The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien, is a work in five parts that serves as a mythological creation story and history of the Middle Earth, the fictional universe created by Tolkien that served as a setting for both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The first part of the Simarillion, the Ainulindalë, is the creation myth. It describes the creation of Ea through a series of battles that take place between the forces of good and evil. The second part, the Valaquenta, describes the Valar, or the creator gods. The third part, the Quenta Silmarillion, consists of a number of stories that describe historical events that took place during the First Age of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The fourth part tells the history of the Second Age, and the fifth part tells about the Third Age and the power of the rings. Interestingly, Tolkien continued to expand on The Silmarillion as he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
The Silmarillion is not a traditional, single-text novel, but a collection of five separately titled texts, the “Ainulindale,” “Valaquenta,” “Quenta Silmarillion,” “Akallabeth,” and “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.” These texts are the distillation of decades of imaginative work and mountains of notes accumulated by J. R. R. Tolkien in a fantasy which stretches from the birth of a universe through its mythical age and the departure from the created world of its visible supernatural and immortal denizens. The work which the reader sees is the result of Tolkien’s and his son Christopher’s efforts to give form to a much longer and more diffuse text. Even so, it is extremely complex, with an index of names, tables of genealogies, maps, and scholarly apparatus on pronunciation and formation of names of places and characters. The “Ainulindale” (music of the Ainur) and the “Valaquenta” (account of the Valar) establish a creation myth, in which Iluvatar sings the universe into being. A choir of Ainur attend Him, each a separate theme of His thought in the universal harmony. Melkor, along with Manwe the most powerful of the Ainur, revolts, singing an individual, discordant theme, choosing cold, darkness, and evil. The other Ainur remain faithful. Even Melkor’s discords are absorbed into the creation of Arda, or Ee, “the World that Is.” The “Quenta Silmarillion” follows with its tales of how fourteen of the Ainur, led by Manwe, chose to dedicate themselves to the shaping of Arda and preparation for the coming of the “Children of Iluvatar,” the Elves, Men, and Dwarves. Each of these good Ainur, or Valar, rules some aspect of the world. Melkor, the fallen angel, also takes up residence in Arda, awaiting the birth of the new peoples and twisting the work of the Valar.
The Valar choose the far West of the flat world, Valinor, lighting it with two huge lamps in endless day, beginning a harmonious and symmetrical creation. Melkor, in jealousy, casts down the lamps, throwing the Spring of Arda into darkness and turmoil. In the battle that follows, the lands are rent and tumbled, and Melkor is forced into concealment but fortifies himself in the fortress of Utumno with his attendant demons, the Balrogs. Yavanna, ruler of the growing things, returns light to Valinor by singing into life two wondrous Trees, Telperion and Laurelin, which glow with their own cyclical light. From the dew of Telperion, the angel Varda (Elbereth) forms the stars which light the twilight of Middle-earth. In impatience for the appearance of the Children of Iluvatar, Aule, the fabric of Arda, forms the Dwarf sires and then gives them, in penitence, to Iluvatar, who accepts them as foster children but leaves them to sleep under the mountains of Middle-earth until after the awakening of his First Born, the Elves.
From the first appearance of the Elves, singing in the starlight of Middle-earth, the fascination of the immortals with these creatures of Arda is complete. The Elves are not bounded by early death, as Men will be, but...
(The entire section is 3,171 words.)