The Silmarillion is a fantasy book by J.R.R. Tolkien, telling the early history of his world Middle-earth. It was published posthumously in 1977 and edited by his son Christopher Tolkien. In the internal chronology it is followed by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
The name "Silmarillion" may refer both to the published work The Silmarillion, and to the whole body of stories from the First Age, known as the Quenta Silmarillion (Quenya "Tale of the Silmarils") in the fictional world.
Although The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were published decades earlier, the stories of the Silmarillion and the world of Middle-earth existed long before both of the novels. Tolkien stated that Middle-earth was created as a setting for his constructed languages, among them the Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin. The writing of the first Middle-earth stories which would later become The Silmarillion was started by Tolkien during World War I, and he continued to work on them until his death in 1972. The world laid out in The Silmarillion provides a great deal of the back-drop to his other popular novels, through history and constant allusions in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Silmarillion is sometimes called the "Old Testament" to The Lord of the Rings' "Gospels". Tolkien never managed to get the older stories published during his lifetime, so they were later compiled and edited by his son Christopher Tolkien, and published as The Silmarillion.
The narrative material of The Silmarillion is divided into five sections:
- The Ainulindalë, a creation myth. It describes the creation of spirit-beings called Ainur by Eru Ilúvatar (God), the creation of Eä (the universe) and of Arda (the world), and the origin of evil.
- The Valaquenta, a description of those Ainur that entered Arda.
- The Quenta Silmarillion, the bulk of the narrative, which is primarily concerned with the history of the Elves and Men in Middle-earth, their war with the Dark Lord Morgoth, and the fight for the Silmarils.
- Akallabêth, the Downfall of Númenor, an Atlantis-like society of Men.
- Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, which describes the events leading up to The Lord of the Rings.
- "Nobody believes me when I say that my long book is an attempt to create a world in which a form of language agreeable to my personal aesthetic taste might seem real. But it is true." The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, #264