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Beyond the Lone Islands

Friday, 3 April 2009

Tolkien's Silmarillion (I)

The Gates of Sirion by Ted Nasmith, from Tolkien Calendar 2009
(picture copied from

Ever since I started this blog after New Year, one book has been stubbornly "stuck" on my "Currently Reading" list in the margin: Tolkien's Silmarillion...

I'm sure lots of people all over the world, just like me, also have a copy of The Silmarillion sitting on the bookshelf next to Lord of the Rings. What I'd like to know, is how many have actually read it? I bought mine in 1979 and have taken it out every now and again over the years (30 ?!), but never managed to get through it.

This New Year, I took it out again, because I bought a Tolkien wall calendar for 2009 with Silmarillion illustrations and quotes.

I was quite determined this time to get through it, and yet history repeated itself: I read a couple of chapters at the beginning of January, then lay the book aside for a few days... and the next time I picked it up, it had gone back to being just a confused tangle of strange names which meant nothing to me! I do love the sound of the text, and I can sense connections with both his Christian theology and other mythology deep down under all the confusion. But it's really hard to grasp who is who and remember whether they are gods or elves or whatever...

This week, I started over from the beginning again, and this time made a special effort to understand the first two chapters, Ainulindalë and Valaquenta, which introduce the Valar ("gods").
I made my own list, which I scribbled down on an empty page at the back of the book. This did make it a little bit easier to keep up when I entered the Quenta Silmarillion... in which I have now got as far as Chapter 9. Remains to be seen, though, if I will actually manage to keep going this time...

My list:
Eru / Ilúvatar - the One, the Creator
Ainu, pl. Ainur - the Holy ones - "angels"
Valar - the "Powers of the World" (Ainur descended into the world; reminding of the gods of for example the Greek mythology)
The most important Valar:

Manwë is the angel/god of the Air (Wind); the High King of the Valar; his spouse is...
Varda, Queen of the Stars.
Ulmo is the angel/god of Water, he "dwells alone".
Aulë is the angel/god of Earth, "smith and master of all crafts"; his spouse is...
Yavanna, "giver of fruits".
Melkor, also called Morgoth, was the angel/god of Fire - he is the equivalent of "Satan" in Tolkien's mythology. (He was one of the Ainur, but he went his own way and became evil. Satan, in Christian theology, is also a fallen angel, originally called Lucifer, which means light-bringer.)
Mandos (or Namo) is "Keeper of the Houses of the Dead" = Death; his spouse is...
Vairë, "The Weaver who weaves all things that have ever been in Time".
Lórien (or Irmo) is "Master of Visions and Dreams"; his spouse is...
Estë, "Healer of hurts and weariness"
Nienna dwells alone, she is "Lady of Grief and mourning", sister of Mandos and Lórien.
Tulkas is the Valiant, he stands for bravery and courage - he is strong, but impulsive; his spouse is...
Nessa, who is "swift as an arrow", and sister of...
Oromë, who is "Lord of the Forests and Hunter of monsters"; his spouse is...
Vána, "the Ever-Young" (Spring), younger sister of Yvanna (spouse of Aulë)
There are also "angel-gods" of a lower rank than the Valar, called Maia.

The "Children of Ilúvatar" are Elves (the Firstborn), and Men (the Followers).
The Dwarves were created by Aüle (the Earth-god)
The Orcs were descended from Elves that once fell into the power of Melkor ("Satan") and were imprisoned, enslaved and corrupted by him.
PS. Ooops... By mistake, I happened to first post this in my other blog (Through My Spectrespecs). I immediately removed it and put it here instead; but links to the wrong blog still show up in link lists, although the post has been removed. If any one wonders, the Silmarillion post belongs here, not in the other blog.

1 comment:

rae said...

I've always wondered about the undiscovered treasures in the Silmarillion as well! I look forward to your review if you make it through!


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