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The Complete Guide to Middle-earth

The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
Complete Guide us 1974.jpeg
AuthorRobert Foster
IllustratorTed Nasmith (2003 UK edition)
PublisherGeorge Allen & Unwin (UK)
Ballantine Books (US)
Released1978 (UK)
1971 (US)
FormatHardcover; paperback; deluxe edition
Pages298
ISBN034524138X

The Complete Guide to Middle-earth is a reference book for J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional universe Middle-earth, compiled and edited by Robert Foster.

It was first published in 1971 under the title A Guide to Middle-earth. In 1978 it was revised and enlarged, changing its title to the one currently using. It received a third edition in 2001.

The book is widely recognized as an excellent reference book on Middle-earth[1]. Christopher Tolkien has commended it himself as an "admirable work of reference"[2].

A new edition is planned to be released in September 2022, by HarperCollins.

Contents

[edit] Book structure

A standard entry in the book is consist of: a name; the language it belongs to; its translation from Elvish, Adûnaic, and sometimes Old English when known; and known dates when a character flourished; the first lines of the entry usually give a general definition of the topic, 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, translation to other languages, and/or redirects to other entries.

The Guide is generally inclusive and there is no limitation to the topics it covers; it includes even obscure and little explored 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 begins with an introduction, an abbreviations legend, and concludes with 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.

[edit] Publication history

US Editions[3]

1971A Guide to Middle-earth, published by Mirage Press. This edition contained only information from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as it was before the publication of The Silmarillion. It was also included in a four-volume boxed set: J.R.R. Tolkien: the Man and His Myth.

1978The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, published by Ballantine Books. This is the revised and expanded edition, incorporating content from The Silmarillion (1977). The book length is almost doubled, extending the number of entries from 2276 to 3257. However, as it does not include information on post-Silmarillion material (i.e. Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth), this edition contains some statements contradicted by later publications.

2001 — further revised, including "further entries and information based on Christopher Tolkien's efforts"[4]. Published by Ballantine Books.

UK Editions

1978 & 1993 — first by George Allen & Unwin then by HarperCollins, the text is based on the 1978 Ballantine edition. By the time of 1993 the editions of Tolkien’s works to which the references are keyed were long out of print.

2003 — by HarperCollins. This edition is richly illustrated by Ted Nasmith, with front cover and 50 interior illustrations. It includes an 8-page commentary on the illustrations, written by the artist. It has been well-received for its illustrations, paper, and binding. However, as pointed out by Christina Scull[5], the book suffers from several issues: the relegation of all references formerly in the entries to an appendix, and an unfortunate inconsistency in italicization, which makes cross-referencing difficult.

2022 — a new edition is planned to be released in September, 2022, by HarperCollins. This edition will include several more of Ted Nasmith's illustrations, and it is reported that it has received some small revisions[6].

[edit] Accuracy[note 1]

Since no edition of the book includes info on post-Silmarillion material (i.e. Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth series), in points it could be 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[7][8].
  • 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 gives a detailed account on their relationship, mostly owing to Aldarion's obsession with the Sea.
  • 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 manuscript Words Phrases and Passages later showed that while the two words are indeed related (through the root MBAR "settle"), they are distinct in meaning.
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 premature or as a reason for the failed delivery.[11]
  • Buckland: The date Fo.A. 42 is mentioned as the date when Buckland and the Westmarch were officially added to the Shire by the gift of King Elessar. There are two mistakes in this statement: 1. The date has been corrected as S.R. 1452 in later editions of the Lord of the Rings; 2. Tolkien did not mention that Buckland joined the Shire: in the Prologue a semi-colon is intended to show that the Westmarch was added, but not Buckland.[12]
  • Gollum: Foster mentions that Déagol was Sméagol's cousin while this is not mentioned in the texts. Tolkien went only as far as to suppose he was "evidently a relative (as no doubt all the members of the small community were)"[14]

[edit] Publication gallery

US Editions
1971 hardcover  
1974 paperback  
1978 hardcover  
1979 paperback  
2001 paperback  
2003 hardcover  
UK Editions
1978 hardcover  
1978 paperback  
1993 paperback  
2003 hardcover  
2022 hardcover  
2022 hardcover deluxe  

[edit] Notes

  1. These will have to be checked whether they have been revised in the 2022 edition

References

  1. Drout, Michael, J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Unfinished Tales
  3. Edgecomb, Kevin P. (2022) "A Publication History of The Complete Guide to Middle-earth by Robert Foster," Journal of Tolkien Research: Vol. 14: Iss. 1, Article 2. Available at: https://scholar.valpo.edu/journaloftolkienresearch/vol14/iss1/2 (Accessed 19 July 2022)
  4. Nelson, Charles W. Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, vol. 13, no. 2 (50), 2002, pp. 190–92. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43308582. (Accessed 19 July 2022)
  5. Hammond, Wayne G.; Scull, Christina, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography
  6. Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth 2022 on Tolkien Collector's Guide
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 154, (dated 25 September 1954)
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 246, (dated September 1963)
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 113
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields", Footnote 33, p. 284
  11. Andreas Möhn, "Who was the King Bladorthin?"
  12. See here and the discussion here
  13. Hiswelókë, "Mont Dolmed & cités naines"
  14. 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)
  15. Wiktionary, "mearh"