[Archive] Silmarillion in film?


I admit I haven’t read the book, but I was just watching this on Morgoth and it strikes me that it would make for a very impressive prequel film


In summary.

Creator guy goes evil.
Rampages with giant spider (and I mean like 200ft high)
Fought with/off by multiple balrogs
Defeated by elves and balrogs and a massive dragon I think


Silmarillion is a great book, though quite biblically ponderous and sadly clinically free from humour. Skilled script writers could make several outstanding movies, or even a TV-series based on its many episodic stories. It’s black and white (though the Fëanoreans are more greyscale characters) and all about big cosmic clashes. No funny little stories there, but epic battles and doomsday at the end of two ages, with vast swathes of lands drowned under the sea. Greed reigns supreme and trusts are broken.

The Silmarillion is dark, and basically everything goes to hell for the mortals. Anyone reading it will recognize many themes used in Lotr and Hobbit. In short, the Hobbit and the Lotr trilogy are the kinder child’s version of Tolkien’s fantasy, where good wins the day and saves the world. In Silmarillion, the world is flawed since creation, and though good may win the day, the world certainly isn’t much saved…

The equivalent of Pelennor’s Fields or Aragorn’s march to the Black Gates end with a massive slaughter of Elves and their allies, with Orcs overrunning much of Beleriand (westernmost Middle Earth, sunk beneath the waves in 2nd-3rd ages) and several legendary story arcs kicking off amid this world falling apart into the abyss, with despair and darkness drowning out beacon after beacon of hope until only one light remains in the darkness.

Tip A: Fëanor (one of two characters who serves as the basis for WHFB’s Aenarion) is the best character in the book. Well-developed, flawed in person though masterful in crafts, fiery in temper and the only one to slam his door in Morgoth’s face. The one exception to the rule of no humour in the Silmarillion: "Get off my lawn, Dark Lord!"

Tip B: The best Tolkien battle scenes are to be found in Fall of Gondolin. Written very early in the 1920s and showing signs of this several times, it is nevertheless splendid and not too surprisingly JRR never prioritized a rewrite update. It’s worth reading, though it’s not in the Silmarillion, but rather in the Unfinished Tales if one can dig it out among many of the other half-finished stories and early manuscripts found there. Seek it out.

The Silmarillion deserves to be filmed, and treated as well as possible (true to the spirit of the stories therein, but polished with some inserted humour where appropriate). Ultimately, the work is Tolkien’s unfinished magnus opus, which he worked on from the late first world war (started writing when wounded at a war hospital) right up to the end of his life, polishing and adding to. His son Christopher (who worked together with an acclaimed fantasy author to compil and edited the Silmarillion together following his father’s death) will not release the rights for filming. His father did for the Hobbit and Lotr trilogy in 1960s for tax inheritance reasons, which is why we had any Jackson movies at all, yet Christopher (for all his good work) is flawed in his outlook to deny the wider world access to his father’s life work outside of the book itself.

We’ll see what happens in the Tolkien estate upon Christopher Tolkien’s passing away, but until then, we can only dream.

In the meanwhile, here are some images trawled from across the web compiled in an album, for a look at some fans’ visions of the story and first age world (much remains to be added into the album).

Also, listen to Blind Guardian’s Nightfall in Middle-Earth album for an audio take on the Silmarillion.

A few highlights. All the cosmic creator clash stuff is neat on its own and original in places, but the doings of mortals are what makes this the good story that it is:

The world is sung forth into existence by godly beings

The mightiest of the gods to settle in the world, Melkot Morgoth Bauglir, rages as a chaotic force of nature for untold ages, acquiring followers and shaping the world in his violent struggle with the orderly gods. Morgoth causes untold damage and shatters all the works of his enemies.

Morgoth starts out with an icy base up at the north pole, Utumno, where monsters are bred.

As the coming of Elves first, then Humans, draw closer, the Valar (gods of order) decides to strike. They lay waste to Utumno and drag Morgoth chained  from its depths.

A large part of the Elven tribes are led to Valinor (paradise home of the gods) to dwell among the gods.

Morgoth broods chained and shackled for millenia, but seems to repent and work for good. He is granted some freedom, and teaches the Elves crafts. In  particular, he teaches the strongest Elven tribe, the Noldor to forge weapons. He also sows dissent and plants seeds of mistrust, rivalry, greed, hunger for power and destruction in the seemingly calm paradise.

Fëanor, heir to the craftsfolk Noldor Elves, creates the Silmarils, gemstones of utter power and brilliance, envy of the very gods.

Fëanor never trusts Morgoth, yet is ultimately more influenced by the Dark Lord than anyone else. For the first time in peaceful paradise, someone draw sword, and at his own brother (Fingolfin) at that.

“Look, half-brother, this blade is sharper than your tongue”:

As the Elven drama unfolds, Morgoth and Ungoliant (ancestor of Shelob) drains the twin Trees of Valinor, odd wooden predecessors of sun & moon

Having killed the Noldor king Finwë, stolen precious magical gemstones and cast Valinor into chaos, Melkor Morgoth and Ungoliant escapes. In safety, Ungoliant demands her share, draining jewels in large numbers. She grows enormously powerful. She demands the last gems which Morgoth hides, the Silmarils, which he refuses her. Ungoliant turns on Morgoth, who gives up a giant roar of anguish and deepest terror (etches itself into the landscape where it took place), and is only saved by his host of Balrogs. He is now safely back in his new stronghold, Angband, marshalling new hosts and breeding monsters and Orcs.

Meanwhile back in Valinor, all hell break loose as simmering conflicts unravel among the Noldor nobility. The gods sits in silent council while Fëanor, firstborn of the slain king Finwë, makes his seven sons swear a holy oath to retrieve the stolen Silmarils from the hands of whosoever holds it. Agitation among the Noldor results in an exodus back to Middle Earth.

Another Elven tribe, the seafaring Teleri, refuses to lend the Noldor their ships. Bloodshed ensues in the first kinslaying, as the Noldor claim their ships by force. The Noldor gets cursed by the gods to die by the sword, to see all their efforts fail and to never return to Valinor, yet their only hope lies west across the sea.

The Noldor split apart due to royal family conflict. Without enough ships to transport all the emigrees across the sea at once, the elder son Fëanor takes his followers across first. Rather than sending the ships back as promised, he burns the ships, forcing his half-brother Fingolfin to either walk back in shame to Valinor, or lead his people across the grinding ice to the north. These Elves press on, embittered.

Fëanor leads his armed followers straight to Angband, intent on revenge and Silmarils. However, in his frenzy he charges ahead with only a few friends, leaving his vast army behind him. Seeing his chance, Morgoth sends out all his Balrogs in force to destroy this mighty mortal. It does not happen easily.

The feuding Noldor factions barely manages to overcome their differences, settling in separate realms, encountering Wood Elves, Dwarves, Men and more, striking alliances where possible and building great kingdoms. Much happens. Morgoth’s fortress of Beleriand is put under lengthy siege by the Noldor Elves for 400 years, who fights several large battles against Orcs. Eventually, however, the treachery of Men and the strength of Melkor results in the wholesale slaughter of the Elven hosts. Before this final damning defeat, however, the warlord Fingolfin challenges Morgoth to a duel in darkest despair, wounding the Dark Lord before dying. The Dwarves of Belegost play their part in the large final battle as well, falling upon the first revealed (wingless) dragon with their weapons and wounding it severely before marching off from the battlefield, singing dire dirges as they carry their slain king with no army present daring to stop their departure:

The Dark Lord stands triumphant, erecting a huge hill of the slain and overrunning much of Middle-Earth.

Most of the Silmarillion from now on deals with sagas of this slide into hell in a handbasket. Basically, it is a collection of legends on Morgoth’s mopping-up of the defeated free peoples, and their last desperate grasping for hope and salvation. A few bits follow.

The last Noldor stronghold remaining is the hidden city of Gondolin, who falls thanks to jealous treachery from within its own royal family. The fall of Gondolin is an epic battle, taking many Balrogs down with the doomed city.

After much intrigue, the Wood Elf princess Luthien and her human lover Beren (Tolkien calls himself and his wife Beren & Luthien on his own tombstone) tricks Sauron and sneaks into the depths of Angband under a powerful spell. At the court of Morgoth, their cover is blown, but Luthien dances in enchanting sorcerous beauty, and the court falls asleep as Morgoth ponders vilating the fair maiden. They manage to free one Silmaril out of three from Morgoth’s crown before Angband starts waking up, and flees in panic. Morgoth, however, bides his time and does not pursue the lost jewel, for he know it will doom the remaining free Elves.

As the agreed (impossible) prize for his daughter Luthien’s hand, the Wood Elf king Thingol receives the Silmaril, and contracts the most skilled Dwarf craftsmen to fashion a necklace for him. Quarrel ensues, however, and the Dwarves’ greed for the invaluable Silmaril is awoken. They march with an army into the Wood Elf Kingdom Doriath, slaying many, killing Thingol and stealing the Silmaril. Beren and some Elven rangers ambushes the returning Dwarves, however, and captures the Silmaril.

The release of one of the Silmarils back into the hands of mortals sets off a spiral of destruction. As word reaches the ears of the seven sons of Fëanor, they act upon their dark oath, and marches first into Doriath, sacking the capital and slaying many of the remaining populace, despite much diminished Fëanorean numbers. Following another lead, the Fëanoreans marches to the strong Dwarf city Nogrod, breaching its gates and sacking it as well, yet still no Silmaril has been found. Finally, the clues present themselves. The Fëanoreans descend upon the very last safe haven remaining in Beleriand, crushing the Elven refugees hiding there, yet failing to capture the Silmaril. Elf slays Elf. Dark deeds while Orcish hordes rampage across the fallen kingdoms.

A half-Elf named Eärendil seizes the free Silmaril, embarking on a world-spanning odyssey, eventually landing in Valinor despite the cursed charms surrounding the realm of the gods. The Silmaril’s powers makes him win through and lift the curse upon the doomed Noldor tribe. There, Eärendil rallies the Valar gods and their remaining Elves, who march to Middle-Earth and casts down Morgoth’s titanic power and armies in the ruinous War of Wrath, which makes Beleriand shatter and eventually sink beneath the waves.

Morgoth is defeated and cast out into outer space, though his creations and lieutnants remain, hiding and biding their time to rise again. The hunt for the Silmarils is not over, however. The last two surviving sons of Fëanor sneaks into the Valinor army’s camp by night, killing guards to steal their Silmarils. However, they are caught.

The Valinor generals, despite everything, gives them their precious jewels. The evil deeds committed in the hunt for the Silmarils have however darkened the Fëanoreans’ souls completely, causing the pure Silmarils to scorch them. One son, Maglor, throws his gem into the sea to wander the earth singing sorrowful songs about the Elves of lost Beleriand forever. The other, Maedhros the oldest son, casts himself and his Silmaril into a yawning chasm, swallowed by fire.

The Elves made a mess of the First Age. It is up to the Human Númenoreans to do likewise in the Second Age, and the cycle begins anew…

Thommy H:

As Admiral alludes to, the style in which the Silmarillion is written is a bit like a fanciful mythological account - there’s no proper dialogue, the characters are sketched even more vaguely than the ones in The Hobbit and LOTR, and the whole narrative spans tens of thousands of years. Basically, to turn it into a filmable script (or, frankly, a readable story), it would need to be heavily fleshed out. Chris Tolkein has released The Children of Hurin, which takes a section of it and turns it into a proper novel (I think - I haven’t read it) and that’s really what would have to happen just as a first step, itself a mammoth undertaking.

More likely (but still incredibly unlikely) is taking a single narrative strand - like the Exile of the Noldor, the Children of Hurin, the Fall of Gondolin, the War of Wrath or the Fall of Numenor - and making that into something an audience could actually follow. But, honestly, it was a miracle that LOTR worked as well as it did, aided by a great cast, incredible cinematography and obsessive attention to detail from everyone in the production team, and you can see the same concepts floundering in The Hobbit trilogy with less story to hang all that stuff on. I can’t even imagine trying to squeeze in the necessary exposition to clue audiences into how the events depicted fit in with the movies they know either! When Galadriel shows up, they’re going to expect Gandalf and Bilbo, and the film would have to explain that they don’t arrive for millennia.

But then, back in the 90s I assumed they’d never be able to successfully film LOTR, and they did. Stranger things have happened, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for Silmarillion: The Movie.


After the mess that was the Hobbit films (at least I found them a mess), I hope that the Silmarillion doesn’t become a film (or rather film series considering how much there is to it) as I worry that it’ll get butchered. :frowning:


I for one would rather see a butchered Silmarillion on screen than none at all. The original book remains as it is whatever the silver screen shenanigans. A bad movie does not destroy a good book. A bad movie is simply forgotten.


I’d counter and say no movie is better than a bad one. Why would you want to go see it knowing it’ll be a terrible experience? And if it’s bad, then it won’t draw fresh blood into the fandom, so you can’t even argue that it’ll be a bonus from that point.

There’s also the fact that while a film doesn’t destroy the pre-existing literary material, it can subconsciously impact your image of them and taint them by association. So for me I’d rather not see the movie to avoid that accidental taint in which case it’s no better than not having a movie at all.

Also, when I want to watch X: The Movie, it’s because I want to watch a movie about X at that time rather than watch/read/play/etc X in a different medium, and if all there is is a bad movie, then that’s not really an option, and again at best having a bad movie is the same as having no movie, in which case what is the point in the movie existing?


Because no movie is perfect. The Return of the King have some major flaws given how the fiefdoms of Gondor (and likewise the mustering of client human armies on Sauron’s side beyond Haradrim on Mûmakil and a momentary glance of Easterlings) is not present, as is not the Grey Company or the battle at Pelargir. These differences from the book do not make for a better film at all, because they were part of what made the book truly great and would have been fantastic on screen. The Rohan vs Harad cavalry charge are among the best lines Tolkien ever wrote e.g. Yet the movie still works well enough. I’d rather have a flawed RotK than none at all. And having read the book (don’t let inferior imagery from movies impact your view of something), I don’t agree with the movie on these parts, and indeed ignore them.

The same is true for whatever parts of the Hobbit movies which make no sense. As such, it is easy enjoying the visual spectacle. A near-perfect Hobbit movie would be better, but I’d rather have a flawed trilogy than no movie at all. No movie at all would have meant not seeing Weta Workshop’s take on Erebor, to give but one example of why it would be a loss not a gain. It’s not like every single moment of the movie is bad or false to the spirit of the book, and there is many good reasons to watch it regardless with Weta Workshop’s world designing in the driver’s seat. And likewise the Star Wars prequels would rather be sub-par than not exist at all, (just compare the actual story to the “How the prequels should have been” trilogy videos on Youtube), because not all is poor in them and anyway we’d miss out on the visuals.

My tip is to always follow your own vision with a touch of arrogance (up to and including overwriting a writers’ apparent own vision of his setting and story), and cherrypick whatever parts you yourself like, whether from movies or book versions of stories. Then it’s always easy to appreciate something, whether or not it’s close to perfect. :slight_smile:

Also, how high a percentage is there of movies (and fantasy, sci-fi, mythology and history ones at that) slavishly true to their book originals out there? Hollywood has not and never shone in this department. This is not entirely at fault, granted, because it is part of the natural creative cycle that a story gets traded down and adjusted by various storytellers, who add, take away and change it as they see fit. This is true for traditional stories, and should come as no surprise that movie script writers do likewise, although much more drastically. Usually, it’s not a minutely faithful representation of the book you see on screen. It’s the film makers’ own take on it, for better or worse. A completely true-to-the-book version would often be most advantageous, but this is not the norm.

Plus the world need as many excuses as possible to watch Elves, Dwarves and Orcs in action.

And anyway I wouldn’t start off with purely negative suspicions if the Silmarillion was ever to be filmed. It’d be a completely new project, full of promises and pitfalls alike. Its course need not be dictated by whatever film takes on book stories which have come before.


While it is true that any adaptation of a book will make changes and take liberties, that’s not an excuse to do a film badly. In my opinion Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth films have declined in quality with each one; the LotR films, while diverging more with each one nevertheless remained entertaining viewing, the first Hobbit film diverged even more to the point that if the serial numbers had been filed off it would have been an improvement as it’d have become a reasonable generic fantasy film rather than a bad adaptation and the second was down right terrible and half the time felt like you were watching a video game. (I haven’t seen the third one, so I’ll leave off passing judgement on it).

While I didn’t like the changes made to the LotR films, I still liked them enough to buy the Extended Edditions of each. I had no desire to buy the Hobbit ones in any format and in fact only saw the second because it was on Netflix and hated it so much that I have no desire to ever watch the third even to see if it is an improvement/vindicates the trilogy.

After seeing the LotR trilogy I wanted PJ to be the one that brought the Hobbit to the screen. Fast forward a decade and one film into the Hobbit trilogy and I was wishing he hadn’t. Two films in and my faith in his ability to handle adaptations of Tolkien’s work was completely destroyed.

From what I can tell, if Peter Jackson were to write-direct an adaptation of the Silmarillion, then the best it would be is 90% bad fanfic, and I don’t want to watch that.


The Silmarillion is generally assumed as being as unfilmable as Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and L.A.Confidential. But I would love to see it happen. LOTR is the 3rd age, and there are a lot of good stories for the 1st and 2nd age. You have to chose wisely what story to take (as Christopher Tolkien also did when editing the Silmarillion after JRR’s death), but it would be worth it under the right supervision. As it also can go wrong badly under the wrong supervision.


We all want a good film of course. I’m just saying that a bad film isn’t particularly damaging to the viewer. Just gone with the wind and forgotten. No trauma inflicted, but still golden opportunity missed.

It just occurred to me that the Silmarillion could be filmed in Russia beyond the reach of Tolkien estate lawyers… :hashut

I wish there was a spoiler tag. Some more images, credit where credit is due, yet none mentioned and none forgotten among the talented artists who brought us these pictures:

Himring, fortress of Maedhros. Still Remains as an isle off to the west of Lindon in the 3rd Age:


Wood Elves hunting Petty-Dwarves:

Mîm the Petty-Dwarf: