The Silmarillion

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The Silmarillion
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
EditorChristopher Tolkien
PublisherGeorge Allen and Unwin (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
Released15 September 1977
FormatHardcover; paperback; deluxe-edition; audio-book
Preceded byThe Lord of the Rings (1954-55)
Followed byUnfinished Tales (1980)

The Silmarillion is the history of the War of the Exiled Elves against the Enemy, which all takes place in the North-west of the world (Middle-earth). Several tales of victory and tragedy are caught up in it; but it ends with catastrophe, and the passing of the Ancient World, the world of the long First Age.

The Silmarillion is a book which is a collection of J.R.R. Tolkien's works, edited and published posthumously by his son Christopher Tolkien and published in 1977, with assistance from fantasy fiction writer Guy Gavriel Kay.

It covers the history of the world of Arda from the birth of to the end of the Third Age. The bulk of the book consists of the Quenta Silmarillion, which is mainly concerned with the deeds of the Noldor and the tales of the First Age of Middle-earth.


  1. "Of the Beginning of Days"
  2. "Of Aulë and Yavanna"
  3. "Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
  4. "Of Thingol and Melian"
  5. "Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië"
  6. "Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor"
  7. "Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor"
  8. "Of the Darkening of Valinor"
  9. "Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  10. "Of the Sindar"
  11. "Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor"
  12. "Of Men"
  13. "Of the Return of the Noldor"
  14. "Of Beleriand and its Realms"
  15. "Of the Noldor in Beleriand"
  16. "Of Maeglin"
  17. "Of the Coming of Men into the West"
  18. "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"
  19. "Of Beren and Lúthien"
  20. "Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"
  21. "Of Túrin Turambar"
  22. "Of the Ruin of Doriath"
  23. "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
  24. "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
  • Tables
    • Genealogies
    • The Sundering of the Elves
  • Note on Pronunciation
  • Index of Names
  • Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names
  • Map of Beleriand


There is an inscription in the Tengwar characters in the title page, it reads:

"The tales of the First Age when Morgoth dwelt in Middle-earth and the Elves made war upon him for the recovery of the Silmarils to which are appended the downfall of Númenor and the history of the Rings of Power and the Third Age in which these tales come to their end."


The Silmarillion is supposedly (by some readers) translated from Bilbo's three-volume Translations from the Elvish, which he wrote while at Rivendell.

It consists of five parts. The first, Ainulindalë, tells of the creation of , the World that Is. The second part, Valaquenta, gives a description of the Valar and Maiar, powerful beings of Eä. The next section, Quenta Silmarillion, which forms the bulk of the collection, chronicles the history of the events before and during the First Age, including the wars over three jewels, the Silmarils, that gave the book its title. The fourth part, Akallabêth, relates the history of the Downfall of Númenor and its people, which takes place in the Second Age. The final part, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, is a brief account of the circumstances which led to and were presented in The Lord of the Rings.

These five parts were initially separate works, but it was J.R.R. Tolkien's express wish that they be published together. Because Tolkien died before he could complete a full rewrite of the various legends, his son Christopher used material from his father's older drafts to fill out the book.

The book explores a wide array of themes inspired by many ancient, medieval, and modern sources, including the Finnish epic Kalevala, the Hebrew Bible, Norse sagas, Greek mythology, Celtic mythology, and World War I. For instance the Valar, the angelic beings of Ëa, mirror the Olympian Gods of Greek Myth. The archaic style and gravitas of the Ainulindalë resembles that of the Old Testament. The island civilization of Númenor is reminiscent of Atlantis — one of the names Tolkien gave that land was Atalantë, although he gave it an Elvish etymology.


Silmarillion is Quenya plural genitive of the word "Silmaril", therefore it means "of the Silmarils".

It could be either a contraction of the full title Quenta Silmarillion ("Tale of the Silmarils") or also a plain Genitive which (as in Ancient Greek) signifies reference. This genitive is translated in English with "about" or "of" constructions; the titles of the chapters in The Silmarillion are examples of this genitive in poetic English (Of the Sindar, Of Men, Of the Darkening of Valinor etc), where "of" means "about" or "concerning". In the same way, Silmarillion can be taken to mean "Of/About the Silmarils".[source?]

History of composition

The earliest drafts of The Silmarillion date back to as early as 1925, when Tolkien wrote a 'Sketch of the Mythology'. However, the concepts for characters, themes, and specific stories were developed starting in 1917 when Tolkien, then a British officer stationed in France during World War I was laid up in a military field hospital with trench fever. At the time, he called his collection of nascent stories The Book of Lost Tales. These stories comprised an English mythology intended to explain the origins of English history and culture (as Greek mythology explains the origins of Greek history and culture).

Tolkien admitted that elements from that work "infiltrated" to anything he was writing, even the Roverandom and the Father Christmas Letters,[1] While writing The Hobbit, although he didn't intend it to be part of his legendarium, he borrowed Elrond and a reference to Gondolin, and "its shadow was deep on the later parts". The legendarium "was kept out of Farmer Giles with an effort".[2][3]

Many years after the war, encouraged by the success of The Hobbit, Tolkien submitted an incomplete but more fully developed version (see: Quenta Silmarillion (Lost Road)) to Allen and Unwin, but they rejected the work as being obscure and "too Celtic". The publisher instead asked Tolkien to write a sequel to The Hobbit, which became his significant novel The Lord of the Rings.

But Tolkien never fully abandoned The Silmarillion which he regarded as the most important of his works, seeing in its tales the genesis of Middle-earth and later events as told in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The influence was too big while writing, and as he said in the Foreword, "the story was drawn irresistibly towards the older world"; while starting as a sequel of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings became the continuation and completion of his legendarium.[3]

He renewed work on The Silmarillion after completing The Lord of the Rings, when he greatly desired to publish the two works together. But when it became clear that would not be possible, Tolkien turned his full attention back to preparing The Lord of the Rings for publication.

In the late 1950s he again began work on The Silmarillion, but much of his writing from this time is concerned not as much with the narratives themselves as with the theological and philosophical underpinnings of the work. During this time he wrote extensively on such topics as the nature of evil in Arda, the origin of Orcs, the customs of the Elves, the nature and means of Elvish rebirth, and the "flat" world and the myth of the Sun. Serious doubts had entered about some of the fundamental aspects of the work that had gone back to the earliest versions of the stories, and it seems that he felt the need to solve these problems before he could produce the "final" version of The Silmarillion. In any event, with one or two exceptions, he never did much work on the narratives in the remaining years of his life.

Posthumous editions

For several years after his father's death, Christopher Tolkien compiled a Silmarillion narrative. Christopher's intentions seem to have been mostly to use the latest writings of his father's that he could, and to keep as much internal consistency (and consistency with The Lord of the Rings) as possible. As explained in The History of Middle-earth, Christopher drew upon numerous sources for his narrative, relying on post-LoTR works where possible, but ultimately reaching back as far as the 1917 Book of Lost Tales to fill in portions of the narrative which his father had planned to write but never addressed. In later chapters of the "Quenta Silmarillion" which had not been touched since the early 1930s he had to construct a narrative practically from scratch, with the assitance of Guy Gavriel Kay. The final result, which included genealogies, maps, an index and the first-ever released Elvish word list was published in 1977.

Due to Christopher's extensive explanations (in The History of Middle-earth) of how he compiled the published work, much of The Silmarillion has been debated by the hardcore fans. Christopher's task is generally accepted as very difficult given the state of his father's texts at the time of his death: some critical texts were no longer in the Tolkien family's possession, and Christopher's task compelled him to rush through much of the material. Christopher reveals in later volumes of The History of Middle-earth many divergent ideas which do not agree with the published version. Christopher Tolkien has suggested that, had he taken more time and had access to all the texts, he might have produced a substantially different work. But he was compelled by considerable pressure and demand from his father's readers and publishers to produce something publishable as quickly as possible.

In October 1996, Christopher Tolkien commissioned illustrator Ted Nasmith to create full-page full-colour artwork for the first illustrated edition of The Silmarillion. It was published in 1998, and followed in 2004 by a second edition (ISBN 0618391118) featuring corrections and additional artwork by Nasmith.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Christopher Tolkien published most of his father's Middle-Earth-related writings as the 12-volume History of Middle-earth series.

In addition to the source material and earlier drafts of several portions of The Lord of the Rings, these books greatly expand on the original material published in The Silmarillion, and in many cases diverge from it. There is much that Tolkien intended to revise but only sketched out in notes, and some new texts surfaced after the publication of The Silmarillion.

Publication history and gallery

Please see Publication history and gallery.

See also

External links



Illustrators of The Silmarillion
Internal art Francis Mosley (The Folio Society: 1997-present)· Ted Nasmith (1998-present)
Cover art only J.R.R. Tolkien (1937-present) · Roger Garland (1983-1991) · John Howe (1992-1995)
A J.R.R. Tolkien book guide
Books by or mainly by Tolkien
On Arda Authored by
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
(i.The Fellowship of the Ring · ii.The Two Towers · iii.The Return of the King) ·
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · The Road Goes Ever On · Bilbo's Last Song
Edited by Christopher Tolkien The Silmarillion · Unfinished Tales · The History of Middle-earth series
(i.The Book of Lost Tales: Part One · ii.The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two · iii.The Lays of Beleriand · iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow · vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated · x.Morgoth's Ring · xi.The War of the Jewels · xii.The Peoples of Middle-earth · Index) ·
The Children of Húrin · Beren and Lúthien · The Fall of Gondolin
Edited by others The Annotated Hobbit · The History of The Hobbit · The Nature of Middle-earth · The Fall of Númenor
Not on Arda Short stories
and others
Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major · Letters from Father Christmas ·
Mr. Bliss · Roverandom · Tree and Leaf (compilation) · Tales from the Perilous Realm (compilation)
Fictional works The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún · The Fall of Arthur · The Story of Kullervo · The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Translations and academic works Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo · The Old English Exodus · Finn and Hengest ·
The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays · Beowulf and the Critics · Tolkien On Fairy-stories ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · A Secret Vice · The Battle of Maldon
Letters & poems The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien · The Collected Poems of J.R.R. Tolkien
academic works
A Middle English Vocabulary · Sir Gawain and the Green Knight · Ancrene Wisse
Books by other authors
Books on Arda The Complete Guide to Middle-earth · The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion ·
The Maps of Middle-earth
Tolkien biographies J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · Tolkien and the Great War
Scholarly books The Road to Middle-earth · The Keys of Middle-earth · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide ·
The Ring of Words · A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien · Tolkien's Lost Chaucer · Tolkien's Library · Tolkien on Chaucer, 1913-1959
Scholarly journals Tolkien Studies · (The Chronology)
Other works by Tolkien
Linguistic journals Vinyar Tengwar various issues · Parma Eldalamberon issue 11-22
Collections of artwork
and manuscripts
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien · J.R.R. Tolkien: Life and Legend · J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator ·
The Art of The Hobbit · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth ·
Tolkien: Treasures · J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript
This list is only a selection, for a fuller bibliography of Tolkien see here or here. See also a timeline and an index.