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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Great Expectations: The Silmarillion.
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callumtaylor90
The Shire

Dec 28 2012, 3:38pm

Post #1 of 41 (1503 views)
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Great Expectations: The Silmarillion. Can't Post

Hello members,

I have been reading TORN threads for a few weeks now with much interest. I read The Hobbit and LOTR in my childhood and I am very much ready to delve further into Tolkien's world.

As my first post I would like your comments, views and opinions on the The Silmarillion. What should I expect? Are there other works I should read first? In your opinion, should I read LOTR again first as a core writing?

Apologies for my novice approach.


dubulous
Rohan

Dec 28 2012, 4:30pm

Post #2 of 41 (660 views)
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Go for it! [In reply to] Can't Post

It's a very different book from both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but a wonderful book in its own right. I don't think you need to read LOTR again before you start. In fact, doing it the other way around might be more eye-opening because after reading The Silmarillion, some of the references in LOTR will become so much more meaningful.

It's not necessarily the easiest book to read, at least for a first timer, but in my opinion it's very rewarding in the end as you gain a whole new level of understanding of Middle Earth and the lands beyond. If your copy of The Silmarillion has the Elven family trees in the back, you might find it useful to study those before or while you read because there'll be a lot of names and places that might easily get confusing at first.


CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 28 2012, 5:52pm

Post #3 of 41 (592 views)
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Everything dubulous said, plus [In reply to] Can't Post

The Silmarillion comes in several parts. The first part reads like Genesis in The Bible (on purpose, since it's a creation story). It's beautiful in its own way, but challenging to some, and others never get past it.

The meat of the book is about the struggle of the Elves against Sauron's master, Morgoth. That's the fun part!

Then there's the story of Numenor, which after the fight against Morgoth, is a bit anticlimactic, though still enjoyable.

Then comes an overview of the trilogy story, which fills in a few gaps. You might start with it first since the people will be familiar, and you'll get a sense if you like the literary style.


Ardamírë
Valinor


Dec 28 2012, 6:31pm

Post #4 of 41 (520 views)
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Ditto what CuriousG and dubulous said [In reply to] Can't Post

Only I'd add that you should read it a few times, and don't get stuck on the names and places on the first read through. On your second or third time through you can try to differentiate all the people and places. If you try to do that the first time, you'll probably get completely overwhelmed.

And just enjoy it! It's brilliantly written and the language is so beautiful. If nothing else, it's a joy to just read the words.

Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima! Hail Eärendil, brightest of stars!


Elizabeth
Valinor


Dec 28 2012, 8:00pm

Post #5 of 41 (540 views)
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A piece of advice [In reply to] Can't Post

...that was given to me here before I read the Sil for the first time: Make a copy of the map of Beleriand and the genealogy charts in the back of the book. Put them in plastic sheet protectors and keep them handy as you read. Otherwise, you'll find yourself in a blur of Elves whose names begin with F and other obscure details that will hamper your enjoyment of this truly epic adventure!

Also... the Sil starts with a "creation myth" that some people find too abstract at first. You may prefer to start your first read by skipping the first bits and begin with the Quenta Silmarillion, which is the story itself.






Join us NOW in the Reading Room for detailed discussions of The Hobbit, July 9-Nov. 18!

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Fredeghar Wayfarer
Lorien


Dec 28 2012, 8:04pm

Post #6 of 41 (533 views)
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Think of it as an Elvish chronicle [In reply to] Can't Post

As others stated, The Silmarillion is a very different book from Tolkien's other works. The language is more archaic, there's no central character, and there are many different stories. It doesn't read like a novel, more like a collection of myths or a history chronicle. As such, some find it challenging or a bit dry. I had a little trouble with it on my first read but ultimately enjoyed it and the world it creates. On my second read, I thought it was brilliant.

My suggestion is to imagine you've just found a book of Elvish history written by a lore-master of the First Age. If you think of it within the context of Middle-earth, as if you yourself are part of that world and learning its history, the style is easier to adjust to. At least it was for me.


CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 28 2012, 9:14pm

Post #7 of 41 (507 views)
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Yes, look elsewhere for hobbits [In reply to] Can't Post

There's no Bilbo or Frodo in The Silmarillion, not even close. Nothing warm, fuzzy, or familiar. But if you think of Rivendell and Lorien, it's like you're in those realms for an entire book, so its appeal is different, but still strong.

Everyone is heroic, so there's no everyman, but you'll have your favorites--as Elizabeth says, if you can keep all the F names straight. At the very least, keep a chart of Finwe's family since all three of his sons have F names and two of his grandsons (and one of those gets a nickname starting with F). Finwe's family is fond of first names fronted by F's. (cheap shot)

It's a great story for its own sake, plus the added benefits of giving a rich history to LOTR and The Hobbit and seeing deeper into Tolkien's mind, which helps you understand all his writings.


callumtaylor90
The Shire

Dec 28 2012, 9:44pm

Post #8 of 41 (509 views)
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Thanks! I'm going to give it a go! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure my copy does have the 'tress' in the back, there should be somewhere online I can find them right?


CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 28 2012, 10:15pm

Post #9 of 41 (553 views)
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Try this link [In reply to] Can't Post

It's clearly a photocopy, but since it's not for commercial gain, and it's only 2 pages out of 360, I think it's legitimate.

http://www.stjohns-chs.org/...esTolkien/ELVES2.JPG


Aragalen the Green
Gondor


Dec 28 2012, 10:40pm

Post #10 of 41 (486 views)
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That is very helpful! [In reply to] Can't Post

I have been reading the Silmarillion since it was first published, and still get all the characters whose names begin with "F" confused. And "C". And occasionally the Men and Elves :)

About this chart though, I wonder why Isildur is written in separately? He would be of the Kings of Arnor I believe, and the direct ancestor of Aragorn.

" Well well!", said a voice. "Just look! Bilbo the hobbit on a pony, my dear! Isn't it delicious!"
"Most astonishing wonderful!"


callumtaylor90
The Shire

Dec 28 2012, 10:45pm

Post #11 of 41 (476 views)
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I'm learning... [In reply to] Can't Post

I have been reading threads on here, have become so interested in knowing more of the WHOLE story. In re-reading The Hobbit recently, together with the release of the movie, it has made me question where they have taken so much more of the extra material for the movie. Now I'm hoping to read that all for myself. More about Radagast and wizard history and background on the rings of power. At least to start slowly connecting the dots. His works are complex, I realise that, but is there really a good place to start?


SilentLion
Rivendell

Dec 28 2012, 10:55pm

Post #12 of 41 (480 views)
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Don't feel like you need to read it cover to cover [In reply to] Can't Post

As others have mentioned, it is not really a novel with a central character. The different parts are written in different styles, and its OK to like some better and some not so much. (I confess my tastes are somewhat contrary ... I LOVED the creation story and the Valaquenta which were very abstract, but I found the story of Turin Turambar to be interminable at first, and even thought there were places where the story of Beren and Luthian dragged a little bit). You won't miss that much if you pick and choose what you like, and skim over what you don't like. If you're like me, eventually you'll get curious and want to read more. Once you know the people and place names a little, the sections that seemed tedious will start to make more sense.

Another thing to remember about The Silmarillion, is that it was published posthumously, and while J.R.R. Tolkien is the 'author' in the sense that about 98% of the words are his, it was assembled by his son Christopher. The elder Tolkien spent much of the last 20 years of his life writing and rewriting sections, but he never was able to bring it to closure. In a way, it is a beautiful story in itself that Christopher Tolkien was able to bring together the work which was his father's hope to see completed.

However, Christopher Tolkien had to make choices about which versions of each story to use, and how to tie them together narratively. After spending another 30 years editing his father's papers, Christopher Tolkien himself would probably make some different choices in what to include and what leave out. If you do get hooked on The Silmarillion, someday you may want to tackle some of the History of Middle Earth series. In particular, Morgoth's Ring gives you a taste of what Christopher Tolkien might have done differently if he had the chance to go back and assemble The Silmarillion again. The story called The Debate of Finrod and Andreth isn't in the original Silmarillion but gives a whole new twist on the whole mythology.

So you have lots of fun ahead of you. Enjoy!


CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 28 2012, 11:23pm

Post #13 of 41 (482 views)
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Favorite and not-so-favorite parts [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm with you on the creation story--I really enjoyed it. But any reader I've met in person told me they didn't like it, and some people wouldn't continue reading the book at all because of it.

I don't particularly like the chapter on Turin either, but I do consider it necessary to understand the flow of historical events in the book, so I think it should be at least skimmed, not skipped.


callumtaylor90
The Shire

Dec 28 2012, 11:52pm

Post #14 of 41 (449 views)
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Thanks... [In reply to] Can't Post

...for your efforts. I'm sure it'll come in useful


callumtaylor90
The Shire

Dec 28 2012, 11:58pm

Post #15 of 41 (457 views)
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It's so exciting that there is much, much more to learn! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
As others have mentioned, it is not really a novel with a central character. The different parts are written in different styles, and its OK to like some better and some not so much. (I confess my tastes are somewhat contrary ... I LOVED the creation story and the Valaquenta which were very abstract, but I found the story of Turin Turambar to be interminable at first, and even thought there were places where the story of Beren and Luthian dragged a little bit). You won't miss that much if you pick and choose what you like, and skim over what you don't like. If you're like me, eventually you'll get curious and want to read more. Once you know the people and place names a little, the sections that seemed tedious will start to make more sense.

Another thing to remember about The Silmarillion, is that it was published posthumously, and while J.R.R. Tolkien is the 'author' in the sense that about 98% of the words are his, it was assembled by his son Christopher. The elder Tolkien spent much of the last 20 years of his life writing and rewriting sections, but he never was able to bring it to closure. In a way, it is a beautiful story in itself that Christopher Tolkien was able to bring together the work which was his father's hope to see completed.

However, Christopher Tolkien had to make choices about which versions of each story to use, and how to tie them together narratively. After spending another 30 years editing his father's papers, Christopher Tolkien himself would probably make some different choices in what to include and what leave out. If you do get hooked on The Silmarillion, someday you may want to tackle some of the History of Middle Earth series. In particular, Morgoth's Ring gives you a taste of what Christopher Tolkien might have done differently if he had the chance to go back and assemble The Silmarillion again. The story called The Debate of Finrod and Andreth isn't in the original Silmarillion but gives a whole new twist on the whole mythology.

So you have lots of fun ahead of you. Enjoy!


I'm now curious for my own reaction to Sil, so we will see! I'm totally worried I will never get ALL the names and places figured out in my head, though I guess that's half the fun!


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Dec 29 2012, 12:00am

Post #16 of 41 (527 views)
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Isildur was High King of both Arnor and Gondor. [In reply to] Can't Post

At least, the Dunedain in Arnor argued that Isildur succeeded Elendil in that role, when Arvedui tried to claim the vacant kingship of Gondor.

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Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
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Heatherleawv
Bree

Dec 29 2012, 2:29am

Post #17 of 41 (464 views)
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I am [In reply to] Can't Post

reading the Silmarillion for the first time as well. I've read up to the section on Turin. I found the creation chapters intriguing. Keeping the names straight has been a challenge, but I have enjoyed reading it! Smile


Ardamírë
Valinor


Dec 29 2012, 3:20am

Post #18 of 41 (431 views)
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Good for you! [In reply to] Can't Post

You've really only just got into the really good stuff, IMO. (Actually, I love it all, but I love Beren & Luthien through Akallabeth the best.)

Keep reading and enjoy!

Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima! Hail Eärendil, brightest of stars!


CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 29 2012, 3:51am

Post #19 of 41 (486 views)
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Chapter discussion of The Silmarillion? [In reply to] Can't Post

Since we have new people in the Reading Room, and since there's interest in The Silmarillion, I'm tempted to suggest we have a chapter-a-week discussion, or a chapter every 2 weeks. Past discussions, I believe, didn't draw as many people as LOTR and The Hobbit did, so if we did this, I'd propose a less formal structure, such as just one post on the chapter for the week, and if we don't do it every week, fine, then we skip a week or two. People could express interest in writing the post on specific chapters as we go along. Anyone else interested? We would need to reach a critical mass of 8-10 people to make it work.


Ardamírë
Valinor


Dec 29 2012, 4:06am

Post #20 of 41 (430 views)
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I'd love to be involved! [In reply to] Can't Post

I might even reread the book again. It's been too long!

I really like the idea. I say go for it, CuriousG. I'm sure with the new influx of users, we'll have enough to keep up a good discussion.

Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima! Hail Eärendil, brightest of stars!


Elizabeth
Valinor


Dec 29 2012, 4:37am

Post #21 of 41 (468 views)
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It's a big undertaking. [In reply to] Can't Post

It's a long and complex book. Even the recent read of The Hobbit had declining participation, although there were a lot of followers. Maybe your lighter approach would help, although I must point out that there are never any particular requirements laid on discussion leaders for posts per week, etc.

We had also discussed looking at Unfinished Tales, particularly since some of it has relevance to The Hobbit's tale.

What do you think, folks?






Join us NOW in the Reading Room for detailed discussions of The Hobbit, July 9-Nov. 18!

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 29 2012, 5:56am

Post #22 of 41 (442 views)
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Maybe we felt we should follow tradition? [In reply to] Can't Post

Good point, we were never told how to structure our weekly posts, but I think we fell into the groove and did what was done before us. I think it's a lot of work, even if a labor of love, to write all the posts, even just to read them. That's why I'm hoping the lighter approach might work.


callumtaylor90
The Shire

Dec 29 2012, 11:14am

Post #23 of 41 (443 views)
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This seems like an interesting idea! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Since we have new people in the Reading Room, and since there's interest in The Silmarillion, I'm tempted to suggest we have a chapter-a-week discussion, or a chapter every 2 weeks. Past discussions, I believe, didn't draw as many people as LOTR and The Hobbit did, so if we did this, I'd propose a less formal structure, such as just one post on the chapter for the week, and if we don't do it every week, fine, then we skip a week or two. People could express interest in writing the post on specific chapters as we go along. Anyone else interested? We would need to reach a critical mass of 8-10 people to make it work.


I don't consider myself a great intellect, so a discussion throughout reading would probably help me understand the text a little more. They I don't doubt I could keep you all busy with questions I will have. If this goes ahead I will be happy to be involved.


SilentLion
Rivendell

Dec 29 2012, 3:17pm

Post #24 of 41 (406 views)
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I like the idea [In reply to] Can't Post

of a lighter, slower-paced chapter discussion.


callumtaylor90
The Shire

Dec 29 2012, 4:12pm

Post #25 of 41 (394 views)
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This sounds perfect [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
of a lighter, slower-paced chapter discussion.


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