‘The Silmarillion’ book review
By Benjamin Howard, Contributor
“Yet the lies that Melkor, the mighty and accursed, Morgoth Bauglir, the Power of Terror and of Hate, sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men are a seed that does not die and cannot be destroyed; and ever and anon it sprouts anew, and will bear dark fruit even unto the latest days.”
J. R. R. Tolkien, the creative mind behind titles such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, delved deeper into the fantastical world of Middle-earth in The Silmarillion, a book he wrote intermittently from as early as 1917. Even unto his death in 1973, the book was considered unfinished because Tolkien was a perfectionist. But while The Silmarillion was a life’s work, it doesn’t quite compare to the classic The Lord of the Rings.
In scope, it far surpasses its predecessor. From the creation of the universe all the way to the events leading directly to The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion is a tale of millennia with many characters and names. There are in fact hundreds of names, many of them foreign and used frequently without definition, which will alienate some readers. This makes The Silmarillion less accessible than his more popular works. Fortunately, there is an index of names at the back of the book for reference. However, after reading the first 50 pages or so, the important names will be learned and the index will become less necessary from then on.
The story itself is similar in spirit to The Lord of the Rings, but different in structure. The Silmarillion is a history of Middle‑earth, so it is not one story but many. The main focus is on the ongoing struggle for the possession of the Silmarilli: three perfect jewels of powerful magic. The Silmarilli were crafted by the elves, but coveted by the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, and so sparked many wars.
The Silmarillion is not as good as The Lord of the Rings, but that’s not saying much since The Lord of Rings is a masterpiece. Nonetheless, The Silmarillion is very good. If you have read Tolkein’s finest and enjoyed all the Elvish names and lore, try The Silmarillion. It will grant a better understanding and appreciation of the fantasy world that he so meticulously crafted. Though if you haven’t read The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, do yourself a favour and start with those!