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The Complete Guide to Middle-earth: Tolkien's World from A to Z Hardcover – September 30, 2003

127 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With the release of The Fellowship of the Rings in movie theaters this December, Tolkien enthusiasts might consider Robert Foster's The Complete Guide to Middle-earth: From The Hobbit Through The Lord of the Rings and Beyond as essential to their viewing pleasure as popcorn. For anyone who's ever wondered "who's Beren?," "where's the Great Shelf?" or "what's the Council of Gondor?," this A-Z reference describes every person, locates every place and explains everything in Tolkien's saga.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


'Middle-earth is the country of J.R.R. Tolkien's tales -- the territory of Sauron, Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and Sam Gamgee -- whose legends, history, geography and inhabitants combine to make a unique fictional world. This Guide is a comprehensive reference work to every name and event in Tolkien's books, from The Hobbit to The Silmarillion.' Daily Telegraph 'Mr Robert Foster's Complete Guide to Middle-earth supplies, as I have found through frequent use, an admirable work of reference.' CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; 1 Sub edition (September 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345465296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345465290
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #821,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 121 people found the following review helpful By Peter Dykhuis VINE VOICE on July 7, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I can't say enough good about this book. As a companion resource to the any of Tolkien's novels based in mythical Middle Earth this is the perfect companion. This isn't a series of essays and it doesn't try to explain the twists of plot in all of Tolkien's books. What this book does is give complete, sourced and easy to find definitions for nearly ALL of the terms, places and people in Middle Earth.
Ever wonder what the difference between the Maiar and the Istari? Want to know a brief history of Morgoth, the original poison in Middle Earth? This is the book for you. I had to work VERY hard to find any obscure term not included in this book. Not only is this book complete but it is cross-referenced and multiple terms are listed. For instance both Melkor and Morgoth are listed separately so you will find him regardless of which name you look him up under.
What a wonderful piece of work. This book has furthered my reading enjoyment of the Lord of the Rings and opened the Silmarillion to me in a entirely new light. A definite A+ recommendation.
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64 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Michael Martinez on December 13, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I feel a bit of nostalgia whenever I open this book because it takes me back more than twenty years to when I was first beginning to study Tolkien's world. Robert Foster's glossary is now sadly outdated because so many informative books have been published by Christopher Tolkien, but none of the tertiary sources written by other Tolkien researchers even come close to Foster's dedicated achievement.
Unlike some early Tolkien indexers, Foster usually refrains from mixing his opinions with the facts he is reporting. His occasional guesses and interpretations may be wrong but given the information available when the book was written they are solid and well-considered. Many more recent books have contained unforgivably egregious errors because those later authors had access to material Foster didn't.
The sources that Foster covers include some of Tolkien's private correspondence, and the research has been vindicated by Humphrey Carpenter's Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Foster's other sources include The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Pauline Baynes' 1969 map of Middle-earth (on which she was advised by Tolkien himself), and the first edition of The Road Goes Ever On.
The most impressive section, however, is Foster's attempt to devise a chronology of the First Age. Such a chronology could be achieved with any hope of accuracy only after Christopher Tolkien published The War of the Jewels in 1994, 16 years after Foster published the Complete Guide. Foster's guesswork was off by no more than a few years. I still glance through his chronology for a quick reference when I just need to be reminded of critical dates.
My only regret is that this book was never updated, although I heard a rumor that HarperCollins was looking for someone to revise it. It would be good to see a much fuller guide published, but only if Foster's impeccable standard was adhered to.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Mario Bergeron on December 8, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The book truly deserves praise. The most wanted quality of a reference is its completeness. I assure you: there are NO entries missing. Places, people, topics and events are ALL present. There are many cross-references that help you find more about a specific subject. I've been in Sciences for quite a few years and read intensively. In many books I've read, the index is often weak and incomplete. As an index, the book fulfills my wishes, everything is there. Furthermore all entries receive a complete description and explains relationships with other subjects. This work is apparently a Ph.D., well it certainly deserves the title.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was looking to purchasing this edition for a long time. I finally received it only to be disappointed. Nothing bad can be said of the quality of the printing, the feel & thickness of the paper or the beautiful Nasmith paintings, which are all first class. Before ordering this edition I browsed the content of the paperback edition using's LOOK NOW feature. You see annotated references at the end of each entry, showing which book (i.e., Silmarillion) & page number(s.) My gripe is that this 2003 edition, while presented beautifully is missing the KEY FEATURE I looked forward to the most, which is linking any subject by all books & pages referencing that particular topic. So the main reason to get this book is missing! Maybe I woud have been better off getting the 2003 hardcover & 2001 softcover edition for the notations along with a book of Tolkien artwork, like "Realms of Tolkien: Images of Middle-earth." Hopefully this review will help people select the exact edition to get the features they want.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Tuor on January 26, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This Guide contains the two things most necessary for any serious study of Tolkien's works: clarity and correctness. Foster clearly did a lot of homework when creating this Guide, because it covers all the Ages of Middle-earth and so can be used both by those who have only read 'The Hobbit' as readily as those who, like myself, own and have read almost everything Tolkien has ever written.
When I need to know some fact about Middle-earth and don't feel like hauling out the appropriate book, I turn to Foster's Guide -- you should, too.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By LKetsenburg on January 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Robert Foster has created an excellent book for those that want to know more about Middle-Earth. The information is not only complete and concise, it also includes the book source, the Age, word origin, and translation for many words. This book is so much more than I expected. It has made reading J.R.R Tolkien's works more enjoyable, and has made me better understand the great imagination and depth of work created by Tolkien. Thank You, Robert Foster for creating this fine work so that I can quit leafing through Tolkien's pages for information, and can turn directly to the correct page and information.
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