Previously on An Adventure in Tolkien: I reviewed the original movie trilogy & the new Tolkien movie.
I DID IT! I HAVE READ THE BOOK MY DAD ONCE THREW AWAY (actually in the trash) IN A FIT OF RAGE!
I’m going to break this down in sections because there’s a whole ton of stuff in this book, and I guarantee I’m going to start rambling at some point.
Ainulindalë & Valaquenta
First of all, I love the short stories that come at the beginning of my edition, Ainulindalë and Valaquenta. I really feel like I kind of just read something like the mythos of the Greeks. Like, they were so well done and so informative, and I just gobbled them right up because it seriously read like all those mythology anthologies do, and it was so cool.
Not only are we given the very literal birth of Middle Earth, but we get to see all the gods as they first were in a very detailed way. Each god/goddess has about one paragraph description that details who they are, what names they go by, what powers they have, and how they fit into the universe at large.
I do have one recommendation, though, before diving into these. I read An Atlas of Tolkien by David Day right before I read this, and I really feel like I enjoyed these short stories (and this book as a whole) a lot more because of that. It’s a gorgeous book with pictures every other page or so, and it depicts the physical world of Middle Earth from creation until post-War of the Ring, detailing what the world looked like at different phases, which means it goes pretty in-depth to the beginnings with the gods and how they affected the shape of the world.
I buddy read about half of this book with Holly @ Nut Free Nerd, and it was a ton of fun!
Now, between my dad and the general public, I was prepared to find The Silmarillion difficult to read and not all that enjoyable.
Did we read the same book?
I think it should be noted that, as a writer, I’m really interested in all of this kind of stuff, the very beginnings of a world. The fact that Tolkien literally mapped out Middle Earth’s ENTIRE HISTORY is pretty much the coolest thing I’ve ever witnessed, and I am Here For It. Like, I adored this. I also want to note that, again, I think I definitely liked this so much because I read An Atlas of Tolkien beforehand, so a lot of these names and conflicts were already mildly familiar.
This is your official BEWARE LOTS OF SPOILERS BELOW because even though this book was published in 1977, I am 100% certain there are those that haven’t read it, but want to.
Also, if you don’t want to read the book, but you’re really curious what it’s about, I found this handy meme:
Okay, seriously, I was going to just give you a ton of memes, but do yourself a favor and just go search silmarillion (no the in front) in Pinterest and quietly die laughing.
I AM WHEEZING
This book is hilarious. It’s also just freaking fantastic. Like, slow clap for John Ronald Rueul Tolkien. You fucking did it, man. You did what every fantasy writer in the history of the universe has wanted to do, and you did an A+++++ bang-up job of it. I am so damn proud of you.
Before we get started, I am going to break this up into weeks. Originally, I was just going to do a normal review, but me and normal don’t usually get along, so this turned into a dumping ground for all of my thoughts and emotions while reading, so instead of trying to put in actual transitions between all of that, I read about 10 chapters/100 pages a week.
There are so many different parts that I could talk about. The fact that elves literally waste away and die if they get too sad. The fact that the gods are so Extra that they renamed Melkor to Morgoth because they didn’t want to refer to him by his previous name once he went bad. The fact that Fëanor is like “you know what’s a good idea, I’m going to steal all of these ships and then burn them because I’m angry at being refused them, and WE’LL WALK BACK THAT’S WHAT.” The fact that Eru forces Aulë to put the dwarves to sleep because he wants his race to be first. I mean, come on, bro, your son was just lonely, let him have friends!
And even beyond all of the epic stories that we’re getting, it astounds me how much detail Tolkien put into this. Like, he knew the entire history of Middle Earth. The whole thing. That’s just–I have no words. This is the Middle Earth Bible, expect better and more detailed and just so damn good.
Okay, so clearly this is going to be a rambling review because I’m writing it while I’m reading, and I’m buddy reading it, so I am taking more time than usual. This is all just to say that I’m about to shout about something, which is probably going to happen a lot.
AND THE MOON
ARE LITERALLY IN LOVE
This is the cutest thing ever. I love how Tolkien describes the eclipses–that Tilion is so in awe of Arien that he chases after her and sometimes approaches too close so that his shadow covers hers. Like, what a Cutie.
(prepare for fanart)
oh my god wait stop I CANNOT there is no other fanart needed than this one
This is legit the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. But THIS DUMBASS is such a drama queen that he’s all “ooh I’m gonna rush ahead because I can totally take Morgoth on my own” so he LEAVES EVERYONE BEHIND, which is obviously a stupid idea since Morgoth’s then all “mwuahahaha here have some Balrogs you dead now” and still Fëanor’s like “nah I got this” until he’s mortally wounded and his sons have to carry him away, and as he’s literally taking his dying last breaths, he tells them to carry on his vengeance and then bursts into flame and “his body fell to ash, and was borne away like smoke.” who even are you
I’m very sad right now.
THE SORROW IS GONE! THESE TWO! I told you this review was going to be long and rambling, I can’t help myself, I just love the brothers three and their millions of sons. Alright, so, listen, wee little Fingon being so sad about the strife between his two families that he decides he’s going to march into Angbad alone because he loves Maedhros that much is going to be the death of me. And then, because his sorrow at their last parting is so awful, Fingon decides he’s just going to casually scale Tangorodrim, which is insanely tall, and sing a lament with his harp, “and his voice rang in the mournful hollows that had never heard before aught save cries of fear and woe,” and it’s SO SAD that Maedhros hears him and sings back to him. (Elves are so fucking dramatic, oh my god.) But Fingon can’t figure out how to free Maedhros, so Maedhros is all “just shoot me!”, so Fingon notches his bow and arrow, prays to Manwë “oh save my love!”, and Manwë is so moved by their “friendship” that he sends the eagles to save them both.
WHO SAID THIS WAS OKAY
Quick aside: so I read the original LOTR trilogy in the fifth grade (age 11), and I only started getting into slash fanfiction (oh my god, is it still called that? it was called that when I was in middle school) around the seventh grade (age 13ish?), but truthfully, not really until I was in high school (probably ~ age 15/16), so I was never part of the fandom that shipped Aragorn/Legolas. Even now, I’m like, oh that’s cute, moving on now. Like, it’s just not something that ever happened, and I’m such an Arwen fangirl that I still don’t freak out over it. I mean, yeah, I see why people do, I just don’t. But reading The Silmarillion as an adult has quickly led me to believe that if I’d read LOTR for the first time as an adult, I would have 100000% shipped Aragorn/Legolas because all my little gay heart can see is boy elves in love right now. So that’s my two cents on that.
And don’t even get me started on my boy, Fingolfin, just charging at Morgoth with naught but his horn and “a great madness of rage.” Like, imagine all your people are dying and war is terrible, and you’re just so effing done that you’re like ALRIGHT TIME FOR SINGLE COMBAT LET’S END THIS ONCE AND FOR ALL.
Honestly, the fanart for this scene kills me.
ughhhhh I’m sad
all of the best ones are dying
this is the worst
But seriously, Fingolfin is my type. Doesn’t want to be a kingly figure, is turned away by his brother, and then must rise up anyway after his brother is dead. And really all he wants is peace, but there’s this asshole killing all his people, so he rises to the challenge anyway and marches alone across a dead wasteland to fight against the ultimate enemy. Like, this isn’t Sauron-level, guys. It’s so much worse. He’s basically a god, and Sauron is like a little fly on the wall compared to him. Morgoth is one of the first beings ever, and Fingolfin fights him in single combat and wounds him so badly that Morgoth feels it for the rest of his life. Name one other person who did that.
I’m almost done with this week’s reading, which is through chapter 20, so I’ve just gotten to the very long Beren and Lúthien chapter.
This art style reminds me so much of Wildwood, and it’s beautiful. And like? Lúthien??? Not only do we got Fingolfin going up against Morgoth, we’ve got Lúthien legit singing him to sleep so Beren can steal one of the Silmarils back from him, like WHAT A LEGEND. Not to mention she completely owns her own agency and is like bye dad, escapes this torture-house he built that she shouldn’t be able to escape, and goes on this wild adventure to save the man she loves. Like, Lúthien ain’t taking no from anyone. She’s going do what she wants, and that’s that. And then she forsakes her immortal life and all her beauty and whatnot of being an elf so that she can have a second chance at life with Beren. Lúthien is a freaking boss queen, obviously.
There’s this meme, right.
And I was like oh haha that’s so true (at about halfway in), this book is so funny, I’m enjoying everything so much.
And then there’s this other one, right.
And I’m literally the saddest ever. Fingon just died. Maedhros was THERE, but they didn’t get one last goodbye, and everything is awful, and this is why we have fanart.
WHY CAN’T THEY JUST BE HAPPY
I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER
I was like oh these boys are so cute look at them quietly batting their eyelashes at each other and running off into the woods on adventures AND THEN BELEG DIES BECAUSE TÚRIN’S AN IDIOT AND ACCIDENTALLY STABS HIM TO DEATH. LIKE. AFTER BELEG RISES UP FROM NEARLY DYING BY ORC STABBING COS HE’S ALL I’M TOO STRONG TO DIE I AM AN ELF AND THEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A THUNDERSTORM AFTER HE SAVES TÚRIN’S LIFE, TÚRIN IS FREAKED OUT BECAUSE LIGHTNING AND BELEG’S GOT A SWORD (TO CUT HIS BINDS OFF!!!) SO HE STABS HIM AND COME ON. WHY DOES BELEG HAVE TO DIE, TOO?
and then tw: accidental incest like why Tolkien we didn’t need that right after you killed Túrin’s best friend/lover
Okay, leaving my sorrow aside for a moment, can we just talk about how hilarious it is that literally everyone and everything has approximately eight names? Túrin’s gravestone alone reads Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glaurunga, and that’s not even to start on the several other names he’s given while he lives with different people. It’s actually a little ridiculous. And all of the battle names and how the names of places change after sad things have happened! Battle of Unnumbered Tears–you are a Drama Queen, John Ronald Reuel, and I am starting to understand your elves. I know I just read it, too, but they rename the lake that Nienor jumps in. Hang on, now I have to find it because it’s also dumb.
The better one is when they’re taking Nienor, who has been briefly renamed Níniel, across the Rainy Stair, also called Dimrost, and “a great shuddering came upon her, wherefore afterwards that place was called Nen Girith, the Shuddering Water.” WHAT
I have a few things to talk about as I’ve just finished the main part of The Silmarillion. First of all, what a miserable ending!
“But Morgoth himself the Valar thrust through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World, into the Timeless Void; and a guard is set for ever on those walls, and Eärendil keeps watch upon the ramparts of the sky. Yet the lies that Melkor, the might 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 fruits even unto the latest days.”
Like okay wow way to be like “there is no hope and goodnight.”
But I’m totally being blindsided by something else, so much so that I can’t pay attention to that ending.
UM HI MORGOTH AND SAURON I CANNOT
did not expect these feelings
where did that come from
I’ll tell you. I was on Pinterest because that’s where I find most of my fanart because it’s so damn easier than searching on Tumblr, even though most of it links back to Tumblr, and I was trying to find a scene for the end with Morgoth, and there was just all this Sauron fanart, like??? I NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT. YOU GUYS ARE GODDAMN GENIUSES.
(I recognize that they are unhealthy af, but then again, so are most of the ships in this chaotic mess of a book.)
I want to arrange some brief thoughts before I continue on because this is the bulk of the narrative. Don’t let any of the above for one second make you think I did not thoroughly enjoy the heck out of this. Honestly, I may like this more than parts of Lord of the Rings, but we’ll revisit that statement when I’m actually rereading LOTR. This was expertly crafted, and I am going to be thinking about the characters in this for a very, very long time (clearly). I don’t know why everyone makes such a big stink about this book. It’s absolutely freaking fantastic, and if you’re a fan of LOTR, I cannot recommend it enough. I am amazed at Tolkien’s talent, at how quickly he made me fall in love with different characters, and at how frustrated I was about having to not read it all at once. I’m not frustrated that I read this slow, just that I wanted to devour it and could not, though I definitely think that enhanced my love of this. And love really isn’t the best word for it. This really stands up there with the LOTR books. You deserve a standing ovation, Professor.
Alright, we’re almost there. I’ve decided I’m going to try to finish this today. All of my week three reading thus far has been on one day, and I’m just gonna plunge on through to the end right now. Why not, right? It’s not like I’ve experienced enough heartbreak as it is.
Oh good, the subtitle is The Downfall of Númenor, that’s promising.
So, this was basically just a long, rambling list of all the old Kings of Men and the stupidness they slowly encountered right up until one of them, somewhere in the twenties, decided he was going to force Sauron to swear fealty to him, which Sauron is then totally chill and does (I mean, come on, you dumbasses, use your brains), which of course means Sauron is now the voice behind the throne. What follows is Sauron brainwashing the King until he eventually betrays the old gods, and the old gods are like bye and drown everyone but Elendil’s sons, Isildur & Anárion, and some of their still faithful friends.
Essentially, this little short story thing is as miserable and foreboding as the last line of The Silmarillion, so in honor of that, please enjoy this adorable (and hilarious) picture I found of Sauron meeting Frodo. (Which is impossible because Sauron no longer has a corporeal form when Frodo comes around, but whatever.)
Of the Rings of Power & the Third Age
y’all I am SO CLOSE
Alright, so basically the first half of this is the prologue in the movie for Fellowship of the Ring, but with a tiny bit more detail added on. I also now want to watch that battle with the Men & Elves against Sauron again because we see someone get slain right before Isildur picks up one of the shards of Narsil, and that is for sure Elendil, and I need that in my life. There are even lines that are taken directly out of this short story and put into the prologue, which is super cool. I know Peter Jackson did us wrong with The Hobbit movies, but damn, every time I look back at the LOTR movies, I find something new to love about them.
The last little bit is just history that carries us from the creation of the rings until just before The Hobbit. We get a little of these pages in one of the movies, which is actually kind of cool, and I’ll have to keep an eye out for it next time I watch them. And then there’s about five paragraphs that describe all of LOTR, which is wildly hilarious.
I FEEL LIKE I HAVE SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE NOW!
Seriously, I need to take a break from Middle Earth for a hot second because I feel wayyyyyy overloaded, but I do plan on coming back to this challenge next month. This was a very long, rambling, oftentimes incoherent, review of The Silmarillion, and while I cannot guarantee the same thing won’t happen for the other books I haven’t read yet, my reviews for both The Hobbit and the LOTR books will be much more cohesive. (Maybe.) Can this even really be considered a review? Eh, whatever, here’s my review of The Silmarillion:
It’s fucking amazing. Read it, or else.
annnnnnd one last piece of art of the sons of Finwë and their children because they’re my faves and somehow, some of them even managed to make it almost all the way to the end