Having read Lord of the Rings in its entirety, I have always wondered where J.R.R. Tolkien’s world came from.
After reading the beginning of The Silmarillion, I have a much better understanding of this now. The amazing world that Tolkien created is clearly outlined in a letter that he wrote to Milton Waldman in 1951. While the original handwritten letter was lost, the son, Christopher Tolkien was able to find the typewritten copy that was sent back to Tolkien. While the typescript contained several errors, including omitted sentences, I was still able to get a clear understanding of the world that Tolkien was attempting to describe to Milton.
Tolkien started by mentioning that he was unable to provide Milton with a brief sketch of his work, as it would be difficult for Tolkien “to say anything without saying too much”.
To summarize, Tolkien mentioned how the work began with him, and how he became fascinated with languages.
He then went on to mention how each region had their own lore, and believed that England had nothing unique to offer besides the world of King Arthur.
After this, Tolkien outlined how his world is concerned with three principles – Fall, Morality and the Machine. With Fall, Tolkien mentions that this motive happens several times. He then goes into Morality, mentioning how this provides various opportunities of ‘Fall’.
For the Machine (or Magic), he explains the two different kinds of uses of it. One kind was used by enemies for domination. The other use was by the Elves for art.
To further summarize, Tolkien outlined the creation of his world. The Music of the Ainur created the cycles (or ages). God and the Valar (or gods) were revealed.
In going through the cycles, the First Age dealt with the three Silmarilli. These were the jewels that contained the imprisoned light of Valinor (the dwelling place of the gods). In making a long story short, these jewels were lost forever to the Elves. One in the sea, one deep in the earth, and one becoming a star of heaven.
The Second Age dealt with the Rings of Power and the loss of the One Ring. Sauron, a being of Valinor joined the service of the Enemy, becoming his chief captain and servant. After the First Enemy was defeated, he remained in Middle-earth. In his deception, he persuaded the Elves to help him restore the desolate lands, making it look like Valinor. With Sauron’s lore, they made the Rings of Power. Sauron secretly made the One Ring, a ring that contained the powers of all the other rings that were made, and was capable of controlling all the other rings. The wearer of this Ring could enslave all the other bearers. To cut to the end, Isildur cuts the ring from Sauron’s hand and later drowns in the Great River with it.
The Third Age deals with with the finding of the One Ring and the destruction of it. This matter is not discussed in Tolkien’s letter, but is explained in full detail in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s letter ends with him explaining how the Second Age ends.
Having read that letter in The Silmarillion, I now have a richer understanding of Tolkien’s world. I provided a brief summary, omitting the details that I considered to be unnecessary. If you want all the details, I suggest that you read The Silmarillion. It shows Tolkien’s World from the beginning, and the motives that drove him to create it.
With that being a brief overview of The Silmarillion, I will now begin with Ainulindalë (The Music of the Ainur). I will give you my thoughts on it once I finish it.
Until then, make yourself at home here.