A few members of the TolkienForum have created a "Silmarillion Guide", but since it has grown too big and handling at TTF has become inconvenient, I have offered to host this project here.
As a first step Elennainie at TTF has compiled a MS Publisher document with the contributions so far. I have converted it into a Adobe PDF(R) document, which is now available for dowload here. -- Walter
Mathom:silguide.pdf (Size: ~1,2MB; opening or downloading it may take a while, especially on slow connections!)
And this is the text version of it:
|What is The Silmarillion? |
After the death of J.R.R. Tolkien, his son Christopher put The Silmarillion together from writings that his father had worked on throughout his life. Although Tolkien had sought to have these writings published, he was discouraged by his publisher and was unable to do so during his lifetime.
The Silmarillion quickly tells of the creation of the universe, with most attention to the creation of Middle-earth. It goes on to tell of the coming of the different people of Middle-earth, the amazing struggles that have taken place throughout history. Rather than getting to know a small group of characters very well and following them throughout the book, you will get know a lot of people, but you will not know them all well, and you will not find much dialog. The book contains many tales, though separate, they are related and together give the story of the first age, wherein the people of Middle-earth fought against the relentless torment of Melkor who is Morgoth, the first DarkLord of Middle-earth to whom Dragons, Orcs, Balrogs, and even Sauron being shaped or corrupted by him, were merely servants. These tales mostly involve the Noldor, that is a race of elves who were doomed, and the Edain, the elf friends who aided the Noldor in the battles against Morgoth. The Silmarillion also contains the second age stories of the fall of Númenor, and of the making of the Rings of Power. The book contains answers to many questions one might have after reading The Lord of the Rings because the events told here are the legends behind the Third age.
|Should I read The Silmarillion? |
Here's what some of the forum members say about the book:
-Do you enjoy The Lord of the Rings as a fantasy novel or as a historic book of a mythical place?
-Are Elrond, Galadriel, Sauron only characters of the story for you, or do you feel their deep relation with the past?
-Should the Elvish - Dwarvish enmity, the Dúnedain of the North, the ancient port of Pelargir, the Balrog of Moria be left unexplained as mysterious aspects of a story or do you want to learn their meanings.
If all the previous questions are answered by the second option, then The Silmarillion is the next book that you should read.
My personal experience with the tales of the FirstAge of Middle-earth cannot be put into words. The emotional impact from the reading of such tales of great deeds and sad fates was great. Recollecting these days when I first delved into the ancient days of ME, I can only envy those who will experience it for the first time.
Beleriand, the land of Elves, is waiting for you to explore through the magnificent pen of professor Tolkien.
For me, The Silmarillion is one of the most beautiful books ever written. It is a treasure of words, myths, legends, sorrows, and beauty.
I first came across The Silmarillion in a bookstore after I had read ''The Lord of the Rings. It was a joy to find another book by Tolkien, since I had enjoyed LotR so much. I opened it up to the first chapter, read Ainulindalë, and was hooked! The elevated language, the beautiful creation story - imagine singing a universe into being! The idea itself was beautiful enough, and add to that Tolkien's gift with words...
To me, the Sil's appeal is both aesthetic and emotional. Here are sorrows to wrench the heart and beauties to elevate the soul. Who can read of Túrin Turambar's grievous slaying of his friend, without weeping. Or of Níniel, Tear-maiden, bewitched by Glaurung, who is doomed to love her own brother and conceive a child by him unaware, and who casts herself into Cabed-en-Aras in despair. Who does not cry out in anguish at the kinslaying at Alqualondë, or at the poisoning of the TwoTrees of Valinor. All are brought to desolation through the lies and evil malice of Morgoth, more terrible than even Sauron, his servant.
Yet here also are joys, written in exceedingly fair words, that quench a soul's desire for beauty:
Beren coming upon Lúthien dancing
|"at a time of evening under moonrise, as she danced upon the unfading grass in the glades beside Esgalduin. Then all memory of his pain departed from him, and he fell into an enchantment; for Lúthien was the most beautiful of all the Children of Ilúvatar. Blue was her raiment as the unclouded heaven, but her eyes were grey as the starlit evening; her mantle was sewn with golden flowers, but her hair was dark as the shadows of twilight. As the light upon the leaves of the trees, as the voice of clear waters, as the stars above the mists of the worlds, such was her glory and her loveliness; and in her face was a shining light."|
|Of Beren and Lúthien|
Varda Elentári kindling the stars
|"Then Varda went forth from the council, and she looked out from the height of Taniquetil, and beheld the darkness of Middle-earth beneath the innumerable stars, faint and far. Then she began a great labour, greatest of all the works of the Valar since their coming into Arda. She took the silver dews from the vats of Telperion, and therewith she made new stars and brighter against the coming of the Firstborn; wherefore she whose name out of the deeps of time and the labours of Eä was Tintallë, the Kindler..."|
|Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor|
and Yavanna Kementári calling forth the Two Trees of Valinor with her song
|"And as they watched, upon the mound there came forth two slender shoots; and silence was over all the world in that hour, nor was there any other sound save the chanting of Yavanna. Under her song the saplings grew and became fair and tall, and came to flower; and thus there awoke in the world the TwoTrees of Valinor. Of all things which Yavanna made they have most renown, and about their fate all the tales of the Eldar days are woven."|
|Of the Beginning of Days|
As for subject matter, The Silmarillion is wonderful in this respect as well. There is mythology: the creation story, the descriptions of the Valar and their powers, how the features of the earth, such as the sun and the moon, were formed, etc. There are legends: Beren and Lúthien's quest for the Silmaril, the Voyage of Eärendil to implore the Valar's aid against Morgoth. And there are fierce battles and tales of valiant deeds, such as Húrin standing alone against the fury of the Orcs and of Gothmog. And lastly, there is history, to satisfy a LotR lover's desire for more, more, more! about what came before the events in Middle-earth.
My admiration and love for this book is of the highest order. I have been moved by its sorrows and its beauties, and I return to it again and again. I will always be grateful to Tolkien for creating this gift.
To be frank with you I'm not a big fan of the Sil. It's a great read, and as a companion to LotR it's really facinating, but sometimes it feels like it is bogging down. One thing I love about LotR is it's sense of movement. The narrative is always moving, and there is always some journey. The Sil often feels like a collection of somewhat obscure tales that don't seem to have any particular context. It's still better then 99% of the books out there, simply because of Tolkiens masterful prose. But I miss a lot of the smaller, "day-to-day" details that make LotR really memorable. The Sil feels much more like a "scholarly" work.
|Riding through my soul...|
|Riding through my soul,|
living in my dreams, not caring for the sorrow
you gave to me.
Burning, thinking, loving,
all because of you,
helpless even crawling
for love, for happiness and truth!
The love I find on pages,
on leaves, on trees, on clouds
but the truth will last for ages,
for long in all your hearts.
The happiness I find in rivers,
in lakes and ancient trees,
but the truth will bring the silver,
that I will give to thee!
The main point is that the Sill can be concerned as a teacher and friend as well, of course, if you know how to read through his pages.
Anyone who has enjoyed reading The Lord of the Rings and/or is interested either in Tolkien's writings or mythology in general, should definitely read The Silmarillion. It is a piece of mythology, which - though it is fictive - in my opinion stands comparison with other major European mythologies like the Edda, Kalevala, Illias & Odyssee, etc..
|Suggestions for Easier Reading |
1. Always remember that this work is a history, and NOT a novel. Names, places, events, etc. tend to appear quite often, and it's very easy to get as lost as Thorin and company in Mirkwood. Attempting to skim the book is a very bad idea. Instead, read at a relatively slow pace (a difficult task for a semi-speed reader such as myself) and whenever you come across a word (usually names) that you are unsure about, take the time to look it up in the wonderful index that Christopher Tolkien provides.
2. Something that I've heard of several people doing, and that I have done to some extent myself, is taking notes as you read. This doesn't mean the kind of notes that you'd make for a test in school, but rather important names that you want to keep straight or remember. Perhaps you might make a chart or a list of the Valar, or your own "tree" to keep the various branches of Elves straight, or a list of "alternate" names. (Tolkien often gives us names in words in multiple languages, and this might be a good way to keep them straight until you've become fluent in Quenya yourself )
3. In one of the volumes of The History Of The Lord of the Rings, Christopher Tolkien explains that his father worked on the manuscript of The Lord of the Rings in "waves", constantly going back a few chapters and rewriting. This is a technique that I've used somewhat with The Silmarillion and I've found that it works well, especially with remembering exactly which Elf is the son of another Elf, or which Vala did what. I think this technique works because the history in the book is cumulative, each chapter building on the chapters before it.
4. Don't forget that you can always ask your brothers and sisters of the forum about anything that you just don't understand, or are having a hard time with. Most of us are quite friendly, and love to help others learn about the works of our beloved Tolkien.
|Comments and Discussion |