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In The Beginning, There Was A Silmarillon.

Updated on August 25, 2017
You have a point, Boromir. lol.
You have a point, Boromir. lol.
Map of the northwestern part of Middle-Earth, Beleriand, where the bulk of The Silmarillion takes place.
Map of the northwestern part of Middle-Earth, Beleriand, where the bulk of The Silmarillion takes place.
the Elven city of Gondolin.
the Elven city of Gondolin.
Melkor (AKA Morgoth) battling Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor (the elves).
Melkor (AKA Morgoth) battling Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor (the elves).
Beren and Lúthien Tinúviel fleeing from a minion of Morgoth with a Silmaril in hand.
Beren and Lúthien Tinúviel fleeing from a minion of Morgoth with a Silmaril in hand.
Morgoth cursing a captive Hurin.
Morgoth cursing a captive Hurin.
Turin, son of Hurin.
Turin, son of Hurin.

Christopher Tolkien talking about The Silmarillion.

Which of Tolkien's Middle-Earth related work have you read?

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Journey to Middle Earth again.

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Oh boy, this is not gonna be an easy review. I was first introduced to Tolkien's work as a kid through the old animated movie version of The Hobbit from 1977. But it wasn't until middle school that I first truly discovered his work by reading the original book. I didn't tackle Lord of The Rings until I was in high school, about a year or two before Peter Jackson's movies came out I think. I love those books. The influence they've had and continue to have on me as a writer can't be overstated. I first picked up The Silmarillion after finishing The Lord of the Rings, so naturally I was expecting another story like that....but when I first read it, I hated it. Back then, I just didn't understand it. It was as far removed from Lord of The Rings as the earth is to the moon, there were no Hobbits, the prose and narrative style was archaic, there didn't seem to be an overarching narrative and I personally didn't connect with the characters like I had with Bilbo, Frodo and the rest. So I put it away, didn't finish it, and moved on to something else. When I was in college, I started to get curious about it again. I had the audio book laying around so I listened to it...and now I love it.

Now before I can actually start talking about the plot, I first have to address the narrative structure and prose style, because like I said its archaic. On both fronts, The Silmarillion has less to do with a modern novel and more to do with the Bible....no really. The way The Silmarillion is structured is very reminiscent of the aforementioned holy text, and so is the language of the prose. Take the first four opening lines for example:

"There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad."

Wow, Book of Genesis much? To be fair, the prose style and plot structure makes a certain amount of sense, because Tolkien was a devout catholic all of his life and his original intent for The Silmarillion when he started writing it in 1914, was to make a unified mythology for the British Isles. So it stands to reason that he would want to write the book in this way. And while I personally think this choice makes it feel more epic and poetically beautiful, to the casual reader it might come off as dry, highfalutin and very, very hard to get into. And if that wasn't bad enough, the book is infinitely more complex and dark than either of Tolkien's more famous work. So you really have to pay attention or you're gonna get lost very quickly. But that's not to say that The Silmarillion isn't worth your time, because it definitely is.

As far as plot goes, well that's kinda hard to explain. As I've said before, the book doesn't seem to have an overarching plot, it feels more like a collection of novellas that all focus on the same thing, namely telling the history of the first and second ages of Middle-Earth. Some of the stories presented here will sound familiar to Tolkien fans, as some of the characters in Lord of the Rings make references to the events depicted in The Silmarillion. So you'll read the stories of Beren and Lúthien, the story of the Silmarils (which Bilbo reference to in The Fellowship of the Ring), the rise and fall of Melkor (AKA Morgoth, the Dark Lord before Sauron) and The Fall of Gondolin. It also includes stories that, while no less important, fans had previously never heard like The Children of Hurin and The War of Wrath. The book also has the origin stories of many of the key players of Tolkien's other work like Elrond, Sauron etc. So in that sense, The Silmarillion lays down the foundation for the culture of Middle-Earth, as well as its early history. It's a fascinating read that can help better your understanding of the Middle-earth mythos, but as I said before, there are a lot of things to keep track of so its easy to get lost if you don't pay attention.

One of the things that seems to be accepted about this book is that its unfinished. Honestly, I don't know how much faith I can put in that claim. Because, according to Tolkien's son and literary executor, Christopher, The Silmarillion is in fact complete but Tolkien sadly died before he could go back and revise the bulk of it. And as a result, The Silmarillion has some small inconsistencies with Tolkien's later work. Christopher did his best to try to fix these (although he admitted later making it fully consistent with his father's famous work was impossible), by using other related material left by his father. But he was under considerable pressure from the publisher to get the book out. What's more, not all of his father's notes were in the family's possession at the time. So he should be applauded for getting the book published and for staying as true to his father's original vision as humanly possible. But there are still those that say that he made up entire sections of the book. But really, the only thing he added was a summary regarding the history of the One Ring, and that at the very end.

To sum things up; despite all of its flaws, The Silmarillion is still a must read for any Tolkien fan, or just a fan of the fantasy genre in general. It's a beautifully written swan song for the father of the fantasy genre. If you have the chance, then check it out ^_^. You'll be glad you did.



View all my reviews

© 2013 Will English.

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    • Willsummerdreamer profile image
      Author

      Will English. 4 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

      A must read for anyone. And glad you enjoyed it ^_^.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States

      The Silmarillion is a tough book to read. I took a class in college called "popular literary genres" and my teacher chose this as the book to represent fantasy. I'm grateful that he did because I doubt I would have read it on my own. It really gives an appreciation for what Tolkien did and how deep his mythology really goes. I completely agree that it's a must-read for fantasy writers. Great review!

    • Willsummerdreamer profile image
      Author

      Will English. 4 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

      @Elias Zanetti: I'm glad that you enjoyed the review ^_^. Hope you like the book when you read it.

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 4 years ago from Athens, Greece

      Nice hub, Will and overview of the book. Haven't read Silmarillion yet although I had it in my to-read list. Your review has been helpful as it is good to know what to expect before hand so as you don't get disappointed. You have renewed my interest in the book and the creation story of Tolkien's middle earth :)

    • Willsummerdreamer profile image
      Author

      Will English. 4 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

      @ suzettenaples: You're very welcome. Glad I could be a source of inspiration =). And thanks for the welcome. Hope you enjoy the book.

    • Willsummerdreamer profile image
      Author

      Will English. 4 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

      ...ya know, that's a very good question that I don't really know the answer too. I didn't really think about it when I writing this, I was just...well...writing it in a way that sounded natural to me. And for me, that's always worked better than trying to be formal about it all the time. That used to get me in trouble in school a lot, but what did they know, lol. Anyway, thanks for pointing out the errors. And I'm glad that you enjoyed the review, =). Hope you enjoy reading The Silmarillion.

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 4 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Willsummerdreamer, I wish you had written more, haha. I was enthralled with your commentary. I have not read this prequel to Lord of the Rings, though I have had it sitting on my shelf for years. I was put off by the first chapter! I did not make the connection to Genesis, silly me. I love how he transcribed it into Silmarillon. I myself am inclined toward such literary adventures and am surprised that I did not get it. Now I am inspired to return to my shelf and discover the story.

      Though, as you suggest, I also tend to do best in the beginning hearing such a complex piece. Something about the rhythm of language opens what are often unapproachable stories; later I read the text with great enjoyment.

      There are a couple mistakes in your text- only two I noticed... "And if that wasn't bad enough, the book is infinitely more complex and dark than either of Tolkien's more famous work(s). So you really have to pay attention or you're gonna (GET) lost very quickly."

      Correct me if I am wrong, but I am pretty sure you need to say "works", considering you are saying "more complex and dark than (two) of Tolkien's more famous works." Am I correct in this? I googled it to twist my brain into proper formation and even expert answers confuse me, haha. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=200804...

      Anyway, I would love to hear more about this book and look forward to discovering your work- or is it works, lol, omg!- in general. Thanks so much! Voted UP and useful and interesting.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

      I have recently just heard about this book. Your review of it is great and I am inspired to read this now. I love Tolkien and have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us. And, welcome to HP.

    • Willsummerdreamer profile image
      Author

      Will English. 5 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

      Thank you, Dontaytte, glad you like it. ^_^.

    • dontaytte profile image

      dontaytte 5 years ago from Palos Hills

      Great post

    • Willsummerdreamer profile image
      Author

      Will English. 5 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

      That is very true ^_^. And the bible thing was one of the first things I noticed when I read it. Glad you like the review ^_^.

    • Sunny River profile image

      Sunny River 5 years ago from A Place Without A Name which resides somewhere between Fantasy and Belief, just north of Reality

      I've read The Silmarillon and I was struck by how similar the style was to the Bible. I'm glad you mentioned it. Also, it's fun to note that in The Silmarillon there is a story of how the orcs originally came to be and it's referenced in one of the LOTR movies by Saruman in his conversation with the Uruk-hai leader.

    • Willsummerdreamer profile image
      Author

      Will English. 5 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

      Well you should be lol, j/k. I'm not as well versed in Tolkien lore as I would like to be myself (theres so much of it that I could make a career studying the heck out of it), but I'm glad you liked the review, Bill ^_^.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm just not that well-versed in all of this. Obviously you are my go-to guy for all things related to Tolkien. Thanks for the review.

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