My eleven-year-old brother has read LOTR twice now and the other day he asked if he could read The Silmarillion (our family has mild age restrictions for LOTR and the Silm). My mum isn’t much into Tolkien and knows little of the Silm so I said it should be fine, as long as he didn’t object to his emotional health being ruined forever. After all, I first read it when I was eleven. Then at suppertime the next day he was talking about how he had opened it, read the first few words, and slammed it shut.
I resisted having an indignant twitchy fit.
You see, the Silm is even more irresistible than The Lord of the Rings. Admittedly I would never have said this before last week, because I had only read it all the way through once (like I said, when I was eleven). And at that point I was expecting a novel so I was disappointed and really only made myself keep reading, at least for the first few chapters until Beren and Lúthien where things got more interesting. But now, having reread the entire Quenta Silmarillion, I have to say it’s my favourite Tolkien book ever.
The Silm is the history of a world descending from ultimate bliss into gloomy sorrow. You watch haplessly as Melkor steals the light of Valinor and hides it away in his fortress. You suffer with Finarfin and the Teleri as the Noldor run mad. You grow to love characters in a few short words, only to endure their deaths a few chapters later. You weep for the hopeless valiance of Middle-earth’s greatest heroes. Did I say hopeless? No, for underlying all the death and despair there is hope. The last tears you weep will be in joy as Eärendil risks his life to plead pardon for Elves and Men.
The Silmarillion is surely the greatest literary work since Shakespeare.