06 December 2012

David Day's 'The Hobbit Companion' - a Review

When I first heard about David Day’s The Hobbit Companion, I was expecting just that – a companion volume to either Tolkien’s story or Peter Jackson’s film adaptations. However, when I opened my copy –a beautiful hardcover edition featuring some unique, eye-catching artwork by Dutch artist Lidia Postma – I was pleasantly surprised: instead of simply following the storyline of Tolkien’s book or Peter Jackson’s films, Day’s book focuses on the “verbal hocus-pocus” Tolkien used in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

In essence, it is all about language and how Tolkien utilised it to create a story revolving around the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Day presents us with the “chicken and egg” riddle in his chapter on Bilbo: does a name describe its owner, or does the owner inspire the name? This becomes something of a recurring theme within the book, although as we progress, Day’s focus goes from the Hobbits to the other characters within the story, showing us how language helped create their roles.

Regardless of whether or not you have any interest in language or linguistics, this is definitely a book worth reading. It is a remarkable attempt to see into the mind of the man who “discovered” Middle-earth and its inhabitants. In reading it, we gain some insight as to how the mythologies of other cultures inspired Tolkien, although it is sometimes unclear whether a given explanation has actually been made by Tolkien, or if it is just conjecture on Day’s part. 

While Day’s enthusiasm is rampant throughout, it still feels a bit impersonal when reading. One thing I would have liked to have seen is a preface by the author, or even a paragraph “About the Author” at the end of the book. Day has written many books on Tolkien, but aside from citing one of them in his Bibliography, there’s no mention of any of them.

Minor quibbles aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Despite not being a step-by-step guide to The Hobbit, The Hobbit Companion will nonetheless provide you with a greater appreciation for the time and care Tolkien put into his stories. I look forward to reading whatever Day comes out with next.  


About the Author

David Day is a Canadian poet and author of over forty books, ranging from ecology to fantasy. He is widely known for his numerous Tolkien-related books, including A Tolkien Bestiary and Tolkien’s Ring.

For more information about David, visit his website at David Day Books

You can also find him on Twitter: @DavidDayBooks.

3 comments:

  1. Great review! I'm looking forward to getting this book. I'm a big David Day fan from way back. Check out his other new book Nevermore. http://tinyurl.com/asrfs7a

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  3. I think, after the Bestiary guide, fans shunned David Day. I only recently got that book and sought for review of it before reading. So far, I read resentments and accusations to Day's part. After having read the book, I began more to understand the purpose of the author. There is a preface of it explaining his intention and focus, albeit discreetly. It looked to me pardonable to excuse his personal claims on providing extensive inference of the creation. It is an informative book, but not 100% accurate, and can prove deceptive especially to beginners and casual readers. It's crucial you read Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Silmarillion, and Adventures of Tom Bombadil beforehand - from where most his data were based on - before reading the Bestiary. It is a guide for principal terms and imaginative and speculative creation. I would not call it a reference book; simply, a book for hobbyist as it was written by a half-scholar half-enthusiast David Day. Now, coming from that perspective, I am not condemning the works of Day, though I am a little bewildered where he gets his info from, outside any thing else of the books by Tolkien. It is said we find this blunder in his The Hobbit Companion. But I think I am not green enough to decipher the wrong info from the Truth. I am primarily buying it for its art. And from your review, it definitely intrigued me more. I am a sucker for word-play, and it had been made apparent on Tolkien's letter to his friend Milton in the book Silmarillion, that linguistics (aesthetically speaking) is the plot formula and foundation of Tolkien's work. I, myself, am interested on this process, and personally, what attracted my mind and heart to Tolkien. It is kind of sad that we do not get citations for Day's claims once again. I would really like to know if it was from Tolkien's part or just another speculation on Day's imagination (I don't know what the heck goes around his head). Nevertheless, you were right; interesting is as interesting does. I think I'll be in for a treat. Thank you for this informative review!

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