dinsdag 29 juli 2014

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien - Book review

Okay, I admit.  This is the third time I started reading the book, but the first time I actually managed to finish it.

Where The Lord of the Rings isn`t a `simple` book with it`s family trees and references to events in the past, the Silmarillion is even far more complicated and it is advised you go look at the appendix often.

This version is actually the collection of the Unfinished Tales, so apart from the tale of the War of the Jewels, it also contains the stories of how the Valar came to be, how Middle Earth was formed and the sundering between the Elvenkin, the fall of Numenor and the events leading to the Last Alliance, where the Lord of the Rings picks up.

Add to this the heaps of elven names that often change during the course of the tale as characters `from then one became known as...` combined with the original Valar names for places, then to be changed to their elven names, then to go to how Dwarf or Man called it, over the black tongue of Mordor... well, you get the picture.

The first shorter tale in the book details about Iluvatar, Manwe and the other gods in the Middle Earthen pantheon as they created the world (flat!) and the elvenkind.  One of these Valar, Melkor, will become the evil Morgoth and even as early as these days he already went to war but was contained.

Then we go to the evolution of the Elves in the second tale, and how the Silmarils, mighty jewels of incredible beauty, where created, but also how this caused a rift between the Elven kin, resulting in genocide and exile at one point, and then the main story begins.

The Silmarillion itself is all about the history (spanning 1000s of years) of how Morgoth tried to possess and own those mighty stones, and he forges many dark servants to get to this end.  He also uses other powers at his possession, being manipulation, illusion and deceivement, and he goes to war with the Elves to be beaten back and at a high cost is finally, but temporarily, defeated. 
Over the following centuries, he slowly gathers his power together again, in the meantime souring up the bonds between Dwarf and Elf, while influencing the new and young race of Man into largely corrupt rulers, as they covet power and greed above others.  Not only does this result in treachery, but when a big alliance of Dwarf, Elf and Man faces the renewed power of Mordor, part of the human allies turn sides and results in the loss of many elven and dwarven rulers.
But it is in the end the strength of Man that manages to reclaim the jewels from the Dark Lord, and as the Silmarils are divided among their rightfull place of wind, air and fire, on places they cannot ever be recovered, Morgoth is at last defeated and the War of the Jewels ends.

The next tale is the one about Numenor, and now readers of `just` The Lord of the Rings will start recognising names.  As servants of the Elves, the Numenor became mighty among men, but when after more then 20 kings (who back then could live more then 200 years), corruption starts seeping in.  In Morgoth, the dark power has returned in the form of Sauron the Deceiver, trusted Lieutenant of Morgoth and out to free his dark lord from the prison he was put in by the Valar.
To this end, he allows himself to be actually captures by the armies of men, and starts working towards corrupting all and bring them to attack the lands beyond the Sea.
This results in the sundering of Numenor, where the gods strike back before this comes to fruition and reshape the world (now round), causing the lands of Numenor to sink into legend.

The final short tale is the one where we will get to know most names and places from.  Gil-Galad, Isildur, Orhtanc, the Rhovanion... places and names we know from the Lord of the Rings as this is the set up to the battle of the Last Alliance, and the forging of the Rings of Power and the likes.

A simple read?  Not at all, this book requires quit some concentration, referencing to the appendices and it does help one knows LotR as well to get some help from the songs scattered all around in that book.

But I am glad I finally finished it, the tales, though not simple, are exciting on their own if you don`t want to connect the dots between family lines.  We get tales of love, of treachery, of discovery.  Battles with dragons and balrogs, massive fields of blood, and some intresting plot changes.

But one person seems to have been ommited, even though it is said he is as old as the Earth itself...

1 opmerking:

  1. Silmarillion is a tough but in the end rewarding read. It needs to be approach not as one approaches a novel but as one approached the Bible or an omnibus collection of Mythology.