Sunday, March 28, 2010

Difficult But Great

Sometimes I want to talk about the books, movies, or music that have influenced me the most.  Tolkien is obviously one of my favorite authors, and just about any lover of fantasy has read at least The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  I love these books and re-read them every few years.  As a matter of fact, I am reading the LOTR to my two sons right now for the first time.

In my opinion, though, Tolkien's Silmarillion is perhaps the best of his books.  It is a difficult slog at first, so many readers do not put in the work to get the most from it.  I daresay many readers don't believe that reading should ever have to be work, and I can appreciate that point of view.  However, in this case I believe these readers are missing out an work of breathtaking beauty.

I tried reading it first as a teen, and I have to admit I wasn't thrilled with it then.  I tried again more than a decade later, but this time I did it right.  Each time I encountered a place-name that I didn't know, I paused to find it on the map.  Each time I didn't recognize the name of a person, I went to the appendix and read about them.  Yes, it was long and hard to get through it this way, but I finally realized how brilliant the book was and I fell in love.

I so wanted to see some of the major stories from the book fleshed out into full narratives, such as was done with The Hobbit or LOTR.  I never wanted these beautiful stories to end.  I assume most readers already know what the Silmarillion is about, but perhaps there is someone who doesn't.  Where The Hobbit and LOTR are traditional fully-fleshed fantasy stories, the Silmarillion is a high-level story, more like a history book about Middle Earth.  It does contain stories, some of them quite intricate, but nevertheless they are written in a more remote, poetic format than the more detailed Hobbit and LOTR.

If you are ever feeling ambitious and haven't tackled this book fully, I highly recommend doing it the way I have presented above.  Do it right, making sure you truly understand each place and name as Tolkien presents it, and you will be rewarded in the end.

I'll close with a link to my favorite edition of The Hobbit.  I am trying out the Amazon Associate program, which gives me some sort of credit if any readers happen to purchase anything through the links I embed in my posts.  I wouldn't do this for money, but only because for some few books, songs, or movies I actually do love them enough to want to review them and present them to any who might not yet love them as much as I do.  I wanted to put my favorite edition of LOTR here also, but it doesn't appear to be available at the moment.  I am normally a paperback person, but with these two books I found the versions with Alan Lee's amazing art to be fully worth the extra money.

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