November 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Master Of Middle Earth
by Paul H. Kocher
Del Rey /Ballantine/ Random House Trade: ISBN 0345465601 PubDate: 11/01/03
Review by Edward Carmien

256 pgs. List price $ 12.95
Buy this book and support SFRevu at halfprice.com / Amazon US / Amazon UK

The Complete Tolkien Companion
by J.E. Tyler
Thomas Dunne HCVR: ISBN 0312315457 PubDate: 01/01/04
Review by Edward Carmien

720 pgs. List price $ 27
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Reprint! Reprint! Two More Tolkien Books…

Last month’s trio of Tolkien-oriented reviews weren’t enough, it seems. Two reprints are also coming on the market. Each is part of the fabled pre-Jackson past of Tolkienalia, and each is well worth owning.

I’m acquainted with a guy who carries the nom de nickname “Wombat.” He invented “bytelock” (ever been stalled on the internet? Bytelock!) and has a long and storied career in the world of science fiction and fantasy literature. Each time I’ve spoken with the Wombat about Tolkien he’s mentioned Kocher’s book. Despite being a long time fan of Tolkien, each time Master Of Middle Earth came up in conversation I had to shake my head and say “never read it.”
Should have. Could have, if I’d been able to find a used copy somewhere. This book was originally published more than 30 years ago. Would have, if I’d had any idea how good the book is.

Kocher focuses mainly upon The Lord Of The Rings, of course. He does address The Hobbit and in a section titled “Seven Leaves,” Tolkien’s other works, such as “Farmer Giles of Ham” and “Leaf by Niggle.” These latter items are less mysterious to interested readers now than they were in the 70’s, but Kocher’s analysis is no less worthy now than it was then. Amazingly, despite being written prior to the release of the Silmarillion, the necessary guesses Kocher makes about the mythic past of Middle Earth are generally on-target.

Fans of LOTR who hail from the world of Jackson’s epic cinematic vision of the novel take special heed: there is much in Kocher’s work of value. Insight awaits!

Every half-serious fan of Tolkien’s work, no matter what the medium of viral transmission responsible for the affliction, needs a handbook of some kind, a guide or companion to the lifetime of sub-creation that Tolkien poured into Middle Earth. J.E.A. Tyler’s The Complete Tolkien Companion is in a new third edition, some 23 years after the book’s second edition.

A detailed and sweeping compendium of Things Tolkien (Arod? A horse), this book is a valuable reference to have handy when reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading Tolkien’s work. My acid test for t his volume involves Glorfindel. You remember him: he was written out of Jackson’s LOTR to give someone with more sex appeal screen time. In the novel he appears briefly, is almost selected as a member of the Fellowship, but loses out to impetuous hobbit tweenagers. He’s a Prince of the Noldor, ‘tis said, one of the ancient and mighty of his race.

But wait, is he the same Glorfindel who appears in The Silmarillion? Hmmm, maybe not—that Glorfindel is said to perish while fighting a Balrog. Tyler suggests it might yet be the same fellow—maybe, instead of languishing forever in elvish limbo (as they are cursed or blessed to do) Glorfindel was returned to Middle Earth to keep fighting the good fight. Interesting bit of speculation, supported in typical Tyler style with many a learned and scholarly reference. Good answer, I say, and onward (careful, this book can do that to you) to Glornan, Goatleaf, and Goblins (who are, never forget, just Orcs by another name).

Sirannon, Siril, Sirion, Siriondil…the list goes ever on….

© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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