The Silmarillion – A Book Review

¨And it came to pass that Ilúvatar called together all the Ainur and declared to them a mighty theme, unfolding to them things greater and more wonderful than he had yet revealed; and the glory of its beginning and the splendour of its end amazed the Ainur so that they bowed before Ilúvatar and were silent.

 

Glorious Emotion

I am in the happiest state of mind.  I am so filled with contentment that I almost can’t put my happiness into words.  This is an odd way to start a book review, I know, but stay with me!  Joy is a spiritual quality claimed by all Believers that is present permanently, no matter what’s happening in our crazy world.  Happiness, on the other hand, is an earthly emotion that comes and goes, usually connected to our circumstances.

There are many things that can make someone happy: a home-cooked meal at the end of a long, grueling day; a spade, seeds, and good soil; music during an uplifting concert.  The list goes on.  Music is very high on my list of moments that bring me happiness, but a good book can bring supreme bliss as well.  Call me sentimental, but J.R.R. Tolkien achieves glorious levels of emotions for me that few other authors can compete with.

After discussing Tolkien’s books with a friend (I have one friend with whom I can discuss all things LOTR), I was convinced that I needed to finally read The Silmarillion.  As I mentioned in my recent reading update, I have been somewhat scared to start reading it in the past.  Elven-lore can be dreary and long-winded at times, and I think this was the biggest thing that kept me away.  (Silly excuses – I really enjoyed the Council of Elrond, in which we read a lot of Elven-lore.)  However, my friend talked me into reading The Simarillion, and I can’t look back now!

The Beginning of All Things

The Silmarillion begins with the beginning.  The One (who is pre-existent), Ilúvatar, creates the Ainur, the Holy Ones, who worship Him individually with song.  Gradually, as Ilúvator further illuminates Himself the Ainur come together in unity and worship Him corporately.  For a time, Ilúvatar enjoys the worshipful music made by His creation.  But the greatest of the Ainur, Melkor, begins to look into himself and a desire begins to burn within him.  He eventually begins to sing a new tune, one of his own making.  It is dissonant, and not unified with the rest of the Ainur.  Others begin to falter in their song and become distracted by Melkor’s solitary music.

Eventually, Melkor falls from fellowship with Ilúvatar and the other Ainur.  During this time of rebellion, Ilúvatar reveals to the faithful Ainur a brief vision of what would one day be Middle-Earth.  Enamored by the vision, and desiring to serve Him, most of the Ainur depart for Arda (Earth) to be bound upon it until the completion of all power and time.  The rest of The Silmarillion recounts the many trials, wars, joys, and beauties of Arda and the Ainur.

Book-worthy Chapters

My summary above is sub-par at best.  To completely summarize The Silmarillion without telling all the delicious tidbits, divulging the age-old secrets of the Elves, or letting the greatest portions of the book slip would be impossible.  So you got a summary of the first eight pages. 🙂 You’re welcome.

While I didn’t feel I could give you a full summary, I am including a brief mention of some of my favorite chapters from the book.  Each of these could have been made into books of their own (indeed, from what I’ve heard from my reading friend, Tolkien meant to turn each chapter into its own book.  Imagine that!)

  • XIX  Of Beren and Luthíen

If you pay close enough attention during the first-half of the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring movie, you will hear Aragorn mention the name Luthíen when Frodo asks what fair lady Aragorn sings of.  This Luthíen fell in love with a man, though she herself was an elf.  Beyond that, I can tell naught without ruining the beauty of the story for you.  Take it as the first reason you must pick up this book

  • XXI  Of Túrin Turambar

Túrin is the son of Húrin.  Any fellow Tolkien fans will recognize the name Húrin from the book title Children of Húrin.  That book is a larger unfolding of the events of Túrin’s life, as well as that of his sister, Níníel.  The tale is too long, too complex, and too easy to spoil for me to say anything more.  Suffice it to say, this is the second reason you need to find this book!

  • XXIII  Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin

The third reason you need to read this book is the great Elven city of Gondolin.  Hidden for ages from all except those who dwelt therein, Gondolin was supposed to be the most beautiful and glorious city the Elves ever built.  Although we don’t get nearly enough description in The Silmarillion of this beautiful city, it is still a wonder to imagine what it might have looked like.  As the city itself was great, so was it’s fall.  It is bittersweet to hear the tale, but it is an important portion of the narrative of The Silmarillion. 

These chapters are my most favorite, but I loved many of the rest as well.  I should note that these three chapters were all edited by Christopher Tolkien (J.R.R.’s son) and compiled in individual books.  I have not yet read the fuller versions, but I am quite sure they also are worth reading.

To Read or Not To Read

If you are unfamiliar with J.R.R. Tolkien, here is the only thing you need to know: he is the head master of creating plot-lines.  There is no such thing as a “plot-hole” when the pen is in his hand.  Perfectionism climbs to beautiful heights in Tolkien’s stories, but it also held Tolkien back from completely finishing several of the portions included within The Silmarillion.  Nevertheless, upon reading it, one could not guess that it was unfinished and unperfected.

Did I say Tolkien is the head master of creating plot-lines?  I forgot to mention he is lord of world-building, king of character development, and supreme ruler of language.  I’m quite sure I’m forgetting a few titles, but that is all that comes to mind at the moment . . . that being said, have you read this book, or any of Tolkien’s other titles yet?  If you have not, go RIGHT NOW!

There is no question of whether you should read this or not.  The question, my reading friend, is whether you read them today or tomorrow.

Until next adventure through Middle-Earth! 🙂

 

“But when all these things were done, and the Heir of Isildur had taken up the lordship of Men, and the dominion of the West had passed to him, then it was made plain that the power of the Three Rings also was ended, and to the Firstborn the world grew old and grey.  In that time the last of the Noldor set sail from the Havens and left Middle-earth for ever.  And latest of all the Keepers of the Three Rings rode to the Sea, and Master Elrond took there the ship that Círdan had made ready,  In the twilight of autumn it sailed out of Mithlond, until the seas of the Bent World fell away beneath it, and the winds of the round sky troubled it no more, and borne upon the high airs above the mists of the world it passed into the Ancient West, and an end was come for the Eldar of story and of song.¨

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