The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Characters in the books of The Silmarillion are defined as archetypes: Morgoth and Sauron are satanic fallen angels, Beren and Luthien are fairytale hero and princess, and Turin is a tragic hero whose great potential for good is twisted by a curse manifested in his own character. The sheer number of names and adventures is daunting. Tolkien’s inclusion of genealogical charts and a name index is no affectation. The most absorbing and convincing of these characters are those caught in the complications and limitations of their nature as created beings. Feanor, for example, so fiery a spirit that his birth drains his mother of all life force, is both fiercely good and bad. His drive for knowledge and skill enables him to create the Silmarils, the only repositories of the light of the Two Trees, yet he sunders the Elves from the Valar, leads in battle against fellow Elves, and betrays his friends in his search to recover his lost gems. He is Morgoth’s chief enemy and his most useful tool, a paradox, producing great sorrow and suffering yet also great beauty of heroism and defiance, and through the events he sets in motion, all the history of the Silmarils. No character or tale is isolated from the rest, and the tales outlined in The Silmarillion are echoed to some extent in The Hobbit (1937) and very strongly in The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955).