The Silmarillion: Obscure Editions

When you are behind on a post about the contents of a book, why not talk about its cover? 

While there are many gorgeous copies of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, book-buying Tolkien fans have found a lack of beautiful copies of the Silmarillion. One's that are readily available, anyway. The problem is that most of the really pretty ones, are the earlier editions, and are now harder to come by. 
We have all see the ugly brown one, the little silver paperback, and this latest black and blue edition, which is quite nice. 

But they don't really come close to the 50th anniversary LOTR, or the collector's edition.  Perhaps it is just me who dislikes these covers, but there you have it. So naturally, I went on a search for the Silmarillion of my dreams. 

I own the silver paperback, for annotating and re-reading, and carrying places, and generally beating up. But I needed something pretty. Something that I could read at home, and pet, and display, and enjoy looking at. I love beautiful books. Skip to the end of the post to see the one I ended up buying. 

Turns out, there are actually several beautiful copies of the Silmarillion, they just aren't widely marketed. Some may require you to pay with your firstborn child, and if they are signed, will likely require your soul as well. 

Collectors Edition, 1982
This blue 1997 edition was published in Canada, I believe, and may actually be impossible to purchase. 
Now we have the 1982 collector's edition, which is red and gold, and comes with a matching slipcase, much like the LOTR one. It is probably my favourite one. So pretty. This image doesn't do it justice. It was a limited edition, and whoever owns all of them seems unwilling to sell. BUT, if you have about $5,000 on hand, you can have on that is signed by Christopher Tolkien himself (For Sale on AbeBooks). But hey, at least it has free shipping. 


Next up is a lovely 1995 edition, which is similar to the Alan Lee illustrated copies of LOTR.  It's hardcover, with dust jacket, and I believe that the cover art is by John Howe. There are a couple other version of this edition, the only difference being that the gold on the top and bottom is a different colour. The good news is, you can actually buy one of these. I found a couple that were not too expensive. (Lower Price - Medium PriceHigher Price)
This next is another favourite of mine. Released in 2004, hardcover, and illustrated by the talented Ted Nasmith. Readily available on Amazon

1977 - 1998
Easton Press
This beautiful 1977 - 1998 edition with the rose window thing in the front, is fairly easy to come by. If you just look on amazon or something, it will cost around 2,000 dollars, but some deeper searching on more obscure used book sites, will provide you with copies anywhere from $3 to $50. 

The leatherbound, Easton Press edition is also well known, and very easy to come buy, so long as you have $100 - $300 on hand. There was a time where I had my eye on a $120 copy, and it is a good thing it went up before I could be an idiot and spend that much money on it. Also a good thing, because now I have one that I like much more. 

This brings me to the fairest in the land (not including the collector's edition) and a very affordable copy. Prices range from $10 - $30 which is pretty standard for a nice hardcover. Once you know what to look for, they are really easy to find. The thing to know is that there are multiple 1999 editions, and you are going to have to search a bit. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't pop up right away. The artwork is Tolkien's own (you may recognize it from a book ABOUT middle-earth artwork). It is a hardcover, but the art is only on the dust jacket. The book is rather boring under the dust jacket, but I think it's nice. Black with silver lettering. Not too shabby. 

Mine was $13 and I think I went through at least 20 pages of search results on Amazon before finding it, so I shall save you the trouble: 

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I hope you found this useful (or at least amusing) in your search for the perfect copy of Silmarillion. If you are looking for the older ones, I would recommend places like Ebay, AbeBooks, and ThriftBooks. You can find some of these on Amazon, but it is more oriented towards newer books. You will have more at stores that are mainly for secondhand things. I don't think it is hard to find nice copies of any of Tolkien's other books, but let me know if you want a post on my favourite editions of other things. 

All the images in this post belong to the publishers of the books. 

The Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor

More at end of post.

Perceiving that the hour of the coming of the Firstborn was growing near, the Valar gathered in council. So that the Children might awaken in light, Varda made stars far greater than any she had yet made, earning herself the name of Elentári, Queen of the Stars. 
As she finished, the Firstborn awoke in Cuiviénen, and the first that they saw were the stars. Because of this the elves have loved Varda above the other Valar. 
Melkor first learned of the awakening of the children, and sent dark spirits to trouble them, and make them afraid. Many he took to Utumno, to torture and corrupt, thus beginning the race of orcs. 
Oromë was the next to find them, and though many fled in fear, thinking him a dark spirit, the greater number saw that he was good. He became a friend of the Elves.
The Valar decided that they must stop Melkor once and for all, a great seige was made upon Utumno. They triumphed and Melkor was placed in captivity, but Sauron, his lieutenant, escaped. 
The Elves were then summoned to Valinor. Those that went were called the Eldar, and those that stayed in Middle-earth were known as the Avari (unwilling). Of the elves that obeyed the summons, some did not find their way, these were called the Úmanyar. The Úmanyar and the Avari alike were called the Moriquendi, elves of darkness, for they never saw the light of the two trees in Valinor.

There is a lot going on in this chapter, so strap in.

*deep breath*

Sauron and Angband

To recap, the Valar and Melkor had been fighting over Arda for a long time. The two lamps, Illuin and Ormal, had shed light over the earth for a long time before being destroyed, and lots of things had grown and flourished........ More on the Spring of Arda
Melkor broke everything again (like a very naughty child) and the Valar went to live in the land of Aman (Valinor) and made the two Trees of light, Telperion and Laurelin. Thus began the count of time....... More on the Count of Time
There was light and lots of lovely stuff going on in Valinor, but Middle-earth (at that time, basically just the rest of Arda) was left in a twilight beneath the stars of Varda, and pretty much ignored. 

Okay. So, while the lamps were still around, the oldest living things had arisen, and many strange creatures roamed Middle-earth. "And in that dark time Melkor bred many other monsters of divers shapes and kinds that long troubled the world; and his realm spread nwo ever southward over Middle-earth."

He also made the fortress of Angband, which was given to the command of Sauron. (After reading the Silmarillion, I would be more scared of Sauron than of Melkor, even though Melkor has greater power and all that.)

Varda and the New Stars

The Valar, realizing that the Children of Ilúvatar were to come "soon" (a relative term for the Valar), took council. Manwë said: "In this age the Children of Ilúvatar shall come indeed, but they come not yet. Moreover it is doom that the Firstborn shall come in the darkness, and shall look first upon the stars. Great light shall be for their waning. To Varda ever shall they call at need."

So Varda "began a great labour, greatest of all the works of the Valar since their coming into Arda."
And made new stars from the 'silver dews' of Telperion. She made many new ones, and "many other of the ancient stars she gathered together and set as signs in the heavens of Arda ... high in the north as a challenge to Melkor she set the crown of seven mighty stars to swing, Valacirca, the Sickle of the Valar and sign of doom."

This is a classic example of how Tolkien uses words to create images in the mind that are more epic than they could ever be if shown on film or in a picture. 

The Children Awake

As Varda completed her work, the Children of Ilúvatar awoke. "By the starlit mere of Cuiviénen, Water of Awakening, they rose from the sleep of Ilúvatar; and while they dwelt yet silent by Cuiviénen their eyes beheld first of all things the stars of heaven. Therefore they have ever loved the starlight, and have revered Varda Lentári above all the Valar."

After a long time, they began to speak and to name things that they saw. They named themselves the 'Quendi', meaning 'those that  speak with voices'; for they had not met anything else that spoke or sang.

"Melkor, ever watchful, was first aware of the awakening of the Quendi, and sent shadows and evil spirits to spy upon them and waylay them." For many years, elves that strayed far alone or in small groups often disappeared, taken by Melkor. The Quendi believed them taken by a being they called the Hunter. Because of this, when Oromë came among them, riding on Nahar, many of the Elves were afraid and hid. "But those that had courage, and stayed, perceived swiftly that the Great Rider was no shape out of darkness; for the light of Aman was in his face, and all the noblest of the Elves were drawn towards it."

The Origins of the Orcs

"[A]ll those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor ... by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the elves ... For the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar; and naught that had life of its own, nor the semblance of life, could ever Melkor make".  

The Captivity of Melkor

The Valar rejoiced when Oromë informed them of the awakening of the Elves, and gathered to decide what should be done to safeguard the Children. Oromë was very fond of the Elves, and went to dwell among them, while Manwë decided what was to be done. The Valar went to war. 

The first battled took place in the North-west of Middle-earth, and the Valar prevailed. Melkor fled back to Utumno.
"Long and grievous was the siege of Utumno, and many battles were fought before its gates of which naught but the rumour is known to the Elves."

As a result of the fighting, the shape of middle earth changed. The ocean that separated Aman from Middle-earth broke in upon the coasts. "Many lesser bays were made between the Great Gulf and Helcaraxë far in the north, where Middle-earth and Aman came night together. Of these the Bay of Balar was the chief".
Highlands were raised in the north: "Dorthonion, and the mountains about Hithlum". From these, the river Sirion flowed into the Bay of Balar.

The gates of Utumno were broken, and Tulkas wrestled with Melkor and cast him down. Melkor was "bound with the chain Angainor that Aulë had wrought, and led captive; and the world had peace for a long age."

The Valar did not find ALL of the many caverns hidden far beneath the earth, and many of the evils of Melkor lingered therein. Sauron also was not discovered. 

The Divisions of the Elves

The Valar once more took council. Some (Ulmo among them) thought that the Elves should be left to roam as they pleased, but in the end it was decided that they should be summoned to Valinor, to be gathered in the light of the trees. "From this summons came many woes that afterwards befell"

Oromë chose three ambassadors from the elves to go first to Valinor. These were Ingwë, Finwë, and Elwë. They were filled with awe at the sight of Valinor, and returning to their people, urged them to obey the summons of the Valar. 

Alrighty, Elven people sorting time. 
The best thing to explain this is a diagram. Mine is a slightly different version of the one from the back of the Silmarillion. 

They first separated into the Eldar (those who went with Oromë) and the Avari (those that stayed behind).
The Eldar are divided into three "clans": The Vanyar, the Noldor, and the Teleri.
The Teleri then separated further, for during the long journey, many went different ways. Those that made it to Valinor, along with the Vanyar and the Noldor, were called Calaquendi, elves of light, for they beheld the light of the Two Trees.
The Teleri who did not make it to Valinor were called the Úmanyar.
The Úmanyar AND the Avari, were collectively called the Moriquendi, elves of darkness, for none of them saw the light of the trees.
(You will later hear a lot about Sindarin elves. These are a group of Úmanyar who settled in Beleriand.)


Many, many thanks to Janka Látečková for allowing me to use her gorgeous artwork in this post. I am rather obsessed with it. Isn't it frabjous?

Janka Látečková is an artist from Slovakia with a fondness for JRR Tolkien. Her interests include books, nature, music, archery,  traveling, and the collecting of swords and daggers. 

"I have always been drawn to traditional media - pencils, chalks and watercolours. I prefer drawing people and animals (fantasy or real), but I enjoy creating fantasy or sci-fi cities and landscapes too."

(Lest there should be any confusion or matter of rights and whatnot, all quotes in this post are from the works of JRR Tolkien, unless otherwise mentioned. There may be slight errors, misspellings, or alternate punctuation in the quotes, and if you notice such, please inform me so that I can speedily remedy them.