Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien: An Audiobook Read by Martin Shaw

It has been twenty-nine years since The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien was published by his son Christopher. I remember buying the book at that time, but I can not now recall whether I ever actually finished reading it. It is a tough read for anyone who is not determined to learn all there is to know about Middle Earth. It is filled with tales of many ages and places, and there are enough names to fill a rural phonebook. I now suspect that I started and soon bogged down. It was a long time ago.

Some time after buying the third of three extended DVD versions of the Peter Jackson films of Lord of the Rings and viewing them many times, I began wanting to try again to read The Silmarillion. Every time I looked at the book on the shelf at the library, I thought "Not yet. I don't have enough time." I mentioned my desire to Bonnie and she suggested listening to the audiobook version. It was a great idea.

The audiobook version of The Silmarillion is 13 compact discs read by British actor Martin Shaw, who has a smooth, deep voice perfect for this epic tale. I listened for almost two weeks as I drove to work, cooked dinner, dug flower beds, hiked at the Morton Arboretum, and waited for my teenage daughter to get home on Saturday night. I enjoyed disc 7 with the story of Luthien Tinuviel and disc 13 with the tale of the rise and fall of Sauron so much I listened to them twice.

The book is very Bible-like. It starts with the tale of the earth's creation by Iluvatar, lord of all, who sings the universe into being. He creates the angel-like Valar, including the always loyal Manwe, his spouse Varda, and Melkor, who rebels and is responsible for all the evil and anguish that follows. In succeeding chapter, Iluvatar creates new lands and beings, including elves, dwarves, and humans. Melkor creates orcs, balrogs, and dragons. Feanor creates the Silmarils, beautiful stones holding the light of blessed trees, over which his sons fight many battles. Eventually Sauron forges many rings and one ring to control them all. Readers of Tolkien's trilogy will eventually start to make many connections between The Silmarillion and the later tales.

Now that I have finished I think it is the getting started that is so hard. I recommend the audiobook. Martin Shaw will keep you engaged.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion: Boxed Set Complete and Unabridged. New York : Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio, 1998. ISBN 0553456067


flexnib said...

13 disks!! Wow!

I have been looking at my copy of the book and just not quite getting around to reading it, too. Dunno about 13 disks' worth of listening though...

Jeff H. said...

I'm a big fan of this set...Martin Shaw's voice makes the stories come alive in a way the printed page can't. It really does feel like an epic in the oral tradition, meant to be spoken aloud.