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The Silmarillion

J.R.R. Tolkien's mythopoeic pre-history of the Elves in Middle-earth.

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Before there was the One Ring there was the Silmaril

  • Sep 23, 2004
Pros: Wow.

Cons: Whoa, confusing...

The Bottom Line: It's going to take more than one reading to get everything in this book - but it's worth it!

As usual, Tolkien's past work comes alive.

If you ever wanted to know how Middle Earth came to be (as well as it's inhabitants) then The Silmarillion will tell you. In a way, it is almost like the Bible of Middle Earth and Beleriand.

The book is broken down into several different sections. These sections are Ainulindalë (The Music of the Ainur), Valaquenta (Account of the Valar), Quenta Silmarillion (History of the Silmarils) with the appendix of Akallabêth (The Downfall of Númenor) and one final piece, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.

Ainulindalë is the very beginning. It begins with Eru, or Ilúvatar (to be blunt, he is like God) who makes the Ainur (the Holy Ones), each one being a part of him. They are like lesser gods. Ainulindalë deals with the Ainur and Ilúvatar and the creation of Eä (the Universe) and Arda (Earth). This is done through the music the Ainur sings, and also visible are the beginnings of conflict between the Ainur and Melkor, one of the Ainur who desires to be like Ilúvatar (and resembles Satan further in the future).

Note: Though I refer to Ilúvatar here as God and Melkor to Satan, I am in not trying to suggest Tolkien meant this or anything else. I am simply giving you a something familiar to compare these characters to.

Valaquenta is a short section with small subheadings of "Account of the Valar and Maiar according to the lore of the Eldar, Of the Valar, Of the Maiar" and "Of the Enemies." The first piece is a brief summary of what has just been read, Ainulindalë. "Of the Valar" describes the Ainur who entered the Earth, thus their name becoming the Valar. It discusses each of the Valar by name, what they do on Earth, and other tidbits of information. Though Melkor descended onto Earth with them, he is no longer counted among the Valar, and no one speaks of him. "Of the Maiar" deals with gods even lesser than the Valar. The Maiar are the Valar’s servants and helpers. Here brief pieces are written on them. "Of the Enemies" discusses Melkor, who is forever after known as Morgoth through the words of the Elves. He was given great power and knowledge by Ilúvatar, but because of his desires to rule and gain power, they were taken for granted. Here is written about his frightening greatness and how Maiar were drawn to him from it, and this is what Sauron is – a Maiar. Blarogs, demons of terror and fire served him also.

Quenta Silmarillion (History of the Silmarils) is broken up into 24 chapters, each dealing with a specific topic. The events go in chronological order, but sometimes there are so many names of places and people (sometimes multiple names of one person or place) to remember, it can feel as though you’re going in circles. This is the meat of The Silmarillion. Here you will learn about The Beginning of Days, The Coming of the Elves (Elves are also known as the Firstborn because they came before Men), how Dwarves were made, the doings of Morgoth (Melkor), and a long story on the Elf Fëanor and how his creations, the Silmarils, jewels that held the beauty and light of the two trees of the Valar, became a curse. These Silmarils are the reason for Elven kinslaying, wars between Elves, Men, and Morgoth, and the reason Dwarves and Elves hate each other. Also included are many other wars dealing with Morgoth and his servants against Elves, Men, and Dwarves, and occasionally the Valar who step in to put down Morgoth. Afterward, you will read how things came to an end…and yet not so.

Akallabêth (The Downfall of Númenor) is a long, detailed explanation on just what the title says – the downfall of the kingdom of Númenor. From its beginning to its end, you will find out why Númenor was created and why it was destroyed.

Finally there is Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age. This is simply a shortened version (a very shortened version!) of The Lord of the Rings with a little bit of prehistory to explain the reasons for the aforesaid book to have occurred.

After this are various tables and pieces of information. These include Genealogies (four of them), a table of the different forms of Elves (that’s right, they’re not all exactly the same!), Pronunciation lists, an Index of Names, and an appendix of Quenya and Sindarin names (Elvish names). In this book are also two maps for you to look at and perhaps use as you read.

This book contains stories of death, life, rebirth, betrayal, and true love. Most notably (as the title denotes) is the love between Beren and Luthien, found in the Quenta Silmarillion. Their love is many times referred to when it comes to Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Rings. A Human and an Elf coming together against seemingly impossible odds to eventually live happily ever after - whether that be in death or life.

The Silmarillion is so rich in detail and information it is hard to even begin describing how amazing it is to see such worlds and people come to life through Tolkien's hand. It is without much dialogue, and the dialogue that does exist is within the paragraphs and not as a usual story. Though it make take some time to read, and maybe even a few times through, it's worth it. And besides, if you want to know even more information when reading The Lord of the Rings, then this is the only way to get it.

If you want to know a lot more about the third age, to take a gander at my review of The Lord of the Rings, where it all began.



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More The Silmarillion reviews
review by . July 23, 2010
I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend, i thought it looked and sounded good since i absolutely love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I'm really sad to say how mistaken i was. This book was dull, slow, and nearly impossible to get involved in reading. Its long drawn out lackluster chapters had me literally falling asleep at several points. It totally lacked the long loved Tolkien story telling. It was super hard to follow and even harder to understand even at the end. It took …
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
If you liked LOtR and The Hobbit, there is a chance you will dig this. If you enjoy mythological epics like the Finn's Kalevala or the Prose Edda, you will certainly like Tolkien's Silmarillion. To truly enjoy this tale, you have to have a bit of the historian's pleasure in arcane detail.
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
A bit slow and ponderous, it can be tough to wade through this book. It's an excellent example of an epic mythology, though, and fans of Tolkein's world will appreciate this legendary prehistory.
Quick Tip by . July 17, 2010
It is kind of tough the wade through but is past worthwile for the big Lord of the Rings fans.
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
Awesome book....a lot of the backstory is written is a bit dry, but I like it.
Quick Tip by . June 21, 2010
Well husbands fav. book.
Quick Tip by . June 03, 2010
review by . August 08, 2000
"The Silmarillion" is to "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" what the books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) are to the Gospels. While it is certainly possible (indeed, probable) to obtain a certain understanding about the life and ministry of Jesus by reading the Gospels and ignoring the entire Old Testament, one obtains a much fuller vision of the meaning of the Gospels if one has an understanding of the Old Testament.This analogy fits very well with the relationship …
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Age: 27 Currently: Freelancing my butt off and querying my other novel, Blood for Wolves. Who likes seriously factured fairy tales? =D      Like books? Then take it from a real, live … more
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About this book


The Silmarillion is a collection of J. R. R. Tolkien's mythopoeic works, edited and published posthumously by his son Christopher Tolkien in 1977, with assistance from Guy Gavriel Kay,who later became a noted fantasy writer. The Silmarillion, along with J. R. R. Tolkien's other works, forms a comprehensive, yet incomplete, narrative that describes the universe of Middle-earth within which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place.
After the success of The Hobbit, and prior to the publication of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's publisher requested a sequel to The Hobbit, and Tolkien sent them an early draft of The Silmarillion. But through a misunderstanding, the publisher rejected the draft without fully reading it, with the result that Tolkien began work on "A Long Expected Party", the first chapter of what he described at the time as "a new story about Hobbits", which became The Lord of the Rings.
The Silmarillion comprises five parts. The first part, Ainulindalë, tells of the creation of , the "world that is". Valaquenta, the second part, gives a description of the Valar and Maiar, the supernatural powers in Eä. The next section, Quenta Silmarillion, which forms the bulk of the collection, chronicles the history of the events before and during the First Age, including the wars over the Silmarils which gave the book its title. The fourth part, Akallabêth, relates the history of the Downfall of ...
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Editor: Christopher Tolkien
Author: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (J.R.R. Tolkien), Christopher Tolkien
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Adventure, Classic Literature
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, Ballantine Books, Houghton Mifflin
Date Published: 1977
Format: Novel
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