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The Silmarillion is a novel that cannot be compared to Tolkien\'s other works, because it is simply so different; Tolkien fans should not go into this expecting the same kind of experience as that of reading The Lord of the Rings. The Silmarillion chronicles the actual creation of Arda (the world Middle-Earth is part of), and begins with a description of Arda\'s god, Iluvatar, and his servants, the Ainur. This section is critical for introducing Melkor, the villain of the tale, and the key Valar, angelic beings who become the builders and protectors of Arda. The early portion of the book is heavily influenced by religious texts, especially the Bible, but is NOT an allegory. There are noticeable differences between these works that will prove this, especially as the reader gets deeper and deeper into the story. The tale itself remains fairly easy to follow for the first few chapters, up until the Elves awaken. At this point, readers are flooded with names, many of which! have only sporadic importance within the storyline. This is the main flaw with the book, but a lengthy list of names in the back helps considerably. The book is almost entirely about Elves (sorry, Hobbit fans), but not the Elves as seen in the Lord of the Rings. Yes, they are still powerful, graceful, and beautiful, but they have a lot of flaws. Pride, revenge, and incest (yes, incest) are all to be found within the plot. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the book is that, although there is an overarching plot that is consistent throughout, many chapters feel more like short stories unto themselves, from a Romeo-and-Juliet-style love story (but with more werewolves) to the tragic Turin Turambar, who is reminiscent of Oedipus. The overarching storyline I mentioned is about the Elves\' war with Morgoth (aka Melkor) who stole the insurpassably beautiful silmarils (hence the title). This epic tale is as dramatic as that of Tolkien\'s beloved tale, the Lord of the ! Rings, and some characters from it are seen in the Silmarillion. They include Galadrielle, Celeborn, and Sauron, who actually does more(physically) than in the Lord of the Rings, where he was the villain. This is not a prequel, however, although several of the more obscure points from the LotR are revealed (such as why the Elves are leaving Middle-Earth). It is a strange novel, and feels much longer than it actually is, but it is dramatic and moving, and warrants a part on the bookshelf of anyone who enjoys the Lord of the Rings, epics, fantasy, or just a powerful tale.
By Darren West, Lillington
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