The Silmarils (Quenya pl. Silmarilli, "radiance of pure light" [cite book|title=The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien| | last = Tolkien | first = Christopher | authorlink=Christopher Tolkien| publisher=Allen & Unwin | year= 1981 | isbn = 0048260053] ) are three brilliant jewels which contained the unmarred light of the Two Trees in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. The Silmarils were made out of the crystalline substance "silima" by Fëanor, a Noldorin Elf, in Valinor during the Years of the Trees. The Silmarils play a central role in Tolkien's book "The Silmarillion", which tells of the creation of (the Universe) and the beginning of Elves, Men, and Dwarves.


The Silmarils are not mere jewels which shine with a great light. The three Silmarils are in some sense both "alive" and "sacred". How Fëanor, admittedly the greatest of the Noldor, was able to create these objects is not fully explained. Even the Valar, including Aulë, the master in handskills indeed, could not copy them. In fact, not even Fëanor could copy them as part of his essence went into their making. Their worth, in Tolkien's universe, was close to infinite, even to the Valar, as they were unique and irreplaceable. The Silmarils themselves are said to produce their own light, which comes from the Two Trees, but also to reflect the light of any other lights that come near them.


Fëanor, son of Finwë, one of the first Elves (Eldar) in Eä, created the Silmarils from the light of the Two Trees. The Silmarils were hallowed by Varda, so that they would burn the hands of any evil creature or mortal who touched them (with the exception of Beren).

Together with Ungoliant, the rebellious Vala Melkor destroyed the Two Trees. The Silmarils then contained all the remaining unmarred light of them. Therefore the Valar entreated Fëanor to give them up so they could restore the Trees, but he refused. Then news came that Melkor had killed Fëanor's father Finwë, the High King of the Noldor, and stolen the Silmarils. After this deed, Melkor fled from Valinor to his fortress Angband in the north of Middle-earth. Thereafter he wore the Silmarils in his iron crown.

Fëanor was furious at Melkor, whom he named "Morgoth", "Dark Enemy of the World", and at the Valar's perceived desire to take the gems for their own purposes. Together with his sons he swore the Oath of Fëanor, which bound them to fight anyone who withheld the Silmarils from them. This terrible oath resulted in much future troubles including mass-murder and the war of Elf against Elf.

Fëanor led many of the Noldor back to Middle-earth. His flight, which occurred during the First Age of Middle-earth, led to no end of grief for the Elves and eventually for the Men of Middle-earth. Five major battles were fought in Beleriand, but ultimately the Noldor and all the people who took the oath failed in their attempt to regain the Silmarils from Morgoth.

One of the Silmarils was recovered by Beren and Lúthien through great peril and loss. It was later taken by Eärendil, heir of Beren and Lúthien to the Valar in the West as a token of repentance. The Valar then set this Silmaril as a star in the sky. The other two gems remained in Morgoth's hands, and were taken from him by a servant of Manwë at the end of the War of Wrath. However, soon afterwards, they were stolen by Fëanor's two remaining sons, Maedhros and Maglor, as they tried to fulfill the oath they had sworn so many years ago. But the jewels burned their hands, in denial of their rights of possession, as they had burned Morgoth's hands before. In agony, Maedhros threw himself and his Silmaril into a fiery pit, and Maglor threw his Silmaril into the sea. Thus the Silmarils remained in all three elements — in the sky, earth and water - and would never be recovered except by the reforming of the earth.

According to a prophecy of Mandos following Melkor's final return and defeat in the Dagor Dagorath (Battle of Battles), the world will be changed and the Silmarils will be recovered by the Valar. Then Fëanor will be released from the Halls of Mandos and give Yavanna the Silmarils and she will break them and with their light she will revive the Two Trees, the Pelóri Mountains will be flattened and the light of the Two Trees will fill the world in eternal bliss.

Concept and creation

A literary parallel to the Silmarils can be found in the mythology which underlies "The Ring of the Nibelung" by Richard Wagner. In the Wagnerian mythology the Rhinemaidens guard the "Rheingold", which is not merely gold, but special gold that can be made into a ring whose bearer will rule the world. The quest for the "Rheingold" drives both gods and men to terrible and heroic deeds. In the end, the Rheingold goes back to the Rhinemaidens, forever beyond the power of the gods or men.

Another, earlier — if less exact — literary parallel to the Silmarils is with the Holy Grail, an object which is unique, sacred, and of almost infinite worth. To find the Holy Grail is to find a state of Divine grace. The Quest for the Saint Graal is a key element in the Arthurian Legends.

A further parallel is found in the Finnish epic poem Kalevala. The Sampo is an object of power forged by the smith Ilmarinen at the urging of the wizard Väinämöinen, who requires it to win the hand of the daughter of Louhi, the hag of Pohjola. Although its exact nature is not known, the object is evidently capable of magically providing those who possess it with both the necessities and luxuries of life. The pursuit, theft, and recovery of the Sampo by various characters drives much of the Kalevala's action.

A final source of inspiration for Tolkien's silmarils comes from the Jewish mystical tradition, in which tales are told about a sentient gem filled with the original light of the universe, called the tzohar. The Encyclopedia Mythica defines the tzohar:"A luminous gemstone holding the primordial light of creation. Those who possessed it not only had illumination, but access to the secrets of the Torah and all its powers. God created it, but then hid it away for the sole use of the righteous. The angel Raziel gave it to Adam after the Fall. Adam gave to his children. Noah used it to illumine the Ark (Gen. 6:16). Abraham possessed this stone, and used it heal all who came to him. According to one legend, he returned to heaven and hung it on the sun. But other traditions track its continued use by the righteous of each generation. Joseph used it for his dream interpretations. Moses recovered it from the Bone of Joseph and placed it in the Tabernacle. Zohar claims that Ben Yochai possessed it in the Rabbinic era (B. B. 16b; Lev. R. 11; Gen. R 31:11; Zohar I:11; Otzer ha-Midrash)."Whether or not Tolkien actually knew about the tzohar of the Jews is debatable, but the parallels with the story of the Silmarils are striking.

ee also

*"The Silmarillion", the book which tells the story of the Silmarils
*Rings of Power
*One Ring


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