Peter Jackson may have bidden his cinematic take on Middle-earth farewell by releasing The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in 2014, but New Line Cinema seems to have no intention of loosening its grip on the goldmine that is Tolkien’s fictional universe. The studio’s latest attempt to remain relevant in the landscape of Middle-earth adaptations comes in the form of The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim, an anime movie that takes audiences 183 years before the events of the trilogy and depicts the trials of Helm Hammerhand, the legendary king of Rohan.
Developed by famed anime director Kenji Kamiyama, the project has been fast-tracked since early 2021 and is now on track for a release in theaters on April 12, 2024. With the inclusion of Miranda Otto from Jackson’s trilogy as Eowyn, the return of veterans from Weta Workshop, and the collaboration of concept artists Alan Lee and John Howe, it’s safe to say that The War of the Rohirrim will share the same continuity with the movies, being developed in a way that will aesthetically remind you of Jackson’s Middle-earth.
But does that mean the story is canon in terms of adhering to Tolkien’s source material? Or is The War of the Rohirrim only bound by its connection to the trilogy?
Will the ‘War of the Rohirrim’ be canon?
The questions of canon are always a difficult subject to tackle, especially when it comes to adaptations. For one thing, we first have to determine what we deem to be canon. Are Peter Jackson’s movies canon despite all the changes they made to the books? Is any adaptation canon in relation to their source material? Or are we simply talking about the live-action canon, which Peter Jackson’s work is a part of?
You see, whether or not a spinoff is canon for you is a matter of subjective speculation. One thing’s for certain, though; The War of the Rohirrim is definitely taking place in the same timeline as New Line’s two movie trilogies. In fact, the production team has made that clear repeatedly whenever talking about the new anime, and the casting of Miranda Otto as its narrator is the final nail in that coffin.
As for what the story will entail, lore-wise, New Line only has access to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books, and the story of Helm Hammerhand — the legendary ruler of the horse-masters who defeated the invading army of Dunlendings and became the namesake for Helm’s Deep — is briefly alluded to in the appendices to The Return of the King. The section involving the king’s heroism isn’t much in and of itself, so writers Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou have had to fill in the blanks to a large extent.
Ultimately, The War of the Rohirrim can be categorized as a canon extension to Peter Jackson’s cinematic universe, though whether the story is canon in terms of following Tolkien’s notes is something that every viewer will have to decide for themselves.