PLEASE NOTE

This blog goes on under a different name and new web address from January 2011. Please follow me...

Beyond the Lone Islands

http://dawntreader-island2.blogspot.com

Monday, 6 April 2009

Of Elves and Men (Silmarillion II)


I have struggled on with The Silmarillion: I am almost half way through now, which is further than I ever got before.


However, connecting back to yesterday's "Sitcom" post, I really do feel "lost among the elves"...


The major problem with this book is that there are more names than plot in it! Most people (individuals as well as races, tribes etc) appear under least two or three different names, in languages invented by Tolkien himself; and you also have to keep track of whether they are Valar (major gods), Maiar (minor gods), Elves (of which there are several tribes), Dwarves or Men...


It was helpful, though, to memorize the names of the Valar (see my first Silmarillion post), because now at least I recognize these when they appear among the rest. On the rare occasions when one of them turns up, further along in the history of Middle-earth, it gives me almost the same feeling as seeing an old friend in a crowd of strange people in a foreign country...


There is an index at the back of the book, and several genealogy tables of the Elves. It is still really hard to keep these apart, though - with names like Finwë, Fëanor (it was he who made the Silmarils, the precious jewels containing the light of the gods), Fingolfin, Finarfin, Fingon, Finrod... It is also a struggle not to mix up Noldor (a tribe of Elves) with Naugrim (Dwarves), or Vanyar (another tribe of Elves) with Valar (the gods)...


I wonder how Tolkien's mind worked. Has any other author, ever, bothered to make up such a vastly complex background for his fantasy world...? It is an achievement; but I can't help but wonder, from time to time - why??


A few chapters back, the race of Men was introduced. This will perhaps give you an idea of the general name confusion:


At the first rising of the Sun the Younger Children of Ilúvatar awoke in the land of Hildórien in the eastward regions of Middle-earth; but the first Sun arose in the West, and the opening eyes of Men were turned towards it, and their feet as they wandered over the Earth for the most part strayed that way. The Atani they were named by the Eldar, the Second People; but they called them also Hildor, the Followers, and many other names: Apanónar, the Afterborn, Engwar, the Sickly, and Fírimar, the Mortals; and they named them the Usurpers, the Strangers, and the Inscrutable, the Self-cursed, the Heavey-handed, the Night-fearers, the Children of the Sun.

Previous Silmarillion post here.

3 comments:

Dr.John said...

Some people just enjoy making up names. I don't think Tolkien worried much about his readers in this book. I have tried, also, a number of times to read it but I finally gave up.

rae said...

I think I agree with Dr.John: this book seems to be more like a history/reference. Almost an "idea notebook" of sorts, for Tolkien to get all the thoughts out of his head and store them somewhere else!

DawnTreader said...

Rae: "an 'idea notebook' to get all the thoughts out of his head and store them somewhere else" - sounds just about like my blog to me! :-D

What amazes me is the complexity, that he ever bothered to put so much effort into a (sort of!) coherent background, stretching over centuries and milleniums... In a way, I suppose the most amazing achievement of all is that he ever managed to sort out what did NOT need to be included in the main stories (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings)...!

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

Make the hidden word visible! Stay and play a game of Hangman.

There was an error in this gadget