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The Complete Tolkien Companion [Paperback]

J E A Tyler
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 Nov 2002

The New Tolkien Companion contains almost every known fact, name, 'foreign' word, date, and etymological allusion from Middle Earth, together with explanations of the various Elvish writing systems, and with maps, charts, and genealogical tables developed by the compiler and drawn by Kevin Reilly.

Including all references to the Silmarillion, the events that set the stage for the Ring trilogy, this edition is revised and updated for a new century of Tolkien fans.

'Fascinating... for every Tolkien reader it is a must' Yorkshire Post

Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; 3Rev Ed edition (12 Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330411659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330411653
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13.2 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 379,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"If you're a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings," this is a great reference book, as it has entries that will probably jog the memories of even the most ardent adherent... this one has it all." - "Kansas City Star"
"One of the newer reference volumes that attempts to explain Tolkien's densely imaginative world."
-"Seattle Times"
"A treasure of arcane information that will be helpful to the casual reader... as well as to the newly minted Middle-earth fanatic who wants to learn everything as soon as possible."
-"South Florida Sun-Sentinel"
"Excellent" - "Creative Loafing" (Atlanta)
"There's nothing you can't find in Tyler's tome of Middle Earth knowledge... indispensable... a sine qua non for new and experienced Tolkien readers alike."
- "TheTrades"
"This book will help you, even as it gives you a chance to read about and delight in correlations between things that you never realized, or small, assorted facts that you glanced past."
- "Fantastica Daily"
"A resource that will bring further enjoyment to those already familiar with LotR and its associated works... a wonderful achievement for Tyler, and will make a welcome addition to the library of anyone who has come to consider Frodo and the lot as de facto members of the family."
"A detailed and sweeping compendium, this book is a valuable reference to have handy when reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading Tolkien's work."
"Essential for a new generation of readers to fully enjoy Tolkien's version in a new century... an invaluable aid to a better understanding of Middle Earth and deserves a place on the shelf right next to "The Hobbit,""
-"Baryon Magazine"

About the Author

When J. E. A. Tyler first wrote THE TOLKEIN COMPANION in 1974, he was Deputy Editor of the New Musical Express. Twenty-eight years later he is still a magazine writer, a satirical columnist for various Information Technology publications. He is married and lives in Sussex. Other books include THE BEATLES: AN ILLUSTRATED RECORD (1974) and I HATE ROCK AND ROLL (1983).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By Nats f
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An A-Z of names, places and legends used in Tolkien's works, this book provides readers with that oh-so-necessary background information which only serves to make the reading of his books a richer and deeper experience. Well worth investing in!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 10th companion? 12 Aug 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
OK, a corny review title but a very useful book.

I'm re-reading LOTR with this book and Karen Fonstad's Atlas as references.
It's surprising how much additional depth and texture is being revealed.

I bought mine second hand for only a few pounds and it proving well worth having.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential to deatailed reads of Tolkiens books 27 Nov 2003
In all of Tolkiens works, including Lord of The rings, but to a largher extent The Silmirilian and History of Middle Earth, the author will make referance to a fictional creature or location in varying ammounts of detail. When reading the books it is very easy not to understand or remember the significance of a referance, or a character mentioned. Similar in sturcture to the Bible, History of Middle earth mentions peoples father and home lands that are very hard to loose track on.
This is where this excellent companion comes in. Since i have bought it i have not once read a Tolkein book without this at my side incase there are referances to places or things i have forgotten. It truely enhances the experiance of reading, and having a full understanding of Tolkiens vivid immagination. With over 70 pages and thousands of entrys this is a truly detailed companion.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.2 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
34 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worthless!!!! 19 Dec 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Do not waste your money on any version of JE Taylors Tolkien books. He hides his "references" at the back of the book instead of professionally citing them on the page for the entry you are reading. If you are a Tolkien purist you will find many fictional made up details in this book. Instead buy the book that Christopher Tolkien himself cites...
Robert Foster's Complete Guide to Middle Earth. This book is VERY accurate for your Hobbit,LOTR, Simarillion reference needs.
If you need a cross-reference for the 12 volumes of the History of Middle Earth buy Christopher Tolkiens Index to the History of Middle Earth. You can buy that at Amazon UK.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent source 25 Dec 2007
By Jonathan Appleseed - Published on
When I first saw the rather average to poor ratings that this book has received, I was very surprised. I remember getting the book as part of as part of a set from The Science Fiction Book Club when I graduated from junior high (1980!!). By that time I had read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit several times, but never The Silmarillion, which was also part of the set.

I vividly remember staying up late at night reading the entries of this book, sometimes just to refresh my memory, sometimes for more information, sometimes just to read the same stories over and over again. I never tired of the world Tolkien created, and he left me in awe as a teenager. I'm far from being a teenager, but am still in awe of his creation.

When I finally got around to reading The Silmarillion, I found this book to be indispensable. As a 14-year old - and while I would consider myself an advanced reader for my age back then, I was by no means a prodigy - The Silmarillion was a difficult but incredibly magnificent read. In all honesty, I compared it to the Christian Bible and Bullfinch's Mythology, and found that I enjoyed it far greater than either, and any mythology I had read previously (which was quite a bit). If we can analogize Morgoth's war with the Valar as Satan's with heaven, then I can safely say (IMHO) that Tolkien's interpretation (although it wasn't allegory - we all know that he despised allegory in fiction - but certainly the similarities between Manwe and Melkor/Morgoth are significant and unavoidable) was more interesting than anyone who has ever attempted to re-tell that story. Or tell a similar story of "great evil thrown down by forces of good". Which means, in essence, better than just about every epic fantasy ever written.

Okay, I'm back from my tangent. :-)

Without The New Tolkien Companion, I would have been utterly lost back then. Tolkien's world was so rich and detailed, that I had a certain amount of difficulty following along. Imagine, a reader of fantasy, and mythology, having difficulty keeping up with the "different" names in the books, as well as the numerous story lines. When turning to this book, it always helped give me that extra piece of information that I needed to get a full picture of what I was reading. It never bothered me that there weren't page numbers or references to back anything up, because I found that Tyler far more often than not (in fact, I can't think of a "not" example) got things right. What I appreciated most about this book, and here is where it differs greatly from Foster's The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, is that Tyler's entries told stories. Foster's - an excellent book - also gave the necessary identifying information, but because he "indexed" his text with references to the books, he had built-in limitations on space (not to mention that god-awful cover art that for some reason "we" all loved back then - look at the hat on Aragorn!).

Regardless, this isn't meant to be a comparison between the two books, and a judgment on which is better. They're both excellent, and they take entirely different approaches to cataloging information. Both styles should be able to be appreciated by anyone.

I'm a pretty serious Tolkien fan (though I've never worn elf ears or dressed up like Gandalf), and I have both books. If you want textual references, Foster is for you. If you like the story, then this book is for you.
21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dissappointing 1 Jan 2004
By "rocking_fetus" - Published on
I have one word which sums up this entire book "dissappointment". Ok, maybe not entirely worthless but to any self-respecting Tolkien fan this companion would have to be the least helpful of those available. Not only did I find information hard to find (characters etc were listed by their most "common name" thus if you were looking for a particular name which was less used, its highly likely that you won't find it which can get very frustrating. Also I couldn't help feeling that the Tyler seems to get his/her wires crossed alot, mixing what is "fact" and what is "fiction" mixed around. Also the major dissappointment I found with this "complete" Tolkien companion, is that its not "complete". Lesser characters, places, events etc seem to have been "lost" or "omitted". At the expensive of this "lesser" characters etc Tyler seems to have spent the energy instead on elaborating more on the "major" characters which I personally found annoying as no doubt many people want to buy a companion to help them understand alittle bit more on "lesser" characters which they come across in books. You wouldn't buy half a dictionary so why settle for half a "companion". I also found it quite shifty of Tyler "hiding" his/her references and sources at the back of the book.
However on a high note I did find the front cover design, I must say the best looking of the companions on the market. If only the inside was as good as the outside.
I suggest if your serious about getting a companion, "The Complete Guide to Middle Earth" by Robert Foster is 1st Rate and easier on the hip pocket too!
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Only a back-up choice 20 Dec 2003
By David Bratman - Published on
Third edition of an encyclopedia whose first two, pre- and post-Silmarillion, versions have been floating around for years. A reliable source but a very poor second choice to Robert Foster's Complete Guide to Middle-earth (less detail, more omissions, few dates, hardly any page references), Tyler's tome now includes entries from Unfinished Tales, 24 years after that book was published. It ignores almost everything else since then, whether it fits into the (illusory) "final" legendarium or not. Tyler claims he's dropped his pretence that Middle-earth is real, but entries like that for Orcs, identifying them as the true origin of mythic goblins, show that he hasn't. This new edition is only worth having if a copy drops into your lap.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 2012 ed.: same as 2004? In-depth review 9 Oct 2012
By John L Murphy - Published on
J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy masterworks, as his fans in the 1960s learned from the appeal by the author on the back of the ubiquitous Ballantine paperbacks, were soon plagiarized by unscrupulous publishers at Ace. The massive amounts of notes and half-finished tales, edited by his son Christopher over the decades since the success of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, complicated the canon. Diligent guides such as Robert Foster's The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth, J.E.A. Tyler's The Tolkien Companion, and later Karen Wynn Fonstad's The Atlas of Middle-Earth themselves found "complete" a misnomer as compilers encountered the fragmentary prequels and sequels within the original Tolkien's archives published for an audience demanding more than The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales could provide half a generation after hippies sported buttons with "Frodo Lives."

This attenuated but devoted legacy, shared by the fantasies and their exegeses, demonstrates Tolkien's appeal. The Hobbit and LotR "core," as Tyler agrees in his introduction, endure as the heart of the body of work. This extended in the later twentieth century as Christopher Tolkien and colleagues restored in twelve volumes a Middle-Earth history. For Tyler, such efforts remain minor and tangential, as they often preceded the core texts, and left many areas half-explored, abandoned, or in contradiction to what the standard canon articulates.

As a '60s musician turned rock publicist, author of The Beatles: An Illustrated Record and I Hate Rock and Roll, the late "Tony" Tyler might have agreed with the analogy of demo tapes and studio outtakes abandoned only to be resurrected and restored for a core audience desperate for every scrap from their heroes or idols. Only when the archival material was conceived or executed after the LotR publication, or when earlier manuscripts have influenced the genesis of Unfinished Tales or The Silmarillion does Tyler enter such data. Those two volumes contain the gist of what Tolkien continued to work on, sixty years in Middle-Earth, and left incomplete at his death in 1973.

All the same, the publisher of this edition leaves it unclear how much this third release offers that adds up as truly new. This may be clever marketing, recalling that bedeviled Tolkien in his copyright battles with pulp publishers in New York in the 1960s. Intriguingly or ironically, this guidebook may spark similar confusion over what represents the author's final intentions, given a devoted fan base.

Tyler's second edition (The New Tolkien Companion, 1979) added 1800 entries; we do not learn in this printing how many more definitions have been provided to his own, now posthumous, third edition. (Neither cover nor title page refer to this as such, but the foreword titles this accurately.) The date of the introduction for this "new" edition is not given, but Tyler died in 2006. He credits as appearing twenty-three years later (which corresponds to a roughly 2004 publication), due to popular demand, another revision incorporating what can be gleaned from the corpus, now quadrupled in size for him to digest from what in 1976 began as The Tolkien Companion (reissued 2000). Tyler defends as the ultimate source for his endeavor in his introduction (to this "Second St. Martin's-Griffin edition" listed on the copyright page as October 2012 to anticipate the release of Peter Jackson's first installment of The Hobbit on film, but seeming not to differ from an edition printed in 2004) his reliance on the "Master Volume": LotR.

This seems a wise choice. At least one sharp-eyed reader of this book's 1976 debut turned to the first three entries and disagreed with each. The third, for instance, here has been corrected. "Edain" is translated as "The Sacred People" and not as "Friend-of-Man."

Another spot-check, in my copy of Foster, showed he prefers brevity, if partially to accommodate pagination references. Tyler avoids these. Texts refer to book and chapter in the few endnotes, making this more a work to be read for pleasure--given the entries full of dense detail and stately tone echo the source texts, understandably if rather boldly--than referred to for concordance or analysis.

Maps prove scarce and may resist clarity; the Atlas mentioned above supersedes them. Charts fare better, thanks to a trade paperback format and larger fonts. While this uneven production makes for an arguably less helpful resource than Foster or Fonstad, Tyler's effort improves with a pleasant prose style and--despite his belated disclaimer for this third version--an underlying tone that relates Tolkien's vision as shrouded both in antiquity and a faint if evanescent presence barely traceable down to our own earth. While this may dismay purists insisting on separating fantasy from reality, it adds to the verisimilitude of Tyler's ambitious attempt to elucidate these core texts and their mythos.

Tyler's compendium, over seven hundred pages over its own wandering evolution in successive and revised editions, has gained mixed reactions from Tolkien's attentive coterie of critics. Whereas Foster's slightly shorter A-to-Z reference includes textual citations, Tyler's eschews these except for a handful of modest endnotes inserted after a chapter for each letter of the alphabet. Therefore, while Tyler's volume to me flows better, more fluidly taking the tales as if relating an existing if very distant chronicle of misty events in another age, it may annoy sticklers.

All in all, from my perspective as a nearly lifelong admirer of Tolkien's masterworks, this encourages a return to them. While I lack expertise of the expert fact-checkers of these venerable, distilled, precise (pre-)modern myths, Tyler's good-natured acceptance of their genuine basis in a hint of real language, real territory, and real memory aligns with Tolkien's own intentions, and those necessarily expected from any reader entering Middle-Earth, where belief may be not suspended but rewarded.
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