Travel Reads: “An Encyclopedia of Tolkien” by David Day

An Encyclopedia of Tolkien: the History and Mythology of Middle-earth has been compiled as an easily accessible compendium for general readers” of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy tales “who are interested in the mythological, literary, historical, and philological sources that inspired the author in his creation of Middle-earth and the Undying Lands.”

Thank you David Day, I don’t think I could have described this book much better myself.

Travel Reads: "An Encyclopedia of Tolkien" by David Day


Title: An Encyclopedia of Tolkien: the History and Mythology of Middle-earth
By Author: David Day
Series: Also in this flexibound series: An Atlas of Tolkien, Heroes of Tolkien, A Dictionary of Tolkien, The Battles of Tolkien, The Dark Powers of Tolkien, and The Hobbits of Tolkien
Flexibound: 544 pages
Publisher: Canterbury Classics
ISBN-10: 1645170098
ISBN-13: 978-1645170099
Available on Amazon in Flexibound and Kindle editions. You can find it at other online and offline booksellers, as well.

An Encyclopedia of Tolkien: The History and Mythology That Inspired Tolkien’s World

Summary of An Encyclopedia of Tolkien

Author David Day is at it again. A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of perusing The Battles of Tolkien and although Day has written numerous books about Tolkien before, he still was able to bring his A-game to this title. As with any good encyclopedia, entries are arranged in alphabetical order from Aegir (a Norse nature spirit) to Zirakzigil (the great peak above the Dwarven city of Khazad-dum). There are also additional chapters of charts, on battles and sharing the three primary ring legends (Norse, German and Wagner’s).

What Worked for Me

As with the previous title I reviewed, this book is beautifully illustrated. Artists who contributed to this work include Ian Miller (known for his fantasy art in the gaming world), John Blanche (Fantasy and science fiction illustrator and modeler), and Victor Ambrus (Hungarian-British illustrator of history, folk tale, and animal story books).

So that you won’t confuse entries that relate to terms outside the Tolkienverse and those within, different formatting is used. External sources, such as “Fenrir” the wolf that kills Odin in Norse mythology, are in a plain font and flush left. Tolkien terms, such as “Mumakil or Mumak” the elephant-like animals used in battle by the Haradrim, are in a specialized font and indented.

Although there are numerous illustrations, they don’t take center stage. The information you would be seeking in an encyclopedia is given preference.

I love that he provides information on the three ring legends. I have heard of them before — I even have a copy of the Song of the Volsungs (which I haven’t read yet) — but he gives me all I really need to know about all three in just over 60 pages.

And, as I said in my review of one of his other titles, I love the Flexibound’s faux leather feel. Not only is it a pleasure to hold, but fits well the topic of the book. There’s even a ribbon bound into the book that you can use as a bookmark!

What Didn’t Work for Me

The names of the artists are listed in the beginning of the book, which means if you like a particular illustration, you have to do a little digging through that list. It seems to me that listing the artist’s name with their work wouldn’t have harmed the layout at all.

Speaking of illustrations, some of them do not translate well to black and white. Therefore, they are dark and it is difficult to make out any detail.

David Day’s writing can be a little academic at times — I have you a sample in the very first paragraph. Therefore, it may be a slog for some readers to go through the Introduction and some of the other longer chapters and entries.


The book’s dimensions of 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches make it easy enough to take on the road. The short entries make it perfect for reading on the go, at the doctor’s office or even in the bathroom. At 1 pound 14.2 ounces, the book won’t add too much weight to your luggage or carry-on either.


I think this is a Tolkien geeks fairyland. The comprehensive information in this tome will keep you engaged for hours. And the beautiful faux leather binding makes it book you’d be proud to have on your shelf and in your collection.

Score for An Encyclopedia of Tolkien: 4 Palm Trees out of 5 Possible

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Grab your copy on Amazon today.

NOTE: Although I received this book free to review, that did not affect my opinion of the book. Read past reviews of books I’ve received for free and you’ll know I don’t hold my punches.

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About the author

As The Genre Traveler, Carma Spence loves to view the world through Genre-Coloured glasses. In other words, she sees the world through a lens of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, where trash cans can be Daleks in disguise and neighborhood forests can harbor faeries and sprites. Magic realism is real! Or at least you can choose to see the world that way to add to the fun and awe of life.