The upcoming Amazon Prime Video original The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is changing the original trilogy, and some fans are trying to raise their voices to stop it from happening. Of course, when we say the series is changing the original trilogy, we’re not talking about Peter Jackson’s films or J.R.R. Tolkien‘s original text, but the book covers. For some Tolkien fans, that’s a bridge too far.
A group of fans have organized an attempt to stop Harper Collins from doing something that’s fairly customary — print new editions of the books with new covers that tie-in with the new media adaptations. The publisher’s site advertises that new editions of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King were released on July 5 with covers that use promotional art from Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power; along with a boxed set including all three volumes to be released September 13. The angered fans responded with a petition on Change.org, started by a user calling himself “The Tolkien Fan.” The petition demands that all the “Amazon tie-in covers be discontinued entirely”, that “all e-book covers of The Lord of the Rings with Rings of Power iconography immediately be restored” and are likewise discontinued, that all printing of the Amazon tie-in covers “cease entirely”, and that “all future promotional material or iconography for The Rings of Power remain entirely separate and never be used on or in the published texts” of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or related works such as The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-Earth. You can see one of the new edition’s covers below.
So far, things don’t look great for the Lord of the Rings fans hoping to purge the world of the Amazon series tie-in covers. As of Thursday August 4 — almost a full month after booksellers began selling the editions in question — the petition has only gathered a little over 4500 signatures. That’s clearly not enough to change the course of a major book publisher that’s already sunk tons of resources into a bookselling strategy. Not to mention that Harper Collins is not doing something particularly bizarre here. They’re using a popular screen adaptation to help move units by taking covers from the media in question. It’s something publishers have done for decades and one might argue the only strange thing about the situation is that someone would think Tolkien’s work is somehow exempt.
Some Lord of the Rings fans have been attacking Rings of Power for a while now, getting particularly loud — as reported by THR — with the revelation that certain elf and dwarf characters in the series would be portrayed by people of color. Passionate Tolkien fans have argued it isn’t racist to point out that the writer did not describe his elves or dwarves as being people of color, but it does beg the question of why it is more objectionable to add that kind of creative license to a fantasy adaptation than to portray characters of races which literally do not exist and never have existed.
That may come off as dismissive or just as an easy play of the “race card,” but it may be enlightening to consider why the Rings of Power vitriol is so much worse than it was for Jackson’s Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit adaptations. Interestingly, on the online petition the author uses a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s son Christopher, in which he said, “Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed by the absurdity of our time.” Of course, Christopher Tolkien was not referring to Rings of Power. As reported at the time of his passing in 2020, the quote is from 2012 — the same year The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hit theaters. Did these Tolkien fans likewise petition for covers tying in to the Jackson films be purged? And if not, why not? What’s so different this time?