February 17, 2004

The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Having finished re-reading The Lord of the Rings, it seemed reasonable to keep moving along and re-read The Silmarillion. And I'm glad I did; but at the same time I find I don't have much to say about it. It's history rather than narrative, and except for a few points (notably the story of Beren and Luthien) I don't find it nearly as moving as the trilogy. There's pleasure in it; but it's a different kind of pleasure.

Posted by Will Duquette at February 17, 2004 07:24 PM

Phil said:

Surely you could think about it longer and come up with something good to say. :) I love the story of Luthien and Beren. The book could probably be cut in half for my interest level, but latter half is wonderful. I wonder if it would be difficult to follow--more difficult to follow than it is--if the first half wasn't available.

Will Duquette said:

That's the problem, really; it's a hodgepodge of material, most of which Tolkien never really finished. Parts are too long; other parts are much too short. And some parts would really benefit from being presented as straight fiction rather than ancient legend.

Does anybody else think Feanor was pretty much a spoiled brat?

Phil said:

I forget. Was Feanor the incredibly gifted one who brought the curse of the Silmarils down on his family? I remember the family of eight, all nephews of Galadriel weren't they, who fought against their elven brothers over the Silmarils again and again and again. Their end was fitting, I thought.

steve h said:

Yes, Feanor does come off arrogant and spoiled...The family of eight must be he and his sons. Not all were villains, but all were bound by the Oath.

I've occasionally gone back to the book, but rarely to read the whole thing. The best sections always seemed to be:

-- Luthien and Beren

-- The Children of Hurin (a tragedy, but still a good story)

-- The Fall of Gondor

-- The Tale of Numenor (fills in some detail from the Second Age, the Rise and first fall of Sauron.)

Will Duquette said:

Yup, that was Feanor--the creator of the Silmarils, the swearer of the oath, the cause of all the trouble. He died too quickly, if you ask me; he should have been around for more of the suffering.

I'm reading bits from Unfinished Tales at the moment, and I find that I'm really sorry Tolkien never finished his long version of the story of Tuor and Idril and the fall of Gondolin. What he got down on paper is pretty good.

The story of Turin Turambar always depresses me; it's a tragedy, which is not my preferred kind of story, and as usual the horrible things that happen always seem so preventable. (But then, I get impatient at Romeo and Juliet too.)