The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Constituent parts date back to the First Age and possibly even earlier. Assembled into a complete narrative between III 3003 and III 3021
Authors
Assembled from ancient works by various authors by Bilbo Baggins
Meaning
The full title, Quenta Silmarillion, means 'Tale of the Silmarils'

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  • Updated 20 March 2004
  • This entry is complete

Silmarillion

‘Of the Silmarils

Encyclopedia of Arda Timeline
Years of the Trees First Age Second Age Third Age Fourth Age and Beyond

While Bilbo Baggins dwelt in Rivendell, he made use of all the resources there (including the memories of living Elves) to write four scholarly volumes bound in red leather. The first of these, the Red Book of Westmarch, was continued by Bilbo's heir, Frodo. It was copied many times, and became the original source for our modern The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

The Hobbits of the Shire, though, seem to have had less interest in the other three volumes, originally entitled simply Translations from the Elvish, that told the tales of the ancient First Age and the time before. Only one copy was made, in Gondor in 172 (Fourth Age), and this was kept at Great Smials by the Took family - it became known as the Thain's Book. It is from this copy that the modern Silmarillion comes1.

The Silmarillion, which in its own words passes 'from the high and the beautiful to darkness and ruin'2 actually consists of a corpus of five works, of which the Quenta Silmarillion is the central tale. These are:

The documents that lay behind these works came from various sources. Ainulindalë, for example, was a very ancient work attributed to Rúmil the sage of Tirion. The Quenta Silmarillion itself seems to have been developed in Númenor during the Second Age, though parts of it (particularly the Narn i Chîn Húrin) were said to date back to the First Age.

The final section, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age must have different origins than the rest of the work. It cannot have been written or translated by Bilbo, since it contains an account of his own departure from Middle-earth. Its source is never stated directly, but a short reference about Peregrin Took in the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings provides a hint: '...he and his successors collected many manuscripts written by scribes of Gondor: mainly copies or summaries of histories or legends relating to Elendil and his heirs.' This was the likely route by which Of the Rings of Power (and probably also Akallabêth) came to be included in the Thain's Book.


Notes

1

Within the context of Tolkien's tales, of course. The Silmarillion was actually written and rewritten over a period of some sixty years by J.R.R. Tolkien, and edited and published posthumously by his son Christopher.

2

From the last words of Quenta Silmarillion, in Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath.

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