Jim Wert of the High Fantasy Track along with Kirsten Cairns (TheOneRing.Net) and Rebecca Perry gave us an update and the latest news on publications and television projects currently under development in the world of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth. During the panel, broadcast on the High Fantasy track’s YouTube page Saturday morning, Cairns was quick to point out that while things might seem quiet, a great deal of activity is going on. The session began with a review of developments since Dragon Con 2019 that sadly included an in memoriam. 2020 has seen the passing of Sir Ian Holm (1931–2020), who played Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings films, Orson Bean (1928–2020), who voiced Bilbo Baggins in the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit, and Christopher Tolkien (1924–2020), the conservator and editor his father’s work who has edited and published a huge corpus of material including The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and The History of Middle Earth.
Most of the session focused on an update on the status of Prime Video’s new series set in Middle Earth’s Second Age. The Tolkien estate insisted that Amazon not have access to any Second Age material in The Silmarillion. As a result, the show runners and writers have only worked with what’s found in the appendices of The Lord of The Rings. One of the questions raised by the panel is to what degree this may change with the passing of Christopher Tolkien and a new generation managing the affairs of the estate. Given its setting and place, the series is expected to focus ultimately on Sauron, who both seduces and battles both Elves and men during this age. The production in New Zealand stopped earlier this year due to COVID, but there are indications that filming may be restarting. Officially, the series still has a 2021 launch date.
Among the things to look forward in the coming twelve months, in addition to the launch of the new series, is an audiobook of The Hobbit read by Andy Serkis, as well as a number of new collectibles. Harper Collins will be publishing a 40th Anniversary special edition of Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales, and a new volume of Tolkien’s papers (1959–1973) entitled The Nature of Middle Earth. 2021 is shaping up to be a very good year for Tolkien fandom.
“An Unexpected Virtual Party: the Latest News from Middle Earth” can be seen on the Dragon Con High Fantasy Track’s YouTube page https://youtu.be/dssLi0d5WpQ.