Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Silmarillion

I finally finished reading The Silmarillion. Not that I am a slow reader (I started on October 11, and the book has 455 in Persian translation), I only had little time to spend on it. In fact, I read most of the book in the time I had between my classes at the university.

The Silmarillion is a complex work and not an easy book to read. The stories contain a lot of themes, names, and various information. The Wikipedia entry on "Of the Rings of Power and the third Age" (the final part of the book) says:

The work is a fictional historical essay dealing with the preamble to the events described in Tolkien's epic novel The Lord of the Rings, and the events themselves, in the style of The Silmarillion. The fact that those events are explored in a mere handful of pages suggests that if the events described in the rest of The Silmarillion had been written in the style of The Lord of the Rings they would have filled hundreds of volumes.

For a complete understanding of the book, it is necessary to read it more than once. That is what I do for most of the books I like. I usually find many interesting points when I re-read the books I had already read. In case of Silmarillion I have a new opportunity. I read the Persian translation and now, thanks to a dear friend, I have the original English text. I can read the stories again, and this time in the original language. The Persian translation was not completely flawless and it's major problem was reading the names. In Persian, normally short vowels are not written. Of course, it is usual to write the short vowels when a new word is introduced, or provide the original foreign word as footnote, but in this case I cannot really blame the publisher because the number of new words was very much and writing all of them with short vowels would probably make the text a little ugly. Anyhow, everything is going to be fine with the original text. I guess I will start it as soon as I get rid of the mid-term exams.

The first part of the book is Ainulindalë ("The music of the Ainur"). It is the story of the creation of the universe ("Eä") in Tolkien's Legendarium and its style is somehow like that of the Old Testament which I really enjoyed --I love archaic style. The story of the creation of the world out of music, especially, is very interesting. I had already tried to compose my own versions of the creation for the fun of writing fiction, and I was fascinated that part of Ainulindalë was similiar to one of my own accounts (in mine, the life was blown into the world from the song of the First Lady --Ovëliad).

The second part, Valaquenta, is less like a story but it's vital to the reading of the rest of the book, as it describes the Valar (those among the Ainur who became the powers of the world), the Maiar (the lesser Ainur who came to help the Valar), and the Enemies (those fallen among the Valar and the Maiar).

The third part of the book, Quenta Silmarillion ("The Account of the Silmarils"), is the bulk of the book and describes the beginning of the world before the elves and the men, the awakening of the elves and later the men and the dwarves, and mainly the story of the Silmarils, the three star-like jewels which were made by Fëanor (one of the high elves, those who went to Valinor upon the invitation of the Valar) along with many stories narrated meanwhile. Probably the most beautiful chapter in this part is the story of Beren and Lúthien. The story was also narrated by Aragorn as a very short poem in Lord of the Rings (FotR, A Knife in the Dark).

The fourth part is named Akallabêth ("The Downfallen"). This is my favorite part, although it is quite short. Akallabêth is the story of the fall of the kingdom of Númenor after the Dúnedain are deceived by Sauron and attempt to attack the Undying Lands and the Valar (and that is why they started calling him Sauron the Deceiver later). Only a group of them, still faithful to the Valar, survive (those lead by Elendil, that Aragorn in Lord of the Rings is his descendant) and Númenor itself is completely destructed by the will of Eru Ilúvatar ("the One, Father of All"). The theme partly resembles the story of destruction of Atlantis. Interestingly, the Quenya form of Akallabêth is Atalantë.

The final part of the book, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, tells the story of the making of the rings of power (and the most noticeable among them, The One Ring) and the events that lead to the events of Lord of the Rings, as well as a short narration of Lord of the Rings itself, in Silmarillion style. The book ends with the Eldar's leaving of the Middle-earth and the beginning of a new age for men.

Final words: I strongly recommend reading The Silmarillion for anyone who likes fantasy. Especially, if you have already read Lord of the Rings, reading The Silmarillion would increase the joy of the reading of both of the books.

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