The Silmarillion, Engl. ed.
Transcends fantasy to become a piece of literature.
|von John R. R. Tolkien|
I first read this book about 12 years ago. Since then, I've read many great fantasy works (Jordan, G. Kay, Feist, Martin, Eddings, Brooks, Zimmer-Bradley). I've also read much mythology and medieval romance (Mallory, Greek/Norse Myths, Dante, Piers Plowman, etc.) The Silmarillion equals or tops anything else without question.
This isn't a novel, it's an epic tragedy. Approach it with this in mind and it rewards well. Though the writing is inconsistent, the poetry of the stories and, in many cases, the beauty of the language combine to make the experience deeper than any other fantasy out there. The opening passage of the book, describing the creation of the world in music, is a masterpiece in its own right. The subsequent history of the elves, with the inevitable corruption of the world as the major theme, is a fitting fulfillment to the promise of the opening lines. Technically, Tolkien might not have been as good a writer as many others, but the sheer force of his vision over the course of his life has left us a true piece of literature.
The majestic and sorrowful history of Middle-earth..
"The Silmarillion" is a must read for anyone who wants to learn about the rich history of Middle-earth. If you've ever wondered where the phrases and history talked about in "The Lord of the Rings" come from and mean, then this is for you.
At the same time, this is not an easy book to read. It can be slow and the number of places and names (many of them alternate names for names already mentioned), can have you spending most of your time flipping to the index in the back.
But if you keep with it, you'll be rewarded with an expansive and amazing view of Middle-earth.
"The Silmarillion" is actually five stories in one.
Ainulindale, the Music of the Ainur, deals with the creation of Middle-earth.
Valaquenta, Account of the Valar, shows how the Gods and Godesses of Middle-earth came to be, including their brethren the Mair (of which Gandalf is a member). Valaquenta also lays the groundwork for the betrayal that Melkor would exact on his fellow Valar, forever after being called Morgoth (the first Dark Lord) by the Elves.
The Quenta Silmarillion is the largest and most detailed of the stories. Herein lies the story of the beginning days, the coming of the Elves, the making of the Silmarils by Feanor, and their theft by Melkor. This sets off the major war of the Firs Age between the Elves and Melkor.
Two more shorter stories are included at the end. Allakabeth, the downfall of Numenor, and Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.
After these are the genealogies of the House of Finwe, the descendants of Olwe and Elwe, the House of Beor, the House of Hador and the people of Haleth. A table showing the sundering of the Elves is also included, as are notes on pronunciation, an extensive (and extremely helpful) index of names, and finally, various elements of Quenya and Sindarin names.
Combined, these stories and the indices at the end, provide a remarkable journey back in time, to the Elder days of Middle-earth. A must read. Enjoy.
My all-time favorite book
Although it lacks the beginning to end continuity of LOR, perhaps due to being edited by Christopher Tolkien, the scope and depth of the stories and the ability to truly capture the imagination of the reader is unmatched by any book I've read. I first read it when I was 11 years old and 20 years later and about 20 readings later it still makes my heart soar. When the pressures of everyday life get too great this is a great place to be transported to, and even a cynical person like myself can find it believeable. To me, the LOR is a primer for the greater tale of the 1st age of Middle-Earth, and Tolkien's vast mastery of the English language is put to wonderful use in the Silmarillion. No matter how many times I read it, it still brings me to every realm of my emotions each time. It has a strange way of seeming more real than even the best novels that are set in the world as we know it. As a lover of Greek mythology, I particularly like the early sections of the book. I think that in this day and age the idealisms in this book are sorely missed, and there many parallels to our modern day problems and the stories in this book. It reallly is so well done that it seems more like a history than a work of fiction. Although chronologically it precedes LOR it seems that it should be read 3rd, after the Hobbit and LOR, due to it's increasing scale. I've read most of the classics but to me this is the greatest literary gift that I've received.
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