The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

Serendipity seems to have been on my side lately. Between my posts about The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, news came out that the series might be widely adapted into coordinated a coordinated combination of a TV show, Movie(s), and video game(s). Now, as I was about to finish reading The Silmarillion, I am shown an article about Tolkien first published 47 years ago. I enjoyed the timing a great deal.

I put off reading this way too long. I read a bit of it in college, but never the whole thing. It seemed ponderous and overreaching to get through. As it turns out, the solution was easy: I simply accepted that I would fail to understand and retain a large portion of the details. Once I accepted this fact, rather than trying to follow every meticulous story with characters who are referred to by different names depending on who is speaking, and when, and where, I was able to enjoy the story and move on.

There were a couple chapters I didn’t enjoy. Conceptually, I love the idea of a world that is carefully mapped out. However, when a full chapter is dedicated to geography, it tends to bore me. This is not a flaw in the text, but a weakness in my own mind. I accept that I am less than someone who could properly appreciate these chapters.

What I think impresses me the most is how much we owe to Tolkien for the Fantasy genre as it exists today. I knew full well that he essentially invented the genre, initially received as fairy tales writ large, but I wasn’t aware of just how many details are owed to him. In many ways, subsequent authors are pale imitators. Tolkien’s world was immense in scope and meticulous in detail. Most fantasy writers these days are lucky to get one, and don’t do it half so well.

Read the Silmarillion. You will be better for it.

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