I really liked all, or at least most, of the frame narratives discussed in the 'cast. I probably am leaning most towards a young Aragorn as the main frame. The reason why is because I prefer a frame to have some dramatic tension in it, and for the stories that are to be told to have some real consequence for the frame. So while I do like a post-LOTR Sam, there don't seem to be many situations that would really create that level of tension for him or his kids. On the other hand, watching Aragorn grow up and people trying to impart these stories to him because he is essentially the last "hope" for Middle-earth could be really engaging. We could learn that the person he grows to be was influenced by the lessons he learned from these stories. This also gives the opportunity for multiple story-tellers, each with a unique connection to the particular story.
Gilraen with Beren/Luthien would be great. I like the idea of her telling Aragorn the story as a cautionary tale of why Human/Elf relationships don't work out and then Aragorn ends up drawing a completely opposite conclusion. Oops. Elrond telling him about his dad (Earendil's) journey would certainly be fitting. Etc. Anyway, this is my vote, but I'm certainly open to others.
I'll put one more candidate out there, though, for discussion's sake, that I haven't heard mentioned:
What if our frame is in the Second Age, in Numenor itself right before the fall? The main characters would be Isildur, Elendil, and Anarion, and our story begins as Sauron is gaining influence and some of the Faithful start coming under his influence. What if the stories are told by Elendil, and perhaps we can even have some Elvish visitors to Numenor to tell these stories as well, and he is using them to explain to his sons what is happening and why they must remain faithful. Perhaps we can even take some dramatic license and say that Isildur and/or Anarion are partially intrigued by what Sauron is saying, and they must be shown the truth. The advantage is that this narrative frame would have a ton of tension, and there would be a lot you could do in the frame itself. The disadvantage would be that a lot would have to be explained in the frame itself, and we'd eventually have to move past its time frame if we wanted to tell further Second Age stories, but you could have the seasons advance the story towards the Battle of the Last Alliance. Imagine the first episode of the first season showing Sauron being brought to Numenor. Chills!
I loved the podcast discussion of frame narrative posibilities. The thing we do not want, I assume, is anything that would violate Tolkien's dictum that nothing should shatter the verisimilitude of the story: no dreams, no bakers talking or reading to their nephews in NYC, etc. This is what had me a bit mistrustful of the original Tolkien frame of generational descendents from present times back into previous ages. On the other hand the whole frame of the Red Book of Westmarch adds to the verisimilitude because it does not violate the dictum....
But if Tolkien, for example, were the tie of all the frame narratives, it would have to have a believable provenance element... He would not be NOT inventing the stories, but he has to have discovered an ancient manuscript (in varying states of condition, which could account for gaps in the narratives) somewhere in a barrow or a wall of an ancient Roman library where it was hidden and now newly excavated that somehow has survived the vicissitudes of time.
I had a thought about the frame -- one that could address the need for the meta-continuity of how the stories ended up getting passed down. In the discussion, there seemed to be a consensus to have the story of the frame advance. Why not, as part of that advance, have Bilbo appear as a chronicler. So, for example, when Aragorn learns about Beren and Luthien, we first see him as a young man who has just met Arwen. The next time we see the frame (in episode two or three of the arc), we see the Aragorn of the period of the Hobbit telling the story to Bilbo. The story arc would end with Aragorn reading the story to his children out of Bilbo's translation (One of whom could say he liked the elvish original better.). Done often enough, the book itself could become the point of continuity and Bilbo himself would not need to appear -- just his work being read from or set down after the tale ends.
This also could allow the SilmFilm Project to fill in some of the untold tales of Bilbo's adventures -- mentioned explicitly in The Hobbit and alluded to elsewhere (his disreputable habit of wandering off to talk to elves). We could see him consulting libraries in Rivendell and visiting ancient places with Aragorn (who he appears to know well enough to justify having been a traveling companion). We could watch him listen to a tale of dwarves told by Balin after Gandalf tells him he is just a small fellow in the world. And for that final tale, which ends with Sam passing on the book and going over the water (perhaps saying good bye to Legolas and Gimli as they talk about the ship they must someday build), could begin with Biobo telling a tale to a wide eyed Frodo and Sam.
I was thinking that instead of setting the frame later in the history of middle-earth, after all the Silmarillion stories have been resolved, we could add suspense by setting the frame just before the War of Wrath. Earendil could be our focus character. We could show him learning the stories of Middle Earth throughout his life, learning how the world came to be in such dire trouble. For example:
When Earendil is young, Turgon could tell him the story of how the Noldor were exiled
Glorfindel could cover the Ainulindale
Tuor could help Earendil deal with the Fall of Gondolin by explaining the story from the beginning
Cirdan could tell the story of the Awakening of the Elves
Elwing could tell the Beren and Luthien Story
Maybe Melian could tell Hurin and Turin's story?
Than when we have told all the backtory the story can shift to being fully about Earendil, we can tell the story of Elwing's death and Earendil's journey to Valinor. This section of the series would wrap up with the War of Wrath, providing a solid conclusion. I think the strength of this frame is that it creates a very solid connection between all the stories. They are all leading up to Earendil and the War of Wrath. If we just use a different narrator for every story, I think the series will feel more like an anthology of unrelated stories instead of a cohesive history.
We could then pick up a new section dealing with the Numenorians with a different frame story. I would vote for Aragorn and Faramir explaining their history and lineage to their children.
I had an idea for a frame narrative:
When Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, etc. arrive at Valinor they could be greeted by Olwë. He and also Finarfin could tell Frodo and Bilbo about the Silmarils, the Darkening of Valinor, and the Exile of the Noldor. Basically the stories they were involved in. It probably wouldn't work as an official frame for the entire series but it could work for maybe the season that they were in. It would be great because it would introduce new characters plus there would be some old ones from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
I love all of the frame ideas and I think they would all work well, though I would vote for the Aragorn/Gilraen frame idea out of all of them.
Super excited about the project!
I think if there were to be a frame narrative, it would be most beneficial to have that frame be established by characters the general audience already knows. This would serve to bridge the gap between the lore of The Hobbit/LOTR (which are familiar in modern pop-culture) and this entirely new age of Arda, which is unfamiliar and more complex to existing audiences.
I had written a screenplay draft for a frame narrative intro similar to this, but have ended up mostly scrapping the idea in favor of presenting The Silmarillion with its own agency. My version had Bilbo working on his writings in Rivendell, talking to Galadriel, and he entreats her to tell him the old stories of the Elves, as she was a first-hand witness. Bilbo would be bright-eyed and eager for the tale, likely romanticizing it a bit, as the Elves are somewhat beyond the comprehension of even cultured Hobbits such as Bilbo. The tale, of course, turns out to be much heavier and more dire than he imagined.
I agree with Nicole in that the frame should have established characters. For people who have only read/watched The Hobbit and LotR, having a frame narrative that isn't familiar would make the whole thing more confusing; the frame is meant to make it easier to follow and give structure, so having the main frame introduce any/many new characters would work against that for most viewers.
I feel like the best way to go about deciding on a frame narrative is to make a list of all of the characters we want to tell stories and find a way to place them all into three main frames with a main couple of characters but enough flexibility to get people like Cirdan and Glorfindel in for a story or two.
I have two intersecting frame narratives in mind. They center on Sam and Aragorn, but as the hearer of the stories, not as the teller.
Aragorn could hear, at different points in his life, from Gilraen, Elrond, Galadriel/Celeborn (grandparents of his beloved), Denethor, Gandalf, etc.
Sam could hear from Legolas/Gimli, elves and dwarves passing through the shire, Merry/Pippin, and Aragorn.
(These are not exhaustive lists by any means)
The two frames would intersect with the last story: The Rings of Power and the Third Age. Sam can visit Aragorn in Annuminas/Bree/Edge of the Shire, and hear the story of how the rings were created, dispersed, and hidden, and Eregion destroyed, up to the last alliance.
Aragorn can thus pivot from being the hearer to being the teller. This reflects his role as the final point in the transition from the age of elves to the age of men. Also, this is the story thread that ultimately led Sam and Aragorn into each others' paths in the first place.
This ties together the Silmariallion/Hobbit/Lord of the Rings stories, brings the frame into an accessible point for viewers, and ties it all together at the end.
I hadn't thought of it before, but I really liked the idea that TalesftCards suggested about setting the frame just prior to the epic smiting of Numenor. Tying the great tales in with the Faithful telling tales in secret meetings which could then culminate in the Battle of the Last Alliance as the series finale (flowing into the LotR movies.)
My idea was a little different. I think that if we wanted to keep with the spirit of the Silmarillion, we could approach it more from a Tales of Arabian Nights perspective - a series of tales told in one context over a period of time. For example, I believe we are told in Fellowship of the Ring that between the Council of Elrond and the Fellowship's departure, Frodo and the other hobbits first hear (in full) the tale of Beren and Luthien and many other stories (I don't have my books with me to verify, but I seem to remember that.) We could have many people tell the stories: Aragorn, Glorfindel, Legolas and Gimli, Gandalf, Elrond, and others. I also think having the stories follow along with the Lord of the Rings would put the "viewers" in a familiar setting that they could follow.
So hear is what I imagine. The first tales (the Ainulindalë and the Valaquenta) could be told by Tom Bombadil when the hobbits meet him. When he starts talking about how old he is, Sam (the ever curious one) could ask about some of these ancient events. Tom tells us about some of them and then we move on. When the party arrives in Rivendell and have stories in the Hall of Fire, the hobbits ask questions similar to Eriol in the Cottage of Lost Play (i.e. "I would now hear of Valinor!) It is here that they hear many of the tales. Other stories can be told along the journey - in Minas Tirith we could hear the Akalabeth, and we can hear the story of Earendil when Sam sees the star while they are travelling and has that great discussion on stories.
One last thought I had was something they discussed in the episode. Someone had mentioned a meta-narrative of JRR telling the stories. If we wanted to go with that, I think we could do it with him finding an old, dusty copy of the Red Book and translating it into English similar to what's in the LotR prologue.
If we want a character from LOTR to follow for the frame, Elrond seems like the most natural candidate (perhaps in conjunction with Galadriel) - although he might be telling the stories to various cahracers (Aragorn, Bilbo, Legolas and Gimli, etc.)
1) The Silmarillion is characteristically elvish in perspective (as opposed to being human or Hobbitish)
2)For the human tales, Elrond has personal relation (via his ancestors) and investment (he's seeing Beren and Luthien played out again in his daughter)
3)Elrond is renowned as a master of lore
I adore the Aragorn frame idea! That's been a big question on my mind: Is the frame narrative going to be told pre or post- LOTR (or even pre/post-Hobbit)? It would make sense to have Sam or Aragorn telling these stories to their children after Sauron has fallen and the elves have left, but I think you lose a lot of tension.
I also think it needs to relate to movie fans of LOTR and the Hobbit in some way other wise they will be as lost as we were reading The Silmarillion for the first time! We want to encourage people in and not scare them away with lots of facts and detail they can't link to the current CME* (as I often do talking to people about the sheer awesomeness of the Silmarillion).
Shadow of Mordor (2014) has their plot line post-Hobbit and pre-LOTR because they feature Annatar who they later reveal to be Sauron. I really admire how they approached the story (But I'm a Mairon fan so I'm a bit biased! ).
Lastly, are we staying true to the elf perspective or are we throwing some dwarven perspective out there for Gimli and Thorin & Co. fans?
Why don't we use the frame that Tolkien sort of put into place? The Silmarillion is supposedly written/translated by Bilbo in his retirement in Rivendell. So you can have Bilbo researching all of this in the frame, and bring in other characters like Elrond, Aragorn, ect. as appropriate. All highly recognizable characters, and it's a nice easter egg for those who know the Silmarillion's internal textual history.
Have The Silmarillion described to Frodo by Elrond after leaving the Grey Havens. By using the Elves as a connection between The Lord of The Rings and The Silmarillion it helps people who may be less familiar with the Story to have the Initial emotional hook to get into it.
I'm listening to the podcast now but I had an idea for the for framing if we were to go that route. There was a series on in the 90's from Jim Henson that had a format like the one you are talking about called The Storyteller. Thinking of that series, where each show started out with the storyteller talking to the audience directly ,which I don't think would work here but it gave me the idea of having each episode told by a different character that we know from lord of the rings or are at least familiar with or that would be just really great to hear a story from. Like Tom Bombadil or Treebeard. That could make each episode different in the way it is filmed, with a Tom Bombadil storytelling going way off topic or him forgetting or not caring how the story ends. A way to tie these different storytellers together would be to have Pippin( or is it Merry) collecting stories for the red book on his travels. Framing the story as stories that are being told to someone makes sense but could be dangerous too. You would want to care about the character that's hearing the stories or at least have something going on besides napping in Rivendell and eating dinner. But at the same time you wouldn't want it to be too exciting because you might get drawn out of the story from the Silmirilion.
I tend to use acronyms a lot rather than spelling out the full names of books so the acronyms are:
LOTR The Lord of the Rings
BOLT The Book of Lost Tales
SOME The Shaping of Middle Earth
I agree with Dave’s comments during the session that we need to be able to invest in the frame story and it has to be a story in its own right. I also agree with all the discussion about how using the characters from LOTR in particular the hobbits is the way we relate to the audience. I went back and read the forward to BOLT1 and the comments about how the three red bound books that Bilbo translated into common speech while in Rivendell and given to Frodo are believed to in fact be the Silmarillion. In addition I went to The SOME and The Lost Road to find that the histories are supposed to have been written by Rumil and added to by Pengolod of Gondolin. The version that I most like (for there are many) is from SOME for the Annals of Valinor “These and the Annals of Beleriand were written by Pengolod the Wise of Gondolin, before its fall, and after at Sirion’s Haven, and at Tavrobel in Toleresseea after his return unto the West, and there seen and translated by Eriol of Leithien, that is Aelfwine of the Angelcynn.” Now we know that from the BOLT1 that the Eriol was quickly dispensed with. So the retconning Tolkien never did was to fill in the gaps. How did this book which was started in Gondolin come to be sitting on a bookshelf in Elrond’s library? Won’t that be a good story to tell through the unfolding of the whole epic tale? So these books have seen the fall of Gondolin, the sacking of the havens, living on the Blessed Isle. After that my guess to the retconning is that it was completed at Toleressea early in the second age and it was given as a gift to the faithful in Numenor. This was then one of the prized possessions that the exiles from Numenor saved, kept safely on one of Elendil’s ships. When they finally made it safely to the Grey Havens it was given into the safe keeping of Cirdan who passed it on to Elrond when he set up in Eregion with Celebrimbor. The books were then hurriedly packed when he had to retreat north to escape the sack of Eregion and set up the refuge of Imladris. What a great frame, and what’s more, the Red Book is passed on by Bilbo, so this allows us to incorporate different owners as the tellers of each season. (I think four seasons and four distinct phases for the frame was mentioned during the episode) The seasons could possibly look like this:
Season 1. The history of Pengold’s books
Season 2. Bilbo’s translations and research of primary sources (ie those who lived through the events)
Season 3. Frodo’s memoirs and research (could include Merry and Pippin in Gondor and Rohan)
Season 4. Sam’s custodianship (lots of reading of the tales to young hobbits) ending with his leaving middle earth at the havens (such a great ending).
I think this also makes an all-encompassing frame because all of the tales that we know (the Hobbit, LOTR, The Silmarillion) went into the Red Book. It also allows multiple frames as people recount to the holder of the books how they were told the tales (ie Aragorn being told stories by Gilraen). To go any further out of that will take us to a meta frame as Corey mentioned which will be right out of the story. I favour a frame within the world. Let’s do the story of the Red Book as the frame.
This is by no means complete and will benefit from much refinement and input from others.
It's great to see so much creativity and invention at work here. What adds to the fun is that we seem to have the whole timeframe of the 1st to 4th Ages to play with.
Listening to the podcast however my gut instinct, after over 30 years of reading and re-reading these tales, is that the stories in the Silmarillion are saved from vanishing into the West with the elves by Bilbo's curiosity. The frame should therefore show his time in Rivendell, primarily with Elrond but also with others (Gandalf, Galadriel, Glorfindel, Gilraen, Arwen, a young Aragorn) slowly piecing together the stories that become the Silmarillion.
I could easily see it beginning with him asking, "How long has Rivendell been here? Have you always lived here?"
Elrond would laugh and begin to tell him about everything that was much, much older. He may even show him the Noldor family tree as a route into the story, just as the map was used in the LotR movies. I can see the camera zooming in on Feanor's name and then dissolving into the first scene of Feanor making the Silmarils!
I too have to support the Red Book frame--it allows the casual reader/watcher to connect with the already familiar characters from Hobbit/LOTR and learn these new stories. I agree that Season 1 at least should focus on Bilbo's arrival in Rivendell and beginning the translation since that, again, is the frame readers (and watchers to some extent) are familiar with.
One thing I like about Tolkiens writings, is how he meticulously traces the ways the legends and histories are passed
down and compiled into the book the reader is eventually reading. I'd like to see that retained in the theatrical adaption, so
1) If possible, for each episode, there should be given the sequence event -> witness -> ... -> narrator
2) If each season has a different frame narrative, there should be a metaframe encompassing the whole series.
Now I'm going to digress a bit
1) seems overly complicated, but I believe, that this is what you would do in 95% of the cases anyway.
But it has an interesting consequence: Who witnessed the Ainulindale? The Valar!
When and from who do the elves learn of the Valar? Cuivienen & Orome!
So I'd start the series at Cuivienen and tell the Ainulindale as a tale (told by Orome) within a tale (which coud be witnessed by Cirdan)...
What I like about the Silmarillion in particular is the tone.
Solemn grandeur, no humor, no irony.
I have difficulties imagining a Hobbit-narrator striking the note right... but I too can't think of anything better than
Bilbo & the Red Book as (meta-)frame