Thursday 21 October 2010

Reading Tolkien for the first time; and *not* reading The Silmarillion (1977)


Regular readers will be aware that I value JRR Tolkien above other authors.

While accepting fully that Tolkien is not for everybody (my sister, for instance, finds him utterly without interest - including the movies); I'd just like to make a few pointers about reading Tolkien - so that people who might appreciate his world will not be put-off by reading the wrong things first.

1. If you are an adult - read The Lord of the Rings first.

2. If you are a child - read The Hobbit first.

3. Do not read The Silmarillion - single volume, first published in 1977.

Do not read it after LotR, do not read it ever.

It was a mistake to have published this book (as Christopher Tolkien, who compiled it, now frankly admits).

Those who want to read into the backstory behind and around LotR (e.g. those who have enjoyed the Appendices) should disregard The Silmarillion and read first Unfinished Tales, then the twelve volume History of Middle Earth.

4. The small stories Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wooton Major and Leaf by Niggle are all first-rate and repay repeated reading (or listening, in the superb renderings by actor Derek Jacobi).


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