The Silmarillion (Tolkien)

After 30 years, I’ve finally read it, though not without having tried several times with false starts. Once I got past the first couple “books,” AINULINDALË and VALAQUENTA, the stories became very compelling. The first couple books don’t have much tension, but the creation of the world through song has always struck me as beautiful.

The stories drive this myth, not the characters. There is certainly an opportunity to develop the characters in longer form telling of the stories which I suspect The History of Middle Earth volumes provide. The brilliant and complex sagas of centuries long lifetimes of characters like Fëanor, Beren & Lúthien, Túrin, and Eärendil are skipped through in a score of pages. I’m sorely tempted to purchase The Complete History of Middle-Earth now and have the opportunity to explore my favourite stories and characters to a greater depth.

The highlights for me:

  • The methods used by Melkor (Morgoth) to sow dissent among his enemies
  • Melkor being unable to tame his own creation, Ungoliant
  • Fëanor’s alliance hunting Melkor and committing atrocities
  • Fingon and Thorondor the eagle rescue Maedhros
  • The tension between elven leaders causing the inability to unite and battle Melkor
  • Fëanor battling the balrogs!
  • The relationship between Huam, the hound, and Lúthien
  • The capture of a silmaril by Beren and Lúthien
  • The dwarf Mîm’s betrayals of elves
  • The tragedy of Túrin Turanbar and his family
  • The destruction of Beleriand and the pride of the Númenoreans and their alliance with Sauron
  • The origins of the dwarves, tree herders, eagles, orcs, spiders, various elven races, the Dúnedain, dragons, easterlings, the rings of power, the silmarils, the Istari, etc.
  • The tale of Isildur
  • The corrupting of Curunír (Saruman)
  • The concern that Mithrandir (Gandalf) had for the halflings, thus saving Middle Earth
  • The longevities of Galadriel and Elrond

The most challenging part of reading this volume is the same as those Russian novels – the multiple names each character has. Tolkien complicates the telling of each tale by inserting the names each race gives to the heros or even the new names given when characters enter a community. I found myself compulsively consulting the index and genealogies.

The lay of the land was also very difficult to follow as there were multiple names for each location and not all locations were properly labelled on the map. I gave up trying to figure out where cities or hideouts were.

The Silmarillion gave me a renewed interest in The Lord of the Rings and excitement for the possibility of the series being produced by Amazon. While I know nothing of Game of Thrones, I think a 10 season series telling the history of Beleriand and Middle Earth would be spectacular and enormously popular.

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