One of the first thing I thought after finishing this book was that my view of the world will never be the same. After all, it’s not everyday where you read a book set in a world of its own. A world created for the soul purpose of writing an epic story.
Probably there are books that create a world of its own, but those are mostly restricted to religious takes, such as the bible which describes the creation of the world in great detail. Not as much great detail as this, for sure. Simply put, there is a huge universe living inside the head of Tolkien’s mind and he has presented forth, this universe in great detail and depth. Each chapter is its stand alone story in this book and each story could be made into its own little trilogy like the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. Yes, this book describes that world, the world in which these well known and famous stories takes place. This is the mother lode of all fantasy stories ever written and will be written. Everything I read in other books pales in comparison to what I experienced while reading this book.
I took my time reading the story, it was not lengthy by any means and not at all compared to the more famous works of Tolkien. This is in essence, a prologue to everything that happened before other stories and is a very detailed summary. Missing completely from the book is the presence of a hero that you can relate to. There is no Frodo, Aragorn or wizards that changes their colors in hue (although the over encompassing nature of this book ensures that their names are mentioned in at least one chapter). What’s missing in hubris of a real hero is over compensated by the nemesis of the story, Melkor / Morgoth, who can be briefly described as the definition of evil, literally. Divine in nature and methodology, evil without ends, the book diminishes the overall evilness of Sauron to pitiful levels in comparison by having him as a mere servant to this master of darkness. Sauron, for the most part is a lesser form throughout most of the book, taking second place to the true and first source of evil in this world.
Without dwelling into too much spoilers (yes, you must/should/have to/absolutely read this book) Melkor has set a high bar for other competing books in creating a formidable nemesis. He is in this work, an ainur, the equivalent to a demigod in Tolkien folklore. He has sung his own song (literally, the course of history in Tolkien’s world is based on songs sung by him and other demigods) and his song contributed to the evil ways of the world. Much of the book is about the ever lasting war between Melkor and other Ainur who descended on earth, and his loathing for the creations of Eru, the God of Tolkien Universe. “Who?” you might be wondering, having watched 2 trilogies without so much as a mention of a god in the Tolkien universe. Indeed, I read the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series of books without so much as assuming there was a god at all. My basic assumption was that this world had no need for spiritual belief, that there is no god at all and everyone is agnostic in their thinking. This book sets the record straight for everyone who might have thought that. There is a god, his name is Eru or Iluvatar, there are demigods and even other spiritual forms called Maiar, and Gandalf the Grey/White was one of them. So was Sauron. So was Saruman. Thank you, Silmarillion, for setting these facts straight. For a while, Tolkien had me wondering what was so great about Gandalf aka Mithrandir, who happens to be resurrected back from the dead for no special reason. That there is foreshadowing that there is indeed a God and that Gandalf is just no mere wizard.
Problems with the book? Yes indeed, this is a fictional work and as all fictions go, there are problems, no matter how over compensating and broad that the accompanying concept is explained.
The world is flat
The world is flat… for most of the book. The Ainur/Valar aka demigods present on the world made it round when they left. Its very clear that the world is flat in the book because mention of how it was made round later on. This, while sounding very epic and original (a flat world was made round, people!) has the dire analogy with the biblical interpretation of earth. It was clearly flat in the bible, and well… now it’s not, is it?. While it made for very good read, involving radical changes to the entire setting of the world later on in the book, I found this concept, a bit unoriginal.
This has been talked about before, by other commentators on the book. So I’ll keep my explanation brief. Numenor is Atlantis, period. For all reason and purpose. The way they rose to become a great civilization of Men, the way they had astounding technology, the way the land was later swallowed up by the seas (in the process of which earth also became round) is nothing more than a modern intrepretation of Atlantis in the settings of the Tolkien universe. A very well written, throughly thought out setting, with Sauron taking the helm of evil doings after Melkor packed up and left (of course he didn’t pack up and leave), but still… this is Atlantis. Numenor is even referred to as Atlanta afterwards, Tolkien denies the connection, but hey, buddy, it’s Atlantis.
No to evolution
Another biblical interpretation sets the record straight for how men, elves, dwarves, orcs, dragons etc came to be. They just were. Men and elves were created and ‘awoke’ at their given times. No evolving what so ever. Orcs and dragons were created in a similar fashion, by Melkor. Dwarfs were created by a Valar. And Hobbits? From the book, I take that hobbits also just came to being in a similar fashion, because they just appeared at some point. Probably the product of Dwarf and Men getting it on, maybe. The science for explaining these coincidences is not so strong, so let’s not delve any further into this matter, yeah?
Oh god, the names. Everything has multiple, easy to forget, names. Everything! Places, elves, dwarfs, gods, demigods, birds, houses, kingdoms. I suspect at least 10% of the book is just names. It maybe a linguists wet dream, but a nightmare for the normal reader. Keeping track of who’s who is difficult because these multiple names of multiple people just keeps popping up everywhere, fragmented across many chapters. Then there is the case where people get new names as the story progresses. Melkor becomes Morgoth at some point, according to this manner. Turambar… don’t even get me started on Turambar. This post is going to be too long if I start to document how his name changes, according to his (mis)fortunes.
Even though the ending of Lord of the Rings doesn’t make it clear, this book certainly makes sure of the fate of Elves; their days are coming to an end. Given how they are immortal, the book doesn’t really provide more information on how this eventuates in the end. They probably pack up and left? Where? No clue.
I really don’t want to diss too much on this book. It is a must read for any fantasy fan boy, and this book certainly delivers in epic proportions to that end.