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The Complete Guide to Middle-earth

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The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
The Complete Guide to Middle-earth.jpg
AuthorRobert Foster
PublisherRandom House Publishing Group
ReleasedOriginally 1971
FormatHardcover
Pages569
ISBN0345465296
The Complete Guide to Middle-earth is a reference book for the fictional universe of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, compiled and edited by Robert Foster.

Originally published in 1971 as A Guide to Middle-Earth, before the publication of The Silmarillion, the first edition contained only information from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. In 1978, a new edition (The Complete Guide to Middle-earth: from The Hobbit to The Silmarillion), containing material from The Silmarillion, was published.

A revised edition was published in 2001, as one of many reprints intended to ride the commercial wave of The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy.

Contents

Editions

Detailed information on the early editions.[1]

  • 1971: A Guide to Middle-Earth. Baltimore, Md.: The Mirage Press. xiii, 284, [7] pp., geneal. tables. 22.5 × 14.5 cm. (The Voyager Series, V-105) (The Anthem Series, A-1009)
  • 1974: Paperback edition: New York: Ballantine Books. 283 pp., geneal. tables. 18 cm. ISBN 0-345-24138-X (pbk)
  • 1978: The Complete Guide to Middle-earth: from The Hobbit to The Silmarillion. New York: Ballantine Books. xvi, 575 pp., geneal. tables. 18 cm. ISBN 0-345-27975-1 (pbk)
  • 1978: British edition: London: Unwin Paperbacks. xii, [i], 441, [8] pp. 19.5 × 13 cm. ISBN 0-04-803001-5 (pbk): £1.50; ISBN 0-04-803002-3 (hbk)

Structure

A typical entry of the encyclopedia contains: a name, with its translation from Elvish, Adûnaic and sometimes Old English when known, and known dates when a character flourished; the first lines give a general definition of the entry, like race, heritage and role (in case of a character), leading to a chronological description or biography. The last paragraphs of the entry give a physical description or characteristics of the character with some speculations; the final paragraph gives the topic's alternative names, epithets or translation to other languages.

The Guide is generally inclusive and there is no limitation to the topics it covers; it includes even little-covered topics, like individual entries on each single Tengwar names. Many entries are simply epithets and only redirect to the names of their main entries.

The book also contains an introduction, an abbreviations legend and two appendices; the first appendix is a chronology of the First Age in order to complement the Tale of Years, and contains a prologue on Foster's reasoning and calculations based solely on descriptions in the Silmarillion; the second appendix is genealogical trees of the Three Houses of the Edain, the Kings of Númenor, the Kings of Gondor and Arnor, the House of Húrin and the Kings of Rohan.

Accuracy

No edition of the book includes info on post-Silmarillion material (i.e. Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth series) and therefore in points it is outdated or in error.

Introduction: It is explained that death dates of those who sailed to the West are not given in their characters' entries "for they live still". While this can be true for Gandalf and the Elves, this is also implied for Bilbo, Frodo, Sam and Gimli. This seems to contradict Tolkien's concept that the Undying Lands don't grant immortality[2][3].
Tar-Aldarion: Foster speculates that the tragic relations with his father and wife were because he left no male heirs. The later published text Aldarion and Erendis elaborated this situation.
Ambar: Foster relates the Elvish words ambar "world" and umbar "fate". In the entry of Ambar, he mentions it is a concept related to fate of the world. The Etymologies showed that the two have different Roots; a distinct word ambar is actually linked to the root for "home".

Possible Inaccuracies

Bladorthin: Foster supports the usual misunderstanding that Bladorthin's spears were not delivered because he died early; while the text mentions those events closely to imply that they are connected, it doesn't really mention his death as a reason.[4]
Dolmed: Foster suggests that the mountain was destroyed at the end of the First Age when the Gulf of Lune, broke through the Blue Mountains; while the text doesn't mention anything about it.[5]
Gollum: Foster mentions that Déagol was Sméagol's cousin. Tolkien only said only that he was "evidently a relative (as no doubt all the members of the small community were)"[6]
Gwaihir: Foster reproduces the fan conception merging the character of the Great Eagle to that of Gwaihir, whereas nowhere it's implied in Lord of the Rings that Gwaihir is Lord of the Eagles.
Mearas: Foster mentions the singular of mearas as meara (cf. entries for Shadowfax and Snowmane) while the correct Old English form is mearh.[7]

References

  1. Bertenstam, Åke: A Chronological Bibliography of Books About Tolkien
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 154, (dated 25 September 1954)
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 246, (dated September 1963)
  4. Andreas Möhn, "Who was the King Bladorthin?"
  5. Hiswelókë, "Mont Dolmed & cités naines"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 214, (undated, written late 1958 or early 1959)
  7. Wiktionary, "mearh"