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Old December 17, 2015, 01:29   #1
Bowman
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Reading Silmarillion

I read The Hobbit and the LotR series some 15-20 years ago, and I hated them. Sauron was a chump who never actually did anything, the protagonists felt like they were all thoroughly coated in plot armor, too much Tom Bombadil, etc. But playing Angband piqued my interest in that lore again, so I decided to take a chance on reading The Silmarillion. So far, I've gotten through the first major part (from "Ainulindale" to "Of the Voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath"), and I've actually enjoyed it. I mean, sure, there are still annoying parts (like the chapter dedicated to describing the then-current geography), but it's still been leaps and bounds better than the big 4.

Way-to-short reactions to the most notable characters thus far: Eol was a total badass and by far the coolest character thus far, though I've got to give some props to Ungoliant, Gothmog, Arien, Fingolfin, Huan, Glaurung, and Turin. Feanor and Thingol were massive tools, and despite the text's claim that he was "no weakling or craven", Maeglin acted more like a beta-Wormtongue than the defiant figure of strength that was his father. Disappointed in how little Ancalagon was involved (I'd think that the greatest of the dragons, powerful enough to hold back the army of the Valar, would get more than an introduction and a death in a page's span ), but alas. Oh, and I was surprised that Thuringwethil was an actual character.

Just wondering if playing Angband got anyone else to try reading Tolkien.
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Old December 17, 2015, 13:04   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bowman View Post
Just wondering if playing Angband got anyone else to try reading Tolkien.
Usually it's the opposite
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Old December 17, 2015, 21:51   #3
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I reread the Silmarillion because of Angband. I read it when I was much younger and I couldn't really follow anything. It was a lot easier when I had references to a lot of the characters from Angband.

I also felt that some creatures (like Ancalagon) could have gotten more "screen-time" but Tolkien was very good in making the world seem bigger than the text portrays. So there are lots of things that he obliquely refers to but never describes fully, and you're left to fill in the gaps yourself. That's really what makes LoTR's world so much better than many other fantasy worlds.

In a way it's kind of like roguelikes.
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Old December 17, 2015, 21:57   #4
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I found Turin unbelievably frustrating - just when you thought he was going to get his life in order, he'd go and do another dumb thing. Which was kind of the point, but still.

Once you're done with the Silmarillion, I'd recommend Unfinished Tales, and if you're still interested there's a bunch of additional material spread through Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle Earth series.
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Old December 17, 2015, 22:02   #5
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Originally Posted by Bowman View Post
Just wondering if playing Angband got anyone else to try reading Tolkien.
Sil made me read the Silmarillion.
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Old December 18, 2015, 01:06   #6
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Originally Posted by fizzix View Post
I reread the Silmarillion because of Angband. I read it when I was much younger and I couldn't really follow anything. It was a lot easier when I had references to a lot of the characters from Angband.
Knowing about the characters from Angband has definitely been helpful, even if some of the information doesn't quite match up (e.g. the Angband description for Gorlim says he fell to the forces of Morgoth, which is technically true, but it's misleading since he really fell to Sauron). Also, I won't deny getting amped up whenever I come across a name that I recognize from Angband, even if it's just something like the passing references to Thuringwethil. Really looking forward to reading about Ar-Pharazon in the next parts, since he's easily my favorite of the Saruman/Ar-Pharazon/Mouth of Sauron trio of 50-60ish p caster uniques.

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I also felt that some creatures (like Ancalagon) could have gotten more "screen-time" but Tolkien was very good in making the world seem bigger than the text portrays. So there are lots of things that he obliquely refers to but never describes fully, and you're left to fill in the gaps yourself. That's really what makes LoTR's world so much better than many other fantasy worlds.

In a way it's kind of like roguelikes.
It does give it a sense of being part of a bigger world, though I personally prefer the way that Lovecraft does that. I'm probably too harsh on Tolkien's works in general, but I just always found LotR to feel really hollow and formulaic, even before falling in love with the works of Lovecraft and Poe (both of whom also more or less started their own genres, so I'm not going to cut Tolkien any slack on that behalf). The Silmarillion has been worthy of the high praise that it gets, though.

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I found Turin unbelievably frustrating - just when you thought he was going to get his life in order, he'd go and do another dumb thing. Which was kind of the point, but still.
Turin was hot-headed and easy to manipulate, sure, but I felt like most of his "bad" choices were more the result of being exposed to the awesomeness of Eol's sword (still wrecking fools from beyond the grave, too awesome ) and Glaurung. Even looking just at the dumb choices that he made for himself, they still felt more reasonable than some of the actions of Feanor/his sons (especially how Celegorm and Curufin acted in "Of Beren and Luthien") and Thingol (again, especially how he acted in "Of Beren and Luthien").

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Once you're done with the Silmarillion, I'd recommend Unfinished Tales, and if you're still interested there's a bunch of additional material spread through Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle Earth series.
Thanks for the tips! The Silmarillion is so much better than LotR, I really don't understand why is doesn't get more publicity.
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Old December 19, 2015, 01:14   #7
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I read The Hobbit and the LotR series some 15-20 years ago, and I hated them. (etc)
I love LOTR and Silmarillion both, though I prefer LOTR because it was written with much greater focus time-wise. LOTR lets us see more into characters' lives and minds, and gives us a feel for the world, while the Silmarillion is really a distilled history of the entire universe, and doesn't have time for such detail.

I'm surprised you felt the LOTR characters had too much "plot armor" since most of them don't return home safe and sound to live happily ever after. Some die, many are wounded or changed to the point that they can't be happy ever again. They kinda go through hell.

Given that your favorite characters seem to be the villains, your complaints about villains not getting enough "screen time" or not being badass enough, and your expressed interest in Lovecraft and Poe, I get the feeling you prefer stories where evil overwhelms and destroys the good. I don't suppose there's anything wrong with enjoying those kinds of themes, but yeah, that's definitely not Tolkien.

Another work you might enjoy would be "The Children of Hurin." Sort of an expanded novel taken from Turin's life. It was written by his son, but so is a whole lot of the Silmarillion.

At any rate, I can completely agree with the books adding to the enjoyment of Angband, and vice-versa!
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Old December 19, 2015, 03:55   #8
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It's probably worth mentioning here that both FAangband and Sil are particularly appropriate to play for Silmarillion fans.

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Another work you might enjoy would be "The Children of Hurin." Sort of an expanded novel taken from Turin's life. It was written by his son, but so is a whole lot of the Silmarillion.
I'd say more compiled and edited than written. As I understand it the only it Christopher really wrote was part of the Ruin of Doriath chapter in the Silmarillion, and he had serious misgivings about even that.
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Old December 19, 2015, 05:56   #9
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I'm surprised you felt the LOTR characters had too much "plot armor" since most of them don't return home safe and sound to live happily ever after. Some die, many are wounded or changed to the point that they can't be happy ever again. They kinda go through hell.
It could be faulty memory because I haven't read LotR in a long time, but of the major protagonists, I think only Boromir dies, Frodo loses a finger, and the other three hobbits have to recover from almost getting eaten by orcs and/or Shelob. Considering that the story was about a more or less global war, that's pretty light (though honestly, I feel like I'm forgetting one of Gimli or Legolas dying, but I'm not sure if I'm getting that confused with the Crimson Shadow series, which also had a similar "elf and short humanoid friendly murder competition as a coping mechanism" thing). Sure, Gandalf "died" against the Balrog of Moria, but then that was wiped out later on. They have struggles along the journey, yes, and there was the Reality Ensues moment when they come back to the Shire after Saruman and Wormtongue have had their way there, but in the overall scope of things, compared to what happened in Gondor or Moria or the R-country of horseman (Rohan, or Rohim, or something like that ), spending maybe a few months under some asshole's oppressive rule isn't much.

Also, I'm going to be very biased against anything with crap like Tom Bombadil and Smeagol's joke version of MPD/DID. The former was a complete waste of time, and the latter was just offensive to me personally.

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Given that your favorite characters seem to be the villains, your complaints about villains not getting enough "screen time" or not being badass enough, and your expressed interest in Lovecraft and Poe, I get the feeling you prefer stories where evil overwhelms and destroys the good. I don't suppose there's anything wrong with enjoying those kinds of themes, but yeah, that's definitely not Tolkien.
The only villain that I felt got noticeably shortchanged on screen time (so far) was Ancalagon. He was in the vanguard of the forces that managed to hold back the combined armies of the Valar and the Children of Iluvatar during their assault on Angband, for crying out loud! Yet, he got less attention than Uinen (who does basically nothing aside from helping Ulmo convince Osse to not join Melkor's rebellion), or Draugluin (who does basically nothing aside from telling Sauron that Huan just kicked his ass), or Haleth's family (who do basically nothing aside from get killed by orcs to show off how great Haleth is to rally her people afterwards). If the story is written in the frame of being a retelling of ancient legends, it's not unreasonable to expect that the greatest obstacle to the forces of good in the climactic battle should get more than just one sentence to introduce him and another sentence to kill him.

I have no problems with badass heroes. I thought Fingolfin and Huan were great, as well as Turin (who is admittedly more of an anti-hero, but still, he's got to get some credit for making swaths of the countryside safer and for eventually killing Glaurung). I think Beren got off too easy for someone who was treated as the second or third greatest human hero, behind Hurin (who was way oversold, in my opinion) and arguably Earendil (who does deserve his respect, I'll admit, and would've been on my list of liked characters except that sailing through space on a magical sea-faring ship is just too dumb)...compare his brief captivity by Sauron and losing a hand to what Turin went through, and then compare how much everyone aside from King "Get Off My Lawn, Boy!" Thingol praises the hell out of Beren while treating Turin like just another dude who had the misfortune of drawing Morgoth's ire (aside from that one elf that Turin killed on accident, who actually recognized that Turin is awesome and so had to die to increase the angst).

Likewise, I have no problems with stories where good triumphs. Some of my favorite books are the Kushiel's Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey (though I lost interest after Imriel became the protagonist in Kushiel's Scion, the first three are pretty much a self-contained trilogy of excellent quality), the Wheel of Time series (which did a much better job of having the forces of good feel the cost of their war with The Dark One despite the three main men all canonically being able to force plot contrivances to work in their favor, although I won't deny that books 5-9 or so are individually pretty awful), the Joanna Archer books by Vicki Pettersson, and the Wicked City trilogy by Hideyuki Kikuchi. All of those have rather happy endings. The big difference as I see it between them and LotR is that those books all had the protagonists go through significant enough struggles and failures along the way that they felt like they EARNED their happy endings. Frodo just does a whole lot of walking, runs away a few times, complains about having nothing good to eat, and loses a finger when he's too weak to finish the job for himself. Sorry, but when it feels like my personal struggles are worse than your fantasy protagonist's, they haven't earned their happiness.

On the whole, hero or villain, I like characters who get things done. I'm someone who places a very high value on doing the work to get the glory (in my personal life as well, though I won't rant off examples of that). That's part of why I hated LotR-Sauron but enjoyed Morgoth and Silmarillion-Sauron. Villains who don't do stuff or heroes who don't suffer enough compared to what they gain tend to just piss me off, unless it's a character who's written so well that I can't help liking him (like Eol, who stood up to Turgon's racism and chose death over captivity).

Quote:
Another work you might enjoy would be "The Children of Hurin." Sort of an expanded novel taken from Turin's life. It was written by his son, but so is a whole lot of the Silmarillion.

At any rate, I can completely agree with the books adding to the enjoyment of Angband, and vice-versa!
More Turin is more awesome. Thanks!

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It's probably worth mentioning here that both FAangband and Sil are particularly appropriate to play for Silmarillion fans.
I tried Sil and didn't like it. I'm planning on watching some of debo's videos to see if maybe I'm just missing the point of how to play it, but it feels too much like it added a whole lot of frills and whistles to the simple and elegant design of Angband without actually making it more fun. It's pretty much the same complaint that I have about 3rd edition D&D compared to 2nd.
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Old December 19, 2015, 05:56   #10
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At one point or another I've read nearly everything by Tolkien, including much of his poetry, non-MiddleEarth related works like Farmer Giles of Ham and Leaf by Niggle, and the compilations by his son.

I very much like LoTR and the Silmarillion, having read both multiple times, but I probably prefer the Silmarillion, simply because it's more abstract. I've also read Lovecraft, and something about his style of hinting at things, rather then fully describing them, appeals to me, and I've found alot of that in Tolkien as well.
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