David Colbert,
The Magical Worlds
of the Lord of the Rings

(Berkley, 2002)

Subtitled The Amazing Myths, Legends & Facts Behind the Masterpiece, this book was obviously put together with the audience in mind that has been only now exposed to J.R.R. Tolkien's work through the latest film treatment. For instance, the final chapter discusses Frodo's actions in Mordor, and since Peter Jackson has not yet put his vision of this on the silver screen, the chapter is segmented off as a "spoiler."

Author David Colbert knows how to write this sort of book, as he also has the successful The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter to his credit. However, even the would-be Tolkien scholar and hardcore fan with well-worn and half-memorized copies of all the books in the series will find this volume interesting. The index, bibliography and glossary make for handy entrances to the book, which is laid out like an encyclopedia.

Colbert initially places the Tolkien mythology into the greater sphere of ancient European and Near Eastern mythologies. Some of his connections are pretty tenuous and could be good fodder for heated debate among those that appreciate Joseph Campbell as much as Tolkien. The inspiration from Tolkien's knowledge of ancient English and North European lore is well-trodden ground for the initiated, but Colbert presents it in an easy-to-read manner with plenty of line drawings that will be entertaining for any reader, whether they just saw the movie or can quote Gandalf chapter and verse.

- Rambles
written by Tom Schulte
published 1 March 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.