Back in college (I’m feeling exceptionally old after saying that), I studied Homer’s The Iliad epic for a critical analysis paper. I hardly remember anything about it, except that it had to do with lineage and influence, and because I am a visual learner, I took it upon myself to draw out a family tree with as many characters, details, and connections as I could fit. I found this method to be tremendously helpful in terms of reigning in a work with a ridiculous number of humans and gods, all of whom have aliases, relations, allegiances, and special powers or influences. I knew that Tolkien’s The Silmarillion was going to have the same ability to overwhelm readers by the sheer number of characters, so I turned to my trusty friend, the family tree. The book came with three or four family trees already laid out for me in the back of the book, and although that was often useful, I wanted to avoid saying “okay, now who is that?” and holding my place while I flip to the back of the book to see how Tuor fits into the story. My tree stayed right next to me while it grew and spread and branched into what, I must say, is a really bangin’ family tree.
So, clearly, The Silmarillion requires a bit more “reader assistance” than your average book. My version had a map, three family trees, and an appendix listing all the characters and places, just in case there were a couple hundred pages in between mentions of Eonwe and you may have forgotten who he was. Having said that, though, I thought this book was great! The Silmarillion is meant to preface his other Middle-Earth-related works and tells the story of the creation of the Elves, the creation of Middle-Earth (Arda), the banishment of most Elf races to Arda and the fight of Elves, Men, and Dwarves against Morgoth (Sauron’s predecessor) and the many evils of Arda. Tolkien has been credited with a tendency to seem long-winded and overly descriptive; while I think this is cockamamie, I can agree that he takes explanation and description very seriously. When describing Iluvatar’s (the “God” of Tolkien’s story) creation of Arda, he explains which of the Valar (Elf gods) controlled each earthly contribution, such as wind, water, elements, the moon, etc. It remains similar to The Iliad in that the Valar show preferences for certain Elves, Men, and Dwarves, and they often intervene in the many conflicts of Arda. You find yourself pulling for certain characters and I, personally, love knowing the stories that so heavily influence The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Although I’m very fond of this book, I can’t say that I suggest it to just anyone. I can see that, based on reader preferences, it could seem like overkill or hard to follow; however, it is exactly my favorite type of book and I would suggest it to anyone who loved The Iliad or anything mythology-related.
On another note, I don’t know about you, but I am just flat-out tired of that book challenge. It was interesting at first, but the questions for the second half of the challenge are boring. Feel free to review the other questions and ask me if you truly want to know, or you can let us know any of your own answers, as we’re always glad to hear from our readers. Hannah recently gave our profile a makeover, so check out the Book Reviews tab and our new and improved Reading Lists. We’re starting with The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith once my copy comes in at the library. Yay, libraries! Anyway, we will keep you all posted on our progress and we’d love for any of you to follow along or just comment. Have a great weekend!