Life still seems to be cracking along at quite a pace and although Mrs G will claim that I spend an inordinate amount of time on the ceramic throne I just can’t get into any book at the moment. I’ve been reading book four in the Fire and Ice series since last summer and even though winter came and went I am still no closer to catching up with all the goings on in Westeros.
I am also in danger of breaking with one of my reading traditions.
Each year, in January, I will pick up an increasingly battered copy of The Silmarillion to read through once more. This is a tradition dating back to the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, a time when I began to devour any work of Tolkien that I could get my hands on.
It is unusual enough that I should read a book twice, so why I have chosen one that was compiled posthumously after JRR’s death and is probably the most dense of all the fantasy novels out there?
It is certainly not for the prose.
Being made up from various manuscripts and outlines drawn up over the decades it can sometimes read a bit like someone’s first attempt at a fantasy novel. It is full of simplistic dialogue and clean delineations between good and evil. It can often read like a parody of Tolkien, this character did this and then they did that, and they were the son of him and he declared that he would make sure that he did something else.
It is full of sworn oaths and star crossed lovers, all in the midst of a battle against a big bad who only gets defeated in the last pages through a deus ex machina that had no build up at all.
It still has some amazing story ideas, even if they do seem to be ripped straight from the ancient Northern epics that Tolkien was so fond of. The story of Turin Turambar would not seem out of place in A Game of Thrones, it is full of incest and double crossing with a thoroughly downbeat ending which sees all the main characters killed off.
Perhaps the comparisons between JRR and GRR do have something in them after all.
The reason I read The Silmarillion is therefore not because it is a good read, I do have to sit with a copy of the appendices and Wikipedia open to still keep track of all Feanor’s sons, but because it is so ambitious. It tells me that when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings he was not just making up the story on the fly (looking at you here writers of Lost) but he knew the history of the world he was creating. Although the heroes motivations may have been simplistic there was still a catalogue of events that caused Elrond to be distrustful of humans and reluctant to let Arwen follow in Luthien’s steps. You could see why the Dwarves were distrustful of elves and why both Men and Elf were jealous of the mortality of the other.
It’s a piece of work that has so much content in that everytime I read it I find something new to marvel at. It requires multiple reads to fully understand all the history of Middle Earth. I have three copies that I could choose to read, but until I sort those boxes out I won’t be reading it again.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pride and Joy.”