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Since I finished reading The Silmarillion, and learned a little bit about how it was assembled, I've been curious as to whether there is some way to get a better sense of what the source material looks like and how Christopher Tolkien changed the existing text to make it something like a cohesive story.

There are such companion volumes for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but I'm not aware of an equivalent work related to The Silmarillion. I assume that the relevant volumes of The History of Middle-earth contain some information along these lines, but I don't know.

Is there a companion or guide to The Silmarillion, which offers some insight into what part of the Sil is the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, as opposed to Christopher Tolkien?

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  • Not an answer, but actually some parts of the Silmarillion are by Guy Gavriel Kay. – Daniel Roseman Jul 6 '15 at 6:45
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Tolkien's actual writings, drafts and sketches that were the source material for the Silmarillion are found in The History of Middle-Earth (excluding the volumes that deal with the writing of LoTR). To be more precise, the Silmarillion draws primarily on such writings as the Quenta Noldorinwa (from Vol 4 - The Shaping of Middle-earth), the various Annals, and the Quenta Silmarillion (from Vol 10 - Morgoth's Ring and Vol 11 - The War of the Jewels), along with some other writings. So, to examine the original material, I strongly suggest the HoME series.

The actual creation of the published Silmarillion is documented in Arda Reconstructed: The Creation of the Published Silmarillion. http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Arda_Reconstructed:_The_Creation_of_the_Published_Silmarillion

In The History of Middle-earth, Christopher Tolkien documents in amazing detail the development of the work of his father that would become the Silmarillion. However, save for an occasional hint here and there, he fails to show the final step: his actual creation (several years after his father’s death) of the published work, with the assistance of Guy Kay. As he points out in the foreword to The War of the Jewels (the second of the two volumes of The History of Middle-earth that covers the “later Silmarillion”), the source materials that he used in that task largely have been made available “and with them a criticism of the ‘constructed’ Silmarillion becomes possible. I shall not enter into that question. . .” (p. x).

The purpose of Arda Reconstructed is to “enter in that question.” Kane documents the changes, omissions, and additions that were made to Tolkien’s work by Christopher Tolkien (with the assistance of Guy Kay) in preparing the Silmarillion for publication, and traces how the disparate source materials were used to create what is in essence a composite work. He compares the published text with the source texts contained in the volumes of The History of Middle-earth (as well as other works such as Unfinished Tales of Middle-earth and Númenor, The Children of Húrin, and—in one case—Tolkien’s letters) and identifies patterns of major and minor changes made to these source materials that result in the reconstruction of the finished text.

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Hammond and Scull (the authors of the LotR companion), have written a Silmarillion companion inside one of their other books.

Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, the Tolkien Scholars who wrote The Lord of the Rings A Reader's Companion, have also included a lengthy guide to The Silmarillion as part of their JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide. There's a long intro section about the work as a whole, and then there are individual entrees for each chapter. All in all I counted over 150 pages devoted to The Silmarillion.

Christina has said that she considers this to be the equivalent of a reader's guide.

We still want The Silmarillion A Reader's Companion by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull. Please do it.

Wayne: That would be interesting because you have a lot of connections with The History of Middle-earth. We did suggest in fact an Art of the Silmarillion, but of course there's a lot less of original art for that.

Christina: But to a certain extent there is a guide to The Silmarillion within the Companion and Guide. It was very very difficult sorting out how to deal with The Silmarillion. Because you had to deal with the summary of The History of Middle-earth. It took me a long while, thinking about how I would tackle it. I did that. I worked on that while Wayne was still doing another bibliography for another author. And it eventually came around that I would have to it chapter by chapter of the Silmarillion, with individual entrees for every element of it, and then do the chapters. "No I can't start from the start, because there won't be a start to start with for certain aspects of it". So give the summary of the Silmarillion chapter and then go back and work all the way up [Wayne: Trace the history of it] and it took a lot of work on that within the things. It's almost a guide to it. But of course, that was done before all the elements were [Wayne: Twenty years ago] that we had to bring it up do date. That was the things we had to bring ourselves up to date on.

Tolkien Talk 559 - Interview with Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull [1:33:30-1:35:17]

Also as noted by the other answers, volumes 1-5 & 10-11 of The History Of Middle-earth collect a lot of the drafts that went into the Silmarillion, and Kane's Arda Reconstructed compares those drafts to the published book. But none of that would really classify as a "companion" or "guide" to the book.

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The History of Middle Earth will contain a lot of the background information that you seem to be seeking. A lot of Tolkien's thoughts and correspondences are compiled in these.

The following volumes would be of particular interest in providing additional information about The Silmarillion:

  • Vol 1 - The Book of Lost Tales 1
  • Vol 2 - The Book of Lost Tales 2
  • Vol 3 - The Lays of Beleriand
  • Vol 4 - The Shaping of Middle-earth (
  • Vol 5 - The Lost Road and Other Writings
  • Vol 10 - Morgoth's Ring
  • Vol 11 - The War of the Jewels

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