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The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien,  Christopher Tolkien It's not really a review, more of an extra long recap (way spoiler heavy) links to each post are here.Heavy Spoilers below.Look.  Here's the deal with The Silmarillion. If you're not a huge Tolkien nerd, you're probably going to throw your hands up in disgust, swearing and tearing your hair out after the first two pages. Even if you are a huge Tolkien nerd, if you generally skip past the songs in LotR and the Hobbit or can't handle creation myths - you will probably end up like the people in the first group. For the biggest Tolkien nerds it can still be rough going sometimes.  For realsies.  I have to REALLY BE IN THE MOOD to even attempt it or I end up like those in the first and second groups.SOOOOOO, that being said I'm going to be the awesomest and give you a re-cap of the highlights, in preparation for our upcoming group read.  Some of this stuff is just kind of neat, and other parts are super important.  So pay attention, yeah?  It's a bit of a slog at times, so I'm going to break it up into a few different posts.  But still...pay attention.Ainulindalë(Music of the Ainur)The Ainulindalë is the first part of The Silmarillion.  It concerns the creation of Middle-Earth and is fairly standard creation-myth-fare.  Seriously, it's all (paraphrasing here) "In the beginning there was Eru/Ilúvatar/Father of All.  It was dark and he was lonely so he created the Ainur (Holy Ones) to keep him company and sing to him."  Yes, the first thing he taught them was to sing for his pleasure.  What a jerk, right?  Maybe.  We'll see.The first Ainur we meet is Melkor.  Melkor doesn't like being told what to do, or that he's expected to collaborate with the other Ainur for songs.  He takes off to create his own damn songs, which are referred to as loud, vain and repetitive.  Fun!All the Ainur get together to sing for Ilúvatar and Melkor keeps butting in with his loud songs, and other Ainur join him.  Dissonance.  Ilúvatar kind of shames him by managing to incorporate Melkor's crappy song with the rest and everything is better for it.  When the singing is over, he praises Melkor for his hard work, then chastises him for being a dick and takes off - leaving the Ainur with their thoughts and songs.Time passes, but it's the Void so who really knows how long it was?Ilúvatar returns and says "Hey guys!  Let me tell you about this great idea I had for your songs!" He shows them his plans to create a physical plane and that all of the songs they've been singing will bring to fruition a different aspect of this new reality that will exist within time.Melkor gets a little grumpy to learn that his themes were all part of a master plan and are going to be incorporated.Eä (The World that Is/the Universe) is created.  Time begins.  Arda (the world and the skies that surround it) is created IN Eä.  The Ainur (split into the greater Valar and lesser Maiar) are given corporeal form and sent down to ready Arda for the coming of the Children of Ilúvatar (elves and men).  Melkor is among them. Arda before the First Age.The Valar build stuff up, Melkor tears it down.  This continues for A LONG TIME (like, thousands of years, seriously).  Melkor takes off in a huff, but comes back and builds himself a fortress (maybe with blackjack and hookers, but I'm not really sure).  Technically, Arda is ready for her Children.Valaquenta(Tale of the Valar)Names.  Names and more names.  I'm not going to name everyone here because it would be far longer than you want to read.  Let me sum up. Valar - names and descriptions. Maiar - names and descriptions Bad Guys - Melkor (also now going by Morgoth) and his minions (former Maiar, some of whom come to be known as Balrogs [SEE IMPORTANT!]) and his first lieutenant, Sauron (also important, I told you to pay attention!).Quenta Silmarillion(the Tale of the Silmarils)Okay, that map I showed you of Arda before the first age the last time?  That wasn't its original shape.  Originally it was one huge continent, lit not by sunlight, but these two lamps the Valar smithy, Aulë, had created.  Melkor destroyed them.  Cos he was a jerk, I already told you.  Didn't I mention you needed to pay attention?  When the lamps fell, the land was torn asunder, and the two continents you saw previously were created.  One of those continents became Middle-Earth, the other contained Valinor (which later became known as The Undying Lands [more on that later]).Melkor kept tearing ish down.  He was a right bastard and problems with him continued, but he wasn't the only one causing trouble.  Nope.   Aulë got tired of waiting for the elves to show up, so he took matters into his own hands.  He was so desperate for someone to pass on his smithy knowledge to that he created his own damn race.  He made them super strong and stubborn because Melkor was still highly influential.  Unfortunately, he didn't really know what he was doing, so his people (the dwarves, yay!) were only able to, y'know, do stuff when he was thinking about them.So, he's trying to teach them how to speak this language he invented for them and Ilúvatar shows up.  He's all "Whoa, now Aulë.  WTS is going on here?  This is supposed to be the world we created for MY CHILDREN, not yours.  Who the hell do you think you are?"  Aulë was sad.  He wept and made to smite them with his massive hammer, but Ilúvatar was all "DUDE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?!  I didn't say KILL them!  Look, I thought we all agreed that the elves would be first, yeah?  They're kind of my pet project and my favourites, so let's just put your clearly inferior species to sleep until the awesome people I created show up, 'kay?"(I have SO MANY QUESTIONS about this picture. Why does he have such a giant belt buckle? Is that a mullet? It looks like a mullet. Seriously, look at it again. Also, some of these dwarves look a little feminine. Aulë created the 7 FATHERS, so I'm not sure what's up with the girly dwarves.)Also, my awesome friend Em made this for me, which shows WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED and it makes me laugh SO HARD I had to share it with you guys:THENNNNNNNNN, Melkor runs off to hide in his fortress in Middle-Earth and all of the Valar hang out in Valinor, only occasionally heading over to M-E to spy on his nefarious doings.  Honestly, this part has always kind of confused me.  There weren't any PEOPLE there yet for Melkor and his Balrogs to mess around with, so I'm not sure what they were doing other than destroying stuff.  Really, how much was there to destroy?Anyway.The Valar are mostly living it up all happy-like in Valinor, under the light of the glorious Two Trees.  The Vala of the Hunt/Trees, Oromë, was hanging around in Middle-Earth one day (probably spying on Melkor's shenanigans) when he realized ZOMG, THE ELVES HAVE COME!Since Ilúvatar has made it clear that these are his chosen people (although, he's been kind of MIA - WTS is up with that, Ilúvatar?  <.<) the Valar descend upon Utumno (Melkor's fortress [with blackjack and hookers]) and take him back to be held in Valinor for "three ages."  Oromë goes to visit the elves.  "Hey, guys!  Look, I'm not really God, but you can kind of think of me as one.  How's about you all come live with us in the Undying Lands?"  Some of the elves did a fistpump and said "EFF YEAH!" but others were distracted by shiny things and had to stay in Middle-Earth.  This is referred to as the sundering.Oi.  Here's where things get complicated.  Even though they're a newish species, the elves are already broken up into tribes.  The following tribes took off to Valinor: Noldor Vanyar SOME of the TeleriAlso, the Sindar probably would have gone, but their king (Thingol) was lost in a forest at the time.  What?  It's not like they had compasses or GPS, I'm sure this kind of thing happened all the time.I think my favourite part of all this section was that the elves were transported across the seas on a floating island.  A FLOATING ISLAND, YOU GUYS!  THAT IS AMAZINGBALLS!'kay, so the elves that were going to Valinor went to live with the Valar under the light of the Two Trees (sidenote:  because of Kate, I'm now calling them the Poo Trees of Valinor.  How were they lit?  We don't know, but maybe it was something like this.) and the Prince of the Noldor (Fëanor) created the Silmarils (HA, SEE?), jewels which glowed with the light of the Poo Two Trees.  The Silmarils were blessed and would burn any mortal (or evil) creature that dared to touch them.Melkor's sentence was up and he convinced everyone he was repentant.  He then proceeded to plant notions in the King's (Finwë) head - pitting him against his OTHER son (Fingolfin)-  and convinced the rest of the Noldor that the only reason the elves had been brought to Valinor was so that the Valar could keep an eye on them.  REVOLT!  No, seriously, Fëanor drew his sword against Fingolfin and was cast out.  He took Finwë with him and built a new, better stronghold and took his Silmarils with him.Melkor was a big fat liar and soon returned to destroy the Two Trees with the help of Ungoliant.  Who/what is Ungoliant?  Let me tell you!  She was an evil spirit that took the form of a GIANT SPIDER.  So, she sucked all the magic juice out of the Two Trees AND THEN they travelled to the fortress to steal the jewels!  DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNN!Quenta Silmarillion(the Tale of the Silmarils)(continued)Soooooooo, Big Baddie Melkor and Ungoliant get to Formenos, kill Finwë (King of the Noldor, 'member?) and abscond with the jewels.  They then travel back to Middle-Earth, where Melkor refuses to hand the Silmarils over to Ungoliant.  She gets all pissy cos he reneged on their deal and binds him up in her Spidery Webs of Doom.  Melkor shouts out "Hile Gunslingers Balrogs!  To me!" and the Balrogs all come pouring out of Utumno to rescue his ass.  He then sets up a secondary fortress (further north) and re-establishes his Evil Empire from Angband and places the Silmarils in his crown, even though he's so evil that they've already burned his hands black.Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Fëanor renames Melkor Morgoth and incites a riot cos his daddy was killed and the Silmarils were stolen.  He blames the Valar for failing to protect them, and convinces most of the Noldor to leave Valinor and launch an attack upon Morgoth (and anyone else stupid enough to try to withhold the Silmarils from them).The Noldor try to convince the Teleri to leave with them, but they refuse.  Fëanor orders that the magic ships be taken by force, and many of the Teleri are slaughtered (this is later referred to as the Kinslaying).  On their journey back to Middle-Earth, they're confronted by Mandos (one of the Valar) and he puts a curse on them all for being such stabby asshats and killing their brethren.Finarfin and Fingolfin (younger brothers of Fëanor) have second (maybe third) thoughts about this whole thing.  They weren't present for the Kinslaying and once they heard that they were being cursed, they were all "Whoa now.  We're only here for our kids."  Finarfin turns back with a small band of followers.  His daughter Galadriel stays with her uncle Fingolfin, only to have Fëanor decide that he needs ALL THE SHIPS, so Fingolfin, Galadriel and the rest of HIS followers are forced to make their way to Middle-Earth across the Ice Wastes of Helcaraxë.Back in Middle-Earth - remember how I mentioned that the Sindarin didn't make the trek to Valinor cos their King (Thingol) was lost in the woods?  Well, eventually he was found, and the Sindar set up the kingdom of Doriath.The Seven Father Dwarves are released from their slumber.  Durin, the oldest of the dwarves, creates the great fortress of Khazad-dûm under and through the Misty Mountains.  Other dwarven cities are founded far to the west in the Blue Mountains.  The dwarves of Belegost were the first to forge chain-mail and often traded weapons with the Sindarin. Dude. It was a long nap.Morgoth decides he needs more room for his evil-doings and sets siege to Doriath.  There are several battles.  First he sends out two armies of orcs and Thingol is forced to create the Girdle of Melian, which is kind of like a magical force field around the kingdom.  Second battle, Fëanor arrives and the Sindarin work with the Noldor to roust the orcs from Doriath.  Fëanor is still all full of righteous fury, though, so he chases after the retreating armies and is killed by Balrogs.Now, I'm sure you're all saying "Wait just a second here, sj.  WTS are these orcs you're on about now?  We haven't heard of them before."  Well...the story of the orcs gets more confusing the more Tolkien you read.  There are SO MANY different origin stories because he couldn't make up his damn mind about where they came from.  Since we're discussing The Silmarillion, we'll go with the following story:All those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes.So, for our purposes, we're going to go with orcs were once elves until Melkor and Sauron got their dirty little hands on them.'kay.  Back in Valinor, the Valar are unable to bring back the Poo Two Trees.  They take the only remaining piece of fruit and the one remaining leaf and use those to create the Sun and the Moon.Morgoth and his minions don't care for the light of the sun, so they're forced to hide in the dark and the clouds.Around this time, Men appear.The Noldor set up various kingdoms, which are ruled by the descendents of Fëanor, Finarfin and Fingolfin.  They choose not to tell the Sindarin about the Kinslaying and subsequent cursing, but of course Thingol finds out.  He decrees that no Noldor shall set foot in Doriath, and bans the use of their language in his kingdom.After about 50 years, Morgoth decides that the time is ripe once more to attack the elves.  He picks the Noldor, believing them to be weak.  Fingolfin was totally ready for him, though, and his forces defeated Morgoth's in the third battle (called Dragor Aglareb or Glorious Battle).  They pursued the orcs to the gates of Angbard, completely destroyed the orcs forces and laid siege to Angbard itself...that lasted for FOUR HUNDRED YEARS.  [sigh]Morgoth sent small sorties out around the Noldor to try to take care of the rest of those pesky elves a few times over the next few hundred years, including once a dragon called Glaurung (he's the first of the fire breathing dragons in Middle-Earth, they're sometimes called Urulóki).  Glaurung is young, though, and he's sent home crying thanks to Fingon and his archers. I'm pretty sure this is almost exactly what it looked like.The period that follows is referred to as The Long Peace, and it lasted for two hundred years.You just knew that Morgoth was biding his time, though, right?  He starts the warring again in the FOURTH battle, Dragor Bragollach (The Battle of Sudden Flame) and Glaurung comes back out to play, but this time he's fully grown and a force to be reckoned with.Fingolfin got pissed.  "HEY, MORGOTH, YOU CAN'T JUST SLAUGHTER MY PEOPLE BECAUSE YOU'RE A DICK!  WHY DON'T YOU COME OUT AND FIGHT LIKE A MAN?!"Even though Morgoth didn't really want to, he couldn't turn down that challenge.  Fingolfin got a few hits in but Morgoth was stronger.  As he was crushing Fingolfin under his foot, Fingolfin got one last strike in and managed to maim the evil one's foot.Morgoth was about to feed Fingolfin's body to his wolves, but the KING OF THE GIANT EAGLES (Thorondor) swooped in, gouged Morgoth's face a few times, then took Fingolfin's body away to be buried properly.The wounds inflicted by Fingolfin and Thorondor never healed, so Morgoth was all scarry and limpy after that.16 years later, Men and the Noldor band together for one last assault on Morgoth.  This final battle (Nírnaeth Arnoediad or The Battle of Unnumbered Tears) did not end well for the good guys.  Morgoth had so many orcs that the elves and men were completely outnumbered.  Glaurung led the charge and the forces of Noldor were crushed.  Morgoth killed or captured the elf-lords and declared himself to be King of the North....and now I'm out of room, so if you've actually read this far and are somehow hungry for more, scroll back up to the top, click that link and start with Part IV.