Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Of Elves and Men

The Birmingham nature reserve has been renamed The Shire Country Park. The name change coincides with J.R.R. Tolkein's 113th birthday on January 3rd. It is widely believed that the reserve formerly known as Birmingham provided Tolkein with much inspiration for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. How appropriate then that I just completed reading The Silmarillion. I tried to read this book ages ago when I was about 14 after I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I didn't make it far though. I thought it was boring and confusing and couldn't keep track of all the names especially when they kept changing. But my Bookman and I have been enjoying all of the documentaries on the extended edition DVD of Return of the King. Jackson and others keep mentioning all these things that didn't happen in the books but that helped them create the movies. So I decided to give The Silmarillion another go. I am glad I did. This time I enjoyed it very much. I think it had something to do with the fact that I know the ring story so much better and recognize names and some events in the mythology. The Silmarillion, in case you haven't read it, contains several different stories. The main portion of the book consists of "Ainulindalë," "Valaquenta" and "The Silmarillion". These stories tell of the creation of Middle Earth, elves, men and dwarves. It also has the complete story of Beren and Luthien in it. These are wonderful creation stories in which good and evil are created side by side, the creator, Illuvitar, claiming that even evil has its place and purpose. The writing is graceful and imparts an ancient and almost biblical feeling to the story. Also in this book is "Akallabêth" which tells the story of the rise and fall of Numenor and "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age" which tells about the creation of the rings, the first battle of the ring and a brief bit that leads up to The Fellowship of the Ring. There are indexes, genealogies and pronunciation information. If you are a Tolkein fan and have not read this book, I highly recommend it.