Golden Oldie: The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

Golden oldie

Today I want to introduce you to a new type of book review here on Magic Moon Boat: the Golden Oldie. In these reviews I am going to tell you about books that I read but that are slightly too old to write a normal review about. But because in my opinion these books can of course still be read and I would like to inspire you to do so, I’ll tell about them in this category of book reviews. I cannot tell you how often these will come by, that depends on when I finish a ‘golden oldie’. And just to be on the same level, with old I mean books that are written before I was born, so before 1991. I know that books written in the 90’s can also be considered old, but as that would imply that I’m old too, let’s keep the threshold at 1991 😉

Silm

So the first golden oldie I would like to introduce to you is the Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien. You know, that guy from the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Besides coming up with a whole new world, including races, languages and an entire history, he apparently also had time to contemplate about the origins of his created world. He never intended these stories to be put together in a book altogether, but after his deathhis son decided that this was a good idea to do. He took some of the already finished tales and glued them together into a reasonably coherent story, resolving gaps whenever necessary.

The Silmarillion consists of six different books of which I will give a short summary below. Together, they comprise the origin of Middle-Earth, as well as a compilation of the legends that follow. The tales end roughly at the time of the start of the Hobbit and LOTR, although a (very) short summary of these books is given as well.

  • The Ainulindalë (The Music of the Ainur): the legend of the creation of the world and its inhabitants. Apparently the world is woven together by songs of the one god Ilúvatar and his helpers the Ainur (sort of angels). When one of the Ainur decides that he deserves his own melody, he creates imbalance in the music and thus in the world.
  • Valaquenta: a description of the 14 higher Ainur, the Valar, and a number of lower Ainur, the Maiar. Very helpful for the understanding of the rest of the book.
  • Quenta Silmarillion: this is the main part of the book. Mainly a collection of legend from the creation of the universe till the end of the First Age, the age in which the elves come into play and which ends with the overthrow of the evil Vala Melkor.
  • Akallabêth: almost at the end of the book, this chapter tells about the kingdom of Númenor (remember Aragorn? He was a descendant of the Númenorians) in the Second Age.
  • Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age: the final chapter, describing events from both the Second and Third Age. Basically, this tells the legends we know from the LOTR, as the forge of the Rings of Power and their ultimate destruction. So I would skip this part if you haven’t read the Lord of the Rings yet.

So, in the end, this is definitely not an easy read. Though I cannot do anything else but accept the fact that Tolkien is a great author with amazing stories, the writing-style is different from your every-day reads. The English used is quite old, which actually gives it some more similarity to Dutch. For example, ‘ere’ in Tolkiens English, meaning ‘before’, is quite similar to the Dutch ‘eer’, meaning the same thing. Another funny language thing was the use of without as antonym of within. Thinking about it, it make a huge deal of sense, but as it is not used this way in modern English anymore, it was really confusing to read at first.

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I thought the Silmarillion was a good book to get some more background to the tales of the Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy. It helped me to understand some of the underlying thoughts and events that were hard to grasp in the Lord of the Rings. Be prepared though, even while it’s hard to top the death rate of Game of Thrones, as the Silmarillion describes thousands of years, most people will die as well. But with the to-the-point manner of the story, little compassion is felt for the sorrow of the people of Middle Earth.

The list of names in the back of the book, together with some genealogies, were frequently used. There are so many people in this book, they all have ten different names in different languages or different times, that after a while I just gave up. I only remembered the main character (or two) and the rest I just accepted. But to help me out a bit, I found this really cool video on Youtube by CCP Grey. Athough it is not always accurate, the movie helps a lot to understand all the different types of characters and I would almost recommend watching this before reading the Silmarillion to make it easier to understand (or afterwards if you don’t want anything to be spoiled before).

Rating of the book: ★★★☆☆

 


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