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.