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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Reading the Silmarillion - including longer versions of stories

Nick Demus
Registered User

Jan 16 2013, 10:18pm

Post #1 of 11 (640 views)
Reading the Silmarillion - including longer versions of stories Can't Post

Hi there,

I know this sounds hardly like a new question, but I haven´t found an answer to the exact kind of problem I have. I´m looking for some kind of guideline about which stories/parts of the Silmarillion have been expanded in other books.

My point is this: I´ve read both The Hobbit and LOTR a long time ago and wanted to read them again now, but as part of a much larger reading project: I want to read the whole history, basically, The Silmarillion, but since I´ve been able to remain unspoiled about next to everything that happens in the 1st and 2nd age I´m looking for a way to read it all chronologically with the best version of every story available. With "best" I mean "most exciting for first time readers".

For example, instead of reading the Silmarillion chapter about Hurin´s children, I guess it would be more exciting to read The Children of Hurin, as it is to read The Hobbit and LOTR first and then those short texts in The Silmarillion about the 3rd age´s end, isn´t it?

So what I´m looking for is a reading list, probably along the chapters of The Silmarillion, that tells me which chapters are enhanced by reading a certain bigger story or part of a story in another book. Basically, I would like to know which stories in the Unfinished Tales and the Lost Tales books are longer versions or just more interesting or exciting to read than their Silmarillion counterparts, for people who have no idea what´s happening in the world up to The Hobbit, OR shorter/unfinished stories and essays which make an interesting read AFTER any chapter in The Silmarillion because they give additional info that explains stuff but would have been uninteresting to read first.

Don´t get me wrong, I don´t want to skip the texts in The Silmarillion. I just want to read the "more exciting versions" first, then reread their counterparts in TS.

For any help you have my biggest thanks in advance.


Jan 16 2013, 10:28pm

Post #2 of 11 (407 views)
The Children of Húrin [In reply to] Can't Post

Read that in place of the Silmarillion chapter 'Of Túrin Turambar'. I don't think anything else is worth reading before reading the Silmarillion version. There are other expanded texts that are good to read after you know the basic story, but none are complete. The Children of Húrin is an actual completed novel that would be incredibly exciting to read without knowing anything about it, IMO.

Also, join us for our discussions of The Silmarillion!

There's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall and the bells in the steeple, too.
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird is popping out to say coo-coo (coo-coo, coo-coo).

Nick Demus
Registered User

Jan 16 2013, 10:37pm

Post #3 of 11 (404 views)
Thanks [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the quick answer. Smile
Sounds as if CoH is a great read. I can´t wait.

I´m sorry to hear about all those texts in the other books, though. Well, "UNFINISHED Tales" was kind of a big hint. Blush

But I would be prepared to read even unfinished stuff first if it´s an exciting read, and then skip to the Silmarillion text to read how it ends.

So, any more suggestions?


Jan 16 2013, 11:09pm

Post #4 of 11 (394 views)
You're welcome! [In reply to] Can't Post

I really don't think anything else is worth reading first. I'd read The Silmarillion first and then move onto Unfinished Tales (with Children of Húrin in the middle of course). Then move into The History of Middle-earth series where you'll get a wealth of different versions. It's fantastic and well worth reading.

There's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall and the bells in the steeple, too.
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird is popping out to say coo-coo (coo-coo, coo-coo).


Jan 16 2013, 11:36pm

Post #5 of 11 (397 views)
I read the Silmarillion nearly 10 years ago [In reply to] Can't Post

And I was just a little lad then so it didn't all really sink in... Then I had my Tolkien-rediscovery about 18 months ago (strangely enough, begun by the purchase of the soundtracks to the LOTR films...!) and I decided to do what you're doing. Halfway through the Silmarillion I bought "Unfinished Tales" and I already had Children of Hurin.

So, as has been suggested, I read Children of Hurin in place of the chapter "Of Turin Turambar".

As well as that, when I got to the chapter "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin," I read "Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin" from Unfinished Tales which was an absolute blast and so demoralising when it finished after it had hardly begun! I then went and found where the story left off in the Silmarillion chapter and went on from there.

Now, the only other First Age stuff is in the Silmarillion, so I finished the First Age there. In terms of Second Age stuff, it's very difficult. I went through Unfinished Tales and so read "A Description of the Island of Numenor" - not hugely exciting but very interesting in terms of actually discovering what this legendary "Numenor" actually is. Then there was "Aldarion and Erendis", which as far as I recall was a good story (I think it was supposed to be the only proper piece of history that survived the downfall of Numenor or something like that?).

"The Line of Elros: Kings of Numenor" is (again, as far as I recall) simply a list of kings and summaries of their reigns... and as such, it pretty much overlaps with the whole timescale of "Akallabeth" from The Silmarillion, but the two focus on quite different details I believe. I would have to say that Akallabeth is the better one to read, though obviously you should read both at some point Laugh I think Akallabeth completely skips over the "Aldarion and Erendis" episode I mentioned earlier, but the former gives greater context to the latter, and I think the latter adds some very interesting details to the former.

The only other 2nd Age bit as far as I'm aware is all that stuff about Galadriel and Celeborn in Unfinished Tales. I couldn't bear to read all of that, probably because it was all simply speculation and various bits of writing that directly contradicted each other in one way or another Crazy

Following on from Akallabeth, "Of the Rings of Power" covers some stuff which you of course already know some things about, but it starts off on the 2nd Age stuff. I think when I did my Tolkien run-through I stopped after Sauron's first downfall and then went on to the pre-LOTR 3rd Age stuff in Unfinished Tales which again is fantastic (I'm talking here about Gladden Fields and Cirion and Eorl, the latter of which cuts off in the most awful part of the story but does at least tell you about the origins of Rohan) Smile

Anyway, that's my take, I hope that's what you wanted Smile

Then Manwë and Yavanna parted for that time, and Yavanna returned to Aulë; and he was in his smithy, pouring molten metal into a mould. 'Eru is bountiful,' she said. 'Now let thy children beware! For there shall walk a power in the forests whose wrath they will arouse at their peril.'

'Nonetheless they will have need of wood,' said Aulë, and he went on with his smith-work.

(This post was edited by FlyingSerkis on Jan 16 2013, 11:38pm)

The Shire

Jan 16 2013, 11:48pm

Post #6 of 11 (387 views)
Another reason [In reply to] Can't Post

You would probably want to read The Silmarillion first because (in addition to what Ardamire said) it does not contain the extensive annotations and editorial commentary by Christopher Tolkien that are present in other books. The info he provides can be both fascinating and hard to digest. For instance, you may be reading a story in the History of Middle-Earth and find that it is interrupted by CT's note that an apparent logical contradiction with some other of JRRT's writings is due to one piece having been written after the other and version Z probably came before version X and he thinks so because he found it written on some undated papers in the bottom of his father's drawer that also contained some dated documents, so this one likely came from such-and-such range of possible dates. You may then return to the story only to find that -- where you expected an "ending" -- you instead have a note saying something to the effect of "here the lightly penciled handwriting becomes illegible."

That's just an approximation (not a quote from real notes), but I think it would be a very frustrating experience for a first-time reader to start anywhere other than The Silmarillion. Even if a part of a story gets fuller treatment in another book, the frequency and complexity of the notes can be off-putting to readers who feel that they make "reading" more like "studying." If you have a strong interest in Tolkien's world and a cast-iron faculty of patience, you will love the History books when you get to them, but I think they will be much more enjoyable if you read The Silmarillion first.

Happy reading!Smile


Jan 17 2013, 4:07am

Post #7 of 11 (385 views)
What I did [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm no expert, but here is my experience. The first time I read the Silmarillion, I was blown-away by the beauty of it, but I was sometimes confused by the story, since there were so many characters that you need to keep track of. It might be a good idea to have a vague impression of the big picture first by reading through the Silmarillion, then go on and read 'unfinished' or 'alternative' bits of story from other books. It gave me a sense of discovery, which was just magical.

It might be just me, but I found the stories more 'exciting' once I knew who the characters were (from the Silmarillion), because I felt more invested in their fate (although I already knew what was going to happen in the end).

Nick Demus
Registered User

Jan 17 2013, 8:24am

Post #8 of 11 (362 views)
Yup, that´s exactly what I was looking for... [In reply to] Can't Post

...so thanks a lot. Smile Most people seem to agree on reading The Silmarillion first (with CoH inserted appropriately), but I will definitely check out each of your suggestions along the way and then decide on the spot whether that alternate/additional text works for me or not. Since all of your suggestions come from Unfinished Tales, and due to the more "scholarly" nature of HoME, I will leave the HoME books alone for this first read of the material, as you all seem to agree upon, and buy them later if I still want to read more after finishing the five basic books (TS, UT, CoH, TH, LOTR).

I will also return here to tell you how it went for me, so that others who come after me might take this or a different road.

Nick Demus
Registered User

Jan 17 2013, 8:27am

Post #9 of 11 (348 views)
I can live with some comments and annotations... [In reply to] Can't Post

...since I find them quite interesting, so I will at least use the stuff from UT for the first read, but I will leave HoME alone until after I´m done with the first "round".

Thanks for the suggestion.

(This post was edited by Nick Demus on Jan 17 2013, 8:28am)

Nick Demus
Registered User

Jan 17 2013, 8:38am

Post #10 of 11 (349 views)
I understand what you´re getting at [In reply to] Can't Post

 I can see how knowing about the bigger picture first might enhance the understanding and the effect of a story while reading it, but I think the other approach might work better for me, personally. I´m the kind of guy who never reads a summary of a book that´s given on the envelope, because I want to discover the story while reading it, not knowing what is going to happen. I always cringe when I´ve read a book and then read the summary, only to discover how they gave away major plot points of at least two thirds of a book. I really don´t like spoilers, so there you go.

But I can see how your approach might work better for others. I will definitely tell you all about my journey and how it went after I´m done, so that others who follow might better choose their own path.

Thank you all for kind help.


Jan 18 2013, 9:55pm

Post #11 of 11 (437 views)
This is what I did. [In reply to] Can't Post

I had never made it through Silmarillion as a kid, so when I came back to it a few years ago, I read it and subsituted in The Children of Hurin where appropriate.

I enjoyed The Children of Hurin far more than the rest of the Silmarillion, though having context for the story definitely helped. I'm not a big fan of the writing style for Sil, but Children of Hurin reads like a novel, not a history lesson, so it's far more engaging. Still very different from The Hobbit or LotR, of course.

all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us...


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