See, I knew it. Just as soon as I clicked the "Publish Post" button, I knew it. I knew that referring to any work by Tolkien as "boring" I was calling down the wrath of all Middle Earth. If I had written something like "I hate kittens and babies but love Nazis and Commies" I would have been less likely to provoke a backlash.
Paladin over at A Knight's Blog took some offense at my swipe at The Silmarillion, which was actually meant to be a post about how reading a particular author's prose can affect our own. As of this writing, I've also got Chris taking issue with me. You fellows can love The Silmarillion if you want -- I've got no problem with that. But before I find myself on the wrong end of a morgul blade, let me clarify a bit here.
I still find fault with The Simarillion because it would fail as a free-standing work. Presumably Paladin and Chris read The Silmarillion after reading The Lord of the Rings and therefore read it through the prism of LotR. Try imagining you had read The Sil first. Would you have read LotR? Or The Hobbit? Or any of the other collections of half-written works? I cannot see into your hearts, but I doubt it.
Let me put it to you another way -- you are in a burning library. The only two extant copies of The Sil and LotR are in the library, and you have time to save only one. Do you even have to think about which to save?
Of course, all that demonstrates is that LotR is superior to The Sil. Big Deal. LotR is superior to a lot of stuff. The question is, why is The Sil inferior to LotR?
Because The Silmarillion is not even really a myth; it's the formula for a myth. The mythology is what gets played out in the background of LotR. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Vladimir Propp, you'll know that the Russian formalist reduced all narrative down to a few dozen basic units. Take a look at his Morphology of the Folktale, and you'll find these units expressed as variables, with about 150 different elements (sorry for the vagueness of these numbers, but I'm at home, away from my copy of Propp). When Propp expresses a narrative myth, then, it looks rather like an equation, with variables taking the place of particular elements.
What Tolkien has done in The Silmarillion is simply express a basic Proppian mythological structure with specific names and places, without bothering with such things as character development. Sacred object is produced. Conflict over sacred object. Sacred object is lost. Hero endures trials to recover sacred object. Hero must sacrifice (usually a body part) for the object. Sacred object is recovered. Rinse. Repeat.
In other words, The Silmarillion is little more than a mythological scaffolding upon which to build a real mythology -- that of LotR. The blueprints might be lovely, but when it starts raining, it's time to get in the bricks-and-mortar house.