The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien audiobook review – The Lord of the Rings’ mythical forerunner

Actor Andy Serkis narrates the posthumously published prelude to Tolkien’s epic masterpiece – a dense yet rich compendium of meticulously crafted lore

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

Further listening

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.


Fiona Sturges

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Big Beacon by Alan Partridge audiobook review – pomposity takes flight
Steve Coogan narrates the TV presenter’s attempts to resuscitate his career and ‘emigrate’ to the Kent coast

Fiona Sturges

03, Nov, 2023 @12:00 PM

Article image
The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson audiobook review – living with an art monster
Juliet Stevenson moves seamlessly between the viewpoints of a vengeful wife and her monstrous, washed-up artist husband

Fiona Sturges

17, Mar, 2023 @12:00 PM

Article image
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus audiobook review – a smart and funny feminist fable
A witty and incisive skewering of the patriachy in society and science, with endearingly straight-talking characters

Fiona Sturges

06, Oct, 2023 @11:00 AM

Article image
I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel audiobook review: existential envy
The author narrates her own brisk tale of a thirtysomething’s caustic coveting of status, sex and wealth with a winningly dispassionate style

Fiona Sturges

08, Sep, 2023 @11:00 AM

Article image
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy audiobook review – love across the sectarian divide
Actor Bríd Brennan narrates this debut novel about a dangerous love affair between an Irish Catholic teacher and a Protestant lawyer

Fiona Sturges

02, Jun, 2023 @11:00 AM

Article image
The Fall of Númenor by JRR Tolkien review – masterful world-building from the father of fantasy
Following Amazon’s Rings of Power series, this beautiful compendium of Tolkien’s Second Age of Middle-earth stories offers the ideal palate cleanser

John Garth

23, Nov, 2022 @7:30 AM

Article image
Red Memory by Tania Branigan audiobook review – tracing the scars of China’s Cultural Revolution
Sons denounce mothers, students attack teachers: firsthand accounts from those caught up in Mao’s ruthless ideological purge during the 60s and 70s

Fiona Sturges

10, Nov, 2023 @12:00 PM

Article image
Isaac and the Egg by Bobby Palmer review – quirky, tender tale with echoes of ET
The actor Johnny Flynn captures this debut novel’s offbeat humour and the intense loneliness of its protagonist in his terrific narration

Fiona Sturges

25, Aug, 2023 @11:00 AM

Article image
A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney audiobook review – a tender memoir about the death of a child
The comedian narrates his book about the gruelling treatment of his young son and the love and grief that enveloped his family

Fiona Sturges

14, Apr, 2023 @11:00 AM

Article image
The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man by Paul Newman audiobook review – unfiltered Hollywood
Jeff Daniels reads this memoir-cum-oral history of the late actor, painting a picture of a flawed, melancholic, chaotic and brilliant screen icon

Fiona Sturges

29, Sep, 2023 @11:00 AM