Book Review: The Silmarillion

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Title: The Silmarillion
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (Editor)
Publication Date: 1977, 1985
Publishing House: Del Rey Books

This is not so much a review of The Silmarillion as reaction. I have tried to read this book several times over the years, a couple of times when I was younger and once at the start of 2020. Here at the end of 2021 I managed to make my way through it and really ended up loving it. I have been a fan of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings since I was in middle school.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Silmarillion is Tolkien’s first book and his last. Long preceding in its origins The Lord of the Rings, it is the story of the First Age of Tolkien’s world, the ancient drama to which characters in The Lord of the Rings look back, and in which some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part. The Silmarillion was begun in 1917, and Tolkien worked on it, changed it, and enlarged it throughout his life. Edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien, the book finally appeared four years after the author’s death.

If you follow me on Twitter you probably saw at least a portion of my Silmarillion journey. If you have not read this book before let me give you little bit of background. Tolkien pasted away in September 1973; his son, Christopher Tolkien, edited together his father’s work and published The Silmarillion posthumously for the first time in 1977. Since then a number of other works have also been published. The last and probably the final book was released this year, The Nature of Middle-Earth. This final text was published in 2021 by J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (Editor) after the death of Christopher Tolkien in January 2020.

This book starts with the creation of the world by Eru and the Valar via song. Something to know about The Silmarillion in particular is that there are multiple names for EVERYTHING in the various languages that Tolkien created plus English; he was a linguist among other things. I’m going to use the most common names for things in this review, don’t @ me.

The Elves are the first children on Eru, they awake first to a starlit world. Most of the Elves make their way from Middle-Earth to the West to Aman, the Undying Lands, home of the Valar. After a bit of back and forth, and some imprisonment Morgoth (the dark lord and bad Valar from the First Age), turns the Elves against the (good) Valar. Many of the Elves then do some really ridiculous and evil things that haunts almost all of the Elves that leave Aman to go back to Middle-Earth until they die or the end of the first age. The exception being Galadriel, who is not allowed back until the end of the Third Age.

Most authors have a lot of background history on the worlds they create, very few of those background things get published or are so well done. This book is 75% the First Age, 20% Second Age, and 5% Third Age. All of the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings occur in the Third Age. Fun fact there are MASSIVE shifts in the geography of the world over the ages. I have a Middle-Earth atlas and I had to actively use it while reading. I did not have to use my Middle-Earth dictionary. Yes, I’m huge nerd and already had both.

Some take always after having finished this book:

  1. The Elves of the First Age are not the wise beings of the Third Age. They learned through a LOT of trial and death.
  2. Very few if any of the men (humans or Elves) have any emotional maturity. They are all so reactive to everything. Granted emotionally mature heroes in epics don’t make for good stories. Odysseus from The Odyssey has similar issues.
  3. There is some beautiful imagery in this book: trees, stars, oceans, literal world building with song and I’m going to start naming my trees. Really love the name Nimloth.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. The imagination of Tolkien is absolutely fantastic. Christopher Tolkien’s work of shorting through his father’s various writings and publishing it for the world to enjoy is an epic a work as his father’s world building. I suggest this book to those who love fantasy, great world building, and The Lord of the Rings. If you have read it before I’d love to know what you though. See you in the comments and happy reading.

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