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Tips For Reading The Silmarillion?

I think at this point I can say that I have read every page in The Silmarillion. I’m not as confident that I’ve read them in order, as I’ve done some picking and choosing when I get bogged down in a passage of Elvish lineage.

Have I read it, though? I don’t really know.

I know some of you have, however, because you were foolish enough to comment on earlier Tolkien posts and put yourself in the spotlight.

I have a couple of questions for you, if you’re willing to share.

In your opinion, should someone read Silmarillion before Lord of the Rings? Why or why not?

What do you get out of it? The one thing that this book lacks for me is a real sense of enjoyment. I’m not even sure why, it just feels like work to me. More than I want it to, at least.

When did you first read it?

Why did you first read it?

What do us ninnies who can’t hack it miss out on by not giving it more attention?

Please sirs and madams, please help us.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • suzita September 26, 2011, 10:28 am

    hiya 🙂

    I would read lord of the rings before the silmarillion – why? well its easier to read ;), and you get an understanding of middle earth and its customs before you are thrown into an archaic world.

    I had tried reading through it a few times and kept giving up at various times until… I found the podcast series by The Tolkien Professor (<- search on itunes and they're free) – reading the passages and then listening to the relevant podcast really opened up this world to me and made it, not only comprehensible, but enjoyable!

    I first read it (properly) just a few months ago and I read it because all throughout the lord of the rings there are tantalising hints of myths and legends and tales and poems of the ancient days and I was too nosy not to find out more about them 😉

    stick with it – the beginnings of middle earth are full of treachery, love, doom, bravery… you'll be surprised at how badly some elves behaved (and what they endured) 😉

    yeah am a convert now 😉

  • Heather September 27, 2011, 6:54 am

    I read it, but I don’t remember much of it. I too felt it was quite boggy with details. It’s sort of like any other study of mythology or religion–if you just read sections, you might get more out of it. I would suggest it only for a serious Tolkein scholar, or someone who may have to analyze it, or analyze the MiddleEarth mythos. Otherwise, I believe you can still read the entire trilogy without delving into The Silmarillion.

  • Sarah September 27, 2011, 8:56 am

    I read it for my class, and we started from the beginning…The Silmarillion, then The Hobbit and then the LOTR. I don’t think you need to read the Silmarillion to enjoy the trilogy, but it’s definitely an added perspective to the entire mythology. It’s a tough read, definitely work to get through, but you learn so much about the world of Middle Earth.

    If you choose to read it, I’m not sure if before or after LOTR is the best time to. Because the entire trilogy is reduced to a simple few paragraphs in it, there’s really no danger of spoiling much beyond the bare essentials of the plot. The real danger comes if you can’t get through it…it could turn you off to the rest of the series if you haven’t already read it. Therefore, I guess it would be better to read it after LOTR (unless you take a class like I did, then you have no choice!)

  • Caroline September 28, 2011, 11:50 am

    After LOTR, definitely. I tried reading it a few times as a young teenager because I loved LOTR but didn’t get through more than the first few chapters (which,not coincidentally, I now remember best). Reading it later, after reading lots of different kinds of English lit, I got way more out of it, as it echoes and talks with other creation/mythological/religious stories (and I finally finished it).

  • Troels Forchhammer September 30, 2011, 5:40 am

    You certainly do not need to read “The Silmarillion”, if you don’t wish to. The style, as many others have pointed out, is quite different from that of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” (at least as far from any of these as the last couple of books (books five and six) of LotR are from the first three chapters of “The Hobbit”.

    The Silmarillion is written in a mix of modes: consciously mythological ranging to the legendary, with bits of the annalistic thrown in for the fun 🙂 As such it is not something that will fall within everybody’s sympathies, but it is also difficult to say whether it should be read before or after the other books. Personally I’d say that one should start with that which your taste best and then progress only if and when you desire to do so.

    If you decide to read it, I advice not to bother too much about remembering all the family relations etc. – just go with the flow and bother about the other stuff later. You might also wish to consult some introductory guide: the first chapters are rather low on the action, but once you reach chapter 6 or 7 of the Quenta Silmarillion (which constitutes part 3 of the book and the majority of the pages) it does step up a bit (though still with bits of “setting up the world” to follow here and there). On the other hand, if you truly like the mythic style of e.g. the Genesis (i.e. liking it for the narrative qualities, decoupled from the religious) then there’s a good chance that you will also like the first chapters of the published Silmarillion.

    Many Tolkien enthusiasts recommend moving on to either “The Children of Húrin” or to “Unfinished Tales” (selectively) after reading LotR because these other books contain narratives that are more alike to LotR than The Silmarillion. Steuard Jensen has set up a customizable book-list at his FAQ site: http://tolkien.slimy.com/defaultBooks.html

    • Josh Hanagarne September 30, 2011, 9:02 am

      I loved the Children of Hurin. Unfinished Tales looks like a bit much for me right now. Thanks for the great comment.