Last week, I mentioned that I often read aloud to my husband (so that we both can enjoy some great literature together), and that our most recent adventures is into J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.
While it’s certainly less accessible to most readers than The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings because of its complexity, it’s filled with the rich history of Middle-earth and is a must try for any Tolkien fan. I often liken it to the Bible: all of the stories are intertwined and create a larger story, but it can be difficult to understand until you’re familiar with the characters.
So, if ever you were interested in reading The Silmarillion or just want the basics of what happens (and to watch me nerd out a little), these recaps are for you. And, yes, I’ll be sure to mention if there’s a huge spoiler so that it doesn’t ruin your adventure through The Silmarillion.
First off, it’s important to understand that the book actually contains four stories, the first of which being “Ainulindalë.”
“Ainulindalë” contains Middle-earth’s creation, and it all begins with Ilúvatar. He creates the Ainur, creatures specifically and uniquely designed for an upcoming purpose: the creation of Arda (the world).
On this particular day, he brings all of the Ainur together to play a three movement symphony. Each of the Ainur has an instrument to lend to the music and a special part to play. As they play, though, one of the Ainur named Melkor decides that he wants his part to be more important than the others, so he starts doing his own thing. And loudly. While this does throw the others off (and, at one point, even discourages several of the Ainur enough that they stop playing), Ilúvatar isn’t fazed. He lets the battle rage a while then brings the music into the next movement.
Once the third movement is finished (in spite of Melkor’s meddling), Ilúvatar shows the Ainur what their music has produced: a vision of a beautiful land with a rich history unfolding before them. The Middle-earth that we all know and love.
And, as Ilúvatar shows this to all of the Ainur and encourages them, he has some great words for Melkor: “And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” (Tolkien 6).
After this, several of the Ainur decide to take on the task of bringing this vision of Arda to life. By doing this, they stop being the Ainur until Middle-earth comes to an end and become known as the Valar.
The most notable Ainur who become the Valar: Melkor (insert boos and hisses here), Ulmo, Aulë, and Manwë.
More on the Valar and their roles coming soon in the next installment.
Updated: So apparently a couple of things I thought I included went missing in my haste to finish this post.
First, thanks again for the idea, Anthony Lee Collins!
And the edition referred to in this post is printed by Del Rey, copyright 1999.