The Books That Affected Us the Most
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
I was gifted with a copy of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion in college, from two very close friends. But I tried to read it – quite a few times, in fact – and I just couldn’t seem to absorb it. The book languished for years, and it wasn’t until I had children that I picked it back up again.
My kids and I had a routine, every night. I would read out loud to them at bedtime every night. First, there were picture books, then story books and on to larger books such as Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, the Artemis Fowl books, and of course, Harry Potter as they arrived, among others. Then I read them The Hobbit, and they absolutely adored it. They wanted more. So I read them the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and they fell in love with those, too. We read them all twice before moving on to something else.
It was after reading those books, out loud, in bits and snippets, twice, and watching them sink into the minds of my children, that I decided to try The Silmarillion again. This time, the very first offering, “The Music of the Ainur”, flowed intoxicatingly into my consciousness, and I felt an entirely new world opening up at my fingertips. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies were fantastic stories, but this was a world, a universe, something with creation myths and legends and intertwined histories that were bigger and yet more intimate than anything I had experienced before. These were not tales set to impress, but instead, were outgrowths of a complex and unified world mythology.
I devoured the stories in The Silmarillion. When the names and relationships threatened to overwhelm me, I started a paper spreadsheet (because that seemed the right thing to do, to use paper) and created a complex tapestry of names, linked by colored lines and symbols that were my own creation, for my own knowledge. It was beautiful. It was a labor of love. I fell in love with the Middle Earth of The Silmarillion, and it has graced my life in many ways, now, for many years.