Book Review: The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion
By J.R.R. Tolkien
Edited by Christopher Tolkien

Published posthumously, The Silmarillion is the bible to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Literally. Told mostly from an Elf-centric point-of-view, The Silmarillion covers the creation of Middle-earth, or Arda, through the rise and fall of the elf kingdoms, the rise and fall of Numenor, and the rise and fall of Sauron, the dark lord.

The book provides invaluable background on the history of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, and draws many parallels from Earth history and mythology. As a history book, it gives many brief overviews of potential stories, some of which, such as The Children of Hurin, are expanded in other places, but The Silmarillion is definitely not a novel. Those expecting another Lord of the Rings will likely be disappointed, but despite its non-novel nature, there is an overarching thread of plot weaved throughout.

The history focuses mostly on the elves, or Eldar, their fall from grace because of greed and selfishness combined with the influence of the evil one, Melkor, and the dwindling of the elvish race. Along the way, we are treated to tales of heroes from other races, such as the humans Hurin and Beren, ancient ancestors of Lord Aragorn. We also briefly meet dwarves, orcs, and dragons, along with the supernatural races of nature spirits, the Valar and Maiar.

The Silmarillion is a fairly easy read, although the names and places can get confusing. I first read it about two years ago, after which I read The Children of Hurin. It wasn’t until my second reading of The Silmarillion that everything started to sink in, although that’s generally true for most complex novels as well. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a big fan of Tolkien’s. If you’ve seen The Lord of the Rings movies, but never read the books, The Silmarillion is probably not for you.

This review originally appeared 31 August 2012 on

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