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84 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The bible of Middle-Earth
It's more than slightly staggering to consider: the epic fantasy "Lord of the Rings" to be the tail end of Tolkien's invented history. The "Bible" of Middle-Earth, the "Silmarillion" stretches from the beginning of time to the departure of the Elves from Middle-Earth.
A complete summary is impossible, because the book spans millennia and has one...
Published on 28 Feb 2006 by E. A Solinas

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68 of 76 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor Deluxe edition
I have purchased the deluxe editions of the LOTR, and the three volumes of the History of Middle Earth. All of these books are superb and are printed on fine India paper. However unlike these books the Silmarillion deluxe which I bought is printed on much heavier, poorer quality paper. The print quality in the first few pages was also very dissapointing. Although...
Published on 6 Jan 2004 by MR S CONNOR


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84 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The bible of Middle-Earth, 28 Feb 2006
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Silmarillion (Paperback)
It's more than slightly staggering to consider: the epic fantasy "Lord of the Rings" to be the tail end of Tolkien's invented history. The "Bible" of Middle-Earth, the "Silmarillion" stretches from the beginning of time to the departure of the Elves from Middle-Earth.
A complete summary is impossible, because the book spans millennia and has one earth-shattering event after another. But it includes the creation of Tolkien's invented pantheons of angelic beings under Eru Iluvatar, also known as God; how they sang the world into being; the creation of Elves, Men, and Dwarves (hobbits are, I think, not really covered); the legendary love story of Beren and Luthien, a mortal Man and an Elf maiden who gives up her immortality for the man she loves; the demonic Morgoth and Sauron; Elves of just about any kind -- bad, mad, dangerous, good, sweet, brave, and so forth; the creation of the many Rings of Power -- and the One Ring of Sauron; the Two Trees that made the sun and moon; and finally the quest of the Ringbearer, Frodo Baggins.
Many old favorites will pop up over the course of the book, such as Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf, and so on. Fans of Elves will find plenty to feed their hunger; fans of Hobbits or Dwarves will not find as much here. It will also answer some questions that "Hobbit" and LOTR may raise, when references to long-ago incidents and people are made -- what is Numenor? Who are the Valar? This includes those things, and much more.
The writing style of Silmarillion is more akin to the Eddas, the Bible, or the Mabinogian than to "Lord of the Rings." It's more formal and archaic in tone; Tolkien did not get as "into" the heads of his characters in Silmarillion as he did in LOTR, and there is no central character. Needless to say, this is necessary as a more in-depth approach would have taken centuries to write, let alone perfect. If readers can bypass the automatic dislike of more formal prose, they will find enchanting stories and a less evocative but very intriguing writing style. This style strongly leans on the Eddas, collections of story and song that were unearthed and translated long ago. Though obviously not as well-known as LOTR, it is clear that these collections helped influence the Silmarillion.
It's clear to see, while reading this, the extent of Tolkien's passion for his invented history. Someone who had a lack of enthusiasm could not have spent much of his adult life writing, revising, and polishing a history that never was. It's also almost frighteningly imaginative and real: It isn't too hard to imagine that these things could actually have happened. In a genre clogged with shallow sword'n'sorcery, Tolkien's coherent, carefully-written backstory is truly unique.
If you can take the formal prose and mythical style, this is a treasure, and a must-read for anyone who loved LOTR or "Hobbit." Only after reading "The Silmarillion" can readers truly appreciate Tolkien's literary accomplishments, and the full scope of the Middle-Earth that is glimpsed in his more famous books.
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274 of 282 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fills out Middle-Earth, 28 Dec 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Silmarillion (Paperback)
When you read Lord of the Rings there are innumerable references, some of them too puzzling and important to ignore, to events from the past; people, battles, places, names. It occurs in The Hobbit as well, but to a much lesser degree.
If you read either of those and don't like them, or found them hard going, so be it, and don't bother with this. But, if you read them and like them, you will be wanting to know what it was all about. Where did dragons come from? Who are Elrond and Gandalf? What is the Balrog? Where did Sauron come from? Who are the Men of Westernesse? What was the Last Alliance? Where did the One Ring come from?
Tolkien did that deliberately. He created a complete world, with a history from start to finish. Lord of the Rings is only the end of the tale that starts in the Silmarillion, with the beginning of Middle Earth. He wanted LotR to be the story, the compelling tale, but what happens in it, and the places it happens in, is all part of a great history.
That history is told in this book. From creation of Middle Earth to beyond the end of LotR, it covers everything that happened. It genuinely is a complete mythology.
For that reason, the Silmarillion is an inferior *story* to LotR, but tells you the *history*. It doesn't read like a story at all, but like a history, a bible of Middle Earth. Many, many happenings, places and especially names, will put off the casual reader, and rightly so. It is the stuff of legend, too dense for anyone without an interest in getting to the heart of Middle Earth and, therefore, LotR and the Hobbit.
One of the best things is the glossary in the back, which has in it every term, name, thing and place in Middle Earth, and what they are. Of course, even though it is technically a prequel to LotR, don't attempt reading it first. Like I say, it fills out the world that LotR and the Hobbit create.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as it could have been, 18 Feb 2006
This review is from: The Silmarillion (Paperback)
This is NOT an easy read, and can seem a bit like a list of names or the old testament at times. You have to study this book - work at it, with the Return of the King's appendix and this books appendix at hand to constantly be refered to. It took me two attempts to get through it the first time, but now I honestly enjoy dusting this off at least as much as the lord of the rings. It's now impossible for me to read one without the other.
The sense of history, depth and grandeur that's apparent in the lord of the rings is so MUCH more convincing than any other fantasy novel for a reason. That history has been written. It's real (if you follow me!).
Tolkien created a series of languages, a world, all of its history, all of it's peoples, all of its geography, its gods, its conception, its weather, its plants, its trees, its animals, its seasons, its calendars etc etc. He created everything. The lord of the rings is not just a little fantasy story flung against some backdrop reminescent of medieval europe. Sadly most "epic fantasy" stories are just that.
However, the lord of the rings is really just a side track, and one that tolkien was loathe to take himself. As a story it's epic enough. It really only deals with a very short, fleeting piece of something so much larger. The Silimarillion is your first chance to appreciate this, and I suggest you enjoy it!
This book is flawed, Christopher Tolkien admits as much himself in the history of middle earth and the foreword to unfinished tales. CT indulged in some "editorial meddling" (his words) to make a coherent story from a collection of disparate, contradictory writings. The result is, in spite of this, still rather convoluted and taxing. For me, the need to keep your wits about you, cross check information and really work at reading this is part of the fun. Having done all this a few times over the years, now this is a gentle coffee table book.
The only real 'problem' with this work is that it just leaves you wanting more!
Luckily for you the history of middle earth and unfinished tales provide you with just that.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By the light of Iluvatar!, 11 Aug 2003
By 
Anduril (London) - See all my reviews
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Excellent audio version of what many have found to be a difficult Tolkien masterpiece. Martin Shaw is an outstanding narrator. His tone, colour and dramatic ability give life to a literary form which could appear little more than a mystical reworking of the book of Deuteronomy.
No hesitation in recommending this. For all Tolkeenies, it gives wide and convincing backdrop to the events pre-dating the War of the Ring. If you have not read it before, I would suggest having a copy of the book to hand as well. The biblical lists of names can be baffling without such assistance- even with the best of storytellers .....
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72 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great additional achievement of Tolkien's, 29 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Silmarillion (Paperback)
"The Silmarillion" is the book you should read AFTER having read "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit". It explains the entire history and mythology of Middle Earth, taking you right through from its creation to where "The Lord of the Rings" ends ... the middle section of "The Silmarillion" is, in my opinion, the best part. You find out why it is that Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield are so pleased when they discover the swords Glamdring and Orcrist in the troll's lair. You find out more about Gondolin, the Elves, and why exactly it is that they act the way they do in "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings". You also find out more about the Men of Middle Earth, who Sauron is, who Elbereth is and other such elements which frequently obtain only a brief sketching in the other works.
"The Silmarillion" is a great read in itself, giving great extra evidence on how carefully thought out Tolkien's Middle Earth was. My advice is to re-read "The Lord of the Rings" after having read "The Silmarillion". It is at any rate definitely worth the investment!
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66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Majecstic insight into Tolkien's inner workings, 10 Dec 2001
By 
Neil Benson (Richmond, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Having read Chrisipher Tolkien's reworking of his father's notes in 'The Silmarillion', I don't believe that JRR ever really intended them to be published. The history of Middle Earth is a many splendid thing, but ne'er made complete even by his son's most passionate editing.
But the wondrous voice of Shaw adds a magnificent majesty to the plight of the Elves and the forces of good against the Dark Lord. Unabridged, unsurpassable. I imported the CD version of Silmarilion through Amazon.com a few years ago and was entralled by every word Shaw recited of this great biblical history of Middle Earth. I've only listended to this entire collection hundreds of times, and I can only imagine tiring of it's retelling several lifetimes from this one.
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77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to get into but well worth the effort, 8 Feb 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Silmarillion (Paperback)
It took me three attempts to get past the first chapter - the song of creation in which the world is formed - but it the effort was worth it.
The full majesty of Tolkien's vision unfolds in this book, which was only hinted at in Lord of the Rings. The Silmarillion tells the history of the Elves, the Dwarfs and the Men - who were born into paradise only to see it spoiled by their own weaknesses and the machinations of The Enemy.
The Silmarillion explains the glory of the Elves, and why Tolkien loves them so much, but also allows for the triumph of Beren, a mere Man who achieves the greatest feat in Tolkien's history.
If you have read Lord of the Rings, you have to read the Silmarillion - and then read Lord of the Rings again!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imagineering History, 3 Oct 2008
By 
Mr. Joel C. A. Cooney "Joel_C" (Glasgow, Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Silmarillion (Paperback)
First things first, before you consider purchasing this book, it is of paramount importance that you are aware of the following. For the avoidance of doubt, this isn't really a literary novel in the way that LOTR is; you won't find the finely-hewn descriptions of the landscape or the close focus on characterisation. As others have indicated, its written in the archaic style of historical middle english legends or even that of a religious text i.e. lots of "...and lo, it came to pass", "...thus X begat Y, Y begat Z" etc, etc.

If that prospect doesn't appeal to you, even if you consider yourself a Tolkien fan - frankly, DO NOT buy this book! If on the other hand you can deal with the peculiarities of the narrative - perhaps you have an interest in myths and legends or want to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the concepts that underpin the LOTR universe - by all means dive in. You will be richly rewarded with a story of even greater scope and imagination than LOTR.

Essentially, The Silmarillion is to LOTR what the ancient greek myths are to the Illiad or The Odyssey, in that the events portrayed in LOTR are but the latest episode in a continuum of fictional history that stretches back eons. Where LOTR mainly concerns the Hobbits and Men, Silmarillion concentrates mainly on the Elves and goes someway to explain the lack of their presence in LOTR and the estrangement between them and the leaders of Men.

In these days of "universe building" stories ("Star Wars", "Star Trek" et al), its hard to appreciate the scale and majesty of what Tolkien achieved on his own (to the extent that even he couldn't fully complete it within his lifetime - his son Christopher had to finish it off). In addition, the fact that most of the detail in the book is only sketched out, provides ample opportunity for others to flesh out the stories as Christopher has done with "The Children of Hurin" - its a wonder that more authors haven't taken the opportunity (perhaps they are restricted by the Tolkien Estate).

As with all stories in this format, it does have a tendency to take itself rather seriously - there is very little in the way of humour or light relief. Also, due to the sheer density of myth, the number of characters involved and the similarity of names (e.g. Fingon, Fingolfin, Finwe, Finarfin, feanor etc.) its quite easy to get confused. Thankfully, like LOTR, there is a map and a number of explanatory appendices you can refer to if you get lost.

In conclusion, its unlikely that this will appeal to the casual reader. It requires real effort to get through, but the imaginative return is more than sufficient. I have recently re-read this book for the umpteenth time and still haven't tired of it - I find I get something new from it on each read. In addition, it aids your understanding of LOTR itself by filling in the gaps of knowledge (ever wondered who "Beren and Luthien" are?)

Of all the material published by the Tolkien estate (including all the "history of middle earth" series), it is the one book, other than LOTR itself, I'd label "Essential Reading".
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Myths of Middle-Earth, 1 Jan 2004
This review is from: The Silmarillion (Paperback)
If you preferred the book of The Lord of the Rings to the films, and especially if you read the Appendices to the book with enjoyment, then this book is for you. The Silmarillion provides the inside information you need to understand what the characters in the Lord of the Rings are talking about.
If you ever wanted to know more about Numenor, or wondered who Luthien Tinuviel and Beren the one-handed were, then you will find the answers here. And not at tediously protracted length. This book contains several works, not one. And in the longest tale, many of the chapters recount individual legends that stand alone.
People can be put off Tolkien by his books' lack of fleshed-out believable characters, humour, points of contact with real life, and sparkling, pacy prose. All these things are especially absent from the Silmarillion. The people you meet here are all fair damsels, tall heroes, twisted villians and proud kings. They talk in deliberately archaic language, and the prose of the narrative is portentous and stilted.
This is all deliberate. Whereas, in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Professor Tolkien was in the business of story-telling, here he is setting out to manufacture myths. He designs his characters not to be people but archetypes along the lines of Pandora and Loki.
And it works. The deeds done are suitably mighty, the evil works satisfactorily atrocious and the strokes of fate fittingly tragic. The history of Tolkien's world - not just here but in the Lord of the Rings too - is a story of gradual but inexorable decline from an initial state of sublime grace. Tolkien delights in talking about corruption, fading and passing away; he seems in love with the past. In the Silmarillion he tries, with some success, to create a mythical past worthy of love.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic but hard work, 24 July 2004
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This is a masterpiece and although you have to REALLY concentrate to 'get it' its well worth it, there are many fantastic stories in the Silmarillion.
Martin Shaw is fabulous also, his voice is majestic which suits the stories perfectly.
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