Monday, January 5, 2009

The Silmarillion

Yesterday, I finished the Silmarillion, making it the second book that I have finished since 2009 has begun. I'm excited that I've finished it; it was very difficult to read, but it rewarded me with its best chapters, and it was definitely worth it. It was quite an undertaking, but I've accomplished it! I started reading it pretty early in the year, I think, shortly after I ordered it, and then I just read it when I felt like tackling the vast chapters of hard-to-read history. I know, it probably doesn't sound very appealing, right? I have a good excuse though....

I'm a Tolkien Fanatic. Tolkieologist, Tolkien Freak, whatever you want to call me.

If I'm not one yet, then I'm training to be one. :D

Tolkien even admitted that the Silmarillion could be 'nothing but hard to read.' I'm not sure of his exact wording, but it was something like that. The book includes Ainulindale, The Music of the Ainer, and the Valaquenta, an account of the Valar and Maiar. The biggest part of the book, Quenta Silmarillion makes up the largest body of it, and that was where the most interesting stuff was. My favorite tales was that of Thingol and Melian, the parents of Luthien (if you like Tolkien you should have heard of Luthien Tinuviel) and also the story of Maeglin, The story of Beren and Luthien, and The Tale of Turin Turambar, which is a short account of the book The Children of Hurin (which I got for Christmas. I'm really excited about reading it now.)

Some of the Silmarillion was really boring, and I don't think it's a favorite among Tolkien fans. Most of the tales end in the characters becoming crazed and doing tragic things because of the hardships they've gone through, such as killing their best friends when they thought they were enemies. One character has to cut his friends' hand off to save him. None of them end very happily... which is probably among the main reasons why most people don't really care for it. Of course I liked it; I just like Tolkien.

It lacks the warmth and charm of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, arguably Tolkien's best works, but I had better shut up. I haven't read all of his works yet. :D

I remember reading somewhere that The Silmarillion is, to the characters of LOTR what LOTR is to us. Great legends and stories, incredible, amazing stories. The Silmarillion is a book holding how Middle-Earth and its people came to be. After reading the Silmarillion, you will understand the tales that characters in LOTR allude to all the time. Following the Quenta Silmarillion, there is an account of the Fall of Numenor, Tolkien's Atlantis that was based on a dream he had over and over when he was younger, and a dream that he passed to his son, and also to his character Faramir. The Fall of Numenor is titled Akallabeth, which gives a glimpse of Isildur before they are doomed to live on Middle-Earth. After Akallabeth is a detailed account of how the Rings of Power came to be, what happened when Sauron made the One Ring, the battle for it, and more of the history from the time that Isildur cut it from Sauron's hand to the time that Gollum found it. That was really enjoyable to read. You get a lot more background that way. Akallabeth and 'Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age,' give a lot of information about Sauron as well, and his rise to the Dark Throne and how he became the Dark Lord.

'Of old there was Sauron the Maia. whom the Sindar in Beleriand named Gorthaur. In the beginning of Arda Melkor seduced him to his allegiance, and he became the greatest and most trusted of the servents of the Enemy, and the most perilous, for he could assume many forms, and for long if he willed he could still appear noble and beautiful, so as to deceive all but the most wary.'

That's the beginning paragraph of the account of "The Rings of Power and the Third Age." I always liked clues and hints to the rules of Tolkien's world. In the chapter about Beren and Luthien, there was a wolf named Huan that helped them. He was a really great, big wolf that was important to the story.

'Now the chief of the wolf-hounds that followed Celegorm was named Huan. He was not born in Middle-Earth, but came from the Blessed Realm.....' 'But Huan the hound was true of heart, and the love of Luthien had fallen upon him in the first hour of their meeting; and he grieved at her captivity. Therefore he came often to her chamber; and at night he lay before the door, for he felt that evil had come to Nargothrond. Luthien spoke often to Huan in her lonliness, telling of Beren, who was the friend of all birds and beasts that did not serve Morgoth; and Huan understood all that was said. For he comprehended the speech of all things with voice; but it was permitted to him thice only ere his death to speak with words.'

Huan was among my favorite parts in the Beren and Luthien story! All in all, The Silmarillion was really good. Certainly not as good as The Lord of the Rings, but it was definitely worth reading. I wish they would make a hardback with Alan Lee illustrations. I think they have a hardback with illustrations by John Howe; but I like Alan Lee's Tolkien stuff better than Howe's. I like how The Silmarillion is written in old, medieval romantic language and style. That made it more authentic. I'm really excited to move on to other Tolkien books now, such as The Book of Lost Tales Part One, The Children of Hurin, and rereading The Hobbit and the LOTR Trilogy. Yeah, I'm actually planning on reading them AGAIN this year. :D I'm excited about it too.

Here ends the SILMARILLION. If it has passed from the high and beautiful to darkness and ruin, that was of old the fate of Arda Marred; and if any change shall come and the Marring be amended, Manwe and Varda may know; but they have not revealed it, and it is not declared in the dooms of Mandos.


All quotes belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and/or Christopher Tolkien, the editor. Oh yeah. Hi January book of the month. :D


Mythopoeia said...

Good for you! The Silmarillion is a beautiful book, one of my all time favorites.

I think the mistake most readers make going into reading The Silmarillion is that they expect it to be a novel, which it is not! It is a full mythology, which is at once more frightening and more rewarding than a novel because it leaves so much up to you. I mean, a chapter of The Silmarillion alone holds enough to make at least a full novel usually, and yet it's a story told in a few streamlined sentences.

Tolkien's great dream was to create a mythcycle to inspire other people. That's what the Silmarillion really is. You should leave it full of wild and beautiful names, characters, battles, songs . . .

Heh, I got carried away. But you get the gist of it. Oh, and as for other Tolkien works: The Lays of Beleriand are excellent, as is the 'History of Middle-earth' series which Christopher edited. You can find all sorts of jewels of information there which purists flaunt: Maedhros had red hair, Fingon braided his own black hair with gold, the youngest son of Feanor's alternate death . . . yeah. Everyone's Quenyan names, too, and nicknames even. But you really have to be dedicated to read those, because they're full of multiple drafts and Christopher's commentaries, not novels at all.

Still, you should read Finrod's discussion of mortality with Andreth sometime. It's magical.

Anna said...

I thought The Silmarillion was great!

Every Tolkien book there is is on my long term reading list. I plan on reading the Children of Hurin next!

After that, I'll probably have a go with The Book of Lost Tales, Part the First. :D

Tolkien is brilliant. I'm a fanatic. I really am.