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on August 28, 2004
This is definitely one of the best books in my posession. The Silmarillion is astonishing in its philosophical and theological depth. It should not be labeled as merely "phantasy".
While this book is about all kinds of creatures, it is definitely also a metaphor on the human condition, with all its highs and its many lows. One failure after another of the elves and men trails through the history of middle earth, and once in a while, a hero redeems his or her race by a spectacular act of goodness. Important questions about our mortality and Tolkien's christian ideas about the meaning of our lives are woven into the stories without becoming a lecture.
This book is more than a "historical" background for the Lord of the Rings. It could stand alone as a collection of fables in which JRR Tolkien provides more than merely the mythology to the Lord of the Rings.
I do not recommend this book to the casual reader, for they will be dissappointed. I had to read this book twice to begin (!) to appreciate it, and as with the Lord of the Rings, I expect I will discover new things, whenever I re-read this book.
It should be noted that the Silmarillion is a collection of stories by J.R.R. Tokien, masterfully edited by his son Christopher Tolkien, to approach some semblance of continuity between chapters. As C. Tolkien writes in the foreword, however, the Silmarillion is not one cohesive story, but a collection of several stories, written by J.R.R. Tolkien over many years.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon September 1, 2012
In the Tolkien canon, THE SILMARILLION is the most highly contested of all his works. Constructed as a prehistoric history of the Universe, the book has the cultural significance of the Bible in Tolkien's universe. It is Tolkien's primary work, but it's also his most troublesome, in more ways than one. One thing you need to know. In Tolkien scholarship, there are two primary ways to refer to the "Silmarillion". One is the Silmarillion, the legendarium proper, and then the 1977 SILMARILLION, which may or may not be what Tolkien envisioned.

THE SILMARILLION, the book Tolkien spent all of his adult life writing, was, sadly, incomplete when Tolkien died at the age of eighty one in 1973. Naturally, this begs the question why did it take him decades to write the book, and it still be unfinished after all that time? Well, to understand that, you need to understand two things: the scope of the project, and how Tolkien worked.

The scope of the book was a complete imaginary history, a totally self-contained mythology, all written and developed for his home country, England (my home country as well). Imagine the Greek and Roman mythologies, all those myths and gods, developed by one man. Imagine Homer completely inventing all the gods for his stories. Imagine how hard that would be to come up with your own mythological traditions as such. No wonder Tolkien had such a hard time completing the work.

Now, the scope (which is extremely ambitious for any artist) was compounded by how Tolkien worked. First, he was a philologist first and foremost, and so before the stories he invented languages. All of these languages (which would have taken a life-time to develop on their own) had their own history, and are so interlocked with the mythology that you cannot remove them. He developed the main body of legends around these languages. Many features of the central body of legends changed relatively little over the years, but he wrote different versions of them at different times and in different styles. Some of the legends were set in poetry, those in annalistic histories, others in condensed summaries, and others in the more traditional (at least, for modern readers) novel format. A lot of these writings are also unfinished, due to Tolkien's perfectionist tendencies. Christopher Tolkien said that for most of his father's writing there existed a stable tradition from which Tolkien worked from, but there was no such thing as a stable text for the primary legends.

All this is tied to how Tolkien worked. C. S. Lewis famously stated that you did not influence Tolkien, you may as well as try to influence a bandersnatch. Tolkien would either take no notice of your criticism, or else he would start all over from the beginning. And so he did. A lot. Tolkien would reach a certain portion of the draft, be unsatisfied, and began the whole thing over again, while never reaching the end. Or Tolkien would have two copies of the same manuscript, one to be the fair copy and one to be working copy. Well, Tolkien would make conflicting revisions on both copies at separate times. How do you decide his final intent? Good question. These tendencies presented major problems from Christopher Tolkien when he prepared the 1977 SILMARILLION.

Another problem with Tolkien's work also is that toward the end of his life, he began contemplating changing major features of the mythology that stretched back to the earliest versions. A lot of these changes had to do with cosmology, with the sun and moon, and changing Arda (the earth) from a flat-world to a round world. In the original mythology, and the 1977 version, Arda begins as a flat world but is made into a round world. Tolkien contemplated other major changes that would have totally changed much of the more distinguishable features of the mythology, stable features present from the very beginning. Consult "Myths Transformed" in MORGOTH'S RING, Vol. 10 of THE HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH for more information.

Then we have the problem of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Tolkien was tantalizing close to some sort of final version of the work in the late 1930s (indeed, the 1937 version of the "Quenta Silmarillion" is the only complete version he ever made of the primary work and which is heavily used in the 1977 SILMARILLION). Then, due to publisher demand, Tolkien began working on his masterpiece for the next fourteen years, leaving the "Silmarillion" legendarium completely untouched for over a decade. When Tolkien picked up the Silmarillion again, he now had to account for LOTR and somehow incorporate that major work into the mythology. Tolkien did a lot of work on the legendarium after the completion of LOTR, but this work was plagued with uncertainty and contemplation of radical rewriting.

And in the last years of his life, Tolkien also began moving away from strict narrative and began working extensively on theological matters, essays on Elvish culture and lingustics, and other matters not tied to the actual narrative of the main storyline.

So when Tolkien died in 1973, he left his son Christopher in quite the predicament. Decades of writng, much if it unfinished, with a staggering palimpsest of manuscripts from which to draw from would be daunting to anyone. As literary executor, he had to come up with a publishable version of the work (as clearly that was his father's wishes, and Christopher was the man for the job, being most acquainted with the work). So, in four years, with the assistance of Guy Gavriel Kay, he cobbled together a self-contained narrative, largely compatible with the Hobbit cycle. Due to Tolkien's tendency to not finish drafts, some of the narrative in the last portion of the work had not been touched by Tolkien in literally decades (The Fall of Gondolin never got a complete version other than the 1916 Lost Tales story). Thingol and Melian presented thorny problems, especially the Girdle of Melian (her magical protection around Doriath). Christopher and Kay constructed the chapter dealing with the ruin of Doriath from scratch, with no corresponding writing in Tolkien's own work.

Yet another major issue was, due to getting a version of the book published as soon as possible, Christopher rushed through much of material, and did not have access to all of his father's manuscripts, some of which had been sold off. While he always used post LOTR material as often as possible, Christopher was as many times incorrect as not when guessing his father's intentions for the work. In the ensuing twelve volumes of THE HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH, where he had years to get to know the manuscripts, Christopher examines more closely his father's works, and there is much in those twelve volumes that were Tolkien's final intention for the work, but did not make it into the published version. Christopher has stated, given time, he may have produced a much different version than the one published. But he is now retired and will not revise the book (much of which would have to be wholesale).

That's quite a bit of history, and ultimately all that history may bog potential readers down in their journey into THE SILMARILLION. For all of its imperfections, its unfinished nature, the endless debates on how much the 1977 version is what Tolkien really intended, the book is powerful mythology. The reading is dry, and the names are jawcracking trying to pronounce. While it's hard to keep track of the multitude of characters and all the permutations and migrations of the three main Elven tribes, there are unforgettable images in the book, and beautiful passages of despair and hope.

While the work is not the most accessible for modern readers, for those who persist you can see why Tolkien really did regard this as his life work, or, as Tom Shippey says, "the work of his heart". And what a mighty work it is, despite its unfinished nature.
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on February 28, 2005
It is quite difficult to write something about "The Silmarillion" when there are already so many people that have read it. But to write something about this new illustrated edition is completely different.
The whole book is a work mayor fantasy, created by J.R.R. Tolkien and it has been for all of us possible to read it, thanks to his son Christopher. The book should be read after having been read "The Hobbit" and The Lord of the Rings in that order, because if not its reading it could a bit difficult. Doing it this way you can feel as if you live each one of the histories like something that was made for us to know, but somehow didn't fitted in the previous books.
Now let's take this classic book and let's add it illustrations... Can someone request for more? This edition overcomes the previous by arriving to 45 marvelously painted illustrations, made by Ted Nasmith. Some of the paintings are awesomely real. They caught my eyes from the very beginning. It's a pity that some paintings made by Nasmtih, like the ones entitled "Eärendil Searches Tirion" and "Luthien Escapes the Treehouse" haven't been included in the final edition. On the other hand it was a big surprise to see the high-scaled map of this one. Not even the illustrated edition of LOTR has such a big and wonderful map.
To tell the truth it's a privilege to have this book in my bookcase beside the illustrated editions of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings".
Once again thanks Tolkien for give us such a wonderful world to live in, and thanks Mr Nasmith for put it into images.
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It's more than slightly staggering to consider: the epic fantasy "Lord of the Rings" to be the tail end of Tolkien's invented history. The "Bible" of Middle-Earth, the "Silmarillion" stretches from the beginning of time to the departure of the Elves from Middle-Earth.

A complete summary is impossible, because the book spans millennia and has one earth-shattering event after another. But it includes the creation of Tolkien's invented pantheons of angelic beings under Eru Iluvatar, also known as God; how they sang the world into being; the creation of Elves, Men, and Dwarves (hobbits are, I think, not really covered); the legendary love story of Beren and Luthien, a mortal Man and an Elf maiden who gives up her immortality for the man she loves; the demonic Morgoth and Sauron; Elves of just about any kind -- bad, mad, dangerous, good, sweet, brave, and so forth; the creation of the many Rings of Power -- and the One Ring of Sauron; the Two Trees that made the sun and moon; and finally the quest of the Ringbearer, Frodo Baggins.

Many old favorites will pop up over the course of the book, such as Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf, and so on. Fans of Elves will find plenty to feed their hunger; fans of Hobbits or Dwarves will not find as much here. It will also answer some questions that "Hobbit" and LOTR may raise, when references to long-ago incidents and people are made -- what is Numenor? Who are the Valar? This includes those things, and much more.

The writing style of Silmarillion is more akin to the Eddas, the Bible, or the Mabinogian than to "Lord of the Rings." It's more formal and archaic in tone; Tolkien did not get as "into" the heads of his characters in Silmarillion as he did in LOTR, and there is no central character. Needless to say, this is necessary as a more in-depth approach would have taken centuries to write, let alone perfect. If readers can bypass the automatic dislike of more formal prose, they will find enchanting stories and a less evocative but very intriguing writing style. This style strongly leans on the Eddas, collections of story and song that were unearthed and translated long ago. Though obviously not as well-known as LOTR, it is clear that these collections helped influence the Silmarillion.

It's clear to see, while reading this, the extent of Tolkien's passion for his invented history. Someone who had a lack of enthusiasm could not have spent much of his adult life writing, revising, and polishing a history that never was. It's also almost frighteningly imaginative and real: It isn't too hard to imagine that these things could actually have happened. In a genre clogged with shallow sword'n'sorcery, Tolkien's coherent, carefully-written backstory is truly unique.

If you can take the formal prose and mythical style, this is a treasure, and a must-read for anyone who loved LOTR or "Hobbit." Only after reading "The Silmarillion" can readers truly appreciate Tolkien's literary accomplishments, and the full scope of the Middle-Earth that is glimpsed in his more famous books.
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on May 26, 2001
Most fantasy works can be read by the general populace, especially the genre specific populace and easily enjoyed. This is not true of "The Silmarillion"
"The Silmarillion" is one of those books that gains GREATLY from rereading - this cannot be said enough. At first read it is a confusing selection and notes and names with little real story. Later sections (especially Beren and Luthien but also Turin) have a more connected story, are closer to the Tolkien we have all grown to love.
This disjointedness is the Silmarillion's greatest weakness and one of the reasons I cannot give it five stars (although I would rate it that way for myself). The other is that only true Tolkien afficando's are going to enjoy it. Anyone who loves Tolkien will probably love this - they will enjoy an opportunity to see the back history of Middle Earth, to some of the legends and Elder Days mentioned in the Lord of the Rings. Thus for those that have read Tolkien, this will be a great book.
My other complaint with this book is that I doubt Tolkien would have ever published it. He spent such effort polishing his work, I do not think he would have published something as disjointed as this. And although I am glad to see it, that also detracts from the pleasure.
Anyhow, the Silmarillion is an interesting collection of myths and legends of the Elder Days of Middle Earth - of the War of the Jewels. It is tragic and reminiscent of Norse mythology and great for those interested in the Lord of the Rings. For everyone else though I would say don't bother.
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on November 21, 2011
Le Silmarillon est un livre qui diffère quelque peu des autres ouvrages de Tolkien que j'ai lu (Bilbo le Hobbit et Le Seigneur des Anneaux), puisqu'il se lit davantage à la manière d'un livre d'histoire que d'un roman. La structure compliquée, ainsi que l'absence d'un personnage principal durant la majorité de l'œuvre rend la lecture ardue à quelqu'un qui n'est pas initié, ce pourquoi je ne le recommande pas à ceux qui ne connaissent pas Tolkien. Par contre, en tant que fan, ma curiosité permet de passer outre les premières difficultés rencontrées à la lecture. En effet, cet ouvrage détaillé permet de comprendre la profondeur de l'univers créé par Tolkien, en remontant à la création de la Terre par Iluvatar. On assiste à la genèse de toutes les créatures illustrées dans les autres œuvres de Tolkien, leur interaction, et les faits saillants qui ont construit leur histoire. Je conseille à tout lecteur de s'armer d'un papier et d'un crayon pour ne pas perdre le fil de la généalogie complexe des personnages, ou se perdre dans les prénoms et noms de lieu. Bonne lecture !
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on November 19, 2015
This review is for version- ISBN 0261102427 by Harper Collins publishing
At the time of this Review I've not completely finished the book but I'm soon nearing the end starting it only a little while ago. From this you can definitely be assured this book is a page turner and beautifully written. This book contains several stories within the Middle-Earth mythos and is organized in four Parts 1) Ainulindale 2) Valaquenta 3) Akallabeth 4) of the Rings of Power and the Third Age. Within these sections we will learn of Eru (Illuvatar) and the creation of the earth, it's people and their histories, the Valar and the original dark lord, as well as the various histories in the ages of middle earth.

In terms of difficulty I would not recommend this book for a younger teen unless they are an avid reader and if you are just casual reader who's not interested in googling grammar structures and searching for words in the dictionary this book may not be best suited for you (but I'd still give it a try). There is much information given out at one time in certain points such as the naming of an entire lineage of elves in which the names become important later on in the book, so it does take some careful review or you might find yourself getting lost on who's who or where someone comes in during the stories. Another more complicated (but interesting) occurrence is that everything in the book has different names/references depending on who's account is given for instance the elves are known by various names such as Eldar, Quendi, Avari etc. each one denoting certain types of elves or simply just being known by a different name, in which case if you're not careful you might miss the references or become confused. In some spots Tolkien can be a little overwhelming especially in the use of his descriptions listing what seems like hundreds of adjectives for one thing ex: "...the King of the Sea was terrible, as a mounting wave that strides to the land, with dark helm foam crested and raiment of mail shimmering from silver down into shadows of green" and while some may find some of these bits to be a little boring I think it gives you a great image of what Tolkien picture in his mind for these characters and stories.

With that said the book has much history and detail and it's almost as if this were a folk/historical account of a real Middle-Earth, and sometimes becomes a historic account rather than appearing as a fictional narrative. I would recommend you be familiar with the Middle-Earth lore to some degree before taking on this book as it was compiled after the Hobbit and LOTR in which case the details and references may not make sense initially unless prior knowledge is present. Some might want to read this book after reading through the Hobbit and LOTR to help understand the book a bit better. With that said most of my knowledge had come from the movies and through reading various online sources and I decided to stay true to the book ordering and read this first and I've not had much issue so far, in cases where I am slightly confused a quick google is suffice. In addition this copy of the book has maps at the back of the book and various indexes in which you can look up words/references/names etc. to get a better understanding of them.

The physical book itself is a black cloth bound hardcover book with an well illustrated dust jacket (search the ISBN for pictures). The title, author and his logo are in embossed in silver on the spine. There are no illustrations expect for the map and the occasional family tree.

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in the stories of Middle Earth and would like to or have read the Hobbit or LOTR. This is truly one of my favourite pieces and I look forward to reading the other books.
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Consider this -- J.R.R. Tolkien's fantastical epic "Lord of the Rings" is only the tail end of his invented history.

Yes, Tolkien spent most of his adult life crafting the elaborate, rich world of Middle-Earth, and coming up with a fictional history that spanned millennia. And "The Silmarillion" was the culmination of that work -- a Biblesque epic of fantasy history, stretching from the creation of the universe to the final bittersweet departure of the Elves from Middle-Earth.

A complete summary is impossible, because the book spans millennia and has one earth-shattering event after another. But it includes:
*The creation of Tolkien's invented pantheons of angelic beings under Eru Iluvatar, also known as God.
*How they sang the world into being, and the creation of Elves, Men, and Dwarves (hobbits are not really covered).
*The legendary love story of Beren and Luthien, a mortal Man and an Elf maiden who gives up her immortality for the man she loves.
*The attempts of the demonic Morgoth and his servant Sauron (remember him?) to corrupt the world.
*Feanor and his sons, and the terrible oath that led to Elves slaying one another.
*The Silmarils, the glorious gems made from the the essence of the Two Trees that generated the world's light.
*Elves of just about any kind -- bad, mad, dangerous, good, sweet, brave, and so forth.
*The creation of the many Rings of Power -- and the One Ring of Sauron.
*And finally, the quest of the Ringbearer, Frodo Baggins, and the final battle that would decide the fate of Middle-Earth.

If you ever were confused by a reference or name mentioned in "The Hobbit" or "Lord of the Rings," then chances are that "The Silmarillion" can enlighten you about what it meant. What is Numenor? Who are the Valar? Who is that Elbereth Gilthoniel that people keep praying to? How did the Elf/Dwarf feud originally begin? And how exactly is Elrond related to Aragorn?

For the most part, it focuses on the Elves and their history, especially where it intertwines with the history of Men -- although Dwarves and Hobbits don't get nearly as much ink devoted to them. But in that story, Tolkien weaves together stories of earth-shattering romance, haunting tragedy, gory violence, good versus evil, the rise and fall of cities and kingdoms, and much more.

However, it's not really written like Tolkien's other works. It's more like the Bible, the Mabinogion or the Eddas. Tolkien didn't get as "into" the heads of his characters here, and wrote a more detailed, sprawling narrative that would have needed countless books to explore in depth. But while his prose is more formal and distant here, it still has that haunting starlit beauty ("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").

It's clear to see, while reading this, the extent of Tolkien's passion for his invented history. Someone who had a lack of enthusiasm could not have spent much of his adult life writing, revising, and polishing a history that never was. It's also almost frighteningly imaginative and real: It isn't too hard to imagine that these things could actually have happened. In a genre clogged with shallow sword'n'sorcery, Tolkien's coherent, carefully-written backstory is truly unique.

Casual Tolkien fans probably won't be able to stick it out. But those who appreciate the richness and scope of Middle-Earth should examine "The Silmarillion," a sprawling fictional history full of beauty, tragedy and love. A work of literary genius.
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on March 28, 2014
I usually re-read the Lord of the Rings once a year so I've come to terms with the sometimes difficult writing style and the descriptive nature of Tolkien. It can get to be like reading molasses but non the less I love it. The Silmarillion was much the same but more so written like a religious text, which for the most part it is. I found myself re-reading chunks and heading to the appendix at the back of the book to make sure I remembered who was being featured at the moment and if they were Valar, Elf, HUman, etc. The sheer number of characters, for lack of a better word, is quite a lot and it reads less like a story and more like a lecture of the history where Tolkien (and Christopher Tolkien) guide you personally through the hierarchy of gods and notable characters/events of the events prior to LotR.

For me none of the above meant that this was a bad experience. A few times I felt bogged down and couldn't see how something fit into the whole, but the creativity and depth behind the writing kept me interested until the end. The little tid-bits that related more directly to LotR were great to come across and the forging of the rings was particularly interesting.

The physical copy was perfect as always. A great buy for those wishing to know more about the history of Middle Earth and don't mind Tolkien's writing style.
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on January 2, 2012
The writing in this book in quality far exceeds that in the more popular "Lord of the Rings" in my opinion. It has an eloquence and beauty in it's words. Also this story does not get caught up in small details which I do like. On the other hand it comes across much like a history and passes through years like some books pass through hours. It does tell tales, though they may span many generations.

This book begins with the tales of how middle earth and the world around it came into being. And tells also in brief of those beings who created it. It speaks also of the first days of the elves, and their journeys, trials and divisions.

This leads into the main plot line of the Simarillion which spans several centuries. However interwoven into this grand tale are many smaller stories. Some tales are of Elves, but as it progresses more and more often it tells of mortal men and women whose fate becomes intertwined with the elder race.

The book also contains relatively short tales from the Second and Third ages: The Downfall of Numenor, and the tale of the Rings of Power (much briefer than the lord of the rings but covering a longer time) I think it should be said that the tales of the second and third ages combined make up a tiny fragment of the book, and in fact the appendixes (which are extensive) contain more pages than these two combined.

I do not know if this book would appeal to someone who does not already love middle earth. All of my experiences in reading it are colored by my own knowledge and love of the world Tolkien told us about. That said, I do find it a funner read than "The Lord of the Rings". When I tried to read "The Lord of the Rings" a second time, I got bored and lost motivation in the second half of the two towers. On the other hand, since that day I have read this book twice and loved every word even more on the second reading.

I say this is a funner read than "The Lord of the Rings" but I do not say it is an easier read. I did find myself skipping back and forth to remind myself who exactly I was reading about at times. there are a lot of characters and some of them are introduced, left for a while and pulled back in later. A reader like myself whose memory is short may become confused or lost if they plough ahead without looking back. I think the first time I read it, several years ago, I read it right through, and I missed a lot of the references, and missed parts of the relationships between characters. I still liked it a lot but a more careful read allowed be to love this book.
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