Although the story was of course always
interesting, much of this book seemed like unnecessary repetition of
previous versions of the story, leading up the final one in the
Silmarillion. The most interesting part was the new story of Hurin's
travels after the death of his children.
the other books in the later parts of this series, this one starts with
an assumed knowledge or memory of what was previously discussed, and it
builds up through more versions. The big difference this time is that
the final form in the published Silmarillion has been reached in most
cases (either here or the next form jumps to the
first). In this case, most of it is commentary, because the majority of
the story had reached close to the final form in earlier versions. I was
disappointed at first to see that the new model discussed in
Ring, the version where the sun already existed before Arda was made,
wasn't continued here. However, it kind of makes sense, since nearly all
the stories that take place in Beleriand occur after the rising of the
sun, anyway. So there is very little difference, except in the essence
of the silmarils and the influence of the two trees.
The Grey Annals form a sort of Tale of Years, detailing
the exploits of the sons of Feanor and Fingolfin after they arrive in
Beleriand and set up the siege of Angband, and then their slow
destruction as Morgoth releases his armies and sets up various
betrayals, through Beren and Turin, though he never reached the Fall of
Gondolin. Most of this was pretty repetitive. Although I like the
story, so that it did hold my interest, I don't recall the previous one
enough to note the small differences. The same is true of the later Quenta Silmarillion and the Tale of Years. Although the author states
that there is significant development, it was the story that most
In the middle
of the book comes a completely new story, an expansion of the tale of
Hurin after Turin and Nienor die. It is a massive expansion of the story
that far outweighs the other chapters in the tales of Arda, and could
have formed a complete book on its own, if it was ever completed.
Unfortunately, it was never completed, and we only get a very small
fraction of the tale that was to be told. Maybe it's only because the
story was new, it made it fresh, but it was very interesting and really
made me want more of it. Although most of the story took place in the
forest of Brethil, it introduced some new characters and traditions of
the people within that forest.
The small sections about the
Eagles and Ents were almost entirely composed of notes, with very little
narrative. Finally, the essay about elvish languages held no interest at
all for me. Due to the nature of its presentation, in the form of an
educational textbook, it was very difficult to read, and looks like it
was meant only as a reference. I didn't read the entire thing, but only
browsed through some of the word entries.
think it became a lot more difficult for the author to present the text
of the Silmarillion in this book because it had pretty much reached the final form.
Unfortunately, that makes it a lot less interesting than the actual
story would suggest. It's a good thing that he found some new and
interesting material to spice it up with.