If it hadn’t been for my “thou shalt not put any books by authors of whom you have already read any work on thy list” rule, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Simarillion would most certainly have made my list of 40 books to read before my 40th birthday. It has that certain je ne sais quois, that mythical do-not-read-it-is-boring thing going on.
The Simarillion sets up the mythology of Middle Earth in five parts. Therefore, you do not get lots of character development or plot, but a huge smothering of backstory to The Lord of the Rings:
- Ainulindalë (“The Music of the Ainur”), in which we learn that in the beginning there was nothing, and in the nothing there was Eru, who is also called Ilúvatar, who first created the Ainur, and who through song created Eä, the “world that is.” It’s Tolkien’s creation myth.
- Valaquenta (“Account of the Valar”), the second part, gives a description of the Valar and Maiar, the supernatural powers in Eä.
- Quenta Silmarillion (“The History of the Simarils”), is the meat of the book. Set before and during the First Age, it a bloody chronicle of the rise and fall of Melkor.
- Akallabêth (“The Downfall of Númenor”), relates the history of Númenor and its people, which takes place in the Second Age. It also tells of its doom, brought about by Sauron and the pride of men.
- The final part, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, is a primer of how the events in The Lord of the Rings came to be.
Despite the nearly biblical tone used and the names — Oh! My! Freakin! God!, the names. ALL THE NAMES. All the names, all the time. It is rare for one character to have just one name. They have a name, and then they do a thing, and they get called something else based on that thing they did, and then there is an elvish way to say that name, but being the son of such and such they have the name of their fathers as well, and several other besides. One of the appendices is register of names, and by the Holy Mother of All Things Bright and Shiny, do you need it. — I found The Simarillion a quite enjoyable read.
But fear not! I do not think that you absolutely need to read it, unless you are one of those persons who is like super deep into stuff and needs to know like every bit of canon and lore there is to get maximum enjoyment of the thing you are perusing (i.e., you are a super-nerd). Sure, you might then not know where Sauron came from, or why pointy-eared elf-boy spoke with awe of a Balrog of Morgoth, or why Aragorn is so awesome, but like I said, unless you are really into stuff like that and cannot take things for granted, you might not give a damn anyway.
Or you could just watch a video explaining most of the book in four minutes:
- Book read
- J.R.R. Tolkien — The Silmarilion
- First line
- There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made.