The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien
Review by Floresiensis
The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien was not published in his lifetime. It was completed posthumously by the Professorís son Christopher Tolkien and first published by Harper Collins in 1992. JRR Tolkien first began working on the history of Middle-earth in 1917 and the work continued up until his death in 1973. The paperback edition holds 480 pages.
The Silmarillion provides the background to Middle-earth, the setting of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. It is an account of the Elder Days; the First Age when Morgoth, the First Dark Lord dwelt in Middle-earth and the war waged upon him by the High Elves to recover the Silmarils, jewels containing the pure light of Valinor.
JRR Tolkien has created a compelling mythology in The Silmarillion. The many references contained within the Lord of the Rings to the Elder Days are fully explained here. It must be made clear that is not a book written in its entirety by JRR Tolkien. The Professorís son Christopher has taken a collection of writings regarding the Elder Days and put them together in the form of The Silmarillion.
And Christopher Tolkien has done an excellent job. There were many doubters amongst Tolkien fans but what we are given is a rich set of tales that explain in rich detail the mythology behind Tolkienís fantasy world. This is a tough but worthwhile read, the writing style is completely different to that used in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Ė this reads like a history book (and one you wished was part of the school curriculum). Middle-earth has its very own creation of story, one that shows Tolkienís love of the Greek, Roman and Norse mythologies. There is love, betrayal, friendship and power all in evidence here and the characters and races that grace The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are given a history that not only makes you want to read the two books again but also makes you see everything in a completely new light. There is great beauty in places, the tale of Beren and Luthien being the highlight.
The Silmarillion is best read if you have already read, and enjoyed, The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. The creation of Middle-earth and the history of the Elves, Orcs, Sauron, Gandalf and much more are explained, and explained well. The Silmarillion showcases the depth and brilliance of JRR Tolkienís imagination; it even features family trees of the characters. The full majesty of JRR Tolkienís unfolds - he changed the fantasy genre forever when he wrote the Lord of the Rings. Readers began to expect the same amount of effort in world and character creation from all authors Ė some have managed to emulate but many have fallen by the wayside.
It is told among the wise that the First War began before Arda was full-shaped, and ere yet there was anything that grew or walked upon earth; and for long Melkor had the upper hand. But in the midst of the war a spirit of great strength and hardihood came to the aid of the Valar, hearing in the far heaven that there was battle in the Little Kingdom; and Arda was filled with the sound of laughter. So came Tulkas the Strong, whose anger passes like a mighty wind, scattering cloud and darkness before it; and Melkor fled before his wrath and his laughter, and forsook Arda, and there was peace for a long age. And Tulkas remained and became one of the Valar of the Kingdom of Arda; but Melkor brooded in the outer darkness, and his hate was given to Tulkas for ever after.
In conclusion, read the Hobbit and then the Lord of the Rings. If you are as captivated by them as most of the reading world is Ė the Silmarillion will give you the extra information you crave and answer the questions that the two prior books threw up Ė Who exactly are Gandalf and Sauron? How did the Orcs come into being? Why are the Elves leaving Middle-earth and where are they going?
Luke from Durham, North England
As someone who read The Silmarillion at the age of eleven, and completely enjoyed it, I confess I have little patience with those who simply dismiss the work as boring or long winded. Neither did I personally find it in any sense dry or overly detailed, since the descriptions of beings from the shadowy Ungoliant to the heroic Haleth and her woodland people are drawn in fine and epic detail, often with a deep sense of mystery and drama. Indeed, while the style is more poetic and mysterious than Lord of the Rings, at the same time Tolkien's mastery of language, both as dramatic tool as well as evolving spoken or written myths ensure that the very cadence and rhythms of the book are calculated exactly, indeed I'd highly recommend hearing Martin Shaw's complete reading of the book to get the full experience of Tolkien's use of language. Take for instance the description of the hall of Morgoth, "upheld by horror, lit by fire, and filled with instruments of death and torment" (quoted from the chapter of Beren and Luthien). In no way does this equal the descriptions of the Dark Tower in Lord of the Rings, yet at the same time in it's scarcity of phrasing, it evokes a far darker and more mysterious picture, far more akin to myth and story than the believable, historical nature of Lord of the Rings. It is true that the book cannot be read casually, or simply as a random fantasy novel, and it is also true that if you are not already immersed in the language and culture of Middle Earth much in the Silmarillion will be a bit impenetrable, however it was never the purpose of the Silmarillion to be light reading or to show anything less than a grand and legendary scale of events. Such a mythology has it's own sweeping beauty, and one which no other fantasy writer has achieved (albeit some have come close). The only major criticism I have, is that while the first 7 eighths of the book dealing with the creation of Middle Earth and the struggles of the elves and first men against Morgoth are drawn in great, if biblical detail, the final chapters feel somewhat flat by comparison, compressing as they do two ages of the world, (including the entire lead up to and detail of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings), into a tiny space by comparison. It is true that Tolkien himself gave far more attention to the first age and it's epics, and (other than in Lord of the Rings and especially it's appendices), than the matter of Westernesse and the second age, however I rather feel Christopher would've been better leaving matters at the end of the first age with a correct and poetical ending detailing that some day Sauron would rise again and seek the mastery which Morgoth had attempted to claimed, rather than basically saying "and then Nķmenor fell, and then Lord of the Rings happened" he even cites the actual books of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit quite directly, effectively saying "go off and read about things in those other books". So, while I have only admiration for those parts of the Silmarillion that are fully fleshed out, and the many beautiful accounts of the elder days, I do rather wish that was where the book stopped, leaving the rest of Tolkien's history to the work already published in LotR and the Hobbit, or perhaps, if indeed any complete accounts of the second age and the drowning of Numenor were ever completed by Tolkien outside the material in LotR, publishing that account else where as in fact was done in Sauron Defeated. Despite this flaw though, and even admitting that there are probably those who find the style of the Silmarillion rather too dense, I still have no hesitation in awarding the book an outstanding 10, (indeed I'm sorry the scale can't go higher). While the Silmarillion does somewhat serve as an extended background to Lord of the Rings, even considered under it's own merits it has a fullness of language and richness of style all it's own that it would be a shame for any lover of both middle Earth and of Language and poetry to miss.
Soumya from India
An epic which is comparable to the Iliad in its scale...novice readers might struggle with the amount of detail as well as the style of writing,but in my opinion,it will be impossible to fully appreciate the depth of Tolkien's world unless this book is read. And yes,i like it even more than LOTR or the Hobbit.
Joshua from England
Well, to me, The Silmarillion, as a young 13 year old was an extremely hard read but once I got through it, it was brilliant for those of you - like me - who have read the Lord of the Rings or The Tobbit will know that The Silmarillion is a blessing to read and is brilliant in almost everyway. Yes, some may call this "bloodless", "flat", those people are wrong, or simply silly, and cannot even comprehend how much detail and imagination has gone into one book so "haters" - why dont you all try creating your own language, your own maps, and even your own history see how hard that is and then I will listen to your jealous review that I pity.
Gollum from The Shire
Tough, but for any Tolkien fan it is really worthwhile. Christopher Tolkien has done brilliantly, it is a masterpiece.
Simon Hanzal from Czech Republic
Not only did I love the book of its own, I also devoted my years school job to it and to the deeper meaning that it holds. I am more than fascinated by the level of expression of love and the beautiful against the evil and selfish. If I would view this book as a story or a fantasy novel even if it is not exactly the most readable. I don't and that is why I love it. PHILOSOPHY - that is why I really keep endlesly thinking about it.
Derric from Anderson, SC
Definitely for only the die-hard Tolkien fan. This book is an amazing and touching read, more of a history than a story, but I still found a connection with the characters. Morgoth is even blacker than Sauron, who is one of the noblest corrupted things you'll ever read about. A perfect literary work.
Maximillian from United Kingdom
A bulk collection of exaggerated dignity and undescribable flatness, The Silmarillion is completely bloodless, demanding considerable effort from the reader to overcome its voluminous, unfamiliar cast and its overwhelming eccentricity.
Rowan from Australia
The Silmarillion is the highest quality fantasy there is. It is a work of indescribable majesty and breathtaking concept. Tolkien is the ultimate master of high fantasy. However, the Silmarillion is only for die-hard Tolkien fans who have already read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. It is more a history than a novel and goes into complex detail which, while sweet for Tolkien fans like myself, could be confusing for those new to Tolkien.
Andrew from Scotland
Incredible. To begin, the read is slow and at times confusing due to the huge cast as it were, but slowly you begin to realise the enormity and scale of this book and anyone studying the history of our own Earth would know that such things are as complex and lengthy as any. Just when you think the plot is lost in the midsts of the many, seemingly unconnected, chapters Tolkien time and again brings back the main thrust of the epic plot. Kudos also to Cristopher Tolkien for including the many extras which serve to aid in the understanding of the many Houses in those days and their respective histories and bloodlines. Quality.
Estel from Lucknow
I like fully realized magical realms with its complete back-history and mythology. The Silmarillion aptly serves this purpose. This not a typical novel but a simple chronicle of events; a guide to the wonderful realm of Middle-earth. Donít start Tolkien straightaway from here; otherwise you would only get deluged by the vast array of characters and plotlines. I admit that the novel could have done more with a bit of finesse and sometimes it gets difficult to keep track of things (appendix at the book can be used as a reference), but itís still great. This masterpiece demands only one thing: patience.
Tim Wilson from UK
Wonderful use and grasp of language was present in this book, but for me there were just too many details. A plot so well hidden in a myriad other descriptions, plots and historical facts from Middle Earth that I just could not get into it. Tolkien is a deity when it comes to fantasy, but for me this book was more of a study in the history of Middle Earth and less of a story.
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