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Myths of Middle-Earth,
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.