Is There a Lord of the Rings Sequel?

With The Battle of Five Armies extended edition coming out in early November, the Middle-earth craze will once again fade from the eye of the public. Many are wondering what’s next. While most are speculating about a Silmarillion movie (although I have a different theory), some may be asking “What about a Lord of the Rings sequel?” Does such a thing exist?

Many would point to the Appendices in LotR. They cover some brief facts, such as Sam and Rosie’s children, Aragorn and Arwen visiting Evendim in the North (near the Shire), Merry and Pippin visiting Gondor and Rohan in their old age, and similar events (RotK, 1071-72). But that’s not what I mean by Lord of the Rings sequel.

In the early ’60s (some five to eight years after the publication of The Return of the King), Tolkien began work on a sequel to LotR. He called it The New Shadow. It has been published in full in The Peoples of Middle-earth (411-21).

Now, I have to apologize. Saying that it was published “in full” is a little dishonest–there are only about nine pages’ worth of story. Tolkien abandoned it before he wrote any more. He explained his thought in a letter written in 1964.

I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall [of Mordor], but it proved both sinister and depressing. Since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless–while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors–like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going round doing damage. I could have written a ‘thriller’ about the blog and its discovery and overthrow–but it would be just that. Not worth doing. (Letters, 344)

Christopher Tolkien comments in The Peoples of Middle-earth, “It would nonetheless have been a very remarkable ‘thriller’, and one may well view its early abandonment with regret” (Peoples of Middle-earth, 418).

Regret indeed. The tone of The New Shadow was different from that of LotR (and, of course, The Silmarillion). It first made me think of “The Mariner’s Wife” (told in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, 181-227), probably because that is one of the few stories that deals exclusively with men. It also reminded me of The Notion Club Papers, another abandoned project of Tolkien’s (Sauron Defeated, 145-327). The final page or so reminded me strongly of the opening chapters of Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (without the space travel, of course). I have to wonder if Tolkien was thinking of his dear friend while writing The New Shadow, particularly since Lewis would have passed away recently (in 1963).

The fragment of the Lord of the Rings sequel certainly does have a depressing air. It centers on Borlas, the aged younger son of Beregond (who appears only in RotK, 744). He suspects that one of his son’s friends is part of a group related to the “old Evil” of Sauron. The eternal fascination man feels for evil, coupled with the loneliness of an old man whose wife is dead and children are living their own lives, certainly doesn’t mimic the bright, homey, Hobbit doings of “A Long-Expected Party,” the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Tolkien’s attempt to write a sequel demonstrates that he wasn’t entirely the crotchety old man he said he was and is often portrayed as. He genuinely tried to write another book to please both his publishers (and undoubtedly to continue to make money, as he readily admitted to enjoying) and his fans. The style of the aborted sequel also shows that he had more range than most would believe. Christopher is correct in saying that it would have been a very remarkable thriller from a writer who is often dismissed for writing escapist fairy tales.

So, no, it is unlikely that there will ever be a movie sequel to The Lord of the Rings. Even if the studios wanted to turn The New Shadow into a movie, they don’t have the rights to any of the content from the History of Middle-earth series. And Christopher Tolkien has made it very clear he has no intention of selling the rights–presumably his heir will feel the same way. But who knows? Maybe decades from now, when The Peoples of Middle-earth is in the public domain, some one will make a movie that attempts to finish The New Shadow. But it certainly seems unlikely.

Photo Credit: Blake Richard Verdoorn

  8 comments for “Is There a Lord of the Rings Sequel?

  1. J Walrod
    March 6, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Interesting. I have many thoughts on this. How could a sequel be made that honors the original properly?

  2. April 11, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    i think a new LOTR movie would be spectacular B) i have seen all of them (except the hobbit) if this ever happens it will be a day to remember

  3. Sharif Khaled
    July 16, 2016 at 2:14 am

    Inetersting.

    I just watched all six extended films in a chronological marathon for about 19.30 hours (excluding credits). Honestly, I recommend pulling it off back-to-back. You’ll catch many things that are easy to miss such as references and other goods.

    At the end, both Bilbo and Frodo have written their stories, and the book was passed down to Sam, as suggest by Frodo, it was his turn to write something.

    I’m thinking, though it’s a stretch, perhaps Sam or one of his children could have had the next story to tell. At the same time, maybe some things are best left the way they are.

    The same happened to Star Wars. First 3 movies, then 3 prequels, and here we are today and they still managed to continue it on from where they left before. No doubt its controversial and a debatable topic, but it’s still manageable. I for one liked the 7th installment, and perhaps can also see a 7th installment for the middle earth series as well.

    Anyway, that’s just my opinion. :)

    • Emily
      July 16, 2016 at 9:58 pm

      I quite liked The Force Awakens, too! I would certainly be open to seeing some more movies. The problem is the rights granted by the Tolkien estate. Any films that come out have to be based on the contents of LotR or The Hobbit. They can’t touch the Silmarillion or anything else. And Christopher Tolkien, the executor of the Tolkien estate seems very unlikely to let the rights to the other books go.

      I would particularly love to see some stories of Aragorn’s reign. I would love to see him in a family setting!

  4. hello everyone
    August 2, 2016 at 12:02 am

    dennis mckienen wrote a sequel to the lotr, but christopher didnt wanna hear it. dennis changed the character

    • Emily
      August 20, 2016 at 10:38 am

      That’s very interesting! I never knew that. I’ll have to read that book.

  5. Jason
    November 7, 2016 at 6:16 am

    Like butter spread too thinly across bread, a ‘New Shadow’ sequel would absolutely ruin the entire Middle-Earth ‘story’ from the 1st Age to the 4th Age. The words “Let it go” …rings true here and when this ‘New Shadow’ emerges for a film/story – what then happens after that? Four years of soapie Middle-Earth shenanigan sitcoms that boringly just involve ‘Men’ mostly? Please! Considering it was all the other races beyond the realm of Men, that provided the attraction of Tolkien’s stories to begin with. When the Elves voyaged into the West to the Undying lands …their stories continued via all the other Writers who followed in Tolkien’s footsteps with their Fantasy stories. Maybe it’s these that should be put into film? Feist’s Magician anyone? Or David Eddings, Stephen Donaldson’s, Anne McCaffrey, etc, etc.

    • Emily
      November 13, 2016 at 3:05 pm

      If New Shadow is ever made into a film, it will be a long time coming. The Tolkien Estate seems very unlikely to license any more of Tolkien’s writings for film and the copyright doesn’t expire for quite some time. Although I do agree there’s a risk of Middle-earth getting too commercialized, for lack of a better word.

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