The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Constituent parts date back to the First Age; assembled into a complete narrative between III 3003 and III 3021
The tales of The Silmarillion take place primarily in Beleriand and its neighbouring lands
Assembled from ancient works by various authors into a coherent narrative by Bilbo Baggins
Primarily concerned with Elves, and those Men of the Edain who later joined them
The full title, Quenta Silmarillion, means 'History of the Silmarils'
Other names
Composed from several works, of which Quenta Silmarillion forms the main narrative


About this entry:

  • Updated 20 March 2004
  • This entry is complete


‘Of the Silmarils

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 going back to the making of the world. Only one copy was made, in Gondor in IV 172, and this was kept at Great Smials by the Took family, and it thus became known as the Thain's Book. It is from this copy that The Silmarillion in its modern form derives.1

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.



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.


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


About this entry:

  • Updated 20 March 2004
  • This entry is complete

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