With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey now in theaters, many folks, including myself, are enjoying a renewed interest in J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal works of fantasy fiction, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. While these two stories, normally covering four total books and something like 1400 pages, provide a lot to chew on, Tolkien’s world and its rich tapestry of language, magic, and song will likely leave you wanting more.
Dozens of authors have written extensively on Middle-Earth and its denizens, but today I offer three of my personal favorites, in order of descending importance–by my own reckoning, at least!
Unfinished Tales Of Númenor and Middle-Earth by J. R. R. Tolkien — Who better to deliver the scoop on the behind the scenes events of Middle-Earth than the man himself? This stuff comes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s copious notes, edited and arranged by his son, Christopher, and includes fascinating essays and tidbits that further illuminate Middle-Earth and its inhabitants. For example, did you know that Cirdan the Shipwright gave Gandalf Narya, one of the three Elven Rings of power because he felt it would help ease his many trials? Did you know that Grima Wormtongue was waylaid by the Nine Ringwraiths on his way from Edoras to Orthanc, and forced by torture and threat to disclose all he knew of Saruman’s schemes and the location of the Shire? Learn this and more in Unfinished Tales–it’s like watching the deleted scenes from Tolkien’s best work!
The Complete Tolkien Companion by J.E.A. Tyler — This encyclopedic dictionary of all things Tolkien will prove an invaluable resource to anyone interested in a deeper understanding of the complex workings of Middle-Earth. Do you always confuse Minas Morgul (Sauron’s house) with Minas Tirith (Denethor’s house)? Can’t explain the difference between the Mouth of Sauron (a really evil diplomat) and the Mouths of Anduin (one of Middle-Earth’s mightiest rivers)? Can’t remember that Khazad (Dwarves) speak Khuzdul (the secret Dwarven tongue)? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, Mr. Tyler’s book is the resource for you!
Realms of Tolkien: Images Of Middle-Earth — This amazing book showcases artwork from the widely acknowledged visual masters of Tolkien’s world: John Howe, Allen Lee, and Ted Naismith. While this book also features the art of a number of other amazing talents, the “big three” of Tolkien calendar artists provides the main course in this feast for the eyes.