The Silmarillion turns 40 … [perhaps a pocket edition now?]


The Silmarillion_2

It was on 15 September 1977 when that J.R.R. Tolkien’s (possible) magnum opus was released. Christopher Tolkien’s laborious and successful attempts to bring his father’s complex and vast array of writings into a cohesive and readable format were achieved.

Difficult as it is to decide between his Middle-earth works, I’ve always had a kind of soft spot for The Silmarillion. The backstory behind The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, with its intricate structure, chronicle-spanning-millenia narrative, endless characters, intrigues and, above all, such high and sophisticated use of the English language, is an unprecedented feat.

Today we celebrate this mammoth achievement in writing and editing and, in honour of this occasion, I would like to share with you a quote (one of many) that strikes a deep, resounding cord in me. To those not yet enthralled by the pages of The Silmarillion, and those who are just about to delve into its dense and detailed stories, this is but a taste, a fragment of the flexibility and mastery with which Tolkien wielded language.

“Shall we mourn here deedless for ever, a shadow-folk, mist-haunting, dropping vain tears in the thankless sea? Or shall we return to our home? In Cuiviénen sweet ran the waters under unclouded stars, and wide lands lay about, where a free people might walk.” 

Chapter 9, Of the Flight of the Noldor

Concise, powerful and poetic. This is the author at his most intimate and near-perfection of the writing craft. These words were spoken by Fëanor, “mightiest” of the Elves and (aptly) a “master of words”, before the exile of the Noldor from the Undying Lands.

My love towards the writing and scope of this book is immesurable. Which is why I have often wondered why we have never had the opportunity of owning a pocket edition of The Silmarillion. We’ve recently seen the release of a few other works in that tiny, compact and cheeky hardback format.

Is it perhaps time to consider bestowing The Silmarillion with the same honour?

I think it is.

Share with us your favourite quotes, book editions and which chapter from the book you’re currently reading 🙂

Until next time!

18 thoughts on “The Silmarillion turns 40 … [perhaps a pocket edition now?]

  1. I love that quote! I can’t think of a quote that I especially like at this moment, but if I read a line I like/remember one(I know there are some lines that I like; I just can’t recall them right now), I will share it. I am on chapter 18 at the moment; “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin.”
    I was surprised when I found out (at the budding of my love for Middle Earth) that The Silmarillion was published after J.R.R. Tolkien had died. That’s a rather sad thing. But now I wish The Silmarillion a very happy “birthday” (of a sort). 😊

  2. I did not know that! Many happy returns, Silmarillion! XD
    I have always loved this book; ever since I read it a couple of years ago for the first time. The depth and richness of Middle Earth’s history is so clearly portrayed in it. 🙂 Tolkien’s writing really is so beautiful. 😀
    I really like these quotes:

    “In this Music the World was begun; for Iluvatar made visible the song of the Ainur,and they beheld it as a light in the darkness.”

    “Many are the strange chances of the world,’ said Mithrandir, “and help oft shall come from the hands of the weak when the Wise falter.”

    Thanks for writing! XD

  3. I love The Silmarillion. It’s my absolutr faviurite among Tolkien’s books. The language, the stories, the characters – they all fascinate me. It’s so hard to choose my favourite moment or quote – they are different each time I read. The Prophecy of the North always gives me chills.

    “There they beheld suddenly a dark figure standing high upon a rock that looked down upon the shore. Some say that it was Mandos himself, and no lesser herald of Manwë. And they heard a loud voice, solemn and terrible, that bade them stand and give ear. Then all halted and stood still, and from end to end of the hosts of the Noldor the voice was heard speaking the curse and prophecy which is called the Prophecy of the North, and the Doom of the Noldor.”

    1. Lovely edition of the book Alice. I’m fascinated to know how the translation from English fares.

      I’ve seen The Lord of the Rings films in Italian and was impressed by how they translated place names and specific words into another language whilst keeping the intended meaning as with the original English. I wonder if The Silmarillion follows that same idea?

      1. It does! The original Hobbit translation wasn’t very good, especially concerning the names, but they made a new updated one with the help of the Italian Tolkien Society and I’m happy to own this edition, which is the one illustrated by Alan Lee. Much more enjoyable. I’m very happy with the translation of Tolkien’s work in general. On the contrary, Harry Potter was a disaster because the names are completely different and don’t have the same meanings.

  4. Hi James.

    First of all: Congratulations to your great blog! I’m reading your articles for a while now and and they always make me look into Tolkiens books again. Concerning The Silmarillion: I agree that it is an awesome opus although imo it’s too fragmented to be considered as THE magnum opus.
    Shame on me: To this day I’ve never managed to read it as a whole. I always read it “chapterwise”. Should start a new try though.

  5. I just finished reading The Silmarillion and started reading The Hobbit again this weekend, so I’ll share my favorite quote from The Hobbit. It appears in Chapter 1 An Unexpected Party, said by Gandalf in response to Bilbo saying Good Morning,

    ““Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

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