Reader: The Silmarillion. Foreword and Preface

Silmarillion Book CoverWhat’s in the Foreword? Or the Preface? Does anyone care? I do!

The read-along launched last weekend, with intros/team roster induction in order (I am sorted to Team Doriath, as desired, along with like-minded fellow frequenters of a certain Tolkien-related forum keen for a virtual adventure) and even a Council of Menegroth in session. The read-along proper starts this week, holding court for the fortnight with the Valaquenta and the Ainulindele, but I have observed the launch with my own little initiation right now. That’s right, reading the foreword and preface in my copy of the book, with a few complementary quick thoughts.


In itself, a foreword isn’t all that fascinating. I am among the minority (I presume) who do read it.

However, this being a post-humous Tolkien publication, its foreword surely holds some interest even for the most foreword averse reader, written as it were by the editor of the book, none other than curator and administrator of the estate and the prof’s own son, Mr Christopher Tolkien (CT).

Just from his writing style, it is clear the influence of his father upon. But I’m no linguistics scholar so that’s all I’ll say on that. The content is the feature.

In it, CT spoke of how the Silm is really the basis on which the stories of LotR and TH are built, and how the prof devoted his life, even to the end, to working on it. Sadly, of course, the prof never finished this life’s work of his. One can’t help but wonder what would have been, if indeed the publishers had agreed to the prof’s vision of a tandem publication: the Silm and LotR.

Despite the emphasis on the Silm’s role as the myth, even CT cautioned against hope for “complete consistency” within the book or with others) simply because it was a work-in-progress to the end. So what should the studious reader, respectful and seeking canon do? The answer is simpler than some may think (with options to boot), so long as one does not suffer from a complex for neatness: the reader, so minded for a canon-based worldview of ME, could very pick one among choices, where versions of the same truth exists. There exists the essence of inner equilbirum, and personally I keep to it for the sanity of my mind (admittedly cursed with rather mild symptomatic complex tendencies).


The preface, another part of a book’s optional anatomy that as a rule, isn’t all that fascinating, and again I am among the minority (I presume) who do read it.

It is really the whole of Letter 131 that the prof sent to Milton Walden, a friend who held the position of editor at the publishing house, detailing the connectedness of LotR with the Silm (perhaps to be more rightly described, to me, as laying down the genus) in support of his argument for the Silm to be published with the LotR. It is a fascinating read, like cliffnotes to the book, by the author no less, and as CT noted in his preface, with the latter part being “a long and bald resume” for LotR (and seems to me to be probably where the Rhyme of the Rings saw its debut apart from the as-yet unpublished book).

That’s all I’ll say. Anyone who has the Silm but haven’t done so should give the bits sandwiched between the contents page and page 1 a go.

The rest of it

If all goes according to plan, I expect to put up a new post on the chapter of the week, at the end of that week.

2 thoughts on “Reader: The Silmarillion. Foreword and Preface

  1. vanimaephel

    I actually did read the Foreword and the Preface, mostly because I just bought a new hardcover version, but also because I don’t think I’d ever bothered to read them in my little paperback. I would say they contained exactly what I expected, but I had no idea the Preface was going to essentially be “Letter #131 to Milton Walden” from the book of Tolkien’s letters. (The Tolkien Professor advises students to read that letter before reading the Silmarillion just to get the gist of the story before taking the plunge.) It’s silly, but that fact made me smile. :-p

    Totally Unrelated: It made me want to read the Pre and Post entries for Lord of the Rings, and though the Foreword and Prologue were what you’d expect (or remember) there was also a Notes on he Text – it explained everything that ever went wrong with the editing and printing. I am impressed with what a headache it can be to get What You Really Want To Say in a book (It kind of looks like You Never Really Do). Apparently, there are no simple tales where Tolkien is concerned. 🙂


    1. lurkerinthemirk Post author

      A big HELLO! vanima 🙂

      Thanks for weighing in. Yes, I found it fascinating, and the letter itself is a great cheatsheet for the newbie or oldbie just too lazy to do remedial on forgotten lore.



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