Tim Giauque's Reviews > The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
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's review
Aug 14, 2010

really liked it
Read from July 29 to September 27, 2012

The Silmarillion is a unique and challenging reading experience, and it's pretty easy to see why it didn't sell anywhere near as well as The Lord of the Rings. But in its own way, it represents a bigger, even more imaginative vision than just about any work of fantasy ever written.

The book is structured like the Bible, in a way – it's made up of several smaller “books” that don't tell a single story so much as they tell an overarching narrative, detailing the history of Middle-earth from its Creation up until Frodo Baggins and his companions leave its shores for their journey into the Undying Lands at the end of LOTR. As you might expect from this description, it's sprawling, and Tolkein doesn't make a lot of concessions to hold readers' hands. There is almost no dialogue, and no principal character to follow throughout. Tolkein's love of language provides much of the book's richness, but also some of the inherent difficulty, as every place, (nearly) every character, and every major event in the book is known by multiple names in different languages. (An index at the back of the book proved to be indispensable in keeping all these names straight.)

But it's an astonishing example of unparalleled fantasy worldbuilding. There is such a richness of time and place here that, if you're into that sort of thing, you simply have to read The Silmarillion to experience it. I found the earlier chapters to be a little more tedious to get through, but as I got further into the book I found some real gems. The tale of Beren and Lúthien is terrific, and the story of cursed Húrin and his family, too, which was eventually fleshed out and published as a separate book a few years ago. LOTR fans (as if you're going to read this if you're not a LOTR fan) get some good backstory and additional history on characters like Aragorn and Sauron, too.

If Lord of the Rings is a college undergraduate course in fantasy literature, The Silmarillion is the grad-level course. It's really not for everyone, and it's not perfect by a long shot, but the sky-high level of ambition and breadth of scope make it a uniquely rewarding reading experience.

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Reading Progress

08/05/2012 page 55
08/19/2012 page 100
23.0% "Kind of like reading the Bible. Read a little each day and before you know it you'll have finished it."
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