A to Z and back again

A guide to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth clears up the muddle of all those Elvish songs.

Katie Wilber

For those who already own both “Lord of the Rings” movies, the books, the board games and all the other odds and ends, try a classic. Ever wonder who Frodo’s parents were? Flip to page 193 for a minibiography of the famous hobbit. If the question ever pops up during a trivia game, there’s no doubt that Arwen means “royal maiden” in the Sindarin language. Instead of using another cliched pick-up line this weekend, saunter up to someone and casually mention that Gollum was originally a hobbit, but years of living under the dark and damp power of the Ring caused his metamorphosis into a flat-footed, bug-eyed creature. Oh, and by the way, his name used to be Trahald. They’ll be so impressed with your “Lord of the Rings” knowledge they might even invite you over for a “Lord of the Rings” movie marathon.

First published in 1971 when Frodo, Sam and Gandalf weren’t exactly household names, Foster’s re-released book has every character, every place, every animal, river, mountain and thing found in Tolkien’s works on Middle-earth. Entries are followed by the Tolkien-language they come from and what the translation means, what Age a character lived in and where they’re mentioned in each of the books. Foster includes genealogical tables of Tolkien’s characters from the lines of Isildur, Aragorn’s ancestors, to the descent of the Elven rulers.

There’s also a chronology of the First Age for those who haven’t read the books. If that’s the case, now’s the time to learn about the origin of Middle-earth and the beginning of the First Age when Sauron sold himself to evil, and how the Rings of Power were created in the Second Age. Discover why Sauron rose again to wreak his vengeance, and follow the journey of a hobbit who shoulders the destiny of the free peoples of Middle-earth.

From Abyss to Zirakzigil, Foster’s book is perfect for “Lord of the Rings” fanatics who camped out at the theater or the casual observer. And since Tolkien is unavailable to answer any questions, this book is the next best thing.