My decade-old Tolkien book

The Silmarillion_1

Ladies and gentleman. This is the oldest Tolkien book in my collection.

It’s been 10 years since I bought my first book on Middle-earth. No The Lord of the Rings, nor The Hobbit would introduce me to the J.R.R. Tolkien’s storytelling.

I dived straight into the tales of the First Age.

It was early 2006 when I entered a bookshop, and this little book with a black cover and an intricate floral design on the front caught my attention. I obviouslyThe Silmarillion_7 knew of the author’s name via the films, but I was unaware of any other stories beyond the Rings narratives.

Curiosity compelled me to extend my hand, grab this rather bulky book and read the description at the back. The words First Age, Elves, War and Precursor to The Lord of the Rings was enough to set me straight towards the cash counter.

Ten years is a feeble amount of time compared to other collectors and readers who may undeniably boast a fine range of works over half a century old, or even further.

There’s nothing better than a well-worn classic (except for a brand new one, perhaps).

The Silmarillion_3

Notice the weathering and colour stains round the edges. Look at the creases running down the spine and the lack of gloss on top of Lúthien’s circular motif (no doubt worn by the constant flicking and handling).

The Silmarillion_4

As a matter of fact, this decade-old book has started to assume the qualities of antiquity and history that reflect the stories in The Silmarillion.

It has become akin to a book out of a fantasy world: a wizard’s tome weathered through the ages, but still containing words capable of conjuring powerful magic.

The Heartbreak

Before this book’s purchase and the beginning of my reading passion, I still respected any book’s tangible presence as a work of art. Suffice to say, any reader will confess the arduous task involving thick paperbacks with small lettering.

As I waded through the tales of the First Age, the book was stretched and opened wider and wider. Eventually, the spine broke under the pressure of my frivolous re-reads. The book split in two: appropriately, half way through the chapter on the Battle of Unnumbered Tears.

Tears unnumbered would have run down my face had it been worse. Luckily, the covers and pages still clung together but, from then on, it became quite a task to sift through round the 200-page mark.

The Silmarillion_6

Oh the pain!

My heart bleeds when I accidentally let go of one half of the book. Watching it flip open at a 180-degree angle flat on the surface, is awful.

The Silmarillion_5Yet, my yearly Silmarillion reading tradition would not be complete without this book.

I obviously own a hardback of The Silmarillion but, whilst beautiful to behold, it is not ideal for getting down and dirty with reading about Elvish rebellions and the stealing of precious jewels. My 10-year-old paperback has been with me through thick and thin.

If the hardback is the elite nobility, destined to adorn a bookshelf, the paperback is the commoner: a friend and a door into this vast world.

So long as the pages remain stuck together, I’ll always reach for the same book for years to come. The emotional attachment is too strong to let go.

The Silmarillion_2


22 thoughts on “My decade-old Tolkien book

  1. I agree — we have relationships with books as objects, not just as receptacles of content. Beautiful account.

  2. The early volumes of my Tolkien book collection are material evidence of my changing attitudes to books as physical objects. The first Tolkien book I read was The Hobbit, having encountered it in the school library, followed by The Lord of the Rings, then The Silmarillion, then Unfinished Tales, then The Book of Lost Tales 1. No one recommended that order; it was how I interpreted the blurbs and the listings printed in the books themselves.

    That was over 30 years ago, and those were all mass-market paperbacks, not really built to last. I read and re-read them, and in those days I wasn’t very careful about it, so although I still have those copies, they are now in a very sorry state. The Lord of the Rings, in particular, was the one-volume paperback Unicorn edition (with the Roger Garland painting of the Barad-dûr on the cover); its spine is now severely curved, broken in multiple places, and the glue in the binding has become so brittle that whole sections of pages have simply detached. So, obviously, I don’t read from it any more, but it’s there, enjoying its retirement, on the shelf.

    I started buying The History of Middle-earth in hardback with The Book of Lost Tales 2, and from The Lost Road onwards those volumes are still as good as new.

  3. After watering by accident my beloved edition of LOTR while I was reading it during Summer I bought all my favorite Tolkien books in kindle edition, so I can read them without worrying to ruin them now.

      1. I have Kindle versions also. While you miss out on the physical beauty and tactile pleasures of a high quality book, ebooks do have many thing going for them.

        – For big books, you are not holding a heavy object for long periods of time! I’m reading War and Peace atm, and glad I don’t have to lug around a hefty paperback, never mind a hardback. In fact the Penguin translation which I liked is not even available as an ebook, which led me to stick with one that is,

        – I can switch back and forth between reading on Kindle, iPad and phone. More opportunities to get some reading in, when you have the time and inclination! (Unlike a paperback, my phone is never far away!)

        – If you are north of 40, being able to change font size is very handy. Otherwise you might have to find some reading glasses.

        – For something like LOTR, being able to find passages by searching for a phrase is very useful. On a PC you can then cut and paste stuff for blogging purposes!

      2. I actually purchased it in 2012 and I think it was my best choice ever. Kindle books cost way lesser than paper ones, you can add bookmarks, highlight phrases and find them whenever you want (and also see them on your computer in txt format), you can highlight a word and easily see the meaning on the built on dictionary… I could continue all day! 🙂

      3. I also like that I can keep hundreds of books there and just carry the kindle with me when I travel. Plus, it doesn’t have the light inside the screen (like tablets an phones), so your eyes won’t hurt and you need natural or artificial light just like actual books.

  4. Lovely edition. The Silmarillion was my introduction to Tolkien, too! Only because I saw the previews for The Lord of the Rings when I was young, and the library didn’t have any of the books,. But they did have The Silmarillion. This book definitely has a special place in my heart. The stories are extraordinary.

    1. I share your thoughts Marie Anne about these books. Then again, I also thank the release of the films that spurred me unto my reading passion. The LoTR trilogy came out just at the right time 🙂

  5. The first Tolkien I read was a library book (a copy of The Hobbit). The first I owned, a nice paperback of LOTR, has fallen apart now, but I still have what’s left of it somewhere I think. I’m sad that it’s not intact any more, and I must admit that one seems like the one true edition of LOTR, and all others seem a bit like well-meaning imitations.

    1. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who has book-breakdown situations! 😀 And I agree with you about the “imitations” sensation. The first book you own seems like the ultimate edition.

  6. My most precious Tolkien book is my deluxe hardcover version of LOTR that looks like the Red Book of the Westmarch, but I felt a thrill of nostalgia after reading this post and thinking back on my 1979 1st paperback printing of the Silmarillion…I was 9 when I read that and was simultaneously enchanted and baffled by it. As my learning grew, my wonder grew along with it. I wish I had that old copy sometimes. Even though I have a pretty nice hardcover version now.

    I just discovered this website the other day, now I’m wondering how I’ve gone so long without knowing about it. So fantastic!

  7. Come to think of it, I bought my first copy of Lord of the Rings about 10 years ago. There will always be something special about that particular copy – the memories of reading it as a child, the smell, the joy of experiencing the story for the 1st time, then a 2nd, and then a 3rd time. I’m glad I’m not the only one to retain a sort of reverence for a personal copy of The Professor’s great works.

  8. I agree completely. No matter what, I will always have an emotional connection to my mother’s old paperbacks of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. You described it beautifully–thank you for the wonderful thoughts.

  9. I still have my original Hobbit and Lord of the Rings hardbacks!

    The Hobbit one, is the same edition, but older, of the 70th edition of The Hobbit (which I replaced it with, but still my ‘old’ copy but in storage.)

    My old / original copy of The Lord of the Rings is the single volume hardback with John Howe’s Gandalf on the dust-jacket. I got that the same Christmas that The Fellowship of the Ring hit theatres. I told my parents ‘I want The Lord of the Rings’ in hardcover.’ I’m not sure what was available at the time, but that’s the edition I got. It’s been ‘upgraded’ with the 60th anniversary boxset (a re-issue of the 50th anniversary boxed set that includes the reader’s companion.

    I’ve also got The Silmarillion in hardback, as well as Unfinished Tales (which match my Hobbit and LotR editions). “The rest” (The Children of Hurin – The Story of Kullervo, publication date wise) I got them pretty much as they came out.

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