Sunday 24 February 2013

Tolkien & The Silmarillion by Clyde S. Kilby

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Tolkien & The Silmarillion by Clyde S. Kilby is that it was ever published in the first place. A mere 90 pages in length, it is really a collection of Tolkien essays that otherwise have little central theme. The most interesting part of the book is the forty or so pages that Kilby devotes to his long visit with Tolkien in the summer of 1966, when the world was patiently waiting for him to finish work on The Silmarillion.

As it turns out, Kilby discovers that Tolkien isn’t really working on The Silmarillion, or much else at that point. Instead, Kilby pens a portrait of an elderly gentleman who is overwhelmed by his popularity, worn out by the legal battles surrounding his works, and too old and tired to complete the giant tasks the world expects of him. The Silmarillion will never be completed, at least in his lifetime, and Tolkien knows this.

A few years after Kilby’s visit, J.R.R. Tolkien died. While I fully believe that Clyde S. Kilby wrote this book to honour a man he obviously held as a literary hero, I think it owes its existence almost wholly to the fact that, at that time, The Silmarillion existed only in broken manuscript fragments. The reading public, so desperate for more adventures in Middle-Earth, bought this book in the hopes that they might at least catch another glance at that mythical land. If that is the case, they were likely disappointed. Still, the book went through at least three editions, as it is a third edition copy that I found on my parent’s shelf. I enjoyed reading it, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to purchase it. Although it contains a few interesting glimpses into Tolkien’s character, as a complete work, it belongs to the past, a footnote in the great story of the writings of Middle-Earth.

1 comment:

  1. I found this difficult to read, I may return to it one day. Like many I imagine LOTR and The Hobbit where all epic tales.