Silmarillion is a great book, thoughquite biblically ponderous and sadly clinically free from humour.Skilled script writers could make several outstanding movies, or evena TV-series based on its many episodic stories. It's black and white(though the Fëanoreans are more greyscale characters) and all aboutbig cosmic clashes. No funny little stories there, but epic battlesand doomsday at the end of two ages, with vast swathes of landsdrowned under the sea. Greed reigns supreme and trusts are broken.
The Silmarillion is dark, and basicallyeverything goes to hell for the mortals. Anyone reading it willrecognize many themes used in Lotr and Hobbit. In short, the Hobbitand the Lotr trilogy are the kinder child's version of Tolkien'sfantasy, where good wins the day and saves the world. InSilmarillion, the world is flawed since creation, and though good maywin the day, the world certainly isn't much saved...
The equivalent of Pelennor's Fields orAragorn's march to the Black Gates end with a massive slaughter ofElves and their allies, with Orcs overrunning much of Beleriand(westernmost Middle Earth, sunk beneath the waves in 2nd-3rd ages)and several legendary story arcs kicking off amid this world fallingapart into the abyss, with despair and darkness drowning out beaconafter beacon of hope until only one light remains in the darkness.
Tip A: Fëanor (one of two characterswho serves as the basis for WHFB's Aenarion) is the best character inthe book. Well-developed, flawed in person though masterful incrafts, fiery in temper and the only one to slam his door inMorgoth's face. The one exception to the rule of no humour in theSilmarillion: "Get off my lawn, Dark Lord!"
Tip B: The best Tolkien battle scenesare to be found in Fall of Gondolin. Written very early in the 1920sand showing signs of this several times, it is nevertheless splendidand not too surprisingly JRR never prioritized a rewrite update. It'sworth reading, though it's not in the Silmarillion, but rather in theUnfinished Tales if one can dig it out among many of the otherhalf-finished stories and early manuscripts found there. Seek it out.
The Silmarillion deserves to be filmed,and treated as well as possible (true to the spirit of the storiestherein, but polished with some inserted humour where appropriate).Ultimately, the work is Tolkien's unfinished magnus opus, which heworked on from the late first world war (started writing when woundedat a war hospital) right up to the end of his life, polishing andadding to. His son Christopher (who worked together with an acclaimedfantasy author to compil and edited the Silmarillion togetherfollowing his father's death) will not release the rights forfilming. His father did for the Hobbit and Lotr trilogy in 1960s fortax inheritance reasons, which is why we had any Jackson movies atall, yet Christopher (for all his good work) is flawed in his outlookto deny the wider world access to his father's life work outside ofthe book itself.
We'll see what happens in the Tolkienestate upon Christopher Tolkien's passing away, but until then, wecan only dream.
In the meanwhile,hereare some images trawled from across the web compiled in an album, fora look at some fans' visions of the story and first age world (muchremains to be added into the album).
Also, listen toBlind Guardian'sNightfall in Middle-Earth album for an audio take on theSilmarillion.
A few highlights. All the cosmiccreator clash stuff is neat on its own and original in places, butthe doings of mortals are what makes this the good story that it is:
The world is sung forth intoexistence by godly beings
The mightiest of the gods to settlein the world, Melkor Morgoth Bauglir, rages as a chaotic force ofnature for untold ages, acquiring followers and shaping the world inhis violent struggle with the orderly gods. Morgoth causes untolddamage and shatters all the works of his enemies.
Morgoth starts out with an icy baseup at the north pole, Utumno, where monsters are bred.
As the coming of Elves first, thenHumans, draw closer, the Valar (gods of order) decides to strike.They lay waste to Utumno and drag Morgoth chained from itsdepths.
A large part of the Elven tribes areled to Valinor (paradise home of the gods) to dwell among thegods.
Morgoth broods chained and shackledfor millenia, but seems to repent and work for good. He is grantedsome freedom, and teaches the Elves crafts. In particular,he teaches the strongest Elven tribe, the Noldor to forge weapons. Healso sows dissent and plants seeds of mistrust, rivalry, greed,hunger for power and destruction in the seemingly calm paradise.
Fëanor, heir to the craftsfolkNoldor Elves, creates the Silmarils, gemstones of utter power andbrilliance, envy of the very gods.
Fëanor never trusts Morgoth, yet isultimately more influenced by the Dark Lord than anyone else. For thefirst time in peaceful paradise, someone draw sword, and at his ownbrother (Fingolfin) at that.
"Look, half-brother, this blade issharper than your tongue":
As the Elven drama unfolds, Morgothand Ungoliant (ancestor of Shelob) drains the twin Trees of Valinor,odd wooden predecessors of sun & moon
Having killed the Noldor king Finwë,stolen precious magical gemstones and cast Valinor into chaos, MelkorMorgoth and Ungoliant escapes. In safety, Ungoliant demands hershare, draining jewels in large numbers. She grows enormouslypowerful. She demands the last gems which Morgoth hides, theSilmarils, which he refuses her. Ungoliant turns on Morgoth, whogives up a giant roar of anguish and deepest terror (etches itselfinto the landscape where it took place), and is only saved by hishost of Balrogs. He is now safely back in his new stronghold,Angband, marshalling new hosts and breeding monsters and Orcs.
Meanwhile back in Valinor, all hellbreak loose as simmering conflicts unravel among the Noldor nobility.The gods sits in silent council while Fëanor, firstborn of the slainking Finwë, makes his seven sons swear a holy oath to retrieve thestolen Silmarils from the hands of whosoever holds it. Agitationamong the Noldor results in an exodus back to Middle Earth.
Another Elven tribe, the seafaringTeleri, refuses to lend the Noldor their ships. Bloodshed ensues inthe first kinslaying, as the Noldor claim their ships by force. TheNoldor gets cursed by the gods to die by the sword, to see all theirefforts fail and to never return to Valinor, yet their only hope lieswest across the sea.
The Noldor split apart due to royalfamily conflict. Without enough ships to transport all the emigreesacross the sea at once, the elder son Fëanor takes his followersacross first. Rather than sending the ships back as promised, heburns the ships, forcing his half-brother Fingolfin to either walkback in shame to Valinor, or lead his people across the grinding iceto the north. These Elves press on, embittered.
Fëanor leads his armed followersstraight to Angband, intent on revenge and Silmarils. However, in hisfrenzy he charges ahead with only a few friends, leaving his vastarmy behind him. Seeing his chance, Morgoth sends out all his Balrogsin force to destroy this mighty mortal. It does not happeneasily.
The feuding Noldor factions barelymanages to overcome their differences, settling in separate realms,encountering Wood Elves, Dwarves, Men and more, striking allianceswhere possible and building great kingdoms. Much happens. Morgoth'sfortress of Beleriand is put under lengthy siege by the Noldor Elvesfor 400 years, who fights several large battles against Orcs.Eventually, however, the treachery of Men and the strength of Melkorresults in the wholesale slaughter of the Elven hosts. Before thisfinal damning defeat, however, the warlord Fingolfin challengesMorgoth to a duel in darkest despair, wounding the Dark Lord beforedying. The Dwarves of Belegost play their part in the large finalbattle as well, falling upon the first revealed (wingless) dragonwith their weapons and wounding it severely before marching off fromthe battlefield, singing dire dirges as they carry their slain kingwith no army present daring to stop their departure:
The Dark Lord stands triumphant,erecting a huge hill of the slain and overrunning much ofMiddle-Earth.
Most of the Silmarillion from now ondeals with sagas of this slide into hell in a handbasket. Basically,it is a collection of legends on Morgoth's mopping-up of the defeatedfree peoples, and their last desperate grasping for hope andsalvation. A few bits follow.
Húrin, a Human auxilliary in theservice of king Turgon of Gondolin, sacrificed himself and hiskinsfolk during the great defeat, acting as vanguard to allow thehost of Gondolin to escape intact. Morgoth, however, has Húrincaptured and chained to the rocky heights of his fortress. There, theDark Lord use sorcery to make Húrin witness the unfolding of a curselaid upon the hero's children, Turin and Nienor.
Túrin grows up in the Wood Elf kingdomof Doriath, raised by the Elf Beleg Strongbow as a warrior in thewilderness. The nobleman Saeron, however, taunts Beleg for hisuncouth manners and dirty dress at the king's table. For thisaffront, Túrin fights Saeron, defeats him, and runs him naked into acanyon where Saeron dies. Túrin is exiled, and joins a band of Humanoutlaws, pressuring the Petty-Dwarf Mîm to reveal his hidden home,which the bandits use as a base in their raids. Mîm eventuallybetrays Túrin, and Túrin is captured by Orcs. In the dark of thenight, he is saved by his old mentor Beleg Strongbow, who cuts downthe Orcs and release Túrin. Yet in the confusion amid darkness,Túrin mistakes Beleg for an Orc and cuts his friend down. Anothercaptive, the Nargothrond prince Gwindor, picks up the black swordGurthang and presents it to the Human slayer.
Túrin goes on to become a champion ofthe hidden Elf stronghold of Nargothrond, yet his rash tactics revealits hidden location and allows Morgoth's troops to storm the city.Leading the assault is Glaurung, a mighty wingless dragon. During thesack of nargothrond, Glaurung transfix Túrin with his gaze altersTúrin's memory, ensorcelling him. Túrin drifts to the small Humanforest realm of Brethil, where a naked woman named Nienor is one dayfound fleeing through the woods. Welcoming her, Túrin marries Nienorand makes her with child. Yet Brethil is discovered, and Glaurungsinglehandedly approach the forest. Túrin hides in a canyon and stabthe dragon through its weakly armoured gut, slaying the monster. Thedying Glaurung lifts the spell from Túrin's mind, and the Human herorealize that he has married his own sister. In darkest despair,
he flings himself upon his black sword,whereupon Nienor flings herself from the rocks of the canyon.
Húrin has by now reached old age, andthrough Morgoth's sorcery seen everything that has befallen hischildren. The Dark Lord release Húrin, who encounters his old wifeMorwen. The old couple can but look back on a life of misery, andMorwen dies in the arms of Húrin.
The last Noldor stronghold remainingis the hidden city of Gondolin, who falls thanks to jealous treacheryfrom within its own royal family. The fall of Gondolin is an epicbattle, taking many Balrogs down with the doomed city.
After much intrigue, the Wood Elfprincess Luthien and her human lover Beren (Tolkien calls himself andhis wife Beren & Luthien on his own tombstone) tricks Sauron andsneaks into the depths of Angband under a powerful spell. At thecourt of Morgoth, their cover is blown, but Luthien dances inenchanting sorcerous beauty, and the court falls asleep as Morgothponders vilating the fair maiden. They manage to free one Silmarilout of three from Morgoth's crown before Angband starts waking up,and flees in panic. Morgoth, however, bides his time and does notpursue the lost jewel, for he know it will doom the remaining freeElves.
As the agreed (impossible) prize forhis daughter Luthien's hand, the Wood Elf king Thingol receives theSilmaril, and contracts the most skilled Dwarf craftsmen to fashion anecklace for him. Quarrel ensues, however, and the Dwarves' greed forthe invaluable Silmaril is awoken. They march with an army into theWood Elf Kingdom Doriath, slaying many, killing Thingol and stealingthe Silmaril. Beren and some Elven rangers ambushes the returningDwarves, however, and captures the Silmaril.
The release of one of the Silmarilsback into the hands of mortals sets off a spiral of destruction. Asword reaches the ears of the seven sons of Fëanor, they act upontheir dark oath, and marches first into Doriath, sacking the capitaland slaying many of the remaining populace, despite much diminishedFëanorean numbers. Following another lead, the Fëanoreans marchesto the strong Dwarf city Nogrod, breaching its gates and sacking itas well, yet still no Silmaril has been found. Finally, the cluespresent themselves. The Fëanoreans descend upon the very last safehaven remaining in Beleriand, crushing the Elven refugees hidingthere, yet failing to capture the Silmaril. Elf slays Elf. Dark deedswhile Orcish hordes rampage across the fallen kingdoms.
A half-Elf named Eärendil seizesthe free Silmaril, embarking on a world-spanning odyssey, eventuallylanding in Valinor despite the cursed charms surrounding the realm ofthe gods. The Silmaril's powers makes him win through and lift thecurse upon the doomed Noldor tribe. There, Eärendil rallies theValar gods and their remaining Elves, who march to Middle-Earth andcasts down Morgoth's titanic power and armies in the ruinous War ofWrath, which makes Beleriand shatter and eventually sink beneath thewaves.
Morgoth is defeated and cast outinto outer space, though his creations and lieutnants remain, hidingand biding their time to rise again. The hunt for the Silmarils isnot over, however. The last two surviving sons of Fëanor sneaks intothe Valinor army's camp by night, killing guards to steal theirSilmarils. However, they are caught.
The Valinor generals, despiteeverything, gives them their precious jewels. The evil deedscommitted in the hunt for the Silmarils have however darkened theFëanoreans' souls completely, causing the pure Silmarils to scorchthem. One son, Maglor, throws his gem into the sea to wander theearth singing sorrowful songs about the Elves of lost Beleriandforever. The other, Maedhros the oldest son, casts himself and hisSilmaril into a yawning chasm, swallowed by fire.
The Elves made a mess of the FirstAge. It is up to the Human Númenoreans to do likewise in the SecondAge, and the cycle begins anew...
The post was edited 5 times, last by Karak Norn Clansman ().