Personally, I found Silmarillion to be very difficult to read (I admit to having never been able to finish it) compared to LOTR books. I know plenty of people who share that opinion (even native speakers, giving lie to my original thought that it was because of my ESL).

Was this difference in ease of reading ever acknowledged by Tolkien (either as a "design feature", or simply as a fact that he agrees with, or at least as a commonly held opinion that he disagreed with or was surprised about)?

  • I was unable to read the Silmarillion in (italian) translation. I decided to read it in english (just right after re-reading the LotR in English) and it was really enjoyable. But then, I am interested in Epic literature. The italian translation of the LotR is fine and I read it with great pleasure. But the original is much much better :-)
    – Francesco
    Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 11:22
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    I found it a bit tricky keeping track of who was who. Lots of unfamiliar names. Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 12:20
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    To me, the Silmarillion is a History text, the LOTR an adult fantasy and the Hobbit a children's book. If you like Histories, the Silmarillion is easier than the fluffed out LOTR. If you like fiction, the reverse is so.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 23:49
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    Everyone else has acknowledged it. And actually, if you read the preface to The Silmarillion, and the accounts of his struggle to get the Sil published, he very clearly said, on many occasions, that he realized that the Sil is much more complex and difficult to read than anything else he had ever written.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 6:14
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    I think it would be pretty hard for Tolkien to give an opinion about the readability of a work that was only edited and compiled together after he died.
    – ibid
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 7:27

3 Answers 3


In 1956 JRRT wrote the following (quoted by CT in the intro to Lost Tales 1):

...I do not think it would have the appeal of L.R. - no hobbits! Full of mythology and elvishness, and all that 'heigh stile' (as Chaucer might say), which has been so little to the taste of many reviewers.

So the answer is quite obviously a resounding "yes" - but with the caveat that what Tolkien was describing was the unpublished Silmarillion as it existed at that time.

The published Silmarillion is a combination of sources ranging from the 1937 Quenta Silmarillion (with the ending chapters taken from the earlier Quenta Noldorinwa), subsequent revisions, the last versions of the Annals of Aman and of Beleriand (both of which a surprisingly large amount of text comes from), the independent "mini-works" (Ainulindale, Valaquenta, Akallabeth, Rings of Power) and some later essays, together with some editorial work and independent invention by CT.

Given that so much of this material already existed at the time JRRT wrote that letter (a lot of it dates to the period between the completion and publication of LotR), and that so much of it was intended for inclusion in the Silmarillion (e.g. the Annals as appendices), it can be reasonably argued that the comments made in the letter are valid for that too.

So it's a "yes".

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    Would the person who gave a -1 please comment?
    – user8719
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 2:04
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    And would the other person who also gave a -1 please also comment? Downvotes are useless without feedback; this isn't about personal reputation, it's about making the site better for all.
    – user8719
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 13:27
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    The quote that you use talks about appeal, not about readability which the question asks about. The Twilight books for instance don't appeal to me at all, but I have no doubt that I would find them easy to read.
    – NominSim
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 15:46
  • I think the main reason for the poor readability isn't the absence of Hobbits but the lack of editing, combined with the density of information compared to the LOTR.
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 7:18
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    @NominSim - "and all that 'heigh stile' (as Chaucer might say)," is exactly one of the reasons for poor readabilty. Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 5:15

The short answer is probably no, because The Silmarillion was published only after JRR Tolkien's death. More background info here.

JRR's son, Christopher Tolkien, took to editing and compiling all the unfinished letters, essays, and manuscripts left behind into publishable volumes after his father's death. The Silmarillion was the most novel-like of these. Others include Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle Earth.


I don't remember having problems reading the Silmarillion because of it's style or subject matter any more than reading the Worm Ouroboros because of its style or a Shakespeare play.

If it seemed like a history book or a book of myths, well I like reading those. So I don't really think that the Silmarillion is harder to read or less fun than The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings.

If the original question assumes that "Silmarillion is harder to read than LOTR", perhaps the question should be deleted, because (at least from my point of view) there is no greater difficulty reading the Silmarillion than Lord of the Rings and thus it is impossible for Tolkien to acknowledge that untruth.

If the actual meaning of the question is if Tolkien acknowledged that "Silmarillion is harder to read than LOTR" for MANY readers, and not in any objective sense, then the question would not assume a false and incorrect fact.

  • user8719's answer suggests that this is a valid question, and that Tolkien did acknowledge something to that effect. Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 10:41

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