[gasp] Whaaaaa? Did she really just say that? Um, yes. Yes, she did.
Look. Here’s the deal with The Silmarillion.
- If you’re not a huge Tolkien nerd, you’re probably going to throw your hands up in disgust, swearing and tearing your hair out after the first two pages.
- Even if you are a huge Tolkien nerd, if you generally skip past the songs in LotR and the Hobbit or can’t handle creation myths – you will probably end up like the people in the first group.
- For the biggest Tolkien nerds it can still be rough going sometimes. For realsies. I have to REALLY BE IN THE MOOD to even attempt it or I end up like those in the first and second groups.
SOOOOOO, that being said I’m going to be the awesomest and give you a re-cap of the highlights, in preparation for our upcoming group read. Some of this stuff is just kind of neat, and other parts are super important. So pay attention, yeah? It’s a bit of a slog at times, so I’m going to break it up into a few different posts. But still…pay attention.
(Music of the Ainur)
The Ainulindalë is the first part of The Silmarillion. It concerns the creation of Middle-Earth and is fairly standard creation-myth-fare. Seriously, it’s all (paraphrasing here) “In the beginning there was Eru/Ilúvatar/Father of All. It was dark and he was lonely so he created the Ainur (Holy Ones) to keep him company and sing to him.” Yes, the first thing he taught them was to sing for his pleasure. What a jerk, right? Maybe. We’ll see.
The first Ainur we meet is Melkor. Melkor doesn’t like being told what to do, or that he’s expected to collaborate with the other Ainur for songs. He takes off to create his own damn songs, which are referred to as loud, vain and repetitive. Fun!
All the Ainur get together to sing for Ilúvatar and Melkor keeps butting in with his loud songs, and other Ainur join him. Dissonance. Ilúvatar kind of shames him by managing to incorporate Melkor’s crappy song with the rest and everything is better for it. When the singing is over, he praises Melkor for his hard work, then chastises him for being a dick and takes off – leaving the Ainur with their thoughts and songs.
Time passes, but it’s the Void so who really knows how long it was?
Ilúvatar returns and says “Hey guys! Let me tell you about this great idea I had for your songs!” He shows them his plans to create a physical plane and that all of the songs they’ve been singing will bring to fruition a different aspect of this new reality that will exist within time.
Melkor gets a little grumpy to learn that his themes were all part of a master plan and are going to be incorporated.
Eä (The World that Is/the Universe) is created. Time begins. Arda (the world and the skies that surround it) is created IN Eä. The Ainur (split into the greater Valar and lesser Maiar) are given corporeal form and sent down to ready Arda for the coming of the Children of Ilúvatar (elves and men). Melkor is among them.
The Valar build stuff up, Melkor tears it down. This continues for A LONG TIME (like, thousands of years, seriously). Melkor takes off in a huff, but comes back and builds himself a fortress (maybe with blackjack and hookers, but I’m not really sure). Technically, Arda is ready for her Children.
(Tale of the Valar)
Names. Names and more names. I’m not going to name everyone here because it would be far longer than you want to read. Let me sum up.
- Valar – names and descriptions.
- Maiar – names and descriptions
- Bad Guys – Melkor (also now going by Morgoth) and his minions (former Maiar, some of whom come to be known as Balrogs [SEE IMPORTANT!]) and his first lieutenant, Sauron (also important, I told you to pay attention!).
Okay, I think that’s enough for today. Check back later this week when I’ll continue explaining why you shouldn’t read The Silmarillion on your own. Next up will be Quenta Silmarillion, which really deserves its own post.
Thanks for reading and heading off to Middle-Earth with me this summer, guys. It’s nice to have a Fellowship this time.
Also, make sure you head over to As You Were to check out David’s post on why he reads Tolkien.