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Nerdist Book Club: THE SILMARILLION, Part 13

Nerdist Book Club: THE SILMARILLION, Part 13

We’ve reached the end of the road for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion; can you believe it? Thirteen weeks have gone by faster than I thought they would, and I’m feeling glad that we took it so slow. If I would have to read more than 30 or so pages a week, I would have given up. Anyway, the end brings us into the Third Age and the story of the rings of power. In short: Sauron keeps on being a tool.

What happened

Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
Remember the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring film adaptation? Of course you do because Cate Blanchett’s voice in the prologue was haunting. Anyway, that’s essentially the territory this final installment covered. We learned Sauron repented but eventually took up residence back in Mordor and forged the One Ring. He tricked as many of the new residents of Middle-earth as he could, and several fell for his folly.

Speaking of Middle-earth, this is where the land that we know really takes shape. The Grey Havens are built and so is Rivendell, Lothlórien, Gondor, Isengard, Moria, and more. Men, Elves, and Dwarves spread across the land and soak up peace for a time. However, Sauron exerted his control before long. Though I knew the basics of him forging the ring in order to control other ring-bearers, I didn’t realize quite how it worked until I read these pages. He could actually see into the thoughts of those wearing the rings and influence them. No wonder he got such a grip on Middle-earth. I also wasn’t aware the Elves were smart enough to sense Sauron and remove the rings.

of_the_rings_of_power____2_by_zdrava-d35idf1

Of the Rings of Power text art by Valentina

We jump into a recap of some of the events of Akallabêth and a review of the history of the One Ring. Elendil and Gil-galad set a seven year (!) siege upon Mordor, and it ended when Isildur picked up his father’s broken sword Narsil and hacked off the ring. We all know how that ends. And if you don’t know, spoilers: it’s not good.

I enjoyed diving deeper into the history and especially reading about Gandalf, Saruman, and the formation of the White Council. Gandalf begins to suspect something is amiss in Dol Guldur and specifically that Sauron is making a comeback after getting the ring hacked off. This is explored on screen in The Hobbit films, and it appears as though we’ll see the Council make an attack upon the dark place in the upcoming Battle of the Five Armies.

The remainder of the chapter skips through the highlights of the events of the Lord of the Rings all the way to Gandalf’s departure from Middle-earth from the Grey Havens.

Relevance to The Hobbit and/or Lord of the Rings
As you might have noticed, all of this chapter is relevant to the later Tolkien stories. It’s essentially a preamble to the Lord of the Rings and reviews some of the events we read about in that trilogy.

Favorite quotes
“… in which these tales come to their end.”

“Secretly Sauron made One Ring to rule all the others, and their power was bound up with it, to be subject wholly to it and to last only so long as it too should last.”

“But Sauron also was thrown down, and with the hilt-shard of Narsil Isildur cut the Ruling Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own.”

“In the twilight of autumn it sailed out of Mithlond, until the seas of of the Bent World fell away beneath it, and the winds of the round sky troubled it no more, and borne upon the high airs above the mists of the world it passed into the Ancient West, and an end was come for the Eldar of story and of song.”

Of_Gandalf_and_Saruman_by_Mieronna

Of Gandalf and Saruman by Miri

Discussion questions
– Sauron repented to Eönwë; do you think of any of that was genuine or was it just another trick?
– Why do you think none of the nine men who took the Rings of Power caught on to Sauron’s endgame like the Elves did?
– Why didn’t the Valar come to Middle-earth to help after Sauron took control with the One Ring?
– Do you think Gandalf knew all along that the Hobbits would play such an important role in the Third Age?

Bonus material
Eye of Sauron cup set by Functional Mud
Gorgeous Silmarillion and Tolkien fan art by Valentina

Can you believe we’re at the end? Guys! We read The Silmarillion, and it was surprisingly fun. Long and hard and sad but fun. And rewarding. Treat yourself today because you deserve it for both reading the book and all of our discussion posts. If you commented regularly, give yourself an extra pat on the back for participation. You all rock! Head to the comments one more time and tell me your overall impressions of the book, answer the discussion questions, share favorite quotes – whatever you feel like. As always, use the #NerdistBookClub hashtag on your social media posts about the book.

Thank you all for joining me on this grand adventure. It’s taken me way too long to finally start and finish The Silmarillion, and I don’t think I could have done it without this book club. I hope it helped you or that you liked reading the book again. I appreciate all of your comments and insight. Stay tuned for the next book on our agenda!

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Comments

  1. Mitulinski says:

    Ahh, finishing a book is sweet, ain’t it? ^^

    As we’re familiar with this territory, it was easier to follow than the rest of it! XD But it was interesting to expand upon what is basically the FOTR movie prologue. A lot of the time I was reading along listening to some of Howard Shore’s score…Sometimes it synched up with what was happening as I was reading! Little bit intense! XD

    Another thing that was interesting to me was the origin of places like Minas Morgul…What I *really* wanted to read about was the set up for the beacons between Gondor and Rohan; like, how did they decide who’d be stationed at those beacon posts at the peaks of those mountains and for how long? Etc? Then again, that may be written of in The Unfinished Tales…The final book for me to read in the Tolkein-verse!

    Many thank yous for you, Amy, for pulling this together. ^^ A really wonderful way to get some much-needed reading in! (And on a schedule, too! Never read a novel so fast! XD)

    – AM

  2. Robert says:

    – Sauron repented to Eönwë; do you think of any of that was genuine or was it just another trick?

      The text confirms that Sauron repentance was real in the presence of the Valar. Admitting you were wrong and promising to change is one thing accepting the consequences of your actions and beginning the uphill climb to change yourself is another. I think Sauron was dismayed at Morgoth’s cowardice in the face of the Valar and at his utter nihilism. Sauron wants to rule, not destroy Arda. Not wanting to be chained and judged in Aman, Sauron fled to Middle Earth and thought the Valar would forget about him and Middle Earth altogether.

    – Why do you think none of the nine men who took the Rings of Power caught on to Sauron’s endgame like the Elves did?

       I don’t think the other rings of power had been gifted to men and dwarves until after the sacking of Eregion. It is not clear in the text but my guess is that Sauron could sense the Rings he had helped to create. I’m sure Sauron thought he was entitled to anything he helped to create. Sauron doles out the Rings as bribes to men and dwarves. The men were probably chosen for their influence and power in Middle Earth, better to dominate the king rather than having to subdue the kingdom. Unfortunately for Sauron,  the dwarven mind does not submit to mind control and all he could manage was to amplify dwarven greed (not a bad thing considering all the grief that greed has caused). My guess is that the human ring-bearers who became the Nazgul, are people Sauron met in Numenor who conquered Southern Middle Earth (Black Numenorians)or kings of Eastern Middle Earth.    
    – Why didn’t the Valar come to Middle-earth to help after Sauron took control with the One Ring?

       Maia problems require Maia solutions. The last intervention of the Valar resulted in the cleaving off of half a continent. Sauron claims Kingship over Men. Men deserved and were expected to be part of the unraveling of Sauron’s dominion. Instead of coming themselves, the Valar sent five representative Maia to lead the fight against Sauron. Five to One seems like good odds but the best laid plans of Valar and men…

    – Do you think Gandalf knew all along that the Hobbits would play such an important role in the Third Age?
      I don’t think Gandalf knew anything about Hobbits before he ran into them in Arthedain. When he found them he did not instantly dismiss them as insignificant unlike many others including Sauruman (to his eventual dismay). I think he saw in them a contentment not found in the other free peoples. Hobbits don’t delight in power and domination they like gardening, drinking, eating, and smoking. They are also resilient. Hobbits are the only free people who’s origin remains a mystery. Tolkien never mentions when they arose or from whence they came. Gandalf doesn’t know but he does have faith in Eru, in the Free Peoples, and in his mission to rekindle hearts and minds.

    The Lord of the Rings was my introduction to Fantasy literature. I read it every year and Middle Earth has always been my favorite world to explore. Thank you, Amy for a fun trip through the Silmarillion. It was great to have companions for the journey this time through.

  3. XagzanOTM says:

    Well, that was fun. Thanks for hosting it, Amy. We appreciate your time and effort. I finally read the entire Silmarillion from beginning to end, instead of just skimming select parts! Kind of sad it’s over though.

    Wondering what the next book will be. Amy, if you intend to keep the Tolkien theme, might it be The Hobbit? With the last movie arriving soon, what better time to dive into the book, and see the differences between the two? (then I could also complain about changes I didn’t like in DoS :P) Unless people are worried about spoilers, of course, for BotFA…But still, I suspect The Hobbit would be a more accessible read than The Silmarillion is, especially to newcomers.

    Well, I’ll be interested whatever you choose. I try to tackle two books simultaneously these days, to hopefully increase my reading speed, so it’ll be nice if I can get a replacement companion for Moby Dick.

  4. Joshua says:

    I don’t think Gandalf watched Hobbits from the get-go because he believed they were a useful asset. 

    I think that opinion developed as he got to know them, and he operated accordingly at times (sending Bilbo with the Dwarves for instance) but I don’t think he decided to befriend them for that reason. 

    I think he did it because it is consistent with Gandalf’s beliefs about the value of the weak. He isn’t interested in the weak for the sake of power-games, he honestly believed the weak are worth it in and of themselves. Or another way, they’re not a means to an end, they are an end, as a representation of what is good, especially to a powerful Istar who could, like Saruman, be distracted by the trappings of brute power. 

  5. twiff says:

    As for the Valar not getting involved, well that never ended well. Their motivations for non-interference are clearly stated: the elves who choose to remain in Middle Earth are to be left to sort it out on their own and Men wouldn’t be able to survive the meddling of the Valar. Of course, they aren’t completely abandoned;  what with the Istari being sent to help. But they constrained the power of their messengers; in part to keep with the philosophy of letting Middle Earth take care of itself, in part to rempve the temptation for them to go dark side. Not that it mattered in Saruman’s case. This is also why Gandalf got a power boost after his foght with the Balrog. He was the was the only one who stayed on mission.  Saruman turned, Radagast got seduced by Nature and the “Blue Wizards” were complete non-factors. It also ties into the themes of magic and wonder leaving the world with the diminishing of the power and influence of the Eldar. The Valar never understood how to deal with mankind.  Their lives in Arda are brief, they cannot hear the Valar and they are not bound by the Music (free will, always screwing up the plans).  Sure, Sauron was powerful, but also just of the Maiar. Tulkas could have simply walked into Mordor and noogied him into oblivion,  but then no lessons in self-reliance would have been taught.

  6. sakers70 says:

    N this book did I find out that Gandalf and the other wizards or Ishtari as well as Sauron are Maiar.  
    Also Elrond and his brother Elros were half human.  They were given the choice to live as elves or as man.  Elrond chose Elf and Elros chose man.  Isuldur and Aragorn are descendants of Elros.  Also, Galadriel is Elrond’s mother-in-law.  

  7. Since this is our final chapter, I want to start by thanking Amy for putting together all of the summaries and collecting links and artwork, this greatly enhanced the experience. I would also like to thank all of you for participating and contributing to this collaborative effort. I learned and thought about the text from multiple perspectives and at a much deeper level than I did when I read the book alone when I was younger.

     

    The manner in which the events are recounted by the narrator leave Sauron’s true thoughts in doubt, “and *some* hold that this was not at first falsely done [emphasis added],” but suggest that if his repentance was genuine that it was likely done out of fear seeing Morgoth vanquished. Puzzling again, why the Valar failed to pursue Sauron, Morgoth’s main captain, after he hid himself in Middle-earth. Whether we want to call this fate or doom, the Valar’s oversight leads to the main events of the next age.

     

    In the Tolkien world, men are more easily seduced by greed and power and seem to have less intuition about magic than the Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar. Perhaps short life spans of men and the very fact that they are mortal allowed them to be transformed into the “realm of shadows.” In addition, some tribes of men had supported Morgoth from the beginning and Sauron would have been familiar to them as his captain.

     

    Why didn’t the Valar do many things in the Silmarillion? Fate, doom, the creation of the plot pieces that Tolkien needed to connect his mythos all come into play through the Valar’s inaction. We must also remember that after the destruction of Númenor, the Valar largely removed themselves from Middle-earth and made it nigh impossible for mariners to find Valinor unless they were of the Eldar and permitted to find the “Straight Road.” They did however send the Istari to help and guide the people of Middle-earth against the threat of Sauron.

    There are always hints with Mithrandir’s statements about help “from the hands of the weak when the Wise falter.” Like much of the foresight that is spoken in Tolkien, it is more like an intuition or foreboding rather than direct knowledge. Mithrandir’s own temperament and wandering tendencies, one could argue, made it likely he would find and take interest in the Halflings. Now I feel like rereading the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

  8. btlnsdolfin says:

    I loved reading the Silmarillion. It connected a lot of the dots and gave more details from the beginning/creation to the end of the movies. I learned a lot of the motives of the different races and people and what general characteristics made each race unique. I definitely liked reading it as part of a discussion group. Others who had read more extensively gave some more information that wasn’t in the book (like Gandalf’s other name). I liked hearing the other points of view about the stories. It also helped get me through some of the more “boring” and/or sad parts. I had read some of it before, but then I had a baby and never got back around to it. He is four now so I’m glad for the motivation to finish it this time.

  9. amysrevenge says:

    “- Do you think Gandalf knew all along that the Hobbits would play such an important role in the Third Age?”

    I think he was given something by a higher power, a feeling that hobbits were worth his attention.  He himself probably didn’t see them as important at first, just as worth loving.  The importance revealed itself to him later.

  10. XagzanOTM says:

    – Sauron repented to Eönwë; do you think of any of that was genuine or was it just another trick?
    Depends on whether you count repentance-from-fear as genuine or not. It says “And some hold that this was not at first falsely done, but that Sauron in truth repented, if only out of fear, being dismayed by the fall of Morgoth” etc etc.
    -Why do you think none of the nine men who took the Rings of Power caught on to Sauron’s endgame like the Elves did?
    Like Galadriel says in that intro you mentioned, “Nine were given to the race of Men, who above all else, desire power.” Assuming the humans were even as perceptive as the Elves as to Sauron’s intention, maybe they just weren’t strong enough. We already saw how the Numenoreans became a slave to power and their fear, and so were ruined. Perhaps it was similar with the Nazgul. By the time they noticed, either it was too late to do anything or they were already too far gone to care.
    – Why didn’t the Valar come to Middle-earth to help after Sauron took control with the One Ring?

    Well, I’m not sure if that’s ever explained definitively, but I think you can find a possible answer in the Istari. Rather than involve themselves directly in Middle Earth again, and risk changing the face of the world like they did in the War of Wrath, they sent the wizards as emissaries, to work subtly and rouse the people of Middle Earth to action, rather than interfere themselves once again. But really, that’s my best guess.
    – Do you think Gandalf knew all along that the Hobbits would play such an important role in the Third Age?

    I think his answer would be echoed in the Oracle’s at the end of the Matrix Revolutions.
    “Did you always know?””Oh, no. No I didn’t. But I believed. I believed.”*cue blinding sunrise*
    It was just Gandalf’s philosophy, learned perhaps from his time spent with Nienna back in the earliest days, and, as he says elsewhere I think, from his time spent among the Hobbits themselves. So, I doubt he knew for certain the Hobbits would play such a major role, but when he tells Elrond, “Many are the strange chances of the world…and help oft shall come from the hands of the weak when the Wise falter,” that speaks to his esteem of the valor and courage of people like them.

    Have more to post later, in a rush now.

  11. Aleketh says:

    – Sauron repented to Eönwë; do you think of any of that was genuine or was it just another trick?
    It was probably another trick. Sauron comes with 100% pure evil, for a good, balanced story of good vs evil. 
    -Why do you think none of the nine men who took the Rings of Power caught on to Sauron’s endgame like the Elves did?
    Plot convenience? It was actually kind of terrifying realizing that once the wraiths were people, just like you and me.  
    -Why didn’t the Valar come to Middle-earth to help after Sauron took control with the One Ring?
    I guess they were either too devastated themselves, or they just didn’t bother.
     – Do you think Gandalf knew all along that the Hobbits would play such an important role in the Third Age?
    It seems like he did, but maybe he just hoped it did and it came true. Gandalf is a very mysterious character, shrouded in mystery in my opinion, so either way it worked. 
    I can’t believe this is the end. our lil book club fellowship finishing one of the most interesting books I’ve read. I could’t have imagined me finishing this on my own. Looking forward to our next book, hopefully it will be something I already own. 

  12. Definitely curious as to what we’ll be reading next. If it’s another Tolkien novel, not sure if I’ll participate. After reading Silmarillion, I’ve learned that for me, his work is very much an acquired taste. But it was fun participating in the book club, and I wish I could’ve participated more. 

  13. – Sauron repented to Eönwë; do you think of any of that was genuine or was it just another trick?

    I think it was just a trick.

    – Why do you think none of the nine men who took the Rings of Power caught on to Sauron’s endgame like the Elves did?

    I think that the nine were too blinded by the desire of power, wealth and glory to catch on. Additionally, these kinds of games were nothing new to the elves. Elves have been dealing with this sort of thing far longer than man existed in the world, so I think that’s another reason why the elves caught on and man didn’t.

    – Why didn’t the Valar come to Middle-earth to help after Sauron took control with the One Ring? 
    I’m genuinely clueless on this one.

    – Do you think Gandalf knew all along that the Hobbits would play such an important role in the Third Age?

    Possibly.