Let me go on record as saying that I loved The Lord of the Rings, and I’m scarcely able to wait for the release of the upcoming movie adaptation.
But as much as I loved The Lord of the Rings, I loved The Silmarillion even more.
Let me put it this way.
The Silmarillion was the first, and so far the only book I’ve ever read twice, back-to-back. When I got to the last page during my first time reading it through, I immediately went back to the first page and read the whole thing again.
I’ve since read it twice more.
But I’ve heard that many don’t care for it, a concept that I find difficult to grasp. Granted it starts off slowly, but then I realized that what I was reading was less a conventional narrative, and more like “religious literature”, a la The Bible or The Koran. It has that feel to it. Once I got into that mindset, the book didn’t present much trouble to me at all.
Any Tolkien fans out there dig The Silmarillion? Or hate it?
Well, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The Silmarillion was deliberately written in a historical/classical/epic style, while The Lord of the Rings was written in a novelistic style. Although the style of LotR does change, being very homey and realistic at first and getting more and more epic-y as the story continues.
Atreyu: I’m in full agreement. Though I long ago burnt out on Tolkien ( after rereading everything obsessively a dozen times ), it was always the Silmarillion I loved best. But I fear we are very much in the minority . Most folks aren’t crazy about it.
The reason I’m so fond of it, is that I’m a history geek. To me, backstory is everything. Or at the very least, significant. Heck, I was just watching the cheesy 1992 version of Godzilla vs. Mothra and I found myself wishing for more backstory to that piece of wonderful crap . Tolkien lovingly created a grand history and mythology. It was that world with its complex history that captured me, even more than the fine adventure story of Lord of the Rings. I also enjoyed the very different characterization of some well known figures from the trilogy - For example, Galadriel as a rebellious young firebrand or Sauron as a nasty servant to a far greater power.
But then I read bone-dry history textbooks translated from German for fun . I can see why many folks find Lord of the Rings more compelling. From the standpoint of shear storytelling, I think it is a superior work.
I still have my first printing first edition. If you haven’t read or don’t like Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion would be impossibly painful, like Ulysses, but understandable. But if you do like LOTR there is a chance that you will enjoy the Silmarillion even more, like I do. Here Tolkien’s penchant for cheesey drama pays off in spades, achieving a grand slam for Frodo fiends.
I loved LoTR but the Silmarillion bored me to tears. I was on a waiting list to buy it when it first came out. Read it 20-15 years later when there just weren’t many english language books around, and it was a real tough read.
I have to throw ater on this parade.
I’ve been a big Tolkien fan since 1970, when I first read The Hobbit and Lord of th Rings. I re-read them at least once a year, and bught Robert Foster’s “Guide” when it came out. There were rumors of something else coming. One guy eve had a friend who wrote to Tolkien i]and got a leter back*. It reported said something like “…I have been working on The Silmarillion for lo, these many years, but now I have so mch correspondence…” , implying that he couldn’t finish it because of his fan mail. Then Tolkien died in 1975 or so.
Then I saw an advertisement for The Silmarillion in 1977, with that hand-colored picture of The Mountain Path from The Hobbit as a cover. I ordered it immediately.
Then it came out. The first Tolkien book I bought when it was new, in hardcover.
I wasimmediately disappointed. I’d read a LOT of Tolkien by now. I’d searched out his other works, even the obscure ones, like “Beowulf and the Critics”. I knw he ad a lot of different styles – the “listen to grandfather” style of The Hobbit, the “novelistic” style of LoTR, the stuffy academic style of “On Fairy Stories”, the “humorous” style of “Farmer Giles of Ham”,etc. But I didn’t think that modst of The Silmarillion would be written in The Boring Style. There were brief sparks that enlivened it – the Ainulindale was a good read, but in the main I found The Silmarillion a slog, and as amazed that it sold so well, and got such good reviews. I eventually read it over, but I pretty much gave up on Tolkien after that. I got the book Unfinished Tales as a gift, and found one story worth reading. I’ve ignored the flood of Christopher-dited stuff sine then.
I still re-read LoTR every now and hen. I’ve got and re-read The Annotated Hobbit, but I don’t know if I’ll ver open The Silmarillion again.
I found Silmarillion a delight. I read every word, reread it, and have memorized parts of it. It is a great work of literature.
I have never heard a more compelling mythology than the Ainur and their theme of Arda. Melkor the proud who can only serve the beauty of Arda with his utter defeat. The concept of singing the world into being is beautiful. And those of the Ainur who come into Arda know the tune, but only as they hear it again, unfolding as reality. Wisdom, and understanding, without prescience.
The long sad tale of the Noldor, and their power and pride. The Oath of Feanor, and the power it had to drive the destiny of His people. The quiet power of Melian, and her steadfast service to Elu Thingol. Beren and Luthien, and the incredible power their love gives them. The Silmarils themselves, and their story. The unrelenting misery of Morgoth, caused at every point by his lust for power. (The only times in 9000 years when he is able to live in the light of day is when he is a prisoner of the Valar!)
This is great stuff! Boring? Wow, I don’t get boring.
I didn’t like it, but I’m going to read it again, because several factors interfered with my enjoyment.
First of all, it was a class assignment, so I had to do a summary of every chapter, and we were only given something like 2 weeks to read it.
Second, I hadn’t yet read the Lord of the Rings trilogy (actually, I’m still only a third of the way through) so I didn’t know who a lot of the characters are. But I still thought it was interesting, especially the battle where [insert name that I forgot of evil god here] “…begged for mercy, but his feet were hewn out from under him”. It was classic :D.
I’ve read Silmarillion a dozen times, listened to it being read twice on audio CD, read unfinished tales, and all of HOMES. I just can’t compare it with LOTR, they’re so different in intent and texture. I think they’re both great, but Silmarillion requires that you pay attention and remember things!
I really wish JRRT had finished writing about the Fall of Gondolin, tho.
I read The Sillmarillion after I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which is the order in which it really should be read. I enjoyed every single one of these books (I’m now reading The Hobbit again for the second time since high school.) but I am not a scholarly reader.
I read for pleasure. If I had read The Sillmarillion first I would have never had the pleasure of reading Tolkien.
I agree that this is a wonderful read if you are already a fan of Middle Earth. This is why I think this book is no where near as great as either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings.
It just doesn’t stand by itself.
I suspect that there’s very few people who’ve actually read The Silmarillion and dislike it. There’s folks who finished it, and loved it, and there’s folks who read three pages and gave up. Please, everyone, give it more of a chance than that. You’ll be glad you did. If necessary, skip over the first two sections, but read the stories.
It must just be me, then. I really found the Silmarillion hard going and generally dull, and it can’t be said that I didn’t give it a chance - I read it through twice. And I’m a Tolkien fan. And I love epics – I’ve got a bookcase full of Penguin classics.
But if someone made The Silmarillion into a movie I’d stay away.
Unimaginable! Not listen to Ainulindale? Not watch the wars between Valar and Melkor as Arda was wrought? Not see Feanor’s defiance of the Valar and swearing of his horrible oath? Luthien defeating Sauron? Enchanting Morgoth while Beren takes the Silmaril? The fall of Gondolin? Earendil’s voyage to Valinor?
The part where Elwë’s people are on their way out of Beleriand, returning to Valinor, but he hears the singing of Melian the Maia deep in the forest and wanders away to find her; and when he looks in her eyes and takes her hand they remain standing there “while long years were measured by the wheeling stars above them; and the trees of Nan Elmoth grew tall and dark before they spoke any word”; and his people have to sail without him — ah, that is one of the most magical passages in any literature in the world. That alone is enough to make the whole Silmarillion worthwhile. She became his queen and he became King Thingol of that forested land and from them came the race of the Sindar or Grey-Elves.
It took me 7 years to read through the Silmarillion, but it was definitely worth it. First time I tried to read it I tried it in the original English. I wanted to put LotR on my English reading list, but my teacher would only let me if I put the Sil on it as well since it wouldn’t be full literature otherwise (I suspect she never read the books ro she would have thought differently).
I couldn’t do it. I read through the creation of Middle Earth easily, but later on it got too cinfusing for me. Too many names for the same people and locations.
Several tries came after that, but I just couldn’t do it. Finally I tried a translated version (English isn’t my first language) and worked my way through it. I’m really glad I did as I understand and appreciate the LotR books even better now.
Next project is to try it in the original English again. Hopefully I can manage it this time through.
The first two times I tried to read it, I couldn’t get past all the begats. Third time through I just skipped all that and started where the actual stories began, and it was smooth sailing from then on.
If you liked the Silmarillion, you’re going to LOVE the book of Deuteronomy…
I have read LOTR more times than I can count, but the Silmarillion leaves me cold. The first parts are basically a retelling of the Fall of Satan from Christian mythology. Other parts, like the destruction of Numenor, would make great stories, but are told so briefly that you are not drawn in. No description, too little characterization. I appreciate how the backstory gives depth to LOTR, but some of this stuff I wish I never knew. The Balrog was mysterious and frightening when all I knew was that it was of all the Elf-banes the most deadly, save for the one that sits in the Dark Tower, and even Gandalf was afraid of it. Knowing that he’s a sort of fallen angel makes him less mysterious, and therefore less frightening. (It also makes less sense: why would a being that took part in the creation of the world hang out under a mountain for eons, twiddling its thumbs, then show up to act as a sort of flunky for the Orcs?)