Classic Remarks: Recommend a Tolkien Book

Classic Remarks 1

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.  Feel free to comment even if you are not officially participating!  This week’s question is:

Which Tolkien book would you recommend to a reader after they’ve finished The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings?

In a perfect world I would recommend The Silmarillion.  It’s full of drama, danger, war, and romance.  It contains such stories as the fall of Gondolin and the fateful voyage of Earendil across the seas to ask  the Valar for help on earth.  It explains how Middle-earth was created and how the first Dark Lord Morgoth rebelled against Iluvatar and brought forth the Balrogs and other evil creatures.  It tells the romance of Beren and Luthien, a mortal Man and an Elf who must go to the very throne of Morgoth and steal a Silmaril from his crown if they are to be together–and that’s before they have to figure out how to stay together after death.  In short, it has all the fine qualities of The Lord of the Rings, but the villains are more powerful and the stakes are  higher.

It also contains many interesting backstories for those who already love Middle-earth.  Did you know Galadriel is an Elf rebel?  That Galadriel gives Frodo light from a Silmaril when she gifts him the light of Earendil?  That the ancestors of the people of Gondor were convinced by Sauron to worship Morgoth?  The book contains a lot of fascinating tidbits for those intrigued by the allusions in The Lord of the Rings.

Unfortunately, over the years The Silmarillion has gained a reputation for being difficult, convoluted, full of too many names, and generally inaccessible to the average reader.  I would dispute this claim, but  the fact remains that many individuals are just too fearful to pick it up.  To that I say, try reading The Children of Húrin instead.

The Children of Húrin follows TúrinTurambar and his sister Nienor, cursed by Morgoth to wander the earth and bring destruction to all they know, all because their father dared defy the Dark Lord.  Their lives are reminiscent of the great epic tragedies, and they culminate in a final battle against the great dragon Glaurung (who make Smaug look positively friendly).  This story is an episode contained in The Silmarillion, but here Christopher Tolkien has published a stand-alone version based on his study of his father’s manuscripts.  And, if you like it, you know there’s similar material to be found in The Silmarillion.

Leave your link in the comments below!Krysta 64

16 thoughts on “Classic Remarks: Recommend a Tolkien Book

  1. Risa says:

    I’ve always recommended The Silmarillion. I must admit, it never occurred to me to recommend The Children of Hurin. However, there have been times when I would have liked to have recommended Farmer Giles. It seems to go hand-in-hand with Tolkien’s theory on fantasy, more so than Middle-earth because it opens into the Otherworld. But…this would only be for someone who shows the potential to be a Tolkien enthusiast, I guess.


    • Krysta says:

      I do love Farmer Giles of Ham, but my description of it has never inspired anyone else to read it. :/ It also exists in this weird place where it seems like a simple fairy tale but it also relies on the reader being somewhat educated to get in on the jokes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. saraletourneau says:

    Funny. The Children of Hurin was actually my third Tolkien book, after LOTR and The Hobbit. And I’m glad I read it before The Silmarillion, just because I don’t think I was ready for The Silmarillion at the time.

    I don’t know if I would recommend The Children of Hurin over The Silmarillion as a next Tolkien read after his more famous stories… Because I think it depends on what that person would want to read. I’d maybe give a one- or two-sentence description of both books, then let the person decide for themselves. But generally I agree that either The Silmarillion or The Children of Hurin is a good third step when reading Tolkien’s work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I have tried in the past to suggest what might be seen as simpler works like Roverandom, but so many Tolkien fans seem to want something that’s more of Middle-earth or more in the high fantasy vein that recommending a story about a dog who goes to the moon seems to be a generally unproductive way to go about suggesting more Tolkien. But I think you’re right in that it obviously makes sense to tailor the recommendation to the specific individual when possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. DaniellaWrites says:

    I love the topic this week, and decided to participate for the first time – I hope its okay that I grabbed the header from your blog (I made sure to link back here).

    I recommended three of Tolkien’s work based on three different types of reader.The Silmarillion is one of them, as is The Children of Hurin – my third is Tales from the Perilous Realm. Thanks for hosting! I’m exited to continue book discussions.


  4. Lianne @ says:

    Great post Krysta, and very good question. The Silmarillion I suppose has been my default answer–I read it after LOTR and the Hobbit myself–especially if one is keen to just soak in everything about Middle Earth from the beginning of time, but The Children of Hurin works as a sampler into that rich history too 🙂

    Also, maybe some of the stories from Tales from the Perilous Realms might also work as something to recommend to readers after LOTR and the Hobbit? I remember recommending the volume in my So You Want to Read… feature on Tolkien 😀


    • Krysta says:

      I sometimes have recommended Roverandom and Farmer Giles of Ham in the past, but people generally seem to not like these recommendations either because 1) they want more of Middle-earth or 2) they’re seemingly put off by what seem like children’s books–even though The Hobbit is also technically a children’s book.


  5. David says:

    Great minds think alike! I try not to read anyone else’s answers before writing my own, but this time we ended up saying the same things anyway. I must be on the right track after all, haha. Then again, in this case, these are fairly understandable choices. The shorter books like Farmer Giles aren’t Middle-Earth and don’t have quite the same epic, mythic appeal, excellent as they are, whereas most of the other Middle-Earth books are compilations of incomplete drafts, with copious scholarly notes to help the reader understand them. Perfect for me, but definitely difficult to recommend for most readers.

    I do hope that one day Christopher Tolkien, or whoever succeeds him as literary executor, will allow adaptations for other Tolkien material, for I’d love to see a respectful, artistic adaptation of “Beren and Luthien.” The story has very wide appeal, but doesn’t seem to exist in a form easily digestible for mainstream audiences.


    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I love Tolkien’s other works but usually people who enjoyed LotR seem to want to stick with Middle-earth, at least at first. I keep trying to get people to read Roverandom and utterly failing. I guess people who like the epic quality of Middle-earth don’t immediately find a children’s book about a toy dog appealing, though I think it contains echoes of the epic.

      The scholarly editions are tricky, too, because it seems like they are simultaneously marketed towards a niche academic audience and a popular audience. Some authors like Stephen Greenblatt can perhaps bridge the divide. I’m not sure any of the Tolkien releases have succeed, though.

      I would like to see a television series of The Silmarillion! Or at least “Beren and Luthien.”


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