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  • Writer's pictureEmily

The Joy of Re-Reading: The Silmarillion

Tolkien, JRRR: The Silmarillion

The first time I read it

I'm not going to summarize this book. It's a hard book to summarize; odds and ends that were put together after Tolkien's death by his son, Christopher. It's more of a history than a novel. These aren't complaints, but no one will care about this who isn't already a Tolkien nerd, so I don't see any need in explaining who the Elves are.

Coming back to this book was such a different experience than the first time I read it. I bought the book not long after The Fellowship of the Ring came out. I'd already read all of Lord of the Rings, and I so wanted to read more Tolkien. I saw this in a little bookshop and picked it up without really knowing what to expect.

It's a wonderful, beautiful book, a mythology for Tolkien's Middle Earth, and I love it now, but I was depressed when I first picked it up. The first time that I tried to read it, I couldn't even finish it. I am not sure now why I kept the book for so long; I think about ten years passed before I tried it for the second time. I'm glad that I held onto it! I believe my latest re-reading was my third.

In LOTR, Elrond says that the age of the Elves is ending, and this is largely about their long, slow decline. They were created long before Men, and before Dwarves. (The Hobbits don't really come into this.) Alot of Elvish history (sp?) happens before Men even show up on the scene. The Elves settle into new places and build things and then it all falls apart, basically, but in a beautifully written way. And then the Men follow and do mostly the same but with more of them being corrupted by Morgoth and, of course, dying.

One of the last sections is about the fall of Numenor, and if you're a big Aragorn or Faramir fan, you should read that. You could read that and skip over the rest of the book if it's all too much. It's fascinating, but there are two instances of women being forcibly married to a king against their will, which is the only thing that I took away from it the first time I got to this section. But that was a sign of the decline, and it wasn't being excused by the author, I think.

While I love the book now, there's no denying that it's a sad book. When I first tried to read it, we were all still reeling from 9/11. It was not a good time to read about an evil being who was massing all the hateful creatures in the world to tear down civilizations. There are tortures, betrayals, failures, and deaths.

This time

But there are stories about true friendships and bravery and creativity. One story that I overlooked the first time was the story of Luthien and Beren. I believe I quit reading right after that. Luthien is first mentioned when her beauty is mentioned. She's so pretty, so, so pretty; no one else has ever been so pretty. Yawn! It goes on and on. Everyone loves her because she's pretty, and then some random man wanders by and they fall in love at first sight. But it's really burying the lede, which is that Luthien is actually amazing!

Luthien's accomplishments:

1) When her father locks her up, she escapes by making a magic cloak out of her hair.

2) When she comes to Sauron's lair, she tells him to get gone and he just takes off, and then she stakes a claim on the place and releases all of the prisoners.

3) She puts Morgoth into a deep sleep with a magic song. Most people couldn't even look at him.

Related books of the Second Age

I have skipped reading the stand-alone Beren and Luthien, partly because I still haven't recovered from The Children of Hurin, and mostly because I didn't remember Luthien being so awesome. But now I want to read that. I'm also really looking forward to The Fall of Numenor. It comes out in November. I have The Fall of Gondolin on my shelf now, but I don't remember buying it. It's going to be my reading challenge book next month.


This is an example of trying to read a good book at the wrong time. It happens. This is not an easy book, but if anyone is a LOTR fan who hasn't read this yet, or maybe you're like me and couldn't get through it, I'd recommend giving it a try. I'm probably not going to watch The Rings of Power because I don't subscribe to Amazon (lots of reasons), but the previews made me want to refresh my memory of these stories, and I'm glad that I did.


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