A novel by J.R.R. Tolkien (1998, Harper Collins [original copyright: 1977, George
Allen & Unwin])
A tale of how the world was formed, and the
battles that forged the affiliations between Elves, Men and Dwarves, and their
Read August 2nd to 8th, 1993
Review not yet available.
Unabridged, performed by Martin Shaw (1998, Harper Collins)
September 9th to 19th, 2011
I've always liked the stories told in
this book. From The Book of Lost Tales to
Unfinished Tales, and up
through the History of Middle-Earth, the tales have been told in
different fashions. I've been wanting to reread this book for a while,
but a different opportunity presented itself.
When I decided to have laser eye
surgery, I knew I wouldn't be able to read for a while, and any book
that I did read would probably take a while due to the strain put on my
eyes as they healed. So this was the perfect opportunity to listen to
the 13 hour audio book. And if I drowsed off and found that I missed
several chapters, it was at least partly due to the drugs used to assist
my recovery from the surgery.
I do have to admit, though, that there
are some boring parts, and they are scattered throughout the book. The
speaker's voice is also soothing enough that it sometimes lulled me to
sleep, even though what he was reading was interesting enough. As I've
said elsewhere, The Silmarillion is almost a disappointment after
reading Unfinished Tales and the other works, which cover the same
events in more detail. On the other hand, several of the chapters are
actually not well captured at all in the History books, because they
arrived nearly fully formed, so they seem somewhat new to me upon
reading (or hearing in this case).
I listened to the entire book, from
beginning to end, and I did enjoy it thoroughly, especially the tales of
the First Age. I have never noticed the amount of repetition that the
author uses in the book, mainly because of the way the chapters are
structured. He tells of Hurin's capture in an early chapter, then
reminds us in detail of it at the beginning of the tale of Turin, for
One thing I think could have been
significantly improved was The Drowning of Numenor. If Tolkien had divided
that section into chapters, it would have made a more interesting tale,
I think. The founding of Numenor would have been one chapter, and a very
interesting one, at that. It would be followed by a tale of the blissful
age of Numenor, the struggle against Sauron, the turn towards darkness
and finally the downfall. The current structure doesn't work until
Sauron arrives, as it's told way too fast, with far too many names, that
it's no wonder the readers get lost. I'm quite familiar with many of the
characters, and it was too much for me!
So it seems (contrary to what I wrote
below) that I can actually listen to the entire book over a short period
of time, given the right incentive. And it was quite a pleasant listen,
December 2001 to October 2002
Very impressive, though it carries, of
course, the same faults as the book.
When I received this set as a gift, I was
overwhelmed. Thirteen CDs to tell the story of the Silmarillion seemed
like I would spend a lot of time listening. I have only one other
audio-book, and have never been a fan of them. There is something about
reading that gives a book a quality that can't be conveyed by a speaking
However, I gained something that I
never expected from this series of CDs: pronunciation and passionate
storytelling. Martin Shaw is a great storyteller.
The first half of the story, which
takes place in Valinor, or at least among the Valar, is nowhere near as
interesting as the First Age, which is why most people put this book
down almost upon starting it. Tolkien really sounds like the Bible when
he recites the names and relationships of the Valar. The growing of the
two trees is amazing to listen to, though.
An advantage of the CDs is that I could
skip to any story I wanted to, at any time (of course, you can do this
with the book, also). So I listened first to the
making of the world, then to the story of Beren and Luthien, one of the
best of all the chapters, and the one most likely to be enjoyed by other
listeners. Turin is a little long, but still exciting.
What really drew me into the CD set,
however, was the description of Beleriand. With the map in my hand, I
followed Shaw as he described the land North to South, West to East. His
pronunciation was very clear, and allowed me to think of Middle-Earth in
a different light -made me think about how these names arose.
It truly is a gallant language, even
the English dialog. In the movie of the
Fellowship of the Ring, I
wondered how it was possible to pause long enough to make the guttural
sound when saying Mordor in a long speech, or shouting to troops. Here it makes sense, since nothing is said in
haste. In this world, even the enemy waits for the speeches to be over
before attacking. It is not as sped up as today's world is!
The end of the First Age, and the
entire age of Numenor, were not as interesting as much of what came
before, making me wish that much of what was told in
could have been included.
However, when we got the the making of
the Rings of Power and the Last Stand, and the telling of the Third Age,
I really became interested again. The third age itself is told in a real
epic fashion, and the Lord of the Rings is summarized in this way at the
end of it. I was amazed.
I doubt I will listen to this all the
way through again (it took me long enough the first time, between tracks
in the car, on the weekend, relaxing...), but I will certainly pop in
one disc at a time in the future, just to hear parts of the tale play