I really wanted to start the life of Valthura with something I’ve read recently and that’s inspired me. And I really wanted it to be J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. Now that I’m sitting in front of the empty document, I realize I have no idea how to start.
Whatever I say about it, it won’t be enough. I was 9 years old when The Fellowship of the Ring movie came out. It’s one of the cultural phenomena (along with Rowling’s Harry Potter series) of my time that shaped me as a person, how I viewed cinema, how I read books, and what I wanted from both.
18 years later, like some sort of maturing, I finally read The Silmarillion, after thoroughly enjoying The Hobbit and still being unable to read through The Lord of The Rings.
The Silmarillion is a Monster of a Book
One of the reasons I was so wary of starting out on the road of reading The Silmarillion is that it’s not your typical novel. If you’re searching for a well-paced narrative with a clear POV and main characters, check yourself first. This book is a wild-ride through thousands of years of adventures, blood, strife, sacrifice, evil, and good, right from the creation of Arda (the Earth) to the moment The One Ring gets destroyed.
It is a challenge. With hundreds of names to remember, events to follow, and everything is intertwined. It’s not for the faint of heart or those who’d want to be through a book within days.
And when you read it, it stays with you. It leaves such a deep impression on the soul like nothing else. I know V.E. Schwab said in her 2018 Tolkien lecture that you should not be required to read his works to be recognized as a fan of fantasy literature, and I totally support her statement in the context of her lecture.
But I think we should read his works for a different reason. To have a grasp at how worlds are not simply built but created.
Because that’s what The Silmarillion is in its essence – a myth of Creation, right from the opening chapter. And this is as much a fantasy novel, as it is a collection of myths and legends of a world that might’ve never existed bur rings close to home, when you compare it to other mythologies we (surprisingly enough) incorporate in kids’ mandatory reading lists at school (at least in mine).
The World Building of The Silmarillion
You’ve probably figured it out by now that I’m not on a crusade to review the contents of the book. I’m sorry, I don’t have the mental capacity or the scholarly knowledge some do, and they have already done more than enough in that direction.
I’m simply here to praise the mastery of J.R.R. Tolkien and to express gratitude and awe of the late Christopher Tolkien, because he’s the reason we’ll ever get the chance to dive into the world beyond Middle-Earth.
And what a world that is. I enjoyed witnessing its creation as much as I enjoyed reading Greek Mythology, for example, in school (a lot). You have it all – a flawless Creator and his flawed Harbingers, the prideful one, the most talented of them all, to fall to his ruination and plague the peoples of the Earth. The love for treasure, the pride and folly of mortal flesh, the heroism and the birth of giants from the smallest souls out there in time of grave need.
And so on, and so on. I catch myself ranting like that whenever a friend makes the mistake of asking a related question these days. Disclaimer, Stephen Colbert’s passion about Tolkien’s world is one of the reasons why I took up The Silmarillion in the first place. I have no regrets.
J.R.R. Tolkien is a Flawed Creator
Of course, there are problems with The Silmarillion. The pacing is often off, not many of the characters can make you care about them, not to mention the female characters as a whole in Tolkien’s works.
Many complain of it being dry and boring, have a problem with the language. Probably now’s the time when I say I read it in Bulgarian, and most things were pretty straightforward. Hopefully, I’ll be brave enough to read it in English for my re-read. Because I’m making one, for sure, when everything sinks in.
This book is a labor of love. And it shows in every line and every story. What I loved most about it is that it gives a wholesome perspective on the world, and still just skims the surface of everything that it is.
I’m currently reading the Unfinished Tales, since The Silmarillion left me craving for more. I’m definitely sharing my impressions later, but I’ll take my time, not going to rush through it.
What I can say for sure at the end of this ‘review’, is this is a book that has to be gently sipped and savored one line at a time. To ensure you’ve managed to feel through the whole epic.
Have you read The Silmarillion? Did it leave strong impressions, feelings, and opinions in you? Don’t be shy and definitely drop a line down in the comments! I’d love to rant about it with someone else!