(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)
Hello friends of Middle Earth! Before I dive into my thoughts (again, really going to try to limit #AllTheQuotes), I thought I’d start with thoughts from Tolkien. In a letter to his Editor friend, Milton Waldman, Tolkien wrote this (in 1951):
“…an equally basic passion of mine ab initio was for myth (not allegory!) and for fairy- story, and above all for heroic legend on the brink of fairy-tale and history, of which there is far too little in the world (accessible to me) for my appetite.”
He goes on to say “I have always been seeing material, things of a certain tone and air, and not simple knowledge. Also – and here I hope I shall not sound absurd – I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own (bound up with its tongue and soil), not of quality that I sought, and found (as an ingredient) in legends of other lands….for reasons which I will not elaborate, that seems to me fatal. Myth and fairy-story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known form of the primary “real” world.”
I have to say his passion came through brilliantly in this piece.
If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the thing y’all need to know about The Silmarillion – it’s an adventure to read. For those who have read it, y’all know what I’m talking about! Not only because there’s a lot of characters involved, but (in the beginning) it doesn’t flow in complete chronological order. Sometimes Tolkien would take you back to a part of the story to go in more depth. I thought by the time we got to Finwë and co., it went pretty chronological from there. Did y’all feel the same?
What I really needed was a wall size whiteboard, so I could chart out all the key players. Confession: I would forget one character’s role a few chapters later when they popped backed up, but thanks to this device known as the internet, a quick search served as a fabulous refresher.
I honestly don’t know where this discussion might lead, but let’s just dive in shall we?
I loved that music played a role in his creation:
“There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad.”
“Then the voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets…began to fashion the theme of Ilúvatar to a great music; and a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and into the heights, and the places of the dwelling of Ilúvatar were filled to overflowing, and the music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void.”
Well, he’s just a piece of work. I love Tolkien’s description of his pride and downfall. Like this:
“But now Ilúvatar sat and hearkened, and for a great while it seemed good to him, for in the music there were no flaws. But as the theme progressed, it came into the heart of Melkor to interweave matters of his own imagining that were not in accord with the theme of Ilúvatar; for he sought therein to increase the power and glory of the part assigned to himself. To Melkor among the Ainur had been given the greatest gifts of power and knowledge, and he had a share in all the gifts of his brethren. He had gone often alone into the void places seeking the Imperishable Flame; for desire grew hot within him to bring into Being things of his own, and it seemed to him that Ilúvatar took no thought for the Void, and he was impatient of its emptiness. Yet he found not the Fire, for it is with Ilúvatar. But being alone he had begun to conceive thoughts of his own unlike those of his brethren.”
Also, he brilliantly played out the darkness in Melkor. From his creation of orcs (“Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves”), Balrogs to all Melkor loathed (“Whereas Melkor spent his spirit in envy and hate, until at last he could make nothing save in mockery of the thought of others, and all their works he destroyed if he could.”), he embodied darkness.
For most of this first half, we see how Melkor pretty much messed everything up and how he stirred up dissension (why was he ever released after all those ages?!). It wasn’t blatant and out it the open; he used the elves’ pride and even fear to turn their hearts against each other. Not so different from human reality.
SIDENOTE: Here I thought Shelob was nasty. I’m sorry, but nothing compared to Ungoliant. Not only because she was 18 levels of NASTY, her bottomless and endless appetite for all things pure, good and light, was creepy. That is such a picture of evil. Let’s hope for no nightmares involving massive spiders that supposedly eventually ate themselves.
I also miss the trees that I know aren’t real, but I still miss them. I also am a fan of Fingon, because he put aside disagreement and went after Maedhros. A common evil can do that. The rescue though…man, intense…
Obviously there was quite a bit more that happened and we were introduced to characters that will play a much greater role in the second half of the book, but I hope y’all have enjoyed it as much as I have!
If you want to join in discussing, here’s a few questions y’all are free to answer!
1. How does this compare to the other Tolkien books you’ve read? Do you prefer one style or like the variety?
As I mentioned earlier, this book is an adventure to read. Completely different from the style of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (which interestingly, did not have as much influence from his writing friends). But true story, I still love it and count it as one of my favorites.
2. Of the stories so far, do you have a favorite?
There are many, but I liked learning where everything in Middle Earth came from, whether that be the dwarves, the orcs or even Balrogs. The creative mind of Tolkien never ceases to amaze me. I also really liked the stories of Finwë and his sons. They were each examples of how both good and bad have ripple effects far beyond the lives we live.
3. Did anyone else freak out when the book mentioned familiar names like Galadriel or Minas Tirith? I’m asking for a friend.
My friend got super excited and highlighted those parts and may have included exclamation points.
4. Any other thoughts or quotes to add?
- If there ever is a class on The History of Middle Earth, this girl is signing up immediately.
- Can I live in Valinor?
- I can’t pronounce 98.8% of the names
Excited to hear from you and yay for Middle Earth!