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The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
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The Silmarillion (original 1977; edition 2001)

by J.R.R. Tolkien (Author)

Series: Middle-earth (1), The Lord of the Rings (Mythology)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
30,51823776 (3.85)2 / 474
Tolkien considered The Silmarillion his most important work, and, though it was published last and posthumously, this great collection of tales and legends clearly sets the stage for all his other writing. The story of the creation of the world and of the First Age, this is the ancient drama to which the characters in The Lord of the Rings look back and in whose events some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part. The three Silmarils were jewels created by Feanor, most gifted of the Elves. Within them was imprisoned the Light of the Two Trees of Valinor before the Trees themselves were destroyed by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. Thereafter, the unsullied Light of Valinor lived on only in the Silmarils, but they were seized by Morgoth and set in his crown, which was guarded in the impenetrable fortress of Angband in the north of Middle-earth. The Silmarillion is the history of the rebellion of Feanor and his kindred against the gods, their exile from Valinor and return to Middle-earth, and their war, hopeless despite all their heroism, against the great Enemy.… (more)
Member:nijames
Title:The Silmarillion
Authors:J.R.R. Tolkien (Author)
Info:Mariner Books (2001), Edition: 2nd, 365 pages
Collections:Your library
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Work Information

The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien (1977)

  1. 241
    The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (guurtjesboekenkast, Percevan)
  2. 180
    The Children of Húrin by J. R. R. Tolkien (Jitsusama)
    Jitsusama: The Silmarillion is an essential book to better understand the occurrences surrounding the Children of Hurin. It also contains a slightly shorter version of the tale.
  3. 100
    The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (PaulBerauer)
  4. 90
    The Poetic Edda by Anonymous (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Most likely an inspiration to Tolkien. Many parallels.
  5. 101
    The Fall of Gondolin by J. R. R. Tolkien (Michael.Rimmer)
  6. 101
    Beren and Lúthien by J. R. R. Tolkien (Michael.Rimmer)
  7. 70
    The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by J. R. R. Tolkien (guurtjesboekenkast)
  8. 60
    The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two by J. R. R. Tolkien (OscarWilde87)
  9. 60
    The Book of Lost Tales, Part One by J. R. R. Tolkien (OscarWilde87)
  10. 42
    Shadow & Claw: The First Half of The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: More high-brow fantasy.
  11. 20
    The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison (Sylak)
  12. 20
    Unfinished Tales by J. R. R. Tolkien (MissBrangwen)
  13. 15
    The Rivan Codex: Ancient Texts of the Belgariad and the Malloreon by David Eddings (Ludi_Ling)
    Ludi_Ling: For those less interested in the narrative of epic fantasy fiction, and more in the mythology, history and construction of imaginary worlds, both books serve as interesting and instructive reads.
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» See also 474 mentions

English (213)  Spanish (6)  Italian (4)  Dutch (3)  French (3)  German (3)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Hungarian (1)  Slovak (1)  All languages (237)
Showing 1-5 of 213 (next | show all)
I hated this book, for awhile. An unnecessary prequel (remember The Phantom Menace folks?) and creation myth to the most wonderful books in fantasy. Then I got sucked into the whole Saga atmosphere and I devoured the last half.

There are still some problems: endless tedious lists of names and meaningless genealogies that make me think of the Old Testament, redundant names for things (this is called A, but the Elves called it B, and it was later known as Z..., philologists!).

Its obvious that this was probably a mess when Christopher Tolkien got a hold of it and felt like it needed to be published to capitalize on the hippie LoTR craze in the '70s. I'm not saying it was never meant to be published, because Tolkien did try several times (I think we know why it was constantly rejected), but the disjointed nature of the whole thing sometimes reads more like Tolkien's outline notebook for his evolving fantasy, which it probably kind of was. Heaven knows what it was like before Christopher "edited" it.

Still, there is something compelling about the whole LoTR thing that keeps even skeptics like myself enthralled when I finally manage to pick up something else by Tolkien that relates to Middle-Earth.

Its really too bad that Tolkien couldn't have chucked the whole philology thing and concentrated on finishing more of his fiction.

Oh, I forgot. What's up with that cover; the Eloi waiting for the Morlocks? ( )
  Gumbywan | Jun 24, 2022 |
Happy Tolkien Day! ( )
  profpenguin | May 3, 2022 |
I was always ambiguous toward elves. Not so here. The elves of Tolkien's First Age are, by intent, of a vastly mightier calibre than his own later elves - hence even further incomparably superior to the derived, pallid modern High Fantasy trope. Far from unworldly, distant, or annoyingly "fey", they're fearsome figures: Physically strong, imposing, forceful... & robust. Tougher, indeed earthier, than men or even dwarves. Truly the world's First Children. The First Age - their apogee - is correspondingly vivid, radiant, luminous, & the strongest component in an overall perfect masterpiece.

Perfect, because the later parts are spectacular too. At the author's personal insistence, this posthumous volume beautifully & grippingly ties together the very earliest time, of the world's creation, with First Age, Second Age (rise & fall of Númenor & Sauron's forging of the rings), & a concise but evocative summary of The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings. The latter of which famously closes not only the Third Age, but the entire, mythic era when elves walked the physical earth. ( )
  nielspeterqm | Feb 21, 2022 |
"… in which much story and song was preserved from the beginning of the world; and they made letters and scrolls and books, and wrote in them many things of wisdom and wonder in the high tide of their realm, of which all is now forgot." (pp312-3)

For many readers, even devoted fans of The Lord of the Rings, picking up The Silmarillion will be as ill-advised as taking a shortcut through the Mines of Moria. Author J. R. R. Tolkien, lauded as a great world-builder, is sometimes because of this underrated as a storyteller, and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, for all their songs and lore and digressions, are often gripping feats of storytelling. The Silmarillion, in contrast, is Tolkien in pure, bone-dry world-builder mode. Particularly in its first half, it is often a chore to read.

Written in the style of a history book, a sort of dusty compendium of the lore of Middle-earth such as Gandalf might find in the archives of Minas Tirith, The Silmarillion will be for the vast majority of readers a feat of endurance. It seems that every fifth word is one that Tolkien has made up, some place name or god or elven king, and while that's what we expect from this richest of imagined worlds, it's not balanced out by any of the storytelling relief that we got in The Lord of the Rings. Despite being a big fan of Middle-earth since my early teens, I began to regret this deep immersion in its lore, which in its bloodless prose became more and more like a waterboarding.

The Silmarillion improves in its second half (the turning point is the story of Beren and Lúthien) but, for those who have made it this far, its reputation will already have set. Nevertheless, it is this second half which redeems the dry weight of the first, and shows just how impressive Tolkien's achievement was. It's not enough to save the book from a middling rating, on the grounds of personal enjoyment, but it's enough to ensure I'll look back on it with begrudging admiration. That in itself is impressive, considering how fatigued I felt in the doldrums of the first half, not knowing my Manwës from my Maiars from my Mandos.

You see, the initial flaw of Tolkien's lore-dump here is its lack of literary depth. It's a dry litany of names and events, all with an impressive internal consistency but, absent storytelling, characterisation or theme, with nothing for the reader to sink their teeth into. Towards the end, I gratefully seized upon a passage where a mortal Man questions why Elves get to go to a land of immortality beyond the sea, whilst Men are required to show "a blind trust, and a hope without assurance, knowing not what lies before us in a little while" (pg. 316). This meditation on death, faith and the prospect of heaven is the sort of deep sounding which the stories of the previous 300 pages were sorely lacking.

However, as this shifting encyclopaedia of invented lore takes its final form, we begin to see the genius of its not-so-blind watchmaker. The gears Tolkien has fashioned are all shown to have fit neatly into place. You see, The Silmarillion gives the backstory of Middle-earth, from its creation by the gods through the long reign of the Elves and the emergence of Morgoth, the Satan-like 'Enemy' (Sauron, the later antagonist of The Lord of the Rings, is merely a lieutenant of his). It ends with a summary of the events of The Lord of the Rings (as are "elsewhere told", Tolkien writes with severe understatement on page 319). These events herald the end of the Elves' time on Middle-earth – as well as the other fantasy creatures like orcs, dragons and trolls – and the emergence of Men. All well and good, you might think, for nerds; but what does it have to do with the price of fish?

Well, what becomes clear in this second half of the book is that Middle-earth is not merely inspired by our world and its myths, but is meant to be our world in an earlier iteration. You might look at The Silmarillion's prose and think of the stentorian tones of the Bible (though The Silmarillion is sorely lacking in that other book's lyricism). You might look at Morgoth and think of Satan; at the Valar or the Elves and think of angels; at Avallónë and think of Avalon from the legend of King Arthur; at the drowning of the isle of Númenor and think of Atlantis (Númenor is said to be known as "Atalantë in the Eldarin tongue" (pg. 337)). And you'd be right. Tolkien certainly pulls from many of the Western myths and legends he was fond of, from Christian cosmogony to Nordic sea-myth and Arthurian mist.

But it's more than that. Middle-earth is often characterised as a parlour game that got out of hand; a story created by an Oxford professor to indulge and expand upon his love of creating languages, with hobbits and rings of power created almost as an afterthought so that Tolkien could giddily create some new Elven noun and verbify it in both past and present tense. The dry majority of The Silmarillion seems to confirm this, but the final chapters ultimately give the lie to it. Read the final passages of the 'Akallabêth', the second to last chapter of The Silmarillion, which detail that Atlantean fall of the isle of Númenor. After this fall, which incorporates a Noah-like flood, Men wander the newly-rent world like the sons of Adam after they were barred from Eden, in search of echoes of the old. The world was flat then, in the stories which we have spent the previous 300+ pages labouring through, and Men are longing for it again:

"Thus it was that great mariners among them would still search the empty seas, hoping to come upon the Isle of Meneltarma, and there to see a vision of things that were. But they found it not. And those that sailed far came only to the new lands, and found them like to the old lands, and subject to death. And those that sailed furthest set but a girdle about the Earth and returned weary at last to the place of their beginning; and they said: 'All roads are now bent.' Thus in after days, what by the voyages of ships, what by lore and star-craft, the kings of Men knew that the world was indeed made round, and yet the Eldar were permitted still to depart and to come to the Ancient West and to Avallónë, if they would. Therefore the loremasters of Men said that a Straight Road must still be, for those that were permitted to find it. And they taught that, while the new world fell away, the old road and the path of the memory of the West still went on, as it were a mighty bridge invisible…" (pp337-8)

In this, then, as I said, Middle-earth is meant to be our world in an earlier world-cycle, when the world was flat and before it became rounded. Atlantis, Avalon, Satan, and so on, are cast as attempts by us, in a later world-cycle, to comprehend that echo from an earlier iteration, just as those who study world myths can find Christ-like saviours and parallels between religions. Tolkien is knitting together our many disparate Western legends into a single origin. This is more than just a cool interconnectivity; the idea that our world religions and storytelling morals have common roots is an admired theory among a number of philosophers, psychologists and humanists (shown most popularly in Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces). The dryness of The Silmarillion becomes somewhat irrelevant when we consider that, absurd as it might sound at first, Tolkien has created arguably the most ambitious fictional contribution to Western mythology since Paradise Lost. Milton's book wasn't exactly an easy read either.

Tolkien's method of inventing languages, peoples and a seemingly pathological commitment to detailing his world, bear their ultimate fruit here. Not only are these final passages of the 'Akallabêth', of which the above forms only a part, arguably the finest that Tolkien ever wrote, but they also present a meticulous depth of philosophy which was not on display in the rest of The Silmarillion and, truth be told, could not really be divined in The Lord of the Rings either. The success of Tolkien's worldbuilding, widely considered to be without peer, is shown to be not in his development of convincing language, as is often supposed, or even his facility for storytelling, but in the fact that, all the time, it has been resting on these solid metaphysical foundations. Foundations which he has only now, in these few passages of the otherwise-maligned Silmarillion, allowed us to glimpse. ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Jan 16, 2022 |
If you enjoyed The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, you will love The Silmarillion. This prequel id difficult to read as it is filled with details leading up to The Hobbit. It brings to fulfillment the story which Tolkien has developed in his world. ( )
  hstanco | Jan 16, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 213 (next | show all)
At its best Tolkien's posthumous revelation of his private mythology is majestic, a work held so long and so power fully in the writer's imagination that it overwhelms the reader. Like Tolkien's other books, The Silmarillion presents a doomed but heroic view of creation that may be one of the reasons why a generation growing up on the thin gruel of television drama, and the beardless cynicism of Mad magazine, first found J.R.R. Tolkien so rich and wonderful.
added by Shortride | editTime, Timothy Foote (Oct 24, 1977)
 
If "The Hobbit" is a lesser work that the Ring trilogy because it lacks the trilogy's high seriousness, the collection that makes up "The Silmarillion" stands below the trilogy because much of it contains only high seriousness; that is, here Tolkien cares much more about the meaning and coherence of his myth than he does about these glories of the trilogy: rich characterization, imagistic brilliance, powerfully imagined and detailed sense of place, and thrilling adventure. Not that these qualities are entirely lacking here.
 

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolkien, J. R. R.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kay, GuyEditorial assistantsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tolkien, ChristopherEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adlerberth, RolandTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Agøy, Nils IvarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Domènech, LuisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dringenberg, MikeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garland, Rogersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howe, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krege, WolfgangTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Masera, RubénTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mosley, FrancisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nasmith, TedIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pekkanen, PanuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Respinti, MarcoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saba Sardi, FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuchart, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shaw, MartinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sweet, Darrell K.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The Silmarillion, now published four years after the death of its author, is an account of the Elder Days, or the First Age of the World.
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.
Quotations
"And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its utternmost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined."
Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death life that endures.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Disambiguation notice
This LT Work is for The Silmarillion, a posthumous publication of J.R.R. Tolkien's over-arching work on Middle-Earth, which includes episodes from its creation, through the First Age, and to the end of the Third Age. The Silmarillion is neither part of nor prequel to Tolkien's monumental The Lord of the Rings, which (together with The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again) tells in detail of events leading to the end of the Third Age. Please do not combine The Silmarillion with The Lord of the Rings, with any part(s) thereof, with any other Tolkien work, or with any separate part of a multi-volume edition of the complete Work. Thank you.
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Tolkien considered The Silmarillion his most important work, and, though it was published last and posthumously, this great collection of tales and legends clearly sets the stage for all his other writing. The story of the creation of the world and of the First Age, this is the ancient drama to which the characters in The Lord of the Rings look back and in whose events some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part. The three Silmarils were jewels created by Feanor, most gifted of the Elves. Within them was imprisoned the Light of the Two Trees of Valinor before the Trees themselves were destroyed by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. Thereafter, the unsullied Light of Valinor lived on only in the Silmarils, but they were seized by Morgoth and set in his crown, which was guarded in the impenetrable fortress of Angband in the north of Middle-earth. The Silmarillion is the history of the rebellion of Feanor and his kindred against the gods, their exile from Valinor and return to Middle-earth, and their war, hopeless despite all their heroism, against the great Enemy.

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A number-one New York Times bestseller when it was originally published, "The Silmarillion" is the core of J.R.R. Tolkien's imaginative writing [...] Tolkien considered "The Silmarillion" his most important work, and, though it was published last and posthumously, this great collection of tales and legends clearly sets the stage for all his other writing. The story of the creation of the world and of the First Age, this is the ancient drama to which the characters in "The Lord of the Rings" look back and in whose events some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part. The three Silmarils were jewels created by Feanor, most gifted of the Elves. Within them was imprisoned the Light of the Two Trees of Valinor before the Trees themselves were destroyed by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. Thereafter, the unsullied Light of Valinor lived on only in the Silmarils, but they were seized by Morgoth and set in his crown, which was guarded in the impenetrable fortress of Angband in the north of Middle-earth. "The Silmarillion" is the history of the rebellion of Feanor and his kindred against their gods, their exile from Valinor and return to Middle-earth, and their war, hopeless despite all their heroism, against the great Enemy.
Haiku summary
The bad Elves all die
Which is why all Elves are good
In the later books.
(hillaryrose7)

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