The First The Silmarillion Discussion Reading Room

August 2001 - March 2002




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In The Beginning:
Ainulindale, Valaquenta, and Quenta Silmarillion

The cycles begin with a cosmogonical myth: the Music of the Ainur. God and the Valar (or powers: Englished as gods) are revealed. These latter are as we should say angelic powers, ... They are 'divine', that is, were originally 'outside' and existed 'before' the making of the world. ... On the side of mere narrative device, this is, of course, meant to provide beings of the same order of beauty, power, and majesty as the 'gods' of higher mythology, which can yet be accepted – well, shall we say baldly, by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity.

JRRT, From a letter to Milton Waldman, late 1951



Quenta Silmarillion 3-11
(Beginning of Days to the Hiding of Valinor)

The chief artificer of the Elves (Feanor) had imprisoned the Light of Valinor in the three supreme jewels, the Silmarilli, before the Trees were sullied or slain. ... They are captured by the Enemy, set in his Iron Crown, and guarded in his impenetrable stronghold. The sons of Feanor [and] the greater part of their kindred, ... rebel against the gods, and depart from paradise, and go to make hopeless war upon the Enemy.

JRRT, From a letter to Milton Waldman, late 1951


Quenta Silmarillion 12-18
(Of Men to the Fall of Fingolfin)

As the stories become less mythical, and more like stories and romances. Men are interwoven. ... The Men who appear are mainly those of the Three Houses of the Fathers of them, whose chieftains become allies of the Elflords. The contact of Men and Elves already foreshadows the history of the later Ages, and a recurrent theme is the idea that in Men (as they now are) there is a strand of 'blood' and inheritance, derived from the Elves, and that the an and poetry of Men is largely dependent on it, or modified by it.

JRRT, From a letter to Milton Waldman, late 1951


Quenta Silmarillion 19-24
(Beren and Luthien to the War of Wrath)

It is Beren the outlawed mortal who succeeds (with the help of Lúthien, a mere maiden even if an elf of royalty) where all the armies and warriors have failed: he penetrates the stronghold of the Enemy and wrests one of the Silmarilli from the Iron Crown. Thus he wins the hand of Lúthien and the first marriage of mortal and immortal is achieved. There are other stories almost equally full in treatment, and equally independent and yet linked to the general history. ... Elwing casting herself into the Sea to save the Jewel comes to Earendil, and ... they pass at last to Valinor, and accomplish their errand... The gods then move again, and [the Enemy is] thrust out of the World into the Void. ... So ends The Silmarillion and the tales of the First Age.

JRRT, From a letter to Milton Waldman, late 1951


Akallabeth, and Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age

(Numenor, the Second Age, and the War of the Ring)

The Downfall is partly the result of an inner weakness in Men – consequent, if you will, upon the first Fall (unrecorded in these tales), repented but not finally healed. ... The Fall is achieved by the cunning of Sauron in exploiting this weakness. Its central theme is (inevitably, I think, in a story of Men) a Ban, or Prohibition. ... It is not possible even at great length to 'pot' The Lord of the Rings in a paragraph or two. .... It was begun in 1936 and every part has been written many times. Hardly a word in its 600,000 or more has been unconsidered. And the placing, size, style, and contribution to the whole of all the features, incidents, and chapters has been laboriously pondered.

JRRT, From a letter to Milton Waldman, late 1951



Free Discussion

Do not laugh! But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story – the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendour from the vast backcloths – which I could dedicate simply to: to England; to my country. ... I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd.

JRRT, From a letter to Milton Waldman, late 1951