A Tolkien Bestiary (1978)

David Day has turned literary criticism of Tolkien into a career, having penned ten books on Middle Earth since 1978. He has a knack for breaking down Tolkien’s more arcane bits of history into easy to understand language, and I appreciate him for that. This was the first, A Tolkien Bestiary (1978) and it’s reference book format is one Day would use several more times.

Calling it a Bestiary is a bit of a misnomer, as plenty of space is given over to chronologies and genealogies (reflecting one of Tolkien’s own particular obsessions). In the alphabetical entries, there are easily as many devoted to the various ethnic groups of Men (Black Numenoreans, Corsairs, etc) as there are those exploring the various critters of Middle Earth. Which is fine, if a bit dizzying. Still, reading through it, you’ll come away with a richer understanding of Tolkien’s world.

The book is lavishly illustrated. There’s lots of great art – John Blanche’s Bosche-like landscapes, Lidia Postma’s feral looking Gollum, Alan Curless’ macabre Nazgul – but Ian Miller steals the show. Utterly. There are several pages of his dragons, each weirder and pointier than the last. His orcs are magnificently creepy. Look at that haunted cave troll! And he did a barrow wight (the creep next to Gollum)! Dude is a powerhouse.

(Happy New Year!)

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