Silamrillion, The

by J..R. Tolkein

Book, 1977



Tolkien considered The Silmarillion his most important work, and, though it was published last and posthumously, this great collection of tales and legends clearly sets the stage for all his other writing. The story of the creation of the world and of the First Age, this is the ancient drama to which the characters in The Lord of the Rings look back and in whose events some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part. The three Silmarils were jewels created by Feanor, most gifted of the Elves. Within them was imprisoned the Light of the Two Trees of Valinor before the Trees themselves were destroyed by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. Thereafter, the unsullied Light of Valinor lived on only in the Silmarils, but they were seized by Morgoth and set in his crown, which was guarded in the impenetrable fortress of Angband in the north of Middle-earth. The Silmarillion is the history of the rebellion of Feanor and his kindred against the gods, their exile from Valinor and return to Middle-earth, and their war, hopeless despite all their heroism, against the great Enemy.… (more)


(5227 ratings; 3.8)

Media reviews

At its best Tolkien's posthumous revelation of his private mythology is majestic, a work held so long and so power fully in the writer's imagination that it overwhelms the reader. Like Tolkien's other books, The Silmarillion presents a doomed but heroic view of creation that may be one of the reasons why a generation growing up on the thin gruel of television drama, and the beardless cynicism of Mad magazine, first found J.R.R. Tolkien so rich and wonderful.
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If "The Hobbit" is a lesser work that the Ring trilogy because it lacks the trilogy's high seriousness, the collection that makes up "The Silmarillion" stands below the trilogy because much of it contains only high seriousness; that is, here Tolkien cares much more about the meaning and coherence of his myth than he does about these glories of the trilogy: rich characterization, imagistic brilliance, powerfully imagined and detailed sense of place, and thrilling adventure. Not that these qualities are entirely lacking here.

User reviews

LibraryThing member shabacus
To fully enjoy "The Silmarillion," you must first understand what it is not.

It is not a novel. It is not a book of short stories. It does not try to be "accessible." It is not a narrative like "The Hobbit," or even like "Lord of the Rings." It doesn't care if you get it, and makes no attempt to make you want to read it.

What it is, however, more than compensates. It is mythology, the often contradictory and occasionally nonsensical description of the myths and legends of another culture. It is a culture that cares about different things than you do, with a different background and experience and education. It is a book that is designed to meet different expectations than any you would be able to give it.

The fact that this other culture is itself an invention doesn't change that.

Tolkien was a professor. What he did for a living was comb through the epic, legendary histories of Finland and Norway and England to find hints as to the people who read and enjoyed those histories. In the Silmarillion, Tolkien invites us, the modern reader, to consider another type of audience--the Man in his camp, the Elf in his hall, the Dwarf in his mine, the Hobbit in his hole. We learn so much more about these people by hearing the type of literature they would have enjoyed than simply by being told about them.

Yes, the language is dense. Yes, there is an entire chapter that does nothing but discuss geography. Yes, the characters are flat and often wooden. So? It's a pastiche of mythology, and if you don't read and love the source, you won't love the tribute.

For me, I love this unique glimpse at a culture that never was, never will be. When I read this book, that culture does exist, just for a moment.

Recommendation: For those with patience, learning, and a willingness to enjoy something a little non-traditional.
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LibraryThing member ncgraham
J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic The Silmarillion (published posthumously and edited by his son Christopher) tells not one story but many, and is divided into several sections.

AINULINDALË narrates the creation of the world by Ilúvatar with the assistance of his servants the Valar, using the metaphor of music in much the same manner as Hebrew Scripture employs language. Also picturing the rebellion and fall of the Vala Melkor, this section contains some of the most beautiful and philosophical writing in the whole work.

The VALAQUENTA details the characteristics, powers and dominions of the various Valar; it adds nothing in terms of plot to the volume but enriches one's understanding of these angelic/god-like beings.

QUENTA SILMARILLION is both the longest section and the heart of the book. It focuses on the race of the Elves and the terrible doom laid upon them by the agency of those three powerful jewels, the Silmarils. Most of interest to me were the longer, more focused chapters involving individual characters and their often-tragic fates, e.g. everything involving Fëanor and the forging of the Silmarils, the tale of Beren and Luthién, and of Húrin and his son Túrin Turambar.

With AKALLABÊTH, Tolkien turns his attention from the Elves to Men, specifically the noble Edain or Dúnedain and the destruction of their beloved island, Númenor.

OF THE RINGS OF POWER AND THE THIRD AGE deals mostly with the events surrounding Tolkien’s best-known works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but tells them from a very different perspective than either of the other books.

Though I number Tolkien among my favorite authors, I approached this book with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, not having read any of his work since the release of the Peter Jackson films, and knowing that it had provoked extremely mixed reactions among Rings fans. However, the good reports were so overwhelming in their positivity that they won me over, and my estimation of my own abilities was high enough that I thought myself sufficiently prepared for anything Tolkien could dish out. Well, I finished it, but I can’t say it was easy going, and I can see why it has aroused the disappointment and frustration of so many people over the years.

Is it a stunning achievement? Yes. Is it a work of art? Perhaps. Is it a compelling piece of fiction? Well, it depends on whom you ask. I cannot think of anything like it among modern novels; indeed, the closest parallels that came to mind while reading were Old Testament histories and ancient mythologies. It is simply teeming with long, dogged exposition along the lines of who-bore-who and who-slew-who, and it all gets very old after a while. As I see it, the book has three primary strengths. First, the writing itself is beautiful, which is unsurprising for a linguist deeply concerned with the sound and meaning of words. Even when I was struggling through the lists of names, I found that if I read them aloud they simply tripped off my tongue. Secondly, there are some profound insights to be found within these pages; take almost all of Ainulindalë as an example: the description of Melkor’s cacophony blending with the great melody of Ilúvatar to create a richer if more sorrowful tune makes for one of the best descriptions of the world’s state that I have ever read. Last, and most obviously, there is the awe-inspiring world building. No one has ever—and I mean ever—created a fantasyland as rich and complex as Middle-Earth/Beleriand.

Obviously this book is not for everyone. To whom, then, would I recommend it? In keeping with this review's theme of threes (inspired subconsciously, perhaps, by the Silmarils), I perceive The Silmarillion’s intended audience as falling somewhere between the following groups: fans of The Lord of the Rings who would like some background, mythology buffs, and fantasy writers. I fall into at least two of the three categories, and in the end I am glad that I read it, but I will probably wait another ten or fifteen years before I try it again. In the meantime, it would make a fabulous oratorio. Are you listening, Howard Shore?
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LibraryThing member markdhartman
The Silmarillion is composed of a collection of stories, forming one cohesive greater story of epic proportions, which recount the beginnings of Middle-Earth, the fictional and fantastical world of the same author's (Tolkien's) works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (LOTR). The Hobbit and LOTR, though they have their differences, (style, readability, and perhaps even the original intended audience, among other things), can be viewed togehter as quite similar with those differences being nuances at best, especially when held against The Silmarillion.

If Hobbit is an easy read, with LOTR being slightly more difficult, but nonetheless easy, The Silmarillion is certainly not for the faint-of-heart-casual-reader. It does feel, at times, as though you are reading a history book. It is perhaps not the best choice for a weekend read, at least not for most readers. It actually took me a half of a year to read (the first time I read it). Granted, I am a slow reader. Still, when I enjoy a book as much as I did this one, I would normally expect myself to get through a book of its length in much, much less time. The time it took me to read it is due almost entirely to the above mentioned readability and history-book-like style. Simply put, the book provides for a very dense read.

If the Hobbit and LOTR is more about hobbits, humans, dwarves, elves and the occasional wizard or Dark Lord, The Silmarillion is more about the elves and gods, as well as the original Dark Lord, of Middle-Earth. It gives a lot of (fictional) historical background to Middle-Earth, being filled with stories that recount origins of its creatures and characters, as well as their alliances and animosities.

It is rather challenging, at least on your very first read, to keep all of the names and places and different stories together (the usually-included geneology charts and maps are helpful). As with most challenges, it is extremely rewarding to tackle. Reading this gives you a great appreciation for Tolkien's world, languages, mythology and lore. Though it is comprised of many stories that could be developed elsewhere as standlones (and in many cases, have been, e.g. The Lay of Leithian), the Silmarillion represents a masterful job by Tolkien (and his son Christopher Tolkien, who edited and published it posthumously) of weaving all of these stories into one cohesive whole that tells of the creation of and first and second ages of Middle-Earth.

Though having a knowledge of other mythologies, especially Western European, may add a greater depth of apprectiation for what Tolkien has done here, it certainly is not a prerequisite for reading and enjoying the work. I would certainly recommend The Silmarillion to any tenacious Tolkien fans who want to see how it all began in Middle-Earth. I have read it three times (each time gets easier), and I still consider this my favorite book of all time, spanning all genres.
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LibraryThing member DavidBurrows
A difficult book to get into but it is worth while. It gives an excellent background to Lord of the Rings and where some of the evil creatures (eg Shelob, balrogs etc) come from. Unusually the goodies don't always win and that's its bets feature. It's a dark tale of people being betrayed. Well worth reading.
LibraryThing member willowcove
Many a lover of Tolkien doesn't care for the Simarillion. I however love this book. Now granted it wasn't until the third read that I was really able to 'sail' through it, but it was well worth the initial effort.
LibraryThing member Wubsy
That this story emerged from one man's brilliant imagination will be forever staggering to me. The mixture of detail and scope is spellbinding from the first until the last page. In my opinion greater even that LOTR, The Silmarillion is amongst my favorite books ever. It says everything about everything that truly matters; and all in a world that has never existed. Genius.… (more)
LibraryThing member RochelleT
Wow this absolutely cements J.R.R Tolkien as the most amazing fantasy author. The creation of Middle-Earth and the Lords, Jewels, Elves, Dwarves, Men and evil that are involved in the creation become a real fantasy in your head. You can almost convince yourself this was how our own version of 'Earth' or the 'World' has come about as it sometimes reads like non-fiction. It can be hard though, and takes dedication, but if you add The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion together it is an incredible place with incredible characters experiencing incredible journey and adventure. Highly recommended, especially to those who love LOTR.… (more)
LibraryThing member rolandallnach
For those who have read and enjoyed 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, be prepared, for the 'Silmarillion' is quite a different style of literature. Those familiar with ancient myths and the greater scope of mythology across ancient cultures will recognize certain facets of Tolkien's tales, but what makes this book great is that even though some of the ideas are not entirely original, Tolkien weaved them together in an altogether original way to create his own work of epic mythology. As such, the book is written in the type of prose common among epic mythology, and there is far more prose than dialog. Unlike the LOTR or 'The Hobbit', which were relayed mostly through dialog, 'Silmarillion' is written as something you might find if you opened some of the ancient scrolls on the shelves at Rivendell. I delineate this as a matter of reader preference: if you prefer the prose style of LOTR, 'Silmarillion' may not be for you. On the other hand, if, like me, you read LOTR and often found the ancient myths and origins hinted at in the course of the narrative more interesting perhaps than what was happening in the subjective time frame of LOTR, than 'Silmarillion' is the book for you. I am a big fan of mythic literature and prose, and the brand of 'high story telling' that Tolkien employs in 'Silmarillion' is by far the best work of his I have read. And though LOTR stands solidly on its own footing (which is what makes it such a great fantasy piece), I think the wonder of Tolkien's world and his imagination are not fully appreciated without a venture into the tales of this book. And as an added benefit, the old animosities that stand in the time frame of LOTR get their full explanation and have their evolution revealed. For contemporary fantasy, this book is without compare.… (more)
LibraryThing member ewalrath
When faced with reading this back in the '70s a freind of my mothers complained that, instead of the New American translation, she was stuck with the King James.

I started this book twice and was unable to finish until the internet provided me with timelines and search functions. It's a terrific read if you really, really need to know what "the west" is and why everyone keeps going there and what the heck happened to Gandalf between colors.… (more)
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I love The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I've rated the various books that make them up between four and five stars. I have, in fact, read The Lord of the Rings through three times, and felt I got more out of each reading. However, that doesn't mean I relished every word. I hated the songs, and I hated the parts where Tolkien sounded like the love child of Beowulf and the King James Bible--and in Silmarillion that holds for the entire book. The King James Bible at least comes by it's "thee" and "thou" honestly. It was translated to be true to the vernacular of its day. But when a modern such as Tolkien uses such archaic language as "wilt," "thither," "behold," "of old" and "it came to pass," I grind my teeth. Every character or place it seemed had to have the etymology of their names explained in detail: Ar-feiniel she was called, the White Lady of the Noldor, for she was pale, though her hair was dark, and she was never arrayed but in silver and white.

But my problems with the book go beyond the prose style. I gather from the introduction by his son Christopher that these tales were the background for Tolkien's Middle Earth and they weren't in a publishable form when Tolkien died and had to be put in order by Christopher--and I think it shows. Because this isn't a novel or a collection of stories really. Flip through the pages you won't spot much dialogue. Although obviously inspired by works such Milton's Paradise Lost, these don't, like that epic, feel fleshed out with real scenes. Probably "Of Beren and Luthien" felt most developed--it was my favorite story such as it was. This book violates the most basic of storytelling rules--"show, don't tell." And that's deadly.

Tolkien did make some interesting choices. He combined a very Miltonian strand strongly reminiscent of the Lucifer story with a one true God, Iluvatar, and gets his Pagan pantheon in the "Valar"--subordinate beings, such as angels, but with very specific attributes and functions more reminiscent of polytheism. The "similarilli" of the title (meaning "radiance of pure light") are "primeval jewels" of great power in contention between the elves and a "Dark Lord" called Melkor (also Morgoth, because since when is Tolkien happy with just one name?) To me the outline of the plot was far too reminiscent in that way of The Lord of the Rings and the whole thing far too derivative of biblical tropes and mythologies. And some would say that's the point, but especially told in this way, I wasn't feeling the fascination of this faux mythology.

I wouldn't have lasted past page 50, but I had a deal with a friend. I read the entire book, and she watches an entire season of Buffy. And since (not including genealogies, index and appendixes) this was only 304 pages, I felt I might as well suffer through the rest for that pay off. That friend tells me I have to think of this more as a history text than a narrative--which I think is an insult to the many fine writers of history from Thucydides to Stephen Ambrose. I think to love this, to genuinely love this, you can't just love The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, you have to be fascinated by them--so fascinated that learning things such as the origins of Sauron and the orcs and the dwarves keeps you riveted. I find I'm not enough of a fan to not feel pain reading this.

I know technically Silmarillion precedes chronologically the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. But please, please--if you're new to Tolkien, don't start with Silmarillion. You might be put off Tolkien for life--and that would be a shame.
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LibraryThing member macha
read The Silmarillion finally for the first time, and i liked it a lot. must have been some feat for Christopher Tolkien, assisted by Guy Gabriel Kay in the 1970s, to put it together, as there were multiple versions of each part in different styles, sometimes on single sheets of paper, written (and written over) over a timespan that began in the period of the First World War. just deciding what to use, how to reconcile various styles, and developing a clear timeline would be exceptionally difficult in dealing with so many bits of manuscript. and they did really well: can't really see the joins, the "Quenta Silmarillion" flows nicely, as though it was always of a piece, and the earlier and later chronicles considered as extant documents pertaining to the period do not seem out of place in the narrative.

the story would be somewhat more difficult to adapt for movies because it is told as a chronicle rather than an epic. but on the other hand, the stories in it are so gripping they would really come alive on the screen. and there is some continuity with the Third Age, of course, because of the elves: this is the origin story for both Galadriel and Elrond, after all, and the source material for many of the stories referred to as legend in the Third Age. including specifically the love stories between elves and men (notably Luthien and Beren in Elrond's line) and the tragic sagas of the children of Feonor, the line of Heor and Rian, and the children of Hurin, and each of those stories would themselves a movie make. so it would be possible to construct a throughline that would draw these stories together into a third trilogy, taking the narrative backwards into the events of the First Age. possibly told from Galadriel and/or Elrond's PoV - or from Sauron or Saruman's, but that's unlikely{g}.

also, the story of the Silmarillion stones is both powerful in itself and connected to most of these stories. and it's parallel both to the later history of the Rings and of the Arkenstone, so as a theme it runs right through the history of Middle Earth. though the Silmaril stones are good, not meant for evil, they are corrupted from outside by their bloody history, in which they serve as a corrupting influence for elves, dwarves, and men. and basically this leads to the destruction of the First Age, which was meant to be idyllic.

the very beginning is a slog: because the Ainur are static characters. too bad they're at the start, but then, where else would they be, so persevere. here's why: the Ainur seem to want to offer free will at the beginning, but the results are problematic and they eventually find they prefer blind obedience (not that they ever get it, from anyone, but that seems to surprise them too). yet they do come several times with armies to beat back Melkor, the original Big Evil, even though they don't seem to take responsibility for having let him run rampart as far back as the original creation of the world, when he was clearly already a disruptive and destructive force aimed squarely at tearing down their original creation. also interesting that the Ainur are not gods: they must marshal armies of their own, eliciting alliances with their own created races in order to effect change. they have many human flaws and failures to see both the big picture in advance and the potential consequences of what they make. so the matter of mortality, for instance, meant to be a gift, becomes a matter of envy that divides the races and creates enclaves in which only isolation allows any culture to survive.

beyond that, i kinda love the whole idea of creating a world by joint contribution to a piece of music, which then acts to translate itself, through themes and counterpoint, into a living and complex world: transforming nothing into everything as it sings. also i found the division of the Elves over time into various types, marred, enriched, and otherwise changed by the choices various factions make, quite fascinating. and the book is full of glorious cinematic images of ships and habitats long gone, strong and indelible characters, and haunting stories.

appended: maps of the First Age world (very different from the Third Age), some very useful genealogical charts of elves and men, a chart of the complicated sundering of the elves, and an annotated index. altogether the whole book is a lovely thing we only have because Christopher Tolkien took on the daunting task of putting it together for publication in a way his father never could. perhaps mostly because he could not stand to let it go: his own original act of making a world out of a stave of music.
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LibraryThing member cram27
I read The Silmarillion immediately after I finished The LOTR trilogy. Mark Crowley lent it to me along with many more Tolkien books, which I have yet to read. This book is really for moderately hardcore fans. Readers are immediately introduced and immersed in the history of Middle Earth. The Simarillion requires patience because many names, and facts are mentioned initially and then explained later. The detail in the appendix is incredibly helpful. The book answers unanswered questions brought up by random name drops in The LOTR books; so, reading it close to the time after finishing the series is recommended. Even though The Silmarillion is full of stories ellaborated in other Tolkien books, The Silmarillion reads like a very interesting history book.… (more)
LibraryThing member hobobonobo
Tolkien bravely tried to create his own complete mythology, and the Silmarillion is its sacred text. This is one of my favorite books, and was really pivotal in getting me interested in literature, particularly the old myths and legends that Tolkien pays homage to with this incredible book. The Silmarillion is of course not nearly as accessable as The Hobbit or The Trilogy. It's a dense, challenging read. But I think this collection of writings is much closer to the true interests of Tolkien himself; anyone who wants to really understand The Lord of the Rings must read The Silmarillion at least once. It's an astounding collection of stories told in an archaic voice, and it sheds light on how Tolkien was able to render his world so believable. The Rings is really just a tiny snapshot taken from this deep, colorful, alternate mythological world that Tolkien worked on his entire adult life. I love this book, and rank it right up there with "real" mythologies from the Greeks, the Bible, etc. To me, the Silmarillion is Tolkien's truly great book. I loved The Hobbit as a boy, but I couldn't handle The Lord of the Rings until I got a little older, in my early teens. The Silmarillion is a book for adults. I took my first crack at it in high school, but really couldn't appreciate it until I was in college. As the years have gone by, I find The Silmarillion still holds great significance for me. Like all great myths, it taps into something deep within the human psyche. Tolkien was a keen observer of what people are made of, and you see it all on display in these stories. Dark, terrifying, beautiful, heartbreaking, joyful. The Silmarillion is all these things, and more.… (more)
LibraryThing member willowcove
Many a lover of Tolkien doesn't care for the Simarillion. I however love this book. Now granted it wasn't until the third read that I was really able to "sail" through it, but it was well worth the initial effort.
LibraryThing member Borg-mx5
My favorite Tolkien book. This is the Bible of Middle Earth. It tells of the early ages, creation and origins. The style of writing resembles Old English and can be difficult to plow through. While others may feel passionate about the Trilogy, I find this to be the most entertaning of Middle Earth stories.
LibraryThing member gundulabaehre
I had tried to read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion multiple times in the past and had basically almost given up on the book, when I finally realised that I was attempting to read The Silmarillion the wrong way; I was trying to read the book like I read and have reread LOTR, as a story, an epic story of course, but still a story. Now, while The Silmarillion is partially a story, it is (at least for me) first and foremost a religious type document, a biblical, mythological account of the Elder Days of Middle Earth.

Thus this time, I approached The Silmarillion the way I used to approach my Bible and how I read Hesiod's Theogeny and other books on Greek and Roman mythology (reading small bits and pieces, following along via audiobook at the same time if possible or necessary). And I know this might sound a bit strange, but I actually tried singing some of the parts to myself (because much of the Bible, Greek and Roman mythology, as well as Tolkien's account of the Elder Days of Middle Earth feels like and sounds like poetic, religious hymns).

I will likely have to reread The Silmarillion sometime in the near future, because there is no way I am going to be able to keep all of the different names etc. clear in my head. But for a first full and complete read, I can only say, wow. As good as LOTR, but also very, very different, and I honestly believe that in order to truly appreciate, savour and enjoy this book to the fullest, a different approach and a different method of reading are required (The Silmarillion simply does not work as a typical novel, because it is not a typical novel, it is not even a typical epic).
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LibraryThing member bokai
I'm a mythopoeia junkie, which makes this my crack. I loved it. Funny enough, I could never get into the trilogy or the Hobbit, which is what Tolkien is famous for, but his nonfiction and books like this, which read more like the deep, rich history of a distant world, are all right up my alley, and The Simarilion was no exception.… (more)
LibraryThing member TimmyP
I may be the only Tolkien fan who didn't "get" the Silmarillion. A little too long in some parts, a bit confusing in others. It is interesting to read because it gives you decent background on the world of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings but not a stand alone novel. If you are new to Tolkien, start with the Hobbit, then Lord of the Rings and, if you love Tolkien's world, read the Silmarillion.… (more)
LibraryThing member AshRyan
Tolkien criticized his friend C. S. Lewis's fictional writings for being too allegorical, but his own work is pretty damn allegorical, too. The Silmarillion opens with a religious creation story clearly based mainly on the Judeo-Christian version, though with elements of Greek and Scandinavian mythology mixed in (which somewhat improves it). He even adopts a quasi-biblical/mythological style. This makes it much harder to get through than The Lord of the Rings, but it has some nice moments, and its epic scale is pretty much unmatched.… (more)
LibraryThing member Jonaslykke
A very great book, but difficult to read. Gives a lot of answers to questions to LOTR
LibraryThing member hoorayforreading
Tolkien crafted a beautiful creation story in the beginning of this book. It is written in poetic, elevated language. The story traces the sorrowful history of the Elves from Valinor to Middle Earth. The story takes place before the action in the Lord of the Rings, and focuses much more on the legends of the Elves and the gods (Valar), rather than on hobbits and humans.… (more)
LibraryThing member Simes
Impenetrable. Probably enjoyed by people who play fantasy games
LibraryThing member elenchus
2011 reading prompted by Children of Hurin, individual selections rather than the complete text. Like other history books, it makes all the difference if I have a specific purpose to my reading. Reading history for it's own sake can work, but the narrative center must then be the flow of events rather than my guiding query, emphasising the arbitrary selection of events covered, and emptying the narrative of meaning. With a specific question, you miss a lot, but what you keep coheres around the inquiry. Hurin raised basic questions that Silmarillion can answer, though of course Silmarillion answers many more than simply questions posed in reading of Hurin's story.

It's instructive to note that Turin's story comes in at under 40 pages in my paperback edition of Silmarillion: it hints at how compressed the material is, how much is condensed but could blossom out in another treatment. Christopher indicates in his introductions both to Hurin and to Silmarillion that the basic manuscript of Silmarillion was meant as a summary outline, not a book, to which Tolkien kept adding and revising, without changing the root of it.

"Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
A short version, but good to get the outline as hinted in the tale of Turin. Reinforces the theme of links between Elves and Men in Tolkien's mythology: its importance in the First Age and lasting legacy. Gondolin's fate itself suggests the folly of avoiding (hiding from) evil, the necessity of meeting it head on -- though of course, individuals as well as cultures may fall, even then. Tuor and Idril Celebrindal (princess of Gondolin) bear a son, Earendil, setting in motion the fall of Sauron. Among Earendil's progeny are Elros, who chooses to be among Men, and Elrond: the same Elrond of The Hobbit and LOTR.

Story of the Second Age and Morgoth's corruption of Men esp in South Lands, and the split among Men and Elves except for the lineage leading to Aragorn.

"Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
Origins and outcome of each of the rings, when Sauron hid his malevolence (though some like Elrond suspected). Origins of the Wizards (sent by the Valar, not Men with special knowledge). Tolkien's take on opposition to evil: Elves the most resilient, with important individual exceptions; Dwarves next, though their greed for precious metals helps Sauron; and Men, the easiest to corrupt and yet key to Sauron's eventual defeat.


It's Middle-earth, not Middle Earth or even Middle-Earth. Strange I never noticed.
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LibraryThing member raistlinsshadow
All of Tolkien's influences are obvious throughout this book in both the development of the characters and in the writing style.

As has been said, this is truly only a treat for hardcore Tolkien fans and people who really want to know the history hinted at in the Lord of the Rings books. For everyone else, it's a pile of words constructed in similar fashion to the Bible and just about as appealing to read for pleasure.

As one of the hardcore Tolkien fans, I've adored this book from the minute I first read it six years ago. Lord of the Rings really comes alive after having read this book because now all of the references are clear and there's that much more appreciation for it. Easily my favorite tale is that of Beren and Lúthien (the spine of my book is broken at the start of that chapter and nowhere else!), which will be familiar to those who read the whole story of Aragorn and Arwen in the appendices accompanying Return of the King.

It's a really wonderful addition to the series for those who can't get enough Lord of the Rings; however, for those expecting a similar tale, they're barking up the wrong tree.
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LibraryThing member Latrat
The Silmarillion may be thought of as a bunch of necessary minutiae for Tolkien freaks (and it is) but beyond that, it is a collection of tales about the origins of beauty and evil, about the audacity of love, the increasing interconnectedness of peoples, and the ultimate tragedy of hubris.

Tolkien violates one of the cardinal rules of writing in the Silmarillion: he tells, not shows. But the Silmarillion is not a modern novel; rather it is what you might hear from the mouth of Master Elrond if you were an elf growing up in Rivendell. The "chapters" are each different tales, often overlapping at the edges, some giving broad sociopolitical overviews, others focusing in on characters within those times. It may be an inappropriate comparison, but the style is similar to that of the Bible. If the Silmarillion were written in a novel format, many of the tales would be expanded out to full novels in themselves. If Tolkien had the time, perhaps we would have been graced with them. But as it is, the language is so eloquent that it drew me in.

Admittedly, it took me a long time to get through the first half -- and you would do well to make it that far -- because it takes time to realize the themes emerging from apparently disparate recollections of times and places and so-and-so begetting so-and-so and marrying such-and-such and being involved in this or that event. But when the themes do emerge, they are powerful, building to moments of singular beauty and poignancy. The Silmarillion makes you understand why the elves of The Lord of the Rings are so melancholy. You would be too, if you spent thousands of years fighting an unwinnable battle for something that turns out to be not worth the effort. In the Silmarillion, both evil determination and momentary mistakes can cause lasting pain. As with absolute power, absolute beauty can corrupt. Wars are fought, continents are torn asunder, and a man dares to fall in love with an elf.

While it takes a good deal of determination to make it to the end, the Silmarillion tells frankly a real history, with its mistakes, bloodshed, sorrow, endurance, and brief moments of hope and love. The thrilling romance of Beran and Luthian, and the crushing lesson of the Sons of Feanor's doomed pursuit of the Silmarills give a lasting emotional punch.
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Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston

Original publication date

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