Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
In 1977, when my mother was 35 years old, her parents gave her a book, The Silmarillion. I don’t believe she ever read it. I remember looking at the book with it’s strange cover. It was so gargantuan and the words miniscule, but I liked to look inside the cover where my grandparents had written: Imagination is the scissors of the mind, with which you trim and shape the material of reality - Love, Mom & Dad
Although long gone, that handwriting always looked so familiar and somehow comforting to me.
When I was in high school, I picked up the book a few times, but never did read it. At one point, it was on my sister’s bookshelves, although I don’t believe she ever read it, either. Eventually, without any memory as to how it happened, the book found it’s way to my bookshelves. From time to time I contemplated reading it, but only got as far as reading my grandparents’ inspirational words.
The same time my mother received The Silmarillion, my sister received The Early Diary of Anais Nin 1914-1920 with the inscription: Everyone’s life is a fairy tale, written by God’s finger - Love, Gram & Gramp
I loved their words even more than I loved Anais Nin’s which I finally read when I got out of the Air Force. My grandparents loved books and I loved that they loved books. I am not sure if my sister ever read her gift. We never talked about it.
The year my mother and sister received their books, I was given The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey. I loved mine best, because my grandparents actually wrote my name inside the cover: For Rebecca - May your imagination take wings and fly like the White Dragon - Love Gram & Gramp
I tried reading it on numerous occasions throughout my life and finally read it cover-to-cover last fall. It was a beautiful tale and I loved getting lost on Pern with the dragon riders and especially adored the little White Dragon and the gossipy fire lizards. I couldn’t believe I had never finished the book before! Maybe the timing was just finally right.
So, after thirty one years of seeing The Silmarillion on my bookshelves, I thought I should finally read it. I should trim my reality with the imagination scissors and see what class of artwork I may create.
I blew the dust from the cover, wiped the mold spores off the pages and put the moisture-plump book in my bag to carry on my commute. I settled into my seat on the Metro and read the Foreword ... and was lost. But I didn't give up there. I read the first section - all the way to page 22. The moldy pages made my eyes itch and water. Each time I tried to wipe them, my filthy fingers ground more mold into my irritated eyeballs and I began sneezing and wheezing.
The very first sentence was: There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Iluvatar; and he made the first Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of this thought, and they were with him before aught else was made.
So I give up.
I will not read The Silmarillion.
I feel like a failure. My grandparents are probably floating around my airspace disappointed with my lack of imagination. I am sorry for that! I am sure this is a charming, fanciful book, but it is not for me. My watery, itchy, allergy eyes and my untrimmed imagination will always cherish the book with my grandparents’ scratchy inscription and lovely, poetic wishes, but I think the most beautiful piece in the book lies no further than the front cover.