on December 28, 2003
As the editorial review says, this is essentially a dictionary for The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion. It does also include data from some of Tolkien's other writings. A very useful appendix explains dates given during the First Age, based upon the inclusion of events predating the Years of the Sun, such as the Spring of Arda. This book will be a valued reference for those fascinated by the events of Middle-Earth and the Changes of the World. It may leave you desiring even more information, but that is what you will find in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, as well as in such reference material as Karen Wynn Fonstad's revised Atlas of Middle-Earth. You will surely enjoy the answers provided and the new searches begun by reading this guidebook.
The book has a well thought out design in a dictionary form. You find information on every character, every place, and every thing. There is a section on how to read the sources and abbreviations in the book. There are appendixes with A Chronology of the First Age, Genealogical Tables, and Conversion of page references to Houghton Mifflin Editions.
Some may think this guide is geared towards those that already have a basic knowledge of Middle earth. But upon exam one finds it is like any other dictionary those with a large vocabulary may need an occasional glance; while others may have to look up the words that explain the words.
I find it indispensable.
on February 26, 2004
I agree with others that the definitions aren't often that clear and require that you know the character/item ahead of time. But there are a few areas of improvement that would really make this book shine:
-Including guide words on the top of pages would make finding terms easier.
-The genealogical charts at the end are full of errors - mostly typographical - including obvious ones such as switching the names "Aragorn II" and "Arathorn II".
-Maps would make geographical descriptions so much easier. They may have not been included for other reasons, but would make this truly a superb reference.
In conclusion, this book may be misleading in its appeal and not be so well suited to the casual reader. It may also spoil some events you have not yet read if you are reading Tolkien for the first time. It is great for that occasional (aka frequent) confusion though. It is a useful reference and with a good edit would be vastly more excellent and accurate.
on January 1, 2004
What can I say except that this is truely a 1st rate book. Of the many "Tolkien companions" available I found this one perfect as unlike many others Foster has not forgotten the "lesser characters and places". The A-Z format is easy to use and understand and makes finding certain characters a breeze. The addition of dates, page references and language origin is a bonus I personally found which was lacking in many other companions available. As I mentioned before, what makes this a stand out addition to any Tolkien fan is that Foster has not forgotten the lesser known characters and such. Other companions tend to "omit" things in order to elaborate more on the main characters etc which I feel goes against the point of the book (To help readers learn abit more on characters and places etc). Foster has to the the joy of readers included ALL characters, places, battles AND foods and included the many multiple names and terms of characters so it doesn't matter whether you look up for example Strider instead of Aragorn as Foster will include the various names at the end of each section so you can look up them as you wish.
One "fault" I did find with the book was like many have mentioned, the lack of maps. It has been extremely difficult to find a "complete" map of middle earth and perhaps if Mr Foster should read this, the addition of maps in the future would surely improve my already high opinion of this beautifully put together book.
on December 30, 2003
This guide is extremely helpful for first time readers and absolutely essential for fans who intend to embark on the Silmarillion and other works by Tolkien. It is basically an encyclopedia of every thing, person, and place in Middle Earth. And Foster cross-references where needed.
The only thing that this guide does NOT encompass are the literary changes in the legends that occured as Tolkien developed them throughout his life. For example, in the Silmarillion it is Gwindor who guides Turin to Nargothrond after Beleg dies, but in the Lays of Beleriand, written much earlier, his name is Flinding (Tolkien changed the names of people and places a lot during his writings). Foster's encylopedia only has Gwindor and not Flinding. This is in keeping with Foster's goal to stick to the published and official accounts of Tolkien's work: the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion proper (along with some other reputable sources). This is probably a good thing though, otherwise the guide would need to encompass the entirety of the 12 volume HoME series, causing its sheer size to become unwieldy.
If you are anything more than a causal one-time reader of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, this book definitely belongs in your collection.
Author J.R.R. Tolkien worked on his incredibly complex, vivid invented world his entire life. Now, with the epic movie trilogy hitting theaters, the books are getting the royal treatment. But even if you're a longtime fan, this book is an invaluable tool if you can't remember what the heck Angmar was or who Elendil was.
From A to Z ("Abyss" to "Zirakzigil"), Foster carefully includes entries from the LOTR trilogy, the Silmarillion, the Hobbit, and lots of other books by Tolkien. He carefully includes dates, when people were born and died, translated names (Legolas's is "Greenleaf," Tom Bombadil's is "Old--without father"), and what language those names are in. For the sake of clarity, he also includes a timeline up until Elrond was born, and then several of Tolkien's created family trees. (Who was Elrond's great-grandpa?)
If you simply can't remember something -- like Aragorn's many and varied names, what Gandalf is, what the Elvish name for hobbits is -- then this can refresh your memory. While there are a few inevitable errors, Foster is exceedingly careful and faithful to Tolkien's work. If it's set down in here, you can bet that it's correct. The one slightly distracting aspect of this book is that the characters with two names are listed by their given name, not family name. So Frodo Baggins is listed under F, not B; Sam Gamgee is under S, not G.
So if you're a fan of the books, just getting into them, or even have only seen the movies and want to understand Middle-Earth a little better, you should definitely check out "Complete Guide to Middle-Earth." For anyone who enjoys Tolkien's work, it's a keeper.
This detailed guide was compiled to assist readers of The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion by placing historical events, characters and places in the context of Tolkien's vast cosmology. As such it is an indispensable concordance for the serious fan of Tolkien's world. The history of Middle Earth and Aman was woven together with great attention to detail so that all the stories fit together in perfect cohesion. The main body of the work has alphabetical entries from "Abyss" to "Zirak-Zigil", while Appendix A is a chronology of the First Age from the creation of Eä to the birth of Elrond and Elros, and Appendix B contains genealogical tables like that of the first house of the Edain, the lines of Isildur and Anarion, the descent of the Peredhil, the house of Hurin and the Rohirrim. Many of the Elvish entries have translations of their meaning, e.g. Aragorn = "Royal Tree". The treatment of languages, like variations and different shades of meaning, is quite detailed and interesting. Important races, places and characters have extensive commentary devoted to them but there are also many single line entries. This comprehensive reference work makes one appreciate Tolkien's achievement all the more. I recommend it to all who are seriously interested in his brilliant creation that has come to life again at the beginning of our third millennium with the release of the excellent Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy. I would also like to recommend David Day's book "A Tolkien Bestiary" which contains maps, chronologies and wonderful illustrations. These two titles together are all you need to have a complete reference to Aman and Middle Earth.
on September 25, 2002
Let me preface this review by saying that I have an earlier publication of this book (c. 1985). I do not know if there have been any additions, subtractions, or updates in general to the text but this book is a wealth of knowledge. If you have a question from exactly what Sauron is; to what different names Aragorn is known by throughout the world; to Elrond's lineage nearly all the way back to the beginning of the world, you will find the answers here. Sometimes I'll leaf through my dingy old book just to try and find something I haven't read before or refresh my memory on an silly little fact. In no way have things been skewed from the original text by Tolkien. The definitions contained are merely distilled in a way similar to that of an encyclopedia. Finally, concerning the front cover artwork... I agree with other reviewers here: the portrayal of the character's is not how I imagine them. But in defense of the cover, it is by Greg $ Tim Hildebrant, a premier fantasy art team for decades... If they had painted Smaug conversing with Bilbo nearly everyone would love it.
on June 20, 2002
I began with purchasing the Illustrated Encyclopedia..., by David Day, and was astounded at how many mistakes it had. As a reviewer has coined it, "Unreliable Eye Candy". So I returned it and purchased this less attractive, but wholly higher quality guide to the wonderful world of Middle-earth. Encyclopedia-style, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth lays out everything that you could possibly be confused about with eloquent definitions and accurate information. I could nit-pick about the art on the cover - Aragorn looks like a French musketeer (I never have been a fan of the Brothers Hildebrandt.) I thought this after buying it. Then a guest came over and commented on "the stupid cover", before quickly becoming enthralled in the pages and asking to borrow it.
However, a particular reviewer seems to think that the author of this book is re-writing Middle-earth, and "morphing Middle-Earth": to this reviewer, who shall rename nameless *cough cough*, I say, "Ignorance is as Ignorance does". This book covers everything from the letters of Tengwar to the Noldor to the Lamps of the Valar and beyond.
In conclusion; don't buy the more visually appealing "Illustrated Encyclopedia" by David Day. Get this one. I believe Tolkien would be proud.
on March 9, 2002
If you love Tolkien, you'll get a lot of use out of this book. After a point, the sheer number of characters and places can become overwhelming -- especially when so many have several names.
'Guide' is a godsend, and is always right by my side every time I pick up Lord of the Rings. It's an invaluable companion book that covers everything from Arda to the Silmarillion. The descriptions are thorough; at times an entire histroy is given. Reference pages are noted. I had started taking notes, which was a real nuisance. This book makes that unnecessary.
In the trilogy, there are a few passages that hint at a great mystery. Impatient as I am, Mr. Foster's 'Guide' explains the pre-LotR history clearly without giving away *too* much.
Though it's a reference book, you can spend hours (no joke, I've done it!) going from one entry to another, as many are tied together in the story. For example, I looked up 'Palantir' and from there went to Saruman, Orthanc and maybe a dozen other entries.
What a fun book to get lost in!
I can't say enough about this book. It's absolutely fantastic, and if you love Tolkien's magnificent saga, you need the 'Guide'!