TLOTR has been consistently voted the best book of the 20th Century. It is loved by many. How many of its readers have ever read 'The Silmarillion'?

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I assume almost everyone in this class and forum has read 'The Silmarillion'? You may be surprised to find out how few readers of TLOTR have. TLOTR has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. 'The Silmarillion' has sold 1 million copies. It would appear that only about 1 in 100 readers of TLOTR has also read 'The Silmarillion'.

So, 99% of TLOTR readers would have no knowledge, even today, of Silmarillion or Legendarium material. Their only means of understanding, interpreting, appreciating TLOTR would be TLOTR itself. Yet it seems that most of them appreciate it very much.

Knowledge of the Legendarium is un-necessary to appreciation of TLOTR as a work of art on its own.

Is over-use of 'The Silmarillion' and other 'Legendarium' to explain, understand, or interpret TLOTR, as well as being dubious, rather 'academic', and disconnected and distancing from the experience of the vast majority of readers and fans who appreciate, understand, and interpret the book as a work of art on its own?
 
Last edited:

Beech27

Active Member
I would venture to guess that a pretty small percent of the people who have purchased The Silmarillion actually read it all the way through, also. There are podcasts and internet threads galore dedicated to helping determined readers who have DNF'd, or otherwise might, because it's a book so many famously bounce off of.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I would venture to guess that a pretty small percent of the people who have purchased The Silmarillion actually read it all the way through, also. There are podcasts and internet threads galore dedicated to helping determined readers who have DNF'd, or otherwise might, because it's a book so many famously bounce off of.
But how many Christians have really read Numbers or Leviticus or Deuteronomy though? They rely on those who did to answer their questions. ;-) It is a valid position and nobody would dismiss Leviticus just because he has not read it though himself.
 

Beech27

Active Member
But how many Christians have really read Numbers or Leviticus or Deuteronomy though? They rely on those who did to answer their questions. ;-) It is a valid position and nobody would dismiss Leviticus just because he has not read it though himself.
I'm not advocating for a sola scriptura approach to Tolkien, just noting that I suspect fewer than Flammifer's 1% have probably read The Silmarillion, however many purchased it.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I'm not advocating for a sola scriptura approach to Tolkien, just noting that I suspect fewer than Flammifer's 1% have probably read The Silmarillion, however many purchased it.
Given that Tolkien was a passionate Catholic he would have minded "sola scriptura" being applied to his work for sure. ;)
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Given that Tolkien was a passionate Catholic he would have minded "sola scriptura" being applied to his work for sure. ;)
Or would he? His famous lecture, "Beowulf, The Monsters and the Critics", would suggest otherwise.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Or would he? His famous lecture, "Beowulf, The Monsters and the Critics", would suggest otherwise.
I doubt he would say that each of the Gospels (all different in their artistic styles and the details) is to be read seperately and that no inferencences are allowed between thel Gospels themselves or betwen them and the previous concepts from the proceeding book. How do one understand "the Woman" of the Gospels if one does not think of "the Woman" of Genesis? Or what sensie Has insisting that Sherlock Holmes from "A Study in Scarlet" is a different person from himself in "The Hound of Baskervilles".
 
Last edited:

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I think 'The Bible' most closely resembles 'The Legendarium'. Both are 'histories'. Both are the history of an evolving mythology. Both were written in disparate chunks over long stretches of time. Both have numerous internal inconsistencies and contradictions. Both can be studied and re-studied, and argued over extensively by those who enjoy exegesis. (Or those who enjoy trivia.) The main difference is that 'The Bible' was written by many different people, whereas 'The Legendarium' was mostly written by one (though I would say by two).

I am not sure if there is a part of the Bible which really resembles TLOTR. Is any part of the Bible primarily written as a work of art, rather than as a myth or a record? Perhaps 'The Song of Solomon'?

The whole thrust of JRRT's lecture, "Beowulf - The Monsters and the Critics", was that Beowulf should be read as its own work of art, and that all the externals (which the Critics were so happily engaged in trying to use to interpret Beowulf) should be downplayed or ignored.

In that lecture, JRRT used this parable to characterize the Author of the work of art and the Critics"

"A man inherited a field in which was an accumulation of old stone, part of an older hall. Of the old stone some had already been used in building the house in which he actually lived, not far from the old house of his fathers. Of the rest he took some and built a tower. But his friends coming perceived at once (without troubling to climb the steps) that these stones had formerly belonged to a more ancient building. So they pushed the tower over, with no little labour, in order to look for hidden carvings and inscriptions, or to discover whence the man's distant forefathers had obtained their building material. Some suspecting a deposit of coal under the soil began to dig for it, and forgot even the stones. They all said: 'This tower is most interesting.' But they also said (after pushing it over), 'What a muddle it is in!' And even the man's own descendants, who might have been expected to consider what he had been about, were heard to murmur: 'He is such an odd fellow! Imagine his using these old stones just to build a nonsensical tower! Why did not he restore the old house? He had no sense of proportion.' But from the top of that tower the man had been able to look out upon the sea."

Oh, Christopher! Did you ever read that passage and wonder? It is aimed right at you! As you try to restore the old house while risking tearing down the tower.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I am not sure if there is a part of the Bible which really resembles TLOTR. Is any part of the Bible primarily written as a work of art, rather than as a myth or a record? Perhaps 'The Song of Solomon'?
Acts of the Apostles, of course.

The whole thrust of JRRT's lecture, "Beowulf - The Monsters and the Critics", was that Beowulf should be read as its own work of art, and that all the externals (which the Critics were so happily engaged in trying to use to interpret Beowulf) should be downplayed or ignored.
In that lecture, JRRT used this parable to characterize the Author of the work of art and the Critics"
Beowulf is a story intended to be court entertainment. Like "The Iliad". There is plenty of interesting "accidentally" historical material in "The Iliad" but it is not pretending to be a historical work like "De Bello Galico" does.

But LOTR pretends to be a historical work, that is its frame. Tolkien goes to very great lenght with this frame. He wants it to be treated as a "De Bello Galico" , not as a "The Iliad". And how does one tread "De Bello Galico"? - One compares it with various other sources on the the same topic that available.
 
Last edited:

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
No one knows whether Beowulf was intended to be court entertainment.

We do know that it is an epic poem. TLOTR is an epic novel. Both are obviously intended to be works of art. Both are intended to be appreciated on their own.

We know that TLOTR became one of the most loved books of all time on its own, not because of conflation with The Legendarium, as only about 1% of all the readers of TLOTR have ever read The Legendarium.

We know that JRRT would have wanted people to focus on the work of art because that is what he urged people to do with Beowulf.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
No one knows whether Beowulf was intended to be court entertainment.

We do know that it is an epic poem. TLOTR is an epic novel. Both are obviously intended to be works of art. Both are intended to be appreciated on their own.

We know that TLOTR became one of the most loved books of all time on its own, not because of conflation with The Legendarium, as only about 1% of all the readers of TLOTR have ever read The Legendarium.

We know that JRRT would have wanted people to focus on the work of art because that is what he urged people to do with Beowulf.
If that were the case Tolkien would not have bothered with the appendices which are to great part a summery of the Silmarillion, pretty close to the published stuff, actually, with plenty of stuff left out but still visibly and recognizably the story of the Silmarillion was considered part of LOTR background. If your statement above were completely valid, we will would never know who Findegil the King's Writer was - as this would be completely and utterly irrelevant.

LOTR is set up as "fictional history" and it is a completely valid approach to treat as as history with historical methods.

An epic is the equivalent of a "TV drama" of the pre- or ante-literally times, sung at different occasions, but mostly at courts for people who could afford to recompense a good singer. A "TV drama" - even if set in a historical setting - is not expected to give an exact account of history (even if good ones would try to avoid being non-accurate, if they can). "Fictional history" is still history and can be treated as such.
 
Last edited:

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Odola, I didn't know who Findegil the King's Writer was until this class. I don't think I missed much by not knowing.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Odola, I didn't know who Findegil the King's Writer was until this class. I don't think I missed much by not knowing.
He is in the LOTR in the proloque. If Tolkien did not want his work to be treated as "fictional history" he would would left him out. He would left the whole prologue out. The prologue makes LOTR seem like a historical analysis of a historical text, not just a story for fun. He includes Findegil before he even starts the story itself.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
If that were the case Tolkien would not have bothered with the appendices which are to great part a summery of the Silmarillion, pretty close to the published stuff, actually, with plenty of stuff left out but still visibly and recognizably the story of the Silmarillion was considered part of LOTR background. If your statement above were completely valid, we will would never know who Findegil the King's Writer was - as this would be completely and utterly irrelevant.

LOTR is set up as "fictional history" and it is a completely valid approach to treat as as history with historical methods.

An epic is the equivalent of a "TV drama" of the pre- or ante-literally times, sung at different occasions, but mostly at courts for people who could afford to recompense a good singer. A "TV drama" - even if set in a historical setting - is not expected to give an exact account of history (even if good ones would try to avoid being non-accurate, if they can). "Fictional history" is still history and can be treated as such.
Odola,

Almost every novel ever written is set up as 'fictional history'. Moby Dick is set up as fictional history, Pride and Prejudice is set up as fictional history, The Iliad is set up as fictional history. Don Quixote is set up as fictional history. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is set up as fictional history. It is hard to name a novel that is not set up as fictional history (I guess science fiction, which is set up as fictional future history).

Frames, are a part of many novels, and many epics.

TLOTR is definitely not a history. It is an epic novel.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Odola,

Almost every novel ever written is set up as 'fictional history'. Moby Dick is set up as fictional history, Pride and Prejudice is set up as fictional history, The Iliad is set up as fictional history. Don Quixote is set up as fictional history. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is set up as fictional history. It is hard to name a novel that is not set up as fictional history (I guess science fiction, which is set up as fictional future history).

Frames, are a part of many novels, and many epics.

TLOTR is definitely not a history. It is an epic novel.
? Does Moby Dick include an overview of the classification and evolution of Cetacea? Does Pride and Prejudice have a timeline of the Napolenic Wars attached? Iliad the dates of all the kings' rules? Don Quixote a family tree of Sancho Panza? Does The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe describe the origin and producers of Turkish delight?
None of them petends to be a scientific examination of the events described, but LOTR does.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I know it's slightly tangential, but Moby Dick absolutely does this, especially in Chapter 32.
"Clasification" I will grant here - o.k. ;). I do concede. But still the evolution part od my question does saves me here. Uffff.
Edit: "Moby Dick" actually predates "On the Origin of Species" by 8 years; o.k. @Beech27 - You do win this one. ;)
 
Last edited:

Anthony Lawther

Well-Known Member
I would venture to guess that a pretty small percent of the people who have purchased The Silmarillion actually read it all the way through, also. There are podcasts and internet threads galore dedicated to helping determined readers who have DNF'd, or otherwise might, because it's a book so many famously bounce off of.
To change the numbers further, I have personally bought three copies of LOTR but only one of the Silmarillion, and I know I’m not alone in buying multiple copies of the works.
There is also the opportunity to borrow the books to read them without owning them, so the estimate is lacking significant rigour.

However as you say, there are other sources of knowledge of the Legendarium in this Internet Age. There are sites that offer condensed and categorized views of the material that ‘lazy’ people use in place of reading the source material, and then other sites where people discuss the content, from which those who haven’t read the source can glean insights secondhand.

In answer to the original question, I’d say that it depends on how you are approaching the work. There are benefits to reading the work in isolation of all other works; reading it as the sequel to the Hobbit; and reading it with the benefit of an understanding of the Legendarium, especially the versions of it developed around the time of LOTR as that would reflect the sometimes incomplete thoughts that JRRT had around the world within which the LOTR is set.

I think relying too heavily on his later refinements risks straying into the same territory of reimagining and recontextualising that JK Rowling has been criticised for, although JRRT had the benefit of working it out somewhat privately by comparison.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
If that were the case Tolkien would not have bothered with the appendices which are to great part a summery of the Silmarillion, pretty close to the published stuff, actually, with plenty of stuff left out but still visibly and recognizably the story of the Silmarillion was considered part of LOTR background. If your statement above were completely valid, we will would never know who Findegil the King's Writer was - as this would be completely and utterly irrelevant.

LOTR is set up as "fictional history" and it is a completely valid approach to treat as as history with historical methods.

An epic is the equivalent of a "TV drama" of the pre- or ante-literally times, sung at different occasions, but mostly at courts for people who could afford to recompense a good singer. A "TV drama" - even if set in a historical setting - is not expected to give an exact account of history (even if good ones would try to avoid being non-accurate, if they can). "Fictional history" is still history and can be treated as such.
Odola,

How can you say that The Appendices are 'to a great part a summary of the Silmarillion'? They are by no means a summary of the Silmarillion.

The published Silmarillion starts with the Ainulindale - Nothing about that in the Appendices. That's 10 pages.

Then comes the Valaquenta - Nothing about that in the Appendices. In TLOTR we know nothing about Maiar. We don't know the names of almost all the Valar. That's 12 pages

Then comes the Quenta Silmarillion - A tiny bit of that is covered in a one page summary at the start of Appendix A. So, the 221 pages of the Quenta Silmarillion in the published Silmarillion are reduced to one page in the Appendices and most of the characters and events in the First Age are unknown to LOTR readers.

Then comes The Alkallabeth - We get slightly more of this in the Appendices, as the 26 pages of The Alkallabeth in The Silmarillion are summarized in 3 pages in Appendix A.

Then comes Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age - Of the Second age, We get only about 1 page in the Appendices (outside of the 3 pages on the story of Numenor), and about 8 pages in The Silmarillion. On the Third Age, we get 45 pages in the Appendices, and only 10 pages in The Silmarillion. So, for the Third Age, we could say that The Silmarillion is a summary of the Appendices, rather than the other way round.

Seeing as how JRRTs main obsession in the Legendarium was the events of the First Age, almost none of that is covered in The Appendices, or available to readers of TLOTR. The Alkallabeth is slightly more summarized, the Second Age is also slightly summarized, whereas the History of the Third Age is more detailed in the Appendices than in The Silmarillion.

But, all the First Age stuff, which makes up the bulk of the Legendarium, much of JRRTs life-long effort, contains the mythology and world-view, and fundamental basis of Arda in the Legendarium; (243 pages of The Silmarillion). Almost none of that (only 1 page) is in The Appendices. It is unknown to the reader of TLOTR (and unknown to any readers of TLOTR for 23 years after TLOTR was published).

Then, of course there is all the stuff about the composition of Arda, the nature of Men and Elves, the history of the First Age and before, which is in scattered and dubious form all through 'The History of Middle-earth', none of which is summarized in the Appendices.
 
Last edited:

Odola

Well-Known Member
Odola,

How can you say that The Appendices are 'to a great part a summary of the Silmarillion'? They are by no means a summary of the Silmarillion.

The published Silmarillion starts with the Ainulindale - Nothing about that in the Appendices. That's 10 pages.

Then comes the Valaquenta - Nothing about that in the Appendices. In TLOTR we know nothing about Maiar. We don't know the names of almost all the Valar. That's 12 pages

Then comes the Quenta Silmarillion - A tiny bit of that is covered in a one page summary at the start of Appendix A. So, the 221 pages of the Quenta Silmarillion in the published Silmarillion are reduced to one page in the Appendices and most of the characters and events in the First Age are unknown to LOTR readers.

Then comes The Alkallabeth - We get slightly more of this in the Appendices, as the 26 pages of The Alkallabeth in The Silmarillion are summarized in 3 pages in Appendix A.

Then comes Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age - Of the Second age, We get only about 1 page in the Appendices (outside of the 3 pages on the story of Numenor), and about 8 pages in The Silmarillion. On the Third Age, we get 45 pages in the Appendices, and only 10 pages in The Silmarillion. So, for the Third Age, we could say that The Silmarillion is a summary of the Appendices, rather than the other way round.

Seeing as how JRRTs main obsession in the Legendarium was the events of the First Age, almost none of that is covered in The Appendices, or available to readers of TLOTR. The Alkallabeth is slightly more summarized, the Second Age is also slightly summarized, whereas the History of the Third Age is more detailed in the Appendices than in The Silmarillion.

But, all the First Age stuff, which makes up the bulk of the Legendarium, much of JRRTs life-long effort, contains the mythology and world-view, and fundamental basis of Arda in the Legendarium; (243 pages of The Silmarillion). Almost none of that (only 1 page) is in The Appendices. It is unknown to the reader of TLOTR (and unknown to any readers of TLOTR for 23 years after TLOTR was published).

Then, of course there is all the stuff about the composition of Arda, the nature of Men and Elves, the history of the First Age and before, which is in scattered and dubious form all through 'The History of Middle-earth', none of which is summarized in the Appendices.
"Appendix A
NÚMENOR

Fëanor was the greatest of the Eldar in arts and lore, but also the proudest and most selfwilled. He wrought the Three Jewels, the "Silmarilli", and filled them with the radiance of the Two Trees, Telperion and Laurelin, that gave light to the land of the Valar. The Jewels were coveted by Morgoth the Enemy, who stole them and, after destroying the Trees, took them to Middle-earth, and guarded them in his great fortress of Thangorodrim. Against the will of the Valar Fëanor forsook the Blessed Realm and went in exile to Middle-earth, leading with him a great part of his people; for in his pride he purposed to recover the Jewels from Morgoth by force. Thereafter followed the hopeless war of the Eldar and the Edain against Thangorodrim, in which they were at last utterly defeated. The Edain (Atani) were three peoples of Men who, coming first to the West of Middle-earth and the shores of the Great Sea, became allies of the Eldar against the Enemy. There were three unions of the Eldar and the Edain: Lúthien and Beren; Idril and Tuor; Arwen and Aragorn. By the last the long-sundered branches of the Half-elven were reunited and their line was restored. Lúthien Tinúviel was the daughter of King Thingol Grey-cloak of Doriath in the First Age, but her mother was Melian of the people of the Valar. Beren was the son of Barahir of the First House of the Edain. Together they wrested a "silmaril" from the Iron Crown of Morgoth. Lúthien became mortal and was lost to Elven-kind. Dior was her son. Elwing was his daughter and had in her keeping the "silmaril". Idril Celebrindal was the daughter of Turgon, king of the hidden city of Gondolin. Tuor was the son of Huor of the House of Hador, the Third House of the Edain and the most renowned in the wars with Morgoth. Eärendil the Mariner was their son. Eärendil wedded Elwing, and with the power of the "ilmaril" passed the Shadows and came to the Uttermost West, and speaking as ambassador of both Elves and Men obtained the help by which Morgoth was overthrown. Eärendil was not permitted to return to mortal lands, and his ship bearing the "silmari"_ was set to sail in the heavens as a star, and a sign of hope to the dwellers in Middle-earth oppressed by the Great Enemy of his servants. The "silmarilli" alone preserved the ancient light of the Two Trees of Valinor before Morgoth poisoned them; but the other two were lost at the end of the First Age. Of these things the full tale, and much else concerning Elves and Men, is told in "The Silmarillion". The sons of Eärendil were Elros and Elrond, the "Peredhil" or Half-elven. In them alone the line of the heroic chieftains of the Edain in the First Age was preserved; and after the fall of Gil-galad the lineage of the High-elven Kings was also in Middle-earth only represented by their descendants. At the end of the First Age the Valar gave to the Half-elven an irrevocable choice to which kindred they would belong. Elrond chose to be of Elven-kind, and became a master of wisdom. To him therefore was granted the same grace as to those of the High Elves that still lingered in Middle-earth: that when weary at last of the mortal lands they could take ship from the Grey Havens and pass into the Uttermost West; and this grace continued after the change of the world. But to the children of Elrond a choice was also appointed: to pass with him from the circles of the world; or if they remained, to become mortal and die in Middle-earth. For Elrond, therefore, all chances of the War of the Ring were fraught with sorrow. Elros chose to be of Man-kind and remain with the Edain; bet a great life-span was granted to him many times that of lesser men. As a reward for their sufferings in the cause against Morgoth, the Valar, the Guardians of the World, granted to the Edain a land to dwell in, removed from the dangers of Middle-earth. Most of them, therefore, set sail over Sea, and guided by the Star of Eärendil came to the great Isle of Elenna, westernmost of all Mortal lands. There they founded the realm of Númenor."


The Silmarillion is even explicitly mentioned by name here as a reference point!
Either you dismiss the Appendices from the LOTR canon or you have to accept the Silmarillion as canon, anything else is not coherent.

And actually Galadriel is told there to be the sister of Finrod Felagund also:

"TheSecond Age

[..]
In Lindon south of the Lune dwelt for a time Celeborn, kinsman of Thingol; his wife was Galadriel, greatest of Elven women. She was sister of Finrod Felagund, Friend-of-Men, once king of Nargothrond, who gave his life to save Beren son of Barahir."

It is clearly visible that the main plots and characters of Silmarilion are all thought to be relevant for LOTR. They have existed already.

Of course the perpective is like like seeing Greenland from the Moon - no much details here. But even if one does not see the Børglum Elv from the Moon, it does not mean that it is not there.
 
Top