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The Silmarillion (2nd Edition) by J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (Editor) Review

Specs from BarnesandNoble.com:


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, a work whose origins stretch back to a time long before The Hobbit.

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.

This second edition features a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien describing his intentions for the book, which serves as a brilliant exposition of his conception of the carlier Ages of Middle-earth.

This is the story of the First Age, the ancient drama to which characters in “The Lord of the Rings” look back.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618126989
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/15/2001
  • Series: History of Middle-Earth Series
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 33,946
  • Product dimensions: 7.76 (w) x 5.38 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Score: 8 out of 10

Fantastic book! Gives the creation account of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, very similar to our own, with Eru, the One (God), also called Ilúvitar, creating Eä (the universe) and Arda (the world) with music from the Ainur (angelic beings but Tolkien was very leery of calling them outright angels).  One of the Ainu (singular form of Ainur, Tolkien was a master philologist) named Melkor (Lucifer, later named Satan) wanted to sing about himself and his own glory above the good and glory of Ilúvitar and then take control of life and bend it towards his own domination, but in doing so was the cause of such woe in the world and proved only to bring more glory and praise to Ilúvitar for the good that this ill instead was used for.

That is only the beginning of a long and varied narrative of the early ages of Middle Earth, taking us to when the Elves first arrived and were taught by the Ainur about craftsmanship and knowledge while battling the evils of Morgoth (Melkor was renamed this after his attacking, destruction, torturing, and malicious deeds committed in Arda) and his armies (usually creatures that he has corrupted and turned toward evil ends).  The main story centers around three jewels called the Silmarils, created by Fëanor (a great elf) using light from the Two Trees of Valinor (the greatest and most beautiful lights in the world, before being destroyed by Morgoth/Melkor).  Morgoth takes these jewels because he wants the light for himself so no one else can share in them and sets in motion an age-long struggle that creates both great heroes and villains.

The Good:

Love the epic feel of this book and some of the amazing feats which go on, both by good and evil forces, within this tale.  We have great stories which follow a nation and then some stories focus on a singular character or a family, which gives both a small and great picture of Middle Earth before more of the known events, such as the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.  Some of the great stories are those of Beren and Lúthien, the first union of elf and man, whose love inspired legendary deeds, and Fingolfin, who took on Morgoth in single combat.  Some of these tales end in bliss, but others in tragedy, all superbly written.

The Bad:

There are many names to keep track of but in this Second Edition, there is an index of names in the back which you can quickly flip to if you need a refresher on who is who.  The same character can also have multiple names which can be confusing, once again all in the index.  I wish there was more speaking because at times the book goes through everything happening but then there isn’t much development that we can see and feel between the characters.  This doesn’t happen all the time but its pretty frequent.

Other Thoughts:

This book was published after J.R.R. Tolien’s death but remained one of his most important works and contained many legends and tales spoken about in both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.  At times, not an easy read but here are some pointers:

Check out the Tolkien Professor’s series on the Silmarillion at tolkienprofessor.com or the podcast of the episodes on iTunes.  He has great chats about the characters and wonderful insight into all things Tolkien.

Check out The Silmarillion Project at silmarillionproject.tumblr.com for some fantasy art which can give you an idea of what the characters might look like and help your imagination some.

Good luck and enjoy!


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