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Can I publish books based off of other books?


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I am writing a book based of of the hobbit and the children of hurin by J.R.R Tolkien and I was wondering if that is legal or would I have to get permission from the Tolkien estate. It does not defy any lore in his books and takes place in parts of middle-earth were few storys happen. Any comments?

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From what I know, and someone correct me if I am wrong, but I imagine to establish which universe your book is set in, may require you to reference material from those books. This would be, or at least be seen as treading on copyright of established (IP) Intellectual Property. Such fan fiction usually cannot be sold or have any commercial value without explicit permission from the original author as you are messing with the universe that they have built.

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I am a very VERY deep lore master of middle-earth and I was just wondering if it could be possible. The story is about a young man named Túrin (yes, the lost and last descendant of Túrin Turambar.  He tries to reforge his ancestors sword which the shards have been spread about middle-earth. Including the druwaith Iaur and the lands of Harad in the south which not yet been seen in detail. I try to stay away from well known places to prevent anti-lore and then the story would not fit in. 

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18 hours ago, Aiden014 said:

I am a very VERY deep lore master of middle-earth and I was just wondering if it could be possible. The story is about a young man named Túrin (yes, the lost and last descendant of Túrin Turambar.  He tries to reforge his ancestors sword which the shards have been spread about middle-earth. Including the druwaith Iaur and the lands of Harad in the south which not yet been seen in detail. I try to stay away from well known places to prevent anti-lore and then the story would not fit in. 

 

I'd be careful.  The Tolkien family kept a very short leash on his properties.  I don't know how strict they are now that Christopher Tolkien is dead, but I'm apt to believe that Christopher would have bequeathed the estate to someone who would take good care of his father's estate after he passed on.  

 

Tolkien inspires many of us here (I'm a bit of a follower of Tolkien as well).  The book I'm currently trying to get published is heavily inspired by what Tolkien wrote.  That being said, it is a completely different lore, in a completely different place.

 

My suggestion is that you take that Harad story, and build something else off of it.  Because, in the end, it's the story the people will read, and not the names and the places.  There's nothing wrong about a place in Middle Earth being the initial inspiration for a story or a setting.  But, using it by name, directly, has the potential to cause problems.

 

Plus, once you're free of the constraints of someone else's lore, it gives you quite a bit of freedom to write what you really want to say.  In many ways, it's like going to a restaurant and ordering your favorite dish, then trying to recreate it at home.  In the end, there just always something about your adaptation that just doesn't match what you get at the restaurant.  Yet, there's always something you cook that no one else can match.

 

Lastly, if you're really into Tolkien, you'll most likely have read the commentaries that Christopher Tolkien wrote on his father's work: The History of Middle Earth (Morgoth's Ring, War of the Jewels, etc.).  In there you'll find that the lore that Tolkien initially created wasn't always the lore that ended up being set into stone.  He played with concepts and ideas, words, languages, definitions until he finally had to put pen to paper.  That's because, as a writer, he wanted to represent his ideas in their proper form - his own unique form.  And I think you should do the same: play and craft your own unique ideas.  Because they are already inside you, and because  the world needs new voices that harken the things that inspired them.

 

Again, just a suggestion.  If this is really what you want to do, go for it.  But I would be hesitant to go down the path that you're looking to go down, for the reasons I cited above.

Edited by Jeff Potts
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@Jeff Potts's response is spot on. I'm a Tolkien buff as well and this is considered Fan Fiction. The Tolkien estate is notoriously protective of the Professor's works, though a little less so since the estimable Christopher Tolkien passed. 

 

I think your story is so far removed from the original Children of Hurin story that you might be able to take your overall plot and place it in a world of your own. Especially if you plan to explore Harad, etc, which Tolkien never much described. Your main character could have a famous ancestor who was cursed by a Dark Lord and go on a far journey to find the pieces of his ancestor's sword, and no one would bat an eye. Because the real Turin never had descendants or a broken sword, and most fantasy worlds have a dark lord. No one would connect it back to Tolkien and you could still tell your story. Of course you would have to develop your own word and not have it smack of Middle Earth, but in many ways that is the most rewarding part of fantasy writing.  

 

Edit: Or is the sword in your story Gurthang? I am forgetting my lore! In which case, yes, that broke, but I think your hero's ancestor could have had a broken sword and it still not be an issue. 

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In my story grave robbers stole the sword shards and spread them about middle-earth, so Túrin is trying to find his ancestors sword.  When neinor was supposedly killed, she was found by elves beside the river and she soon had a son. Then the line continues.  The villains are the leaders of the black market in middle-earth, because the black market is pretty much everywhere, and I though what would a black market in middle-earth be like? So their leader worships morgoth and almost ends up releasing morgoth back into middle-earth before it is his time, and it is up to Túrin to stop him( he learns of this later in the story) There is a prophecy by mandos that Túrin turambar would return and drive gurthang into morgoth's heart this ending all evil in Arda. Túrin does not do this in the book of course, but he reforges the sword to put the prophecy back into motion. Tolkien actually wrote that in the end of the 1st edition of the silmarillion. So it is Túrin's job to reforge the Sword, Gurthang 

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1 hour ago, Aiden014 said:

..........maybe............I will......scrap the......story, just to be on the safe side

 

I wouldn’t throw it completely out. Maybe call it fan fiction, and then use a root (or a seed) from it to create something original?

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Nothing you write is ever wasted. At the very least, you are practicing. At best, something may come from it you can use elsewhere. Or you can twist it so it is a different story.

 

A long time ago someone here named his characters by spelling their names backwards. 

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6 hours ago, Aiden014 said:

In my story grave robbers stole the sword shards and spread them about middle-earth, so Túrin is trying to find his ancestors sword.  When neinor was supposedly killed, she was found by elves beside the river and she soon had a son. Then the line continues.  The villains are the leaders of the black market in middle-earth, because the black market is pretty much everywhere, and I though what would a black market in middle-earth be like? So their leader worships morgoth and almost ends up releasing morgoth back into middle-earth before it is his time, and it is up to Túrin to stop him( he learns of this later in the story) There is a prophecy by mandos that Túrin turambar would return and drive gurthang into morgoth's heart this ending all evil in Arda. Túrin does not do this in the book of course, but he reforges the sword to put the prophecy back into motion. Tolkien actually wrote that in the end of the 1st edition of the silmarillion. So it is Túrin's job to reforge the Sword, Gurthang 

 

 

I genuinely like the concept of the broken sword and the shards being scattered, and someone on a quest to seek them.  That, I think, has a lot of possibilities.

 

The Morgoth storyline could be reworked into a dark and secretive cult that worships a sleeping evil.  The hero's quest could be to find the shards, reforge the sword, and destroy the evil (put it back to sleep again).  The story itself could be a carrier for the lore and backstory of the sleeping evil, and of the history of the sword.

 

Reforging the sword isn't enough of a payoff for an ending, in my opinion.  The quest of the hero needs a payoff in the book that's worth the rest of the story.  Otherwise, you'll have a great story that, in the end, lets down the reader.

 

But you definitely have seeds for a good story there.  I would pursue it, were I you.

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3 hours ago, Aiden014 said:

I wanted there to be more action with Túrin and the sword, and it was my original idea that the middle-earth black market was a morgoth cult. That is just what I had planned

Echoing everyone else here. This is very original as well and could easily tie in to a fantasy story in another world. Just have Morgoth be a different Dark Lord. 
 

If you would rather not pursue it, that is fully up to you. I’m just joining in and saying that you have some solid foundations for an original story. 👍🏻

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Honestly I learnt a tone from writing fanfiction.

 

This conversation does lead to some interesting questions, especially when it comes to Tolkien.  I hope nobody minds me continuing it despite the big one being answered thoroughly.  Tolkien's influence on fantasy is so big that it's next to impossible to think of fantasy stories where you can't find something that is either directly inspired or inspired by it's inspirations.  Like the most different I can think of is Sailor Moon and even then, I'm not sure.  Going by just the first anime (Japanese version and sorry to be so precise but I didn't grow up with the dub) though it takes more influence from Greek myths and other magical girl anime, influence can still be seen.  Like fantasy stories (or fairy tales as they were called in Tolkien's day) tended to be more simple and didn't have the depth of world building.  Even now when people talk about world building, they'll immediately put it into fantasy terms though some of the best world building is not in that genre.  Sailor Moon's world building starts off simple but becomes huge as the show goes on and it's ideas are explored.  Would that have happened that Lord Of The Rings not turned the fairy tale into fantasy?  Not created his own languages to really stress the power of not just visiting a la Alice In Wonderland but understanding a different world.  Had he not created whole histories and created characters where you ask what happened after happily ever after?  (Something that you can again see in Sailor Moon but due to differences in Japanese media I'm not going to call Tolkien an influence of influence here.)  So this leads to to this more relevant question for this, how close can you go to Tolkien without being sued?  I know you won't be sued for fanfiction so we're talking actually published by a publishing house and making money levels.  There are fantasies that seem to try to copy everything about the Lord Of The Rings other than the depth and character names.  However because the fantasy genre takes so much influence from Tolkien I don't hear that much about them getting sued.  Now I wouldn't suggest trying to go too close but it's just an interesting thought exercise.

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