Out of all the three major books by J.R.R. Tolkien (‘The Silmarillion’, ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’) – one question often arises amongst both non-fans and avid readers alike: “Which one of these is your favourite book?”.
I’ve often been asked that question, and to be honest, I always found it quite difficult to give an exact answer. The thing is, that every time I read any one of the books, I say to myself: “Yes, this is the one! This is the best …”.
But no sooner do I start reading the next book than I start thinking again: “No, no … this is my favourite!”.
I’m approximately into my 5th to 6th reading of each of the above three and I still can’t come to any conclusion. The beauty of Tolkien is that each book (although ultimately revolving around the same world and, in some instances, the same characters) has a different style of writing.
‘The Silmarillion’ is archaic and a cleverly crafted chronicle of epic events that take place over thousands of years. (It really is a pity that many of the stories have not been developed to the full – thank goodness for ‘The Children of Húrin’, at least!)
‘The Hobbit’ is a simple, yet powerful narrative that encompasses everything – from the large scale conflicts between good and evil, to the complexities of a character’s transformation.
On the other hand, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ mixes both the epic concepts of ‘The Silmarillion’ and the adventure-feel of ‘The Hobbit’ and meshes them into one massive novel of intricate detail.
You’re probably thinking the same thing I am … that the answer seems pretty obvious. “It’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ then!”. Unfortunately, it’s still not that simple to me …
However, as I keep re-reading these books, I am slowly beginning to accept the fact that ‘The Silmarillion’ shines out a little bit more than the other two – due to its high concept that made it just short of becoming a mythology in itself.
So if someone were to ask me: “What’s your favourite Tolkien book?” I’d probably reply:
“It has to be ‘The Silmarillion’, but with the knowledge of the stories in ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as background material.”
Pretty much back to the start then, isn’t it?