It’s been a couple months since I finished the Silmarillion and the Akallabeth. And you know what? The Silmarillion has grown on me. It’s actually as if it’s become a part of me. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to realize that, cause I remember as I was reading the Akallabeth that I was almost offended that the story was about these distant decendents of main characters of the Silmarillion and not about the characters that I’d grown attached to in the Silmarillion, themselves.
The Akallabeth is another people-group tragedy that reads a lot like the Silmarillion, the exceptions being that it’s shorter, less interesting, and I found myself attached to none of the characters–in fact I can’t remember any of their names or even from whom they were the principal decendents. The story is about the rise (short account) and downfall (lengthy account) of the Numenorians, ending in the utter destruction of Numenor with a handful of survivors…nothing out of step with the Silmarillion there. Tolkien’s Atlantis myth I assume. Melkor may be gone, but Sauron is a good disciple. It was spoiled for me many months ago that Sauron is the big baddie in the LOTR, as well, so his presence in the Akalabeth wasn’t surprising.
An interesting thing for me was that it was the Numenorians’ desire to go to and even dwell in Valinor that was really at the heart of their downfall. And, you know I have to admit that I side with Numenorians on this one. No good reason is given them, they’re just not allowed. Immortals only. In other words: racism. That kind of prohibition is only asking, even begging, for someone to ask why. And, when they ask why and there’s no good reason for it, they’re bound to feel short-handed and jealous–which is exactly what happened. I also find that the Akallabeth feels a lot like the Garden of Eden story: paradise lost thanks to the desire for a forbidden object, and the breaking of the deities’ command. The Numenorians had their own serpent to help things along the road to destruction, didn’t they? The similarities are really general, I know, but I found them interesting nonetheless.
The Big Picture: Tragedy
The fact that I was so destraught reading it, only to discover later that I enjoyed at least my memory of the Silmarillion surprised me. And after thinking about it for a while I realized there were other tragedies that I have found moving, poignant, and even enjoyable. So, then I find myself asking what it is in us humans that is drawn to tragedy. Cause that’s what it all comes down to for me: why is tragedy such a staple of entertainment throughout our history? I know that question is a lot bigger than the scope of the Silmarillion and my thoughts on it, but it would make for some interesting conversation wouldn’t you say?
At this point I’m rearing to read the Hobbit and see what Tolkien can do in a children’s book format–I can only hope it’s not as tragic as the Silmarillion and Akallabeth!