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The Silmarillion - J. R. R. Tolkien

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      04.09.2013 12:54

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      Read it and let your immagination run wild.

      Many people know the main works of J.R.R Tolkien. The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. The Silmarillion is possibly my favourite though out of all of the books. Written while he was servicing in France in World War 1. Silmarillion is a massive, tragic tale full of huge battles, beautiful locations, loving romance and betrayals. It is the history of The Lord Of The Rings. It gives you the details of Sauron and the elves and how they came to be in the third age. The book itself is broke into about 14 stories, each one gripping and really enjoyable. (Probably why there is no film yet!) Anyone who has read the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and The Hobbit needs to read and fall in love with the Silmarillion. The book opens up the world too you and makes everything the characters say in the trilogy about 'past' relevant.

      To sum up the Silmarillion is my favourite book from J.R.R Tolkien and I highly recommend it to anyone.

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      24.01.2012 12:40
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      Will intrigue Tolkien fans, but will alienate casual readers.

      In the last decade, interest in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien has blossomed due in no small part to the success of Peter Jackson's film adaptations of 'The Lord of the Rings'. And while 'Lord of the Rings' is a staggering achievement of a work, both detailed and wide in scope, with memorable characters and a fiery spirit of adventure, it is often criticised for being overly long and lumpen in places, and its unusual structure alienates some reader who loved 'The Hobbit'. And while Lord of the Rings'' towers above 'The Hobbit' in its sheer size, breadth and grandiloquence, it is revealed that it is but a glimpse into the imagination of Tolkien.

      Simply put, 'The Silmarillion' is to 'Lord of the Rings' what 'Lord of the Rings' is to 'The Hobbit'. No doubt such a comparison will have readers either running for the exits, or thrilled at the prospect of more information about the ever-appealing realms of Middle-Earth and beyond.

      'The Silmarillion' is the collision of numerous ambitions of Tolkien, which some say is too grand a goal to achieve. Inspired by the creation myths of numerous cultures, as well as the epic tales from Greek and Nordic poems and sagas, Tolkien attempts to fuse together all of these aspects and more. As an avid philologist, Tolkien was obsessed with languages, and the beauty and power they convey and the identities they form of the people that spoke them. Having already constructed several types of Elvish, he needed some people to speak them. Being fictional, they needed a fictional place to live, which needed a creation story, and songs and legends of these people flourished. So 'The Silmarillion' is the platform for the languages of these fictional people, and is creation myth, history and legendarium of Middle-Earth, all rolled into one.

      Originating as far back as 1915, when a young Tolkien was serving in the trenches of World War One, it started life as 'The Lost Tales'. Although Tolkien's main inspiration to write about Middle Earth was always a linguistic one, he also wished to give England some folk-tales and myths of its own. This flourished into something much larger in scale and more detached over time.

      The book comprises several parts, the first being the 'Ainulindale', or 'The Music of the Ainur'. Here it is described how the world (or 'Arda') came into being, when Eru and the Ainur, an equivalent of God and the Archangels, sung the world into being. It is an obtuse yet mesmerising piece of writing, and shows certain parallels not only to the creation story of Genesis, but also to his colleague C.S. Lewis' works. Aficionados of the Chronicles of Narnia will note how Aslan roared the world into existence. Perhaps creation myths were a talking point in the Eagle and Child in Oxford. Chaos and disorder are present, as one of the Ainur, Melkor, attempts to disrupt this music as the world is created, being jealous of Eru's powers. Melkor is thus drawn as the equivalent of Satan, falling from a state of peace and grace and the source of all strife in the new world of Arda.

      This is recounted further in the 'Valaquenta', which describes the stories of the Valar and the Maiar, the immortal beings that take up residence in the newly created world. Both of these parts of the book are brief, but are sweeping and majestic in their scope, if obscure in their description. This trait follows all the way through the book, as Tolkien breaks that golden rule of modern writers: 'Show, don't tell'. Tolkien is definitely shy to show us anything in detail here, and its blunt style is reminiscent of histories and chronicles rather than the detailed storytelling of 'The Hobbit' or 'Lord of the Rings''.

      The main body of the book is the 'Quenta Silmarillion', being the history of the Silmarils. Herein lies most of the background of Middle Earth, a history spanning thousands of years. Comprising twenty-four parts, it is an overwhelming read. Much like epic Greek poetry, the stories bombard the reader with a catalogue of place names and people, most of which are in some form of Elvish (Sindarin or Quenya). Thankfully, it includes a glossary of these names, as well as their meanings and notes on pronunciation. I would give a word of caution though, as this could be a slippery slope into books of vocabulary and grammar on Elvish and a desire to switch off the subtitles to the Elvish bits of dialogue in the 'Lord of the Rings' movie. Geekdom beckons.

      'The Silmarillion' is as frustrating a read as it is spellbinding. I think it is fair to say that Tolkien possessed the rare ability to write to any audience, whether they be children ('The Hobbit', 'Farmer Giles of Ham'), fans of epic storytelling ('Lord of the Rings') or academics (see his work on 'Sir Gawain' or 'Sigurd the Dragonslayer'). But here it feels as though he is primarily writing for himself, and spends little time elaborating on detail or fleshing out events. Dialogue is sparse and terse, and deeds define the characters much more readily than their speech. The style is reminscent of those old sagas from which Tolkien drew heavily; it is blunt, and to the point. This is where the frustration lies, as some of the stories within these chapters are so strong that they leave the reader thinking 'if only...'.

      Of these, the ones that stand out are 'Of Beren and Luthien', which chronicles the lengths to which lovers will go for each other, and the daring quest to cut a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown. It is also a welcome respite from the catalogue of disasters that plague the different Elvish peoples, as Morgoth weaves his webs of malice and deceit to bring about their downfall. Standing starkly against this ray of hope is the utterly tragic tale of Turin Turambar, which features in 'The Unfinished Tales' and was recently expanded into a more detailed story by Christopher Tolkien in 'The Children of Hurin'.

      We are also treated to a lot more information on the events preceding those in 'Lord of the Rings' under 'The War of the Ring', and the line of kings from which Aragorn was descended. The fate of that people is described in 'The Downfall of Numenor', which also gives a glimpse into Sauron's rise to power and a facet of his character too. It is also the most revealing part of the book, as the events of the whole of 'Lord of the Rings' are summed up in one paragraph. Middle Earth is a very, very big place indeed.

      Like his colleague Lewis, Tolkien was no stranger to littering his work with Christian allusions, although given his vocal opposition to allegory it is doubtful that there is some kind of evangelical message here. It is more likely that they are sources of inspiration, rather than a pulse from the pulpit of Tolkien's Catholicism.

      In all, 'The Silmarillion' is not for those expecting an adventure story comparable to 'Lord of the Rings' or 'The Hobbit'. It is a linguistic exercise, a snapshot of his mythology and creation myth, a detailed history and a collection of saga-like stories all rolled into one. It also underlines Tolkien's achievement and imagination, which I once read described as something like 'imagine if Homer, when coming to write The Iliad, had had to invent the whole Greek pantheon, and the histories and languages and dialects of the Trojans, and the Achaeans, and the Myrmidons, and all the characters and their lineages first.' The Silmarillion demonstrates just that; Tolkien did in one lifetime what it takes most cultures several hundred years to achieve.

      While impressive, it's also ultimately unsatisfying. When I'd finished it, I just wanted more stories from Middle Earth and Valinor. It's a shame Tolkien didn't turn more of his myth into great stories like 'Lord of the Rings'.

      This is available from Amazon for a few pounds for the paperback or Kindle editions, and the hardback from one penny (used, of course). I'd recommend this for anyone who has read Tolkien's main works and wants more, but would urge casual fans to stay away.

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        19.09.2010 06:58

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        Pretty much a must have for LOTR fans

        This book is probably best suited to Lord of the Rings (will say LOTR from now on.) fans who also like Mythology, as that's the style that the book seems to use the most.

        LOTR was set in the 3rd age of Tolkien's fictional world, and this book deals with how that world started out. It takes you right back to the start and deals with how it was created, who first settled on Middle Earth, the battles that took place (which make some of the LOTR battles seem like nursery time in comparison!) and some of the main characters who helped shape things.

        Elves are usually the main race here though, so you're not going to read too much about Humans, as Humans came into the world later on, even though they are involved more as things progress. Saying that though it's written so well and gives such a good history of the first and second ages that it's more or less a must have for big fans of LOTR.

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        20.09.2009 14:03
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        Lord of the Rings explained.

        First and foremost this is not an easy read. The prose is stilted and often difficult. This is for many reasons, adequately described by some of the other reviewers. JRR Tolkien started this book, however it was finished, to a point, by Christopher Tolkien. It is readable but lacks the literary genius of JRR.

        Basically, this a collection of stories from the elder days of Middle Earth. For me the book lacks the beauty and depth of the Lord of the Rings (LotR) but remains an absolute must for any Tolkien fan looking to explore some of the folk lore and myth that pervades the LotR. Certain stories and threads are woven throughout the LotR such as the history of Numenor and Beren & Luthien. You can explore these in much greater depth in this book.

        The stories in the Silmarillion are truly epic. The creation of the world of Middle Earth and the Gods (The Valar) that created it. Here there is a beautiful description of a world created through music and the disharmony and discord created by a Valar called Morgoth. The struggles of Gods and creation of the Elves, Dwarves and Men.

        I will not spoil your read but one of the highlights for me is 'The fall of Fingolfin'. The king of the Elves and Morgoth in single combat. The deeds done by the Elves and Men in the Elder days put in to shadow the efforts of Aragorn, Gandalf and Frodo! The disposal of the one ring, is a walk in the park compared to the deeds of the elder days.

        I hope I have given you a flavour of this book. If you want to explore Middle Earth mythology then this is a must. When you read this book all the places, heroes and peoples of Middle Earth suddenly find a much stronger position in your mind! You will realise that the LotR is not just a great story of a band of friends going up against an old enemy, it is the culmination of many thousands of years of struggles between two enemies that began their war even before the world was made.

        Enjoy.

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        19.09.2009 03:44
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        Tales from the world the the LOTR looks back upon.

        The Silmarillion is another of Tolkien senior's works that was released posthumously by his son Christopher. It was compiled and created from numerous existing manuscripts that JRRT had written over the years - often these were very varied and even contradictory, so it can not have been an easy task.

        This collection of tales are set long before the events narrated in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and sadly do not feature any hobbits. The tone and style of the writing is very different in the Silmarillion and it can be rather harder to read than the Lord of the Rings, particularly if you are trying to keep track of all the elves whose names begin with the letter F! After the first reading, I usually just "dip in" and read individual stories in isolation, particularly the tale of Beren and Luthien, which is also mentioned in the Lord of the Rings.

        It is well worth reading this once to get a better understanding of the rich world that Tolkien created, but be prepared for it to be hard work.

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        30.07.2009 23:31
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        A Descriptive And Captivating Early History Of Middle Earth

        The Lord Of The Rings and the Hobbit are books that have become ingrained into the very fabric of British culture, with the former being named as the nations favourite book of all time, a feat that I doubt Tolkein would have predicted when he was writing it. But from these books, many things are suggested about the world of Middle Earth, from its histories, to its literature and races, but little can be said within the realms of the fiction itself. The in-depth appendixes at the end of the Lord Of The Rings go some way in describing some of the events, but it is really within The Silmarillion that we gain a greater understanding of how the world that Tolkein created came to be and how its cultures came about.

        The book is essentially a history of the creation of Middle Earth, something that I would relate quite closely to something along the lines of Genesis within the Bible, as it describes the creation of the world by the supernatural powers of the Valar and Ainur. And as a religious man himself, Tolkein may have used the Biblical accounts as a basis for his work, whilst also altering them to fit to his designs and go some way into explaining certain facets of his world. For instance, we are introduced to the idea of evil within the world of Ea, the 'world that is', as Melkor, one blessed with the greatest power and knowledge of the Ainur. He rebels against the conformity and bliss of the world that they reside and wants to create something of his own, leading to his disenchantment with the others. He then becomes very much estranged from the rest of the Ainur, and becomes their enemy, destroying and defiling the work and love that they have put into the making of Arda, the world created by Iluvatar, 'father of all'.

        The complexities and depths of the story go far beyond this, and I cannot truly begin to explain some of the features and topics of the book, as its language and level of poetic beauty provide the answers that Tolkein fans desire. The book itself is split into five distinct parts, the Ainulindale, which describes the creation and beginnings of the Ainur, the Valaquenta, a description of each of the Valar and some of the Maiar (the lesser of the two), Quenta Silmarillion, which mkes up the majority of the book and describes the saga of the Silmarils, three jewels containing the light of the two trees, Akallabeth, which describes the history of Numenor, and Of The Rings Of Power And The Third Age, which details the creation of the rings until the destruction of the One Ring at the end of the third age. This is but a brief description of each of the sections, and in all the book comprises some 340 pages, with 100 more devoted to genealogies and further information about some of the elements within the book that would not fit anywhere else. This is some work, considering its size and material, dealing with the world of Tolkein from its beginnings to its end in terms of the passing of the rings from Middle Earth and the rise of men, at the detriment to the rest of creation, an idea that I believe is overlooked in story as a whole.

        The language of the book itself is not for those who struggle with the written word, or those who can't deal with language from a previous time, as much of the book is written in a very academic way. The writing itself though is not so much old-fashioned, as ideal for the content of the book, in that it is more of an academic history of the world of Tolkein rather than a work of fiction. It is a piece that goes beyond the realms of fantasy and fiction, and tries to force itself as a piece of history, long forgotten in the annals of time. When Peter Jackson decided to make the Lord Of The Rings into a film, he wanted the audience to see it as something of a historical documentary, in that it could be, and in many ways should be, real, as the depth into which he goes is far beyond any other piece of fiction. Tolkein wanted a work that could be expanded upon by others after his death, with Tolkein calling the larger part of his written work a legendarium, which directly related to the tales of the elves, although this has been expanded upon to mean any work relating to Middle Earth. Within this legendarium, The Silmarillion sits as a brief overview of the beginnings and creation of this world, telling of the coming of the elves, men, dwarves and the conflicts that developed within the world with Melkor (Morgoth).

        I am in no way a Tolkein expert, as I have only read a small proportion of his work, and in no huge depth, but I do have a great respect for it, and from this my interest have developed, such that a work of this level seems as majestic as anything else. The language hoes beyond anything else I have read, and it makes the book what it is, although I would point out that this may put many people off, as you do need to have an interest in the world to finish this. For me this is not a problem, but I have heard of others simply giving up due to the complexities and nuances of the writing style, although a similar thing could be said of some of The Lord Of The Rings itself, although the fictional element allowed that to take backstage.

        But if you are a fan of The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit, both of which I would insist that you read before even attempting this, which includes the Appendixes of the former, as they provide even more material for this, and give you an idea of some of the things that are discussed within this. But as the world that Tolkein created was so vast and so full of history, this work is necessary to understand that, and The Silmarillion helps to fill in some of the blanks left by the original stories and goes some way into explaining some of the events and some of the cultures. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and it has inspired me to return to some of the other works, or to look to new ones. It is a work that should inspire and indulge anyone with an interest in the Lord Of The Rings, taking on a life of its own, as it glides through the world of Middle Earth and explains the conflicts and genuinely human and emotional endeavours that go beyond the basic genre of fictional and fantasy works.

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          09.06.2009 00:58
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          A good refrence tool, not a good story

          Well I recently review the three Lord of the Rings books and also The Hobbit. I described the Hobbit as a quaint Fairytale. If your expecting something similar from The Silmarillion you may want to think again. If the Hobbit were a person it might be, erm, Paris Hilton? Simple, fun, predictable etc... Well the Silmarillion would have to Stephen Hawkins! Complex, confusing, slightly crazy?

          The Silmarillion is set way before the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings which take place in the Third Age of Middle Earth. This book is set in the first age! How much earlier that is, I'm unsure. But I do know its an awful long time!

          The plot is erm.... Well rather difficult to explain. It tells the story of the rebellion by Feanor's allies against the Gods, their exile from Valinor and return to Middle-earth. It's a history of the heroic First Age. Now I must confess I pretty much copied that from the back of the book. As even though have read this book, or most of it, I still would have real trouble telling someone what it's about!

          This is not the kind of book you can put your feet up and enjoy. I was really looking forward to this after Lord of the Rings, but must confess i could not finish it. Got about two thirds the way through and then gave up. Its just so deep and complicated. Tolkiens attention to detail is incredible! But there is just way to much detail, you loose the storyline.

          I think this book is really ment to be more of a reference tool for die hard Lord of the Rings fans. There are some mentions of things that I remember from Lord of the Rings and it does shed some light on certain aspects of the story, however you have to sift through so much information to find any of these bits of information.

          Overall this is an amazing book. The world that Tolkien created is simply incredible, but if your looking for a good read, don't think this is it. Certainly not a nice fairytale you can read to your kids. If yoy fancy a challenge give this a go, if not, steer well clear!

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          26.07.2008 17:44

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          Don't read unless you are a fanatic

          The Silmarillion is a great resource for people who want to know more about the world that "The Lord of the Rings" exists in - Middle Earth. But to try and read it as anything else, can be fairly torturous. It is not an easy read, and definitely not accessible to everyone. I do love reading it though and it is a good basis for maybe making a start on the twelve or so history of middle earth volumes because it gets you into the required mindset for tackling those as it is written in much the same way. Definitely one for the hardcore fans; the Silmarillion will be sending anyone else to sleep I think after a few pages. I have to admit I have only read it a couple of times (compared to my geeky and staggering 19 times reading The Lord of The Rings), but it does stay with me and I think I shall tackle it again some time soon.

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          16.07.2005 21:16
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          You really don't know Tolkien 'til you've read it!

          No-one who’s read Lord Of The Rings should overlook this on account of its `difficult’ reputation. It is, after all, the “final” form of the magnum opus that he worked on all his life.
          Yes, it is hard work – a test of strength for casual investigators. You may find yourself annoyed by the religious aspect of it, predominant from the opening creation myth through to the Garden of Eden-business of the Flight of the Noldor (so here's an intellectual preaching against acquisition of knowledge - how sad!). Persist and you're rewarded by a powerful, moving tale of life during wartime and a people's struggle for survival.
          And persisting shouldn't be too difficult – because it’s as astonishing in technical terms as it is in the scope of Tolkien’s imagination. Reading it can be like decoding a linguistic puzzle - his absolute command of olde-worlde language (with all the obsolete words and complexities of grammar and sentence structure) demands respect; the extensive use of Tolkien's own invented languages is just the icing on the cake.
          It should be noted that the same events are recounted in greater detail – but with plenty of variation and incompleteness – in archival volumes like “Unfinished Tales” and “The Book Of Lost Tales” and the poetry collection “The Lays Of Beleriand”. However these are inaccessible to anyone who hasn’t read “The Silmarillion” first. (What separates Tolkien scholars from casual fans is the amount of time they’re prepared to spend devouring the many versions of the First Age saga. This is just the tip of a very large iceberg).

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            24.06.2005 14:30
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            I read The Hobbit as a child, and then quickly moved onto The Lord Of The Rings (LOTR), both of which I enjoyed, but for some reason I never actually explored any of Tolkien's other works that are based on the fantasy world that is Middle Earth. To be honest, I probably didn't realise there were any other books, after all although it was an epic, LOTR did have a form of natural closure. It's only been recently that I've found myself inclined to discover more of the mythology that concerns the many people and lands that feature in both The Hobbit and LOTR, and so I was advised to read The Silmarillion.

            ---A Short History Lesson---

            Although The Silmarillion was published after The Hobbit and LOTR in 1977, the mythology that it contains dates from much earlier than either book. In fact the writings on which this book was based began in 1917, while The Hobbit was not published until 1937, while LOTR did not appear until 1954-55. Unfortunately J.R.R.Tolkien did not survive to see this work completed, and the job of collating and setting the tales into order fell to his son, Christopher, who has very kindly provided a foreword to the book.

            ---The Storyline(s)---

            This book is not a single story, but is more a collection of various tales and epics that range from the creation of the world to the events of LOTR. Through these tales we learn the origins of many of the characters and races that feature prominently in the books that follow. As a standalone, I would imagine it is a very dry read, but after having read the more well-known books of the series, it provides a wealth of background information, and I often found myself thinking "Ahh so that's why?".

            ---The Writing Style---

            This book is not written in the same style as either The Hobbit or LOTR, it is not a story (or epic) full of elaborate descriptions, but actually reads more like a history book. And that is indeed what it is, a book that contains the bare-bones of the history of the Three Ages of Middle Earth and it's peoples. There is very little elaboration of events, and for me the closest comparisons I can find (in writing style and range at least) are the classic epics from Greek, Roman and Norse literature. Hundreds of years worth of history can pass in a single page, and the whole book is very fast paced, with only just enough time to digest one set events before moving on to the next.

            ---The Language---

            I will admit that the language used is, while poetic, very difficult to both pronounce and occasionally follow. Many of the names (especially in family trees) are similar, with sometimes only a few letters (or accents) giving clues as to whether the book is talking about father, son or brother. There is, however, a very useful guide to pronunciation at the back of the book, and once you've managed to master the almost Nordic language, it's a delight to read paragraphs and songs out loud.

            ---Other delights---

            As well as the actual tales, the book (well my copy at least), contains a few other sections that are well worth reading. These include a foreword written by Christopher Tolkien, which gives an interesting insight into how he put the book together, along with a letter written by J.R.R.Tolkien, in which he talks about how the fantasy realm of Middle Earth evolved. These are both worth a read, as they state once and for all that this (and LOTR) were not intended to be an allegory for events that were happening (or had happened) in the real world, but were rather acts of pure fantasy.

            At the end of the book, along with the handy pronunciation guide, there is a full index so that while reading the other books and wondering about the history of a character, you can find their place in this and read their particular history. The final pages are filled with maps of Middle Earth, so that you can follow the progress of the heroes and their people.

            ---Re-Readability---

            Due to the pace at which this book moves it's impossible to digest all the information it contains in one sitting. I have so far read it twice in the last month, and still feel that there is more that I can learn from it, so I will be reading it again soon (probably in conjunction with LOTR next time).

            ---Place In A Collection---

            I would suggest that this is perhaps not a book to buy as a stand-alone read, but rather as an indispensable addition to your collection of the tales of Middle earth. My particular copy confirms this as the cover is designed to be displayed in conjunction with my copies of The Hobbit and LOTR (along with further books), and they all feature a stylish matt black cover. I would however suggest that this is read either after or alongside the other two books I have mentioned, as for me at least it's primary purpose is as a companion to these books and it "plumps" out their stories.

            ---Suitability---

            While there is no bad language or graphic violence in the book, I would suggest that it is perhaps not really suitable for the younger reader (unless they are very talented). Looking back, I think the age of about thirteen would have been perfect for my first attempt at reading this, especially as at that age I had a great interest in epics such as The Iliad.

            ---My Final Words---

            When I bought this book I think I was expecting something along the lines of The Hobbit, that is to say a short story that was easily read. Instead, I found an epic on the scale of Homer's Iliad, and I quickly found myself deeply immersed in the tales of heroics, love and despair that it contained. I've heard that some people find this a difficult book to read, and I must agree that it is probably something that is an acquired taste. But if you read and loved either The Hobbit or LOTR, or are a lover of classics such as came from Greece and Rome (as I am), then you will love this.

            So my final recommendation is that you should buy this book, if you have an interest in finding out more about the history behind the events that you have already read about in The Hobbit and LOTR. But do not expect this to be in the same style of these books, or a particularly easy read, but more as a companion to the two, which is in itself still manages to leave a feeling of satisfaction as you quickly move from event to event.

            ---Technical Bits---

            ISBN : 0261102737
            Format : paperback
            Publisher : HarperCollins
            No. pages : 443

            Price : £5.59

            Other formats available : Hardback, mass market paperback, audio

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              21.04.2005 20:16
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              *** This review (or at least, a very close simulcrum) was originally published by myself at http://www.epinions.com/content_112261828228 ***


              The Story

              The Silmarillion deals with the first 2 ages of Middle Earth (that is, the time before the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings LOTR). It goes right back to the beginning, dealing with the Middle Earth myth of creation, to the emergence of evil, the retaliation of good, the birth of the various races, and the legendary characters that you might remember in passing being mentioned in LOTR.

              In the beginning Eru, the Supreme One, created other beings like himself (“The Valar”). Then he began creating Middle Earth by singing a song, which formed into reality. The Valar sang in harmony with him, and all was good. But Melkor (also sometimes called “Morgoth”) began to sing his own song out of harmony with Eru’s. Eru sang more powerfully, drowning our Melkor’s song.

              But a rift was formed in Middle Earth. Eru sent The Valar (including Melkor) to live on Middle Earth so see how the song worked itself out. Melkor was tolerated for a time, sometimes apparently reformed, and other spirit creatures joined his side (the most well-known examples of this being Sauron, and the Balrog that battles Gandalf in LOTR). But eventually he is cast out of Valinor, and this has a lot to do with The Silmarils (from which the book’s title is taken) – beautiful jewels created by Feanor, an Elf. In fact, these jewels, and the grievous deeds that surround them, are the focal point of the whole book – many of the events in the book centre around them, and not just those confined to the time period near their creation. Among the results of these events are the expulsion of the Elves from Valinor, the fist “Kin-slaying” (Elves killing other Elves), and the seemingly irrevocable rift between Elves and Dwarves.

              Because the time periods covered in the different sections of the book overlap at times, so do the characters and events. This can at times be a little confusing, and at times I found myself having to look back in the book to find out what happened to a character in the early part of the book to explain their actions in a later part. Personally I find this rather interesting (albeit time-consuming), but beware if that sort of thing annoys you.

              The overall plot is immense, as it deals with the whole first 2 ages of Middle Earth (it touches on the third right at the end of the book, but obviously that’s dealt with in detail in The Hobbit and LOTR), so it would be pointless to tell you any more of the plot – it’s just too big to describe!

              The Characters

              Some of the characters are basically “mini-gods”, such as The Valar and Melkor (also called Morgoth). These are portrayed as having similar thoughts and emotions to humans, as indeed do all the races, though they have their own individual racial tendencies (and prejudices). The individual characters didn’t particularly stand out to me after reading, just while I was doing so. In fact, the only characters I really remember are Melkor, Sauron, Manwe (Lord of the Sky), and Feanor, the Elf who made the Silmarils and thus unwittingly started a whole heap of trouble. The problem is there are just so many characters, and there are few who are consistently referred to throughout the book. (And, of course, the humans and dwarves have a tendency to die just as they’re getting interesting…) Some of the characters you may remember from LOTR are there – Celeborn and Galadriel, for instance.

              It’s not really a problem as the book is more action based than character based. Still, the characters do well for their part of the book, and the races aren’t stereotyped – whether it’s and Elf, Dwarf, or Human, they will have their own personality, which is defined by the upbringing and experiences more than simply their race.


              Locations

              The locations differ somewhat from Middle Earth, and show the changing face of the earth (again showing Tolkein’s keen awareness of the results of industrialisation on the environment, which the more I see of it, the more I feel that he was decades ahead of his time). They’re interesting but not particularly outstanding, but they don’t need to be. They’re more of a background to the story rather than part of the story itself, as in LOTR.


              Plot Development

              The individual plots develop very quickly, with an overall theme emerging slowly through the course of the seemingly isolated incidents. It isn’t as such a story, though, rather a history made up of many different stories that sometimes interlink. Not all of the stories have to do with the Silmarils, not all are to do with the battle against Melkor / Sauron, not all feature the Valor, not all feature the Elves. It’s just brilliant story-telling, and although set before LOTR seems more a compliment of it than the other way round. (Indeed, if I’m right, The Hobbit was written first, then LOTR, then The Silmarillion… though I could be wrong). Action seekers who found LOTR rather too slow for their liking will find this much more to their liking, and if you like LOTR, I’m sure you’ll like this too. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t liked it after reading its more illustrious forebear beforehand.

              The Writing

              Because its scope is so large in terms of both time and area, the writing is very fast-paced. It’s like a whirlwind tour of history with a few close-up views – centuries can go by with little happening, but then along comes a great evil / hero / heroine / catastrophe etc, and we’re zoomed into the thick of the action, panning out again to take a broader view once it’s done. In many ways I actually think it’s better than LOTR, although because you don’t spend as much time with any individual characters, you don’t really get to care about them very much. I suppose the main difference is that LOTR is written more or less in present tense, while The Silmarillion is ancient history and knows it.

              Overall it’s as interesting as anything Greek mythology ever produced, and in many ways more as it’s not something anyone’s ever supposed to actually believe in, apart from the characters in the book itself. As with C S Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, there are books available that compare Middle Earthian mythology to biblical events – there are indeed many similarities, off the top of my head the fact that Melkor was initially an angelic creature turned bad (Satan), Sauron was evil but could (at first) appear to be beautiful and good (Satan again), Gandalf was sent from another land (Valinor) to help save mankind, appeared to have been defeated but returned in a glorified state (Jesus), the Elves being cast out of Valinor (Garden of Eden), etc… I’m not really sure how intentional / coincidental these similarities are, but I don’t think it would really affect your enjoyment of reading this book either way. It adds another angle of interest if you have a knowledge of the bible, but in reality the book stands up as a story to be read and enjoyed, and not as a biblical commentary. It’s not a fiction-oriented Vine’s Expository. But it’s interesting comparing events, all the same. Perhaps because both Tolkein and Lewis were Christian apologists (as well as being contemporaries and "inklings" -members of the writers' club of that name), there is more tolerance among certain groups about the use of magic in their books, as opposed to the vehement opposition to, for instance, Harry Potter.

              (Since originally writing that paragraph, a knowledgeable reader has posted a comment on my LOTR review stating that Tolkein was a Christian apologist, so I guess the many similarities between biblical events and those set out as Middle Earth’s mythology are not merely coincidental).

              Tolkein overall shows just as much flare for creative prose and description as he does in his other books, and his versatility shows through in the fact that, while all enjoyable, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and LOTR are completely different in style. The Silmarillion is very fast, a completely fictional mythology (with most others you never quite know how much is fact and how much is fiction), and it’s breathtaking stuff. It doesn’t particularly matter which order you read the books in – I’ve read all of them more than once anyway, it doesn’t spoil any of the stories to know what happened before or after them.

              Overall

              If you liked LOTR, you’ll love this

              If you found LOTR too slow, you’ll probably like this a lot more

              If you like fantasy and / or action-oriented adventure stories, you’ll like this.

              If you’re looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, you may well like this too.

              And in case you hadn’t guessed yet, I liked this!




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                24.07.2002 04:19
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                This is probably not the place to begin an acquaintance with Mr Tolkien?s work. Don?t get me wrong. I think it is a fine book. It is one of my favourite books of all time, but is not very welcoming to the uninitiated. Many people enthralled by the excitement and storytelling of the Lord of the Rings have read (or started to read) the Silmarillion and have been acutely disappointed. ?So many strange names and places?; they cry. The Silmarillion is more like Norse Mythology than a novel. SYNOPSIS The Silmarillion actually contains 5 different pieces. In order of appearance these are: AINULINDALE ? A story of how Eru made the world out of the singing of the Ainur (the powers) and how some of the powers entered the World. The rebellion of Melkor (the Devil) during the Song and the introduction of evil and suffering. THE VALAQUENTA ? a description of the Powers that control Middle Earth under the rule of Eru ? ?the One? (God, the Prime Being). THE SILMARILLION PROPER (THE QUENTA) We?ll come to this in a moment. THE FALL OF NUMENOR ? Some of the human heroes of the first age are allowed to settle in a fantastic island westward of all other human lands. There they achieve the peak of the human condition.They even defeat Sauron (Melkor?s Chief Lieutenant) But pride and fear of death leads to their fall. They listen to the captive Sauron?s lies and rebel against the Powers. Numenor is destroyed and all the Numenoreans killed except for a few who had fled the island or were living on the Mainland. The largest group of escapees had not rebelled against the Powers. Led by Elendil they fled the anticipated vengeance. Their descendents founded the Kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. THE RINGS OF POWER AND THE THIRD AGE ? This gives a little more of the background to the Lord of the Rings. It describes the Making of the Rings of Power by Celebrimbor and the Smiths of Eregion and Sauron?s betrayal and destruction of them with the One Ring.
                The Silmarillion tells the story of the First Age of Middle Earth when all was new and Elves and Men had only recently awoken. It describes the Creation of the World and the primeval struggle between the Powers (also called Valar) and Melkor (later called Morgoth). It describes Aule?s (the Power of Earth) impatient creation of the Dwarves and Eru?s grace to him that they should be given life and the gift of Ents to Yavanna (the Power of Animals and Plants). Melkor is eventually defeated and imprisoned by the Powers. The Elves awake in the East of Middle Earth. They are summoned to Valinor (home of the Powers) for their own safety. Many go, some do not. Those that remained were called the Dark Elves. Most of the three peoples of the Elves, the Vanyar, the Noldor and the Teleri undertake a long march to the Western shores of Middle Earth losing some stragglers on the way. The Noldor and Vanyar are transported first by Ulmo (Power of Water) and Osse (Lord of the Seas) his vassal. The Teleri come later and their leader Elwe is lost to them. He is enchanted by Melian (one of the lesser powers) and they wed. Under the name Thingol he rules a great kingdom in Middle Earth In Valinor all is peace and light. However after a time Melkor is released due to the clemency of the Powers. He poisons the minds of the Noldor and especially that of Feanor son Finwe Lord of the Noldor. Then he destroys the Two Trees the sources of light in Valinor and steals the Silmarils the greatest gems of all time made by Feanor. He then flees to Middle Earth. The Noldor want to pursue him but the Valar refuse them in the confusion. The Noldor rebel against the Powers and seek to return to Middle Earth. To do so they steal the ships of the Teleri killing many of them. In Middle Earth they find many Orcs and other evil creatures of Morgoth as they call Melkor. Thingol already has been at war with the servants of the Dark Lord. The Noldor establish many strong kin
                gdom and keep Morgoth pinned in for a while but eventually his strength has grown so that he destroys them all apart from Gondolin and Nargothrond (Noldor Kingdoms that are hidden from him) and Thingol?s Kingdom of Doriath. In the mean time men have come into the Noldor lands and taken up service with them against Morgoth. The greatest of human heroes was Hurin. His son Turin however is cursed and pursued by Morgoth and his evil minions and so Turin brings about unwittingly the destruction of Nargothrond although he does slay Glaurung the father of Dragons. Turin?s cousin Tuor is sent to Gondolin with a message from Ulmo the Power of Water that Gondolin and it?s king Turgon should rise up and attack Morgoth with his help. They are too afraid however and by treachery their city is also overthrown. Doriath is also destroyed by treachery and infighting and so apart from scattered bands and a few harbours the elves seem lost. It is then that the Valar and the Elves of Valinor return to Middle Earth and vanquish Melkor but much of the land is destroyed in the process. There are other tales in here also such as the love story of Beren and Luthien and how they recovered a Silmaril from Morgoth. And the process of how Feanor and his sons are destroyed one by one by their lust for the Silmarils. CONTENT This book was actually put together in its final form by Christopher Tolkien as his Father died without completing a final version (he had worked on it all his adult life). Christopher used his fathers extensive papers later published in the History of Middle Earth (a 12 volume collection of all Tolkien?s unpublished writings and drafts) This book is fascinating for those who want more background to the stories in the Lord of the Rings. If you skipped the Appendices this book is almost certainly not for you. Lots of names and family trees and maps and so on and so on. STYLE High and mighty is possibl
                y the best way of putting it. The style is sparse but powerful and if you enjoy your language old and stark and noble you should love this. REREADABILITY I can reread this endlessly as there is so much here and the stories are so compelling in their intensity. Having said that if you have enjoyed these better to go on to the full version of conflicting and changing manuscripts given by Christopher Tolkien in the 12 volume History of Middle Earth (including the Lost Tales and so on). ACCESSIBILITY. As I say not the best place to start. But if you like this on its own well done!

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                  01.05.2002 01:35
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                  The power and beauty of the recent Peter Jackson adaptation of the classic J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the ring has bought a renewed interest in Tolkien’s work. Not only is the interest focusing on the classic ‘Trilogy’ but also there is a certain amount of interest in ‘The Silmarillion’. Aside from the Hobbit, and the Lost Tales, Tolkien devoted much of his life to creating a ‘real’ world; to ensure this came to fruition he continually amended and updated legends, myths and tales that make up the lore of Middle Earth. The importance of this book isn’t really evident unless you take a deep look at both books together. The imagery that essentially fills in many gaps in Lord of the Rings (LOTR), and the story telling that accounts for all that happened earlier in this imaginary land of dwarves, elves, orcs and men serve to propel LOTR into a different level, making it become even more important and complete. The attention to detail is amazing as you are inundated with data, including some detailed family trees of many of the major characters from LOTR. The Silmarillion was edited by Tolkien’s son Christopher . Piecing together over sixty years of work, Christopher has tried to meld together a tapestry that often does not fit. Many parts of the original stories were not entirely complete or indeed were inconsistent with other parts of the book. The culminating piece of work has been published several times, the latest still having a few holes and errors, but on the whole the legends and myths are very conclusive. The book is a mixture of Legends and myths that are hinted at in LOTR. Reading a little like the bible, we start of with ‘Ainulindale’, which is a creation myth explaining much about the beginnings of Middle Earth (you could almost insert this into Genesis!). We proceed to ‘Valaquenta’ a voracious Elvan account of the main Powers
                  (Valar and Maiar); we then proceed to ‘The Silmarillion’ essentially telling the tales of individuals who effect the struggle between the Powers. And finally we end with a couple of short legends that help bridge the gap between ‘The Silmarillion’ and LOTR; the most prominent and perhaps important of these being ‘Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age’ The Silmarillion is a very serious book and is harder to read and perhaps more difficult to get into than LOTR; this is perhaps due to the ‘epic’ quality of the legends and that it is more a history than a story telling. Tolkien concentrates on the meaning of the legends and attempts to bind them together to form a complete history rather than concentrating on rich characters and high adventure. There is imagery and characterization in many of the tales, however these are secondary to the main purpose of the book. The main tale, i.e. The Silmarillionn includes some fantastic characters. Melkor (or Morgoth – LOTR uses this name many times) is a powerful and evil ‘devil’ type figure that is far beyond his successor Sauron. Tolkien uses his skills to build the imagery including such amazing and cunning beasts as Glaurung, the great dragon of Melkor. Numerous characters are entwined in the plot as they struggle against a dark destiny; they do not stand out like Gandalf or Frodo and do not have many idiosyncrasies; these characters are not quite complete, as Tolkien does not develop many of the characters in this volume. . As with much of LOTR there is much reference to the music and poetry of the land; this forms a major part of the history of Middles Earth and perhaps tries to explain the importance of the music that is prevalent in LOTR. From very early on in LOTR, from the initial pleasantries of the hobbits, to the magical encounter with Tom Bombadil we realize that music and poetry is tied to the very
                  essence of Middle Earth. The Silmarillion raises this to a different level as music and poetry seemingly becomes tied to the histories and Legends making them perhaps more mystical and a little less real. The prevalence of poetry and the style of writing, as if the book were written by 4th century monks, make The Silmarillion a very difficult book to start; once started you will finish it but it will not be easy. You will find that you cannot quite grasp the reason for the book as it often seems like a mismatched history that doesn’t quite meld together. However, combined with LOTR and other works (such as Lost Tales, The Hobbit etc) it does serve to provide a rich World that has a depth of history and legends that serve to make it more real than any fantasy novel that you will ever read. Regardless of the few inconstancies that you will encounter, the general attention to detail that links all of Tolkien’s Middle Earth are quite simply fantastic. This volume will definitely not appeal to all readers; some will feel this is an essential read if you really want to immerse yourself in Tolkien’s world; some will say it is too boring; some will use it for Roleplaying reference. For me it answered many of the unanswered questions from LOTR; it completed many of the legends that were hinted at and it helped me understand a little more about Middle Earth.

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                    21.02.2002 02:29

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                    Needs a great deal of attention, but might well repay the effort - Advantages: fills in the historical background, extremely detailed - Disadvantages: sometimes extremely dense, not a bedtime read!

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                    15.05.2001 19:38
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                    • "too complex"

                    Most people have read or heard of may be even seen Lord of the Rings. There are many references in LOR to ancient history of middle earth. The Silmarillion tells the story of those early years; How middle earth was formed, how the Orcs came to be and there link to the Elves, the war between Morgoth and the Vanya. The Silmarillion is a collection of stories centred round the main heroes as mentioned in LOR such as Elrond and Galadriel, Isildor, Beren and Luthien. Many villians also are mentioned like the nasty Ungollient horrible spider that eats people. Morgoth and Sauron are also described and their beginnings explained. The illustrations which are featured through out the book are sensational. The book is real quality. The stories however, are somtimes too intense and it can get difficult to remember who is who as there are so many characters mentioned. It isn't a book you can casually read it requires some concentration and imagination. Despite this because of the subject matter you will probably keep coming back to it until you remember all the main characters. When you the read LOR again you will have a better appreciation of the amazing world Tolkien has created. The only negative aspects i can pick out are that the evil characters really are evil. I got a real dread for this big spider who devoured people. I actually had nightmares about it so i stopped reading it for a while. Theres also a tale which involves incest which i thought was unpleasant and it left me feeling awful. I would not recommend the book to kids. In fact i dont recommend the book at all which might seem odd since i am a Tolkien fan. There are some stories i liked i found the fall of the Noldor elves stirring and i wondered if Tolkien got a lot of his ideas from the Bible. Unfortuneately i can't recommend it.

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                  • Product Details

                    Recounts the creation and early history of Tolkien's Middle-Earth.