Tolkien fans who think his achievement is summed up by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have a treasure trove awaiting them – but the path is a demanding one, beset not by dragons (or should I say Urulóki) but by some of the densest writing you’ll find in the fantasy genre. And it’s not for all tastes. The Silmarillion is the mythological epic he worked on (continually revising and re-revising it) all his life – including before, during and after the publication of the more famous books. It could only be published posthumously, for its author never had the heart to say of it “It is done!”
This is an account of Middle-Earth (more properly, Arda) from the Beginning of Days to the end of the First Age. Drawing heavily on Norse mythology, it begins with an account of the creation – and corruption – of the world, and details the struggles of the Gods, demi-Gods, Elves and Men against the reign of the original Dark Lord Melkor. If you’ve wondered about the many tantalizing glimpses of a distant back-story in LOTR, you’ll find all the details filled in here. In fact, though “The Silmarillion” refers here to a specific published work by that name, at a wider level I think of it as encompassing everything Tolkien ever wrote about his imagined universe.