The origin story of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion is drawn from a collection of manuscripts written over several decades by JRR Tolkien, and published posthumously by his son Christopher Tolkien in 1977 with the help of the fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay. The foreword, written by Tolkien Jr, explains how outlines of these stories existed “in battered notebooks extending back to 1917 … often hastily pencilled”, and how the task of collating and editing them was “so complex, so pervasive and so many-layered that a final and definitive version seemed unattainable”.
The stories include the legend of the creation of Eä, the world taking in Valinor, Beleriand, the island of Númenor and Middle-earth, and a history of events leading up to the First Age. In this era, Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, is at war with the High Elves, who are intent on recovering the Silmarils, three gemstones stolen by Morgoth that contain the light that illuminates Middle-earth.
The actor Andy Serkis, famed for playing Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings film series, is the narrator, bringing his customary clarity, gravitas and an impressive range of voices to Tolkien’s often dense prose. These stories are rich yet complex, and the listener’s enjoyment will depend on their knowledge of the Tolkien universe and their ability to absorb a whole new set of people, places and legends (I’d advise having the text, with its maps, family trees and glossary, to hand). The Silmarillion shows how The Lord of the Rings was merely the endpoint of a far bigger and richly imagined story by the master of high fantasy.
• The Silmarillion is available via HarperCollins, 19hr 24min
Rising to the Surface
Lenny Henry, Faber Audio, 6hr 52min
The actor and comedian narrates the second instalment of his memoirs which document his early years of fame, from the children’s show Tiswas to his all-conquering solo series The Lenny Henry Show
Patricia Wolf, Embla Books, 10hr 45min
The first in Wolf’s DS Walker series, narrated by Adam Fitzgerald, finds Lucas Walker on leave and taking care of his grandmother in his hometown when he is drawn into the case of two missing backpackers.