As I’ve read more and more of Tolkien’s works, I’ve begun to realize just how much I love his writing. The Silmarillion is no different. In this book, Tolkien collects the miscellaneous legends about the First Age of Middle Earth, including its creation and the fall of Melkor. Though reading this work can be slightly discombobulating, it’s also an absolute must for any Lord of the Rings buff.
The single most difficult to follow aspect of the Silmarillion is Tolkien’s traditional fallacy: place and people names are thrown around like a two-year-old in a candy shop. If you don’t have a map with you, it’s pretty hard to even follow where Tolkien is talking about. I had most trouble meshing these place names with those given in Lord of the Rings. What I found most helpful was to simply try to wade through the names and focus on the story as much as I could. It was only a few stories where place names were so important I was totally lost. Character names, of course, are hard as well, but Tolkien helpfully provides a genealogy of the Eldar to help you keep track.
Where the better-known Hobbit and Lord of the Rings cover events in Middle Earth’s third age, the Silmarillion details the creation of the world and the events of the First Age. Beginning with the creation of the world by Illuvatar, or Eru, and the appointing of the Valar, to the fall of Melkor, the first portion of the book doesn’t even involve the great wars of the Elves. We are then taken through the exile of the Noldor and other various sundry events in Middle Earth. In short, trying to summarize the Silmarillion is like trying to summarize a national epic like the Kalevala or the Iliad. Much happens in various settings, and the end result is largely a collection of legends, which is exactly what Tolkien intended.
Readability and flow are classic Tolkien – reading this book is a joy and a pleasure. I can now consider myself a full Tolkien buff having read most, if not all, of his works concerning Middle Earth. That being said, there’s still much to be learned – the Silmarillion, if anything, showed me just how much effort Tolkien put into developing his world. Overall, if you’re a Tolkien buff, more importantly, one in love with Tolkien’s literature (not the movie), then the Silmarillion is perfect for you. Otherwise, you’re better off re-reading the Lord of the Rings or something easier – the “Sil” isn’t for the faint of heart.
– Andrew J.
Published on 14 August, 2011. Last updated on