Tolkien Gateway

The Earliest 'Silmarillion'

The Shaping of Middle-earth chapters
  1. Prose Fragments
  2. The Earliest 'Silmarillion'
  3. The Quenta
  4. The First 'Silmarillion' Map
  5. The Ambarkanta
  6. The Earliest Annals of Valinor
  7. The Earliest Annals of Beleriand

The Earliest 'Silmarillion' is the second chapter of The Shaping of Middle-earth. Also known as the Sketch of the Mythology, it is the 'first' version of the Silmarillion, written in 1926 by J.R.R. Tolkien.


Originally written as an outline to explain the background to the alliterative Lay of the Children of Húrin to Tolkien's old tutor and friend R.W. Reynolds, it later became the basis from which all the later versions of the Silmarillion derived. In words of Tolkien:

Original 'Silmarillion'. Form orig[inally] composed c. 1926-30 for R.W. Reynolds to explain background of 'alliterative version' of Túrin & the Dragon: then in progress (unfinished) (begun c. 1918)
—Envelope containing the manuscript

While only 28 pages long, the narrative in the Sketch advances a great deal from The Book of Lost Tales, approaching the final form in most respects, albeit extremely condensed. Moreover, the manuscript was heavily revised afterwards, before it was superseded by the Quenta Noldorinwa in 1930. Therefore, Christopher gives the text exactly as it was first written, but adding the emmendations with notes at the end of the numbered sections. These 19 sections were expressly made by him, so he can comment the text more easily, comparing it with previous and later texts, like the Quenta Noldorinwa, that has the same numeration.