Taken from Christopher Tolkien's foreword to The Silmarillion [Square Brackets added]
The Silmarillion, now published four years after the death of its author, is an account of the Elder Days, or the First Age of the World [Middle-earth]. In The Lord of the Rings were narrated the great events at the end of the Third Age; but the tales of The Silmarillion are legends deriving from a much deeper past, when Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwelt in Middle-earth, and the High Elves made war upon him for the recovery of the Silmarils.
Not only, however, does The Silmarillion relate the events of a far earlier time than those of The Lord of the Rings; it is also, in all the essentials of its conception, far the earlier work. Indeed, although it was not then called The Silmarillion, it was already in being half a century ago; and in battered notebooks extending back to 1917 can still be read the earliest versions, often hastily pencilled, of the central stories of the mythology. But it was never published (though some indication of its contents could be gleaned from The Lord of the Rings), and throughout my father's long life he never abandoned it, nor ceased even in his last years to work on it. In all that time The Silmarillion, considered simply as a narrative structure, underwent little radical change; it became long ago a fixed tradition, and background to later writings.
The book, thought entitled as it must be The Silmarillion, contains not only the Quenta Silmarillion or Silmarillion proper, but also four other short works. The Ainulindalë and Valaquenta, which are given at the beginning, are indeed closely associated with The Silmarillion; but the Akallabêth and Of the Rings of Power, are (it must be emphasised) wholly separate and independent. They are included at my father's explicit intention, and by their inclusion the entire history [of Middle-earth] is set forth from the Music of the Ainur in which the world began to the passing of the Ringbearers from the Havens of Mithlond at the end of the Third Age.
The Silmarillion comprises five parts. The first part, Ainulindalë, tells of the creation of Eä, the "world that is". Valaquenta, the second part, gives a description of the Valar and Maiar, the supernatural powers in Eä. The next section, Quenta Silmarillion, which forms the bulk of the collection, chronicles the history of the events before and during the First Age. The fourth part, Akallabêth, relates the history of the Downfall of Númenor and its people, which takes place in the Second Age. The final part, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, is a brief account of the circumstances which led to and were presented in The Lord of the Rings.
The book is presented and written as a history, and as such contains virtually no dialogue, and is therefore very different to The Lord of the Rings.
The Silmarilli were three perfect jewels, fashioned by Fëanor, most gifted of the Elves. When the Dark Lord, Morgoth, stole the jewels for his own ends, Fëanor and his kindred swore a terrible oath to wrest the jewels from him, or any other who had them, and take them for themselves. So, Fëanor and his kindred took up arms and waged a long and terrible war to recover the Silmarils.
This is the story of that war, of the First Age of Middle-earth.
This was a very interesting book, but some would, no doubt, find it boring, as it more of a history book, than a novel. However, do not read it before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings because it certainly would be boring otherwise. You will recognise some of the characters from The Lord of the Rings – Galadriel, Elrond, Gandalf, Saruman, and Sauron all make an appearance. However, I really enjoyed the history of the First Age of Middle-earth, how the Balrogs came to be, how the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, rebelled, and fought against the Elves for thousands of years.
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- Reading Age: 13+
- Reading Aloud Age: 13+
Some violence, but not explicit.
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