remarkable writer as can be, or in the end why bother? In The Lord of the Rings, or The Hobbit, which are full-length novels, there is a tremendous amount of detailed narrative writing, both dialogue and description, that the New Line writers could at least decide to draw from or not (and it was always better when they drew from it, as far as I could tell - the modernized insertions were as jarring as fingernails on the proverbial chalk board).

But for the Second Age there is literally almost nothing for them to work from: it's merely "broad strokes" and "plot points" as you say. The writers must become Tolkien so convincingly that the audience will believe Tolkien wrote the underlying story, based on language alone, or it will not work as a "Tolkien" series no matter how often the words "Numenor", "Sauron", and "Khamul" are uttered, or how often we see the camera pan over a textured map of Middle-earth while a sonorous voice tells us what century we're in and what Lord is striving to achieve what Goal. I am, as you note, extremely skeptical that "professional screenwriters" can do that, especially if they are told that their target audience is 'film fans' as much as, or more than, 'book fans'.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Thor 'n' Oakenshield
Rohan


Mar 9 2019, 3:51am

Post #7 of 10 (987 views)
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Well, I don't have this problem [In reply to] Can't Post

I see what you're saying, but I just think that if Amazon can make a good story that is entertaining and enjoyable, that matters more to me than whether or not they're writing in believable Tolkienesque language. I really can't imagine Tolkien would have wanted people trying so desperately to imitate his style, but then, Tolkien probably would not have approved of the whole idea of a TV show to begin with.

"We are Kree"


Marmoon
The Shire


Mar 9 2019, 4:37am

Post #8 of 10 (965 views)
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Skepticism [In reply to] Can't Post

A skeptical attitude can be a good thing, if used as a means of getting to the truth or best possible outcome. Is there an undiscovered Tolkien concealed in the writers’ room? We shall see. But if we set an impossibly high bar, either because we demand perfection or because we do not want to believe anyone can hold a candle to our beloved professor, I am afraid we set ourselves up for disappointment.

There are many plot points sticking out of the Second Age timeline. Tolkien did not leave us with a single thread through all the needles but there is enough to make a good show - one that serves both the casual fans and enthusiasts. What we know about the Second Age is sufficient to set the stage for Sauron, Númenóreans, Elves, etc.; the location of their respective realms in the wide world; and the major activities and events they were involved in. We only need a dozen or so engaging characters to carry the story and connect the dots with dialogue. I am oversimplifying for the sake of time but you get my point. The writers have some heavy lifting to do but it is by no means an impossible task, so long as we give them a chance to impress us. Personally, I would like to be impressed. I would like to enjoy this show. I will, like some of you, remain skeptical because real magic is difficult to capture, regardless of the talent and money involved. But I hope we see it. I hope it is great. And it can be.


Mari D.
Rivendell


Mar 9 2019, 9:44am

Post #9 of 10 (919 views)
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Interesting point [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
My answer is that I've acquired a lot of skepticism about "professional screenwriters" when it comes to capturing what makes Tolkien's stories so remarkable. It's not his plots, or his characters, which are cliched or mundane. It's his voice, his tone, his attitude - combined with his remarkable ability to evoke with words a landscape, a history, a linguistic culture of a new world.

Language, in other words, defines Tolkien.

His voice, tone, attitude ... and language ... well said I think ... thanks for pointing it out. In a world with thousands and thousands of novels, it makes sense that this, more than anything else, that this might be the ingredient that makes a novel truly memorable. The same might be true for movies?

My hope is that by doing a lot of research and reading the source material, some or all of the writers will get a genuine understanding and sense of what this voice of Tolkien is.
This sort of empathy is more a human soft skill so I can't say which or how many of the writers would be good at this but it could even be all of them.
How deeply they got into language and research and understanding the thoughts of hard core fans with the maps gives me tremendous hope in that regard.
Considering what we have been presented with do far, imho, them "getting it" and writing within the "music style" of Tolkien is a real possibility.


(This post was edited by Mari D. on Mar 9 2019, 9:45am)


Felagund
Lorien


Mar 10 2019, 1:49pm

Post #10 of 10 (796 views)
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Khamûl [In reply to] Can't Post

Particularly like your Khamûl angle!

Perhaps an opportunity too, to explain why, in his 'youth', Khamûl went on to become the Nazgûl most sensitive to the One Ring and most adversely affected by daylight...?

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk

 
 

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