Goodreads: The Silmarillion
Series: pre-Lord of the Rings
Age Category: Adult
The Silmarillion is an account of the Elder Days, of the First Age of Tolkien’s world. It 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 tales of The Silmarillion are set in an age when Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwelt in Middle-earth, and the High Elves made war upon him for the recovery of the Silmarils, the jewels containing the pure light of Valinor.
I read The Silmarillion once several years ago, but I decided that now was the perfect time for a reread, since Amazon’s The Rings of Power is being released. Amazon, of course, does not actually have the rights to anything in The Silmarillion, so none of the plot of the show is related to The Silmarillion (and most of the The Silmarillion is about the First Age, not the Second Age anyway). However, there have been references to events in The Silmarillion in the show, like references to the War of Wrath, Elrond’s family, the Valar, etc., so rereading it does help one appreciate the show at least a little. But enough about The Rings of Power. (You can read Krysta’s guide to the Second Age here.)
Reviewing The Silmarillion seems a daunting task to me. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? How can I adequately convey how amazing it is? It’s a fantasy classic, even if not as popularly read as The Lord of the Rings, so saying it’s “good” or “bad” seems a bit silly when people will read it no matter what I say. (For the record, I think it’s good.)
Even though it covers an extremely long time period for the First Age, it’s am immersive experience, and I loved seeing the beginning of Arda and then the trials of the Elves. The Elves, for the record, are much more chaotic here. While in The Lord of the Rings, Elves are nearly always associated with goodness, so much that evil things will not pass through areas where Elves once lived, they’re a mixed bag in The Silmarillion. They kill each other, they lust after the titular Silmarils, they betray one another, they ignore the plights of those who need help. They’re still delightfully Other, but they’re not a monolith of wisdom and virtue, and it is fascinating.
It’s also a bit darker than The Lord of the Rings in many ways. While I think the theme of hope still permeates the story, there are things one wouldn’t necessarily except to see in LotR, like Elves killing Elves and some (accidental) incest. It’s a different time in Middle-earth, and Tolkien (and editor Christopher Tolkien!) does an excellent job of making it feel so.
I know many readers find The Silmarillion confusing, but I don’t think it is. Some of the characters have annoyingly similar names, but I didn’t have an issue with that. I actually think I was most confused by the geography; next time I read, I might pull out my Atlas of Middle-earth. Or if anyone has any good guides about the geography, I’d love to know about them! (You can get a free guide to The Silmarillion in general from Tea with Tolkien.)
This is a five star read for me, and I recommend it to any Tolkien fan! I can’t wait to read it again sometime!
6 thoughts on “The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (A Review Upon Rereading)”
Wonderful review! I’ve been a bit intimidated by the idea of finally reading this book, so I appreciate that you state that many people find it confusing, but that that’s not true for everyone. Thanks for sharing this — it really encourages me to finally give it a try!
I don’t remember finding it that confusing the first time I read it either, and I had been put off for a while because everyone said it’s so confusing! There is a lot going on, and I guess the Elf family trees can get a bit muddled, but that’s pretty easily fixed with the Internet and all the resources and references people have published. Maybe it was more confusing in 1977. XD
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I’ve never read this. Maybe I should look at it again!
I hope to get to it someday!
I think I’m one of the people who found this confusing… either this or The Children of Hurin, showing how terrible I am with the lore! I really should tackle/retackle this one day!
I think the Children of Hurin is a bit difficult to follow because all the names are so similar!
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