The Silmarillion was compiled and edited by Christopher Tolkien, after his father passed away. What would the book have been like if JRR Tolkien had lived long enough to complete it? Sadly, we’ll never know. But still! What we have been left with is a marvel of worldbuilding and beautiful writing.
I do feel rather accomplished/proud of myself for reading the whole thing. And so glad that I can understand the memes now! =) The Silmarillion may be dense reading at times, but it is not as hard as people make it out to be. As long as you have a good, explanatory index (and I think most editions come with one), you’ll be fine! Oh, and maybe a map (though I didn’t refer to any myself). There are also primers, chapter-by-chapter guides, and other study helps out there if you’re interested.
All that being said, The Silmarillion is not a book that is easy to sum up. Nor would I feel qualified to do so after only reading it one time. But I still want to share a few of my thoughts!
At its core, the book is about three jewels created by an elf named Fëanor (boooo). Oaths are sworn concerning these jewels. Wars are fought. Elves/people are killed. Terrible tragedies forever dim the name of Fëanor–and, if it were possible, the beauty of the silmarils themselves. Melkor/Morgoth is the bad guy of the saga, with Sauron as his right-hand man (Maia?).
The Silmarillion covers thousands and thousands of years of Middle-earth/Valinor history (while also detailing some of the events that happened before Middle-earth was even created). There are hundreds of named characters, many with similar names. And while the events surrounding the silmarils themselves do create a sort of loose, overarching plot, there is a lot more that goes on.
For instance…a LOT of death and suffering and heartbreaking moments. Because there are so many tragic deaths throughout the book, I thought I would do a quick list of the top five saddest ones. Just because. (I almost put Túrin on the list, but I feel for some of the other characters more deeply. I have included someone that he killed though. Fun?)
He could have made better life choices. Maglor said as much (“…less evil shall we do in the breaking [of our oath]”). But Maedhros was one of the better sons of Fëanor and my favorite character in The Silmarillion for quite a while. (Still not sure who actually gets that title.) His death? When he finally grasps one of the silmarils and finds that he’s not worthy to hold it, he commits suicide. Actually awful.
Challenges Morgoth to a 1v1 in his fury, and hurts him so badly that Morgoth feels the pain of those wounds for the rest of his life. But to no avail. Eventually, Fingolfin is beaten down and killed. The only thing that makes his death slightly better is that an Eagle retrieves his body and Morgoth doesn’t get to triumphantly defile/display Fingolfin’s corpse.
I love Fingon. He rescued Maedhros from Morgoth’s clutches in a daring act of bravery. ❤ Cousins for the win! Later, Fingon and Maedhros team up in an attempt to take down Morgoth once and for all. Fingon fights bravely during the Nirnaeth Arnoediad (aka the Battle of Unnumbered Tears), but in the end is brought down by two Balrogs. Honestly, that whole battle is a tearjerker. But I like Fingon a lot, so his death hit particularly hard.
Will never not be okay with Beleg’s death. Hate, hate, hate it.
Finrod is arguably the best of all the elves–ever. He goes with Beren on his quest to retrieve a silmaril and is captured by Sauron. Finrod fights with Sauron through song, but is defeated at last. (One of the saddest lines ever is “And Finrod fell before the throne“.) Finrod eventually dies defending Beren from one of the Sauron’s werewolves. It’s a heartbreaking, yet noble end for such a wonderful character. And he gets to spend the rest of his days with his dad in Eldamar. :*)
The Silmarillion may sound like a dark, sad book. And yes, there is a lot of sadness. And a lot of darkness. But the message I choose to take away from it is that, at the end of the day, when it looks like maybe the night will last forever this time, there is always a sliver of hope.
Last of all Húrin stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield, and wielded an axe two-handed; and it is sung that the axe smoked in the black blood of the troll-guard of Gothmog until it withered, and each time that he slew Húrin cried ‘Aurë entuluva! Day shall come again!’
See? There’s hope. Day shall come again!
(Except for Túrin.)
Talk to me! Have you read The Silmarillion? Do you find it hopelessly depressing or full of light in the darkness? And do you agree with my list of saddest character deaths? Let me know in the comments!