This novel follows the author’s account of the creation of the world by Eru through the Valar and how one Vala, Melkor, introduces sorrow and strife into their perfect world. Using the omnipresent narrator’s perspective, J.R.R. Tolkien tells the story of a world filled with light and joy and the eventual despoiling due to pride, hate, and malice.
‘The Silmarillion’ is a high fantasy novel that examines what happens when a perfect world is destroyed by envy, malice, and wanton violence. The novel features a magnificent backdrop of world-building that is rarely seen in fantasy fiction and employs stirring storytelling about bravery, sadness, and joy to reel readers in.
‘Spoiler Free’ Summary of The Silmarillion
The book starts with Eru Iluvatar creating the Ainur to serve him. He then introduces a Theme for the Music of the Ainur. It is supposed to be a perfect song, but three times, one of the Ainu called Melkor tries to corrupt it. When he shows the Ainur the world that they sang into being and sends them into it, Melkor seeks to rule over the others and control their creations. To protect Middle Earth and allow the Children of Iluvatar to thrive, the rest of the Valar make war against Melkor and capture him, but after an age passes, the Vala Manwe decides to set him free in Valinor. Melkor is far from repentant and seeks to destroy Valinor by plotting against the Valar, planting lies among the elves. He also begins to covet the Silmarils, jewels made by an elf prince named Feanor, but Feanor refuses him. When he is found guilty of treason, he leaves Valinor and allies himself with Ungoliant. With Ungoliant’s help, he kills the Trees and throws Valinor into darkness, which aids him in stealing the Silmarils.
When Feanor realizes that the Silmaril is stolen and the Noldor king killed, he swears revenge against Melkor and renames him Morgoth. Although the Valar forbids him to leave in pursuit of Morgoth, he disobeys. On the shores of the sea, he battles and kills his kin, the Teleri, because they refuse to allow him to take their ships. This leads Mandos to curse him and those who follow him. When they land in Middle Earth, they aid the elves of Beleriand in fighting off the forces of the returned Morgoth, but the battle ends with Feanor’s death.
The Noldor settle in Middle Earth and set up their kingdoms in relative peace, keeping a constant watch on Morgoth’s lands. They establish the realms Gondolin under Turgon and Nargothrond under Finrod Felagund. During his travels alone, Finrod discovers the newly awoken race of men, and soon the elves bring them to live in their lands, forming great friendships with many of them who they call ‘elf-friends.’ The peace is soon over as Morgoth’s forces suddenly attack the elves with fire and iron, routing the elven forces, and High King Fingolfin is murdered.
After Dagor Bragollach, a man named Beren, whose father’s lands in Hitlum were destroyed in the battle and was now living as an outlaw fighting against Morgoth’s forces, comes into Doriath and wanders into the elf maiden Luthien as she dances in the woods. They both fall in love, but her father, king Thingol, demands a Silmaril in exchange for her hand. He enlists the help of king Finrod, but they are soon captured, and Finrod is killed. Luthien rescues Beren, and together they steal the jewel. Luthien and Beren marry, but Beren dies on the hunt for the great wolf Carcharoth. Luthien’s spirit leaves for Valinor, where she pleads with Mandos to return Beren to life. Both of them return to Middle Earth as mortals and live out their life together.
The elves soon unite again to attack Morgoth, but they are betrayed and badly defeated. One of the human commanders named Hurin is captured, and when he refuses to divulge the location of the hidden Gondolin, Morgoth curses him and his family. His son, Turin, becomes a seasoned fighter, but he is troubled by Morgoth’s curse. He accidentally kills his friend Beleg and marries his sister Nienor after the dragon Glaurung steals her memory. His advice to king Orodreth leads to the destruction of Nargothrond by Glaurung. Turin finally defeats Glaurung, but before he dies, he reveals to Nienor and Turin that they are siblings. They both end their lives.
During an argument over Nauglamir, a dwarven heirloom that houses Beren’s Silmaril, the dwarves kill king Thingol and sack Menegroth. Hearing this, Beren and his men attack the dwarves and recover the jewel. His son, Dior, becomes king of Doriath, but he is killed by the sons of Feanor, who want the Silmaril. It eludes them, however, since Dior’s daughter Elwing escapes with it.
The way to Gondolin is revealed to Tuor, Húrin’s nephew, by the Vala Ulmo, and he marries King Turgon’s daughter Idril. When an elf is captured by Morgoth, and he reveals the location of the city, Tuor and Idril lead the survivors of the siege to the Havens of Sirion, where their son Earendil marries Elwing. The sons of Feanor attack again while Earendil is out at sea to recapture the Silmaril, but Ulmo helps Elwing escape. She and Earendil then sail to Valinor, with the power of the Silmaril allowing them to reach the shores of the hidden realm. Earendil begs the Valar to rescue the elves and men of Middle Earth from Morgoth, and they agree, imprisoning Morgoth in the Void outside existence. Earendil and Elwing are then granted immortality because of their elven heritage, and Earendil sails the sky wearing the Silmaril and becomes known as a star. The other two Silmarils are lost when the surviving sons of Feanor steal them but soon throw them away because they burn anything that touches them with evil intentions.
The Valar raises an island called Numenor midway between Valinor and Middle Earth which they gift to the Three Houses of Men that are instrumental in fighting against Morgoth. They soon become estranged from the Valar as they become powerful and prosperous, though a group called Elf-friends remains loyal. Sauron becomes powerful in Morgoth’s absence, and he convinces the elves to make rings of power, while privately, he makes the One Ring to control the others. When the elves realize this, they declare war upon him and beg for aid from the Numenoreans. He is captured by the Numenoreans and convinces their king to invade Valinor. As Ar-Pharazon’s forces land on Valinor, Eru Iluvatar causes the beach to swallow the army, then removes Valinor from the physical world. In the cataclysm that followed, Numenor is swallowed by the sea, and the world becomes rounded.
Many of the Elf friends led by Elendil survive and establish kingdoms in Middle Earth. Elendil’s sons Anarion and Isildur set up Gondor and Arnor kingdoms. Around this time, Sauron returns to Middle Earth and takes up the One Ring again. When the elves discover his return, they unite with Arnor and Gondor to lay siege to Sauron’s tower. Anárion and Elendil are killed, but Isildur cuts the One Ring from Sauron’s hand, defeating him. The One Ring is lost when Isildur is killed in an orc raid shortly after.
Generations pass and Sauron emerges again, opposed by the wizard Gandalf and Isildur’s heir Aragorn. The Hobbit Frodo travels to Mordor and destroys the One Ring in Mount Doom, permanently defeating Sauron. Aragorn is crowned king of Arnor and Gondor, and the remaining elves sail away from Middle Earth along the Straight Road to Valinor.
Plot Summary of I Am Legend
Spoiler alert: important details of the novel are revealed below.
In the beginning, Eru creates the Ainur from his thought. He gives them a theme for Music, and they sing to him. Soon, Melkor, who is the greatest among the Ainur, breaks away from the group and begins to sing his own song. Some of the Ainur join him. After forcing Melkor and his followers to harmonize three times, Eru stops the Music. He allows the Ainur to see the world he created from their Music. Eru then offers the Ainur the opportunity to go into the world to make it according to the vision he showed them and also to govern it. The ones who take up the offer and go into the world become the Valar, the powers of the world.
Seeing how happy the Valar is in Arda, Melkor grows jealous. He wars against the other Valar for control of Arda, which changes the landscape of Arda. But slowly, even with great hindrance from Melkor, the Valar created the world.
The first war begins before Arda is fully formed. At first, Melkor is winning, then Tulkas, the Strong, steps in, and Melkor flees. Tulkas stays and becomes one of the Valar. While the Valar works at shaping Arda, Melkor bides his time. Suddenly, he attacks and destroys the two Great Lamps that the Valar made to light the world, causing a great fire that destroys a large part of the world. The Valar’s dwelling is also destroyed, so they resettle in the land of Aman. Using her song, Yavanna makes the Two Trees named Telperion and Laurelin grow. The Trees give light to Valinor and Aman, leaving Middle Earth in darkness and at the mercy of Melkor.
Time passes, and the Vala Orome comes upon the newly awakened elves by the waters of Cuivienen. Melkor had been capturing them and turning them into orcs, so they initially thought it was Melkor coming to take them. The Valar then decides to battle Melkor to protect the elves. They defeat him and take him as a prisoner. After the war, they invite the elves to live in Aman. By this time, the elves have formed three groups; the Noldor, the Teleri, and the Vanyar. Some refuse the invitations, and some accept but stop along the way. The rest, including most of the Noldor and Vanyar, settle in Aman. The Teleri are separated from their group while they search for their king Thingol. Thingol is in the enchantment of the Maia Melian. The Teleri arrive late in Aman and dwell by the sea.
When the imprisonment of Melkor comes to an end, he feigns repentance in the presence of the Valar, and they free him. Although some elves see the evil inside him, the Noldor leans on his expertise in crafts. Feanor is one of the elves who see through his veil. Melkor’s lies affect Fearnor the most, leading him to move his citadel away from Valinor. Feanor also creates the Silmarils, three jewels infused with the undying Light of the Two Trees. Melkor lusts after them, but Feanor refuses him. When the Valar discovers Melkor has been spreading lies among the elves, he flees Aman. Melkor finds Ungoliant, a spirit that has taken the shape of a great and evil spider, and makes a deal with her to help him. They then travel to Valinor, where Melkor stabs the trees with his lance so Ungoliant can feed on their sap until they wither. Empowered by the light of the Trees, Ungoliant grows even more massive and belches out a cloud of malicious sunlight which confuses the senses of the Valar pursuing them. Covered by the darkness, Melkor storms Feanor’s citadel to kill the elven king, Finwe, and take the Silmarils.
The Trees, hurt by Melkor, cannot be healed by Yavanna, so they ask Feanor to use the Silmarils. Although Feanor is reluctant, the matter ends when he finds out his father was murdered and the jewels stolen while he was away. From here, Melkor is called Morgoth. When Ungoliant demands a reward, Morgoth gives her the other jewels he stole but holds back the Silmarils. Sensing this, she attacks him, but he cries out, and Morgoth’s balrogs rush to his aid and chase her off. He returns to his fortress in Angband and rebuilds it, breeding his monsters again.
Meanwhile, Feanor summons the Noldor, and they set off in pursuit of Morgoth and the Silmaril. He makes his sons swear an oath that prevents any elf, human, or Valar from stopping them while on their quests to recover the jewels. The vow takes hold almost immediately, and they kill their Teleri kin, that refuses to give him their ships to ferry his people to Middle Earth. As punishment, a herald proclaims the Doom of Mandos upon them and all who would follow them. Many, including his brother Finarfin, turn back upon hearing the words of the Valar.
The elves who stay behind after the Summons by the Valar are known as the Sindar. While Morgoth is imprisoned, they know that the peace they enjoy will not last and that he will one day return with violence. King Thingol and Melian the Maia settle in Doriath, and with the help of the Dwarves, they build Menegroth in an underground system of caves. Melian encircles Doriath with her sorcery so that none may pass without her permission.
Seeing that the Trees will not recover, two Valar Nienna and Yavanna recover a golden fruit from the Tree Laurelin and a flower from Telperion. The fruit becomes the Sun, and the flower the Moon. When the sun first rises, Morgoth and his monsters quail and hide underground in fear.
Feanor’s first battle against Morgoth is successful but ends in tragedy as Feanor is mortally wounded and dies of his wounds. But before he dies, he makes his sons swear to avenge his death and carry on the war to recover the Silmarils.
Finrod Felagund is an adventurer who often goes alone to explore Beleriand. On one of his travels, he runs into a band of men led by Beor the Old. He becomes the first elf to discover the newly awakened men. At first, they are wary of him and think he is an agent of Morgoth, but he sings to them and uplifts their spirits with his lore. Soon, many of the elf kingdoms, asides from Doriath and hidden Gondolin, welcome men in their midst.
After the Dagor Bragollach and the total defeat of the elves, King Fingolfin rides out to challenge Morgoth in single combat. Seven times Fingolfin delivers wounds to the Vala, but he eventually trips into one of the pits made by Morgoth’s hammer and is killed. Before Morgoth can despoil his body, the great eagle Thorondor swoops down and carries him away. Morgoth then turns his attention to the remaining elves, greatly oppressing them and destroying much of Beleriand.
Beren is the son of Barahir, who saved Finrod Felagund’s life after the Dagor Bragollach. After years of living as an outlaw fighting the forces of Morgoth, he moves to Doriath, where he meets and falls in love with the elf maiden Luthien, daughter of King Thingol and Melian the Maia. Seeing this, Thingol demands a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown in exchange for Luthien’s hand. Beren goes to Finrod for help, but they get captured by Sauron. Luthien comes to their aid, but not before Finrod is killed. Together, they enter Angband but are captured again by Morgoth, who makes Luthien sing for him. However, her song is an enchantment that puts Morgoth and his creatures to sleep. They cut a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown, but before they escape, a great wolf attacks them and bites off Beren’s hand holding the Silmaril. After their wedding, Beren sets off to kill the wolf and recover the Silmaril. Unfortunately, he is gravely injured and dies. Seeing this, Luthien gives up her spirit and goes to the Halls of Mandos to plead for his return. Luthien gets two options: to stay in Valinor and forget her troubles or go back to Middle Earth with Beren but as a mortal. She chooses to be a mortal with Beren.
Turin Turambar is the son of Morwen and Hurin. After Hurin gets captured during the Battle of the Unnumbered Tears, Morwen sends Turin to Doriath for safety. After an altercation that resulted in the death of an elf of the royal court, Turin thinks he will be judged unfairly by the king, so he flees and lives as an outlaw. His friend, Beleg, goes to retrieve him with a pardon from Thingol, the king who loves him like a son. Beleg gets captured by Turin’s men, but Turin lets him go. However, he is not allowed to return to Doriath, so Beleg stays with him to guard and guide him. Turin is soon betrayed by the Dwarf Mim, whose son his men had killed, and he gets captured. Beleg goes in pursuit. Beleg frees him, but when Turin wakes up from an enchantment, he mistakes Beleg for an enemy and kills him. While he mourns his friend, an old Elf that escaped Morgoth helps him to Nargothrond. There they stay for a while, and Finduilas, a daughter of Finrod Felagund, falls in love with Turin, but he does not love her back. He leads the elves of Nargothrond into battle, and they drive back Morgoth’s forces, diminishing his power enough that Turin’s mother and sister can escape to Doriath.
Soon Morgoth sends his great dragon Graurung against the elves led by Turin. Most of their forces are defeated, but Turin’s dragon armor protects him from the flames. The elves retreat to Nargothrond but cannot destroy the bridge Turin advised the king to build over the river Narong because they had built it too strong. Glaurung sweeps down, crosses the bridge, and freezes Turin in an enchantment till they sack the city and take away the surviving women, including Finduilas. She gets killed before she is rescued.
Realizing that Turin probably got captured by Morgoth, his mother, Morwen, leaves to rescue him. Her daughter goes with her. They are hit with a forgetfulness spell and wander away from one another. Turin finds his sister and takes her to Brandir. Brandir falls in love with her, but she is in love with Turin, not knowing he is her brother. Turin marries her. Turin battles the dragon, and when it dies, the spell on Turin’s sister clears. When she realizes she is pregnant with her brother’s child, she commits suicide. When Turin discovers all the tidings that have befallen him, he falls on his sword.
When Morgoth finally releases Hurin, he looks for his family but discovers his children’s graves, with Morwen crying upon them. They hold each other one last time, and she dies as the sun rises. In anger and despair, he goes to Thingol, bringing him the cursed treasure of the dragon Glaurung. He also brings the priceless necklace Nauglamir. This necklace was presented to Finrod Felagund of Nargothrond as a gift. When Hurin learns that Thingol tried his best to help Turin and had not betrayed him, he leaves Doriath and throws himself into the sea.
Meanwhile, Thingol hires dwarves to set the Silmaril on Nauglamir. But they lay claim to the Dwarf-made necklace and covet the Silmaril. They kill Thingol and make away with them. When Melian finds out, she flees to Valinor in her grief and abandons the protection of Doriath. It gets captured by the Dwarves. Hearing about the fall of Doriath, Beren leads a force to recapture the kingdom and recover the Silmaril and necklace. After Beren and Luthien die, the Jewel is sent to Dior. When the sons of Feanor learn that the jewel is in Doriath, they attack and kill Dior, but his daughter Elwing escapes with it down the river Sirion.
Maeglin is the nephew of King Turgon of Gondolin, who desires the king’s daughter Idril, but she despises him because they are cousins. When Maeglin leaves the Encircling Mountains in search of rare metals, he is captured and brought to Angband, where Morgoth uses threats of great torture and promises of ruling Gondolin after Turgon is killed and marriage to Idril to get him to reveal the location of the city. During a festival, Morgoth’s monsters attack and destroy the city, killing most of the elves who live there. Led by Tuor, son of Huor, Hurin’s brother, many elves escape to safety. They meet with refugees from Doriath in the vales of Sirion. Tuor and his wife, Idril, sail off into the sunset. They are never heard from again.
While living in Gondolin, Idril, and Tuor have a son named Earendil, who becomes a gifted mariner. He weds Elwing, Dior’s heir and wielder of the Silmaril. After a while, he builds a ship and sails off to look for his parents, leaving Elwing behind with the Silmaril. The sons of Feanor remember their oath and petition for the stone. When she refuses, they march on Sirion. Two sons of Feanor get killed in the battle that ensures Sirion gets destroyed. To protect the Silmaril from capture, Elwing throws herself into the sea, but Ulmo turns her into a swan, and she flies to Earendil. They sail to Valinor. When he arrives, the streets look deserted because of a festival, and Earendil fears they are all dead. When he finally finds them, he begs for their help for Middle Earth. Manwe agrees, but because of their elven heritage, he and Elwing remain in Valinor.
The Valar soon comes and wages the second War of Wrath against Morgoth. He gets captured, his fortresses are destroyed and laid bare, and almost all his monsters are destroyed. The crown is taken from him and beaten into a collar for his neck. He is also bound with the great chain, Againor. He is then cast through the Door of Night into The Timeless Void, but his legacy remains in the malice and hatred he seeded into the hearts of men.
Afterward, all the Elves of Middle Earth get called to leave, but the two remaining sons of Feanor storm the camp of the Valar, kill the guards guarding the Silmarils but are eventually captured. Eonwe, Herald of Manwe, spare their lives and gives them their father’s jewels. After this, they cannot stand the Silmarils because their hearts are evil, and they get burned. The pain causes Meadhros to throw himself into a fiery chasm, and Maglor throws himself into the sea.
To reward their labors against the influence of Morgoth, the Valar raises an island called Andor, which is renamed Numenor, and gives it to the three kindreds of men who aided the elves in their battles. The Numenoreans also get the gift of an extended life span that exceeds that of other mortal men and the right to leave the mortal realm when they choose. At first, the Numenoreans come to the other lesser Men as teachers, but as their power grows, they begin to dominate them and establish colonies. They begin to turn away from the Valar and envy the elves for their immortality as their power grows. They become distrustful of the elves. Seeing them as spies of the Valar, they ban the teaching of elven language and persecute elf friends.
Meanwhile, in Middle Earth, Sauron’s power has matured in the absence of his master Morgoth. He takes a fair form and deceives the Noldorin elves who live in Eregion to make rings of power, while in his secret fortress in Mount Doom, he makes the One Ring, which has the power to control the other elven rings. When he puts on the One Ring, the elves see him and know his plans, so he fights against them. When Ar-Pharazon, the new king of Numenor, discovers Sauron’s re-emergence, he leads a large force against him, and his armies quail and run away. Seeing that his men have deserted him, Sauron surrenders to Ar-Pharazon. He is taken back to Numenor as a prisoner.
It is not long till Sauron seduces everyone to his side except the noble Amandil. He causes the king to build a temple on the highest mountain where they worship Morgoth, and cut down the sacred tree, Amloth. As Pharazon grows older, he begins to fear death, and Sauron convinces him that he can invade Valinor and take the immortality that the Valar are keeping from him and his people. Ar-Pharazon prepares a great fleet and sails for Valinor. When he lands on the beaches of Valinor, Manwe gives the control of Aman to Eru Iluvatar. Eru, in his wrath, causes the beach to fold in on Pharazon and all his men, then he removes Aman from the mortal world and makes the world rounded. In the cataclysm that follows, Numenor gets swallowed by the waters. A few of the Faithful escapes, led by Amandil’s son Elendil. He and his sons established kingdoms in Middle Earth called Gondor and Arnor.
Sauron’s physical form gets destroyed in the cataclysm that drowns Numenor, but his spirit remains, and he returns to his fortress in Baradur and takes up his One Ring. He sends his forces to recover the Rings given to the Dwarves because they are too adamant about obeying him. Since the Dwarves use them for wealth, dragons steal some of them. The Rings give immortality to them, but their physical form wastes away, leaving their spirit. This makes them invisible to all but the bearer of the One Ring. These Men were called Nazgul. At the last alliance of Men and Elves, Isildur cuts off Sauron’s ring hand, claiming the One Ring for himself and vanquishing him. Soon after the battle, Isildur is ambushed by an orc raiding party. He gets killed when he tries to swim away, and the Ring slips off his finger.
Years later, Sauron’s power begins to grow again, and his Nazgul prepares Mordor for his return. The Council of Elrond calls a meeting. The council comprises the elven leaders and the leaders of the Istari. Gandalf, the Grey, advises that Sauron should be destroyed while he is still at his weakest, but Saruman, leader of the council, lusts for the One Ring, so he disagrees with Gandalf. Soon, Gandalf learns the One Ring is in possession of a Hobbit and devises a plan to destroy it. It falls to the Fellowship of the Ring to aid the Hobbit Frodo and his servant Samwise Gamgee to find Mount Doom and destroy the Ring. When the Ring gets destroyed, it reverses Sauron’s power and diminishes him beyond recovery. It also ends the age of magic and the elves in Middle Earth. The Elves return to Valinor, taking Frodo with them, and power passes to Men.
Why did J.R.R. Tolkien write ‘The Silmarillion?‘
When Tolkien began writing ‘The Silmarillion,‘ he wanted to create an alternative history of English people steeped in fantastical mythology. It initially took form as a narrative framing device told by an Anglo-Saxon mariner who chances on the elven island of Tol Eressea whose inhabitants tell him the story of their history.
What are the Silmarils?
The three Silmarils are gems of immense beauty created by Feanor. He uses the essence of the Two Trees of Valinor, so they contain the essence and Light of Valinor at the height of its bliss and happiness. The Vala Varda hallow them so that no violence destroys, and no evil or unclean hands touch them.
Why did Turgon refuse to leave Gondolin after he was warned by Ulmo?
When Tuor brought the message from Ulmo that Gondolin was in danger, Turgon thought of the beauty of the fair city and didn’t want to leave it behind. He thought to himself that the city’s location was still a secret. Maeglin, his nephew, also spoke against Tuor because he hated him, and Turgon listened.
What were the names of the sons of Feanor?
Feanor had seven sons who swore the Oath of Feanor with him after the Darkening of Valinor and before they left in pursuit of Morgoth. In Middle Earth, his son Maedhros ruled from his fortress in Himring. Celegorm and Curufin fortified the Pass of Aglon, while Maglor lived around the River Gelion. Caranthir lived on the lands between the river Gelion and the Blue Mountains, while the twins Amrod and Amras lived closer to their elder brother Meadhros.