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The Dark Powers of Tolkien

(Tolkien Illustrated Guides)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  352 ratings  ·  45 reviews
A compendium of villains of Middle-earth.

The vast fictional universe of J. R. R. Tolkien contains many dark terrors to challenge the forces of good. This compendium of villains includes battle timelines, genealogy charts for creature races, striking illustrations, and well-researched commentary on the evil forces that dwell in Middle-earth. The unique, heat-burnished cover
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 26th 2019 by Thunder Bay Press (first published October 9th 2018)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  352 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Valentina Markasović

Tolkien: no Nazis
Everyone else, including Christopher Tolkien and David Day: everyone is a Nazi, except for Sam and the Elves

Tolkien's character: *exists*
A randomly generated person in history or mythology who shares one (1) characteristic with Tolkien's character: *exists*
David Day: This historical/mythological person directly influenced Tolkien's writing, but I'm not going to give you any proof about it

I could go on but I mentally gave up around the time when Day equaled Aragorn with Emperor J
Jocelin Willshaw
Another David Day book another average review, once again I find myself torn between aesthetic and the quality of writing. Whilst The Dark Powers of Tolkien is a visually stunning book adorned with wonderful illustrations and an embossed faux leather cover it isn’t much more than a handheld walk through Middle Earth’s darker landscapes.

It does offer some interesting parallels between Tolkien’s lore and possible inspirations including Norse and Greek mythology but many of the points are quite sh
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brief review will be on my Instagram account
Charley Robson
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tolkienism
Another lovely piece of work by Mr Day! While it won't contain anything that long-standing fans won't already know, the X Of Tolkien series continue to be a gorgeous little companion set, outlining key people, themes, and sources of inspiration for the Professor and his world.

This one is a particular favourite for me, as it covers some of the most contentious - and simultaneously intriguing - parts of Tolkien's mythos; evil, and its manifestations. Everything from orcs to trolls to Morgoth himse
Jan 24, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, 3-stars, fantasy, tolkien
3/5 Stars (%60/100)

I had a hard time rating this book. The cover is beautiful, the whole design of the book is brilliant and there are dozens of pretty illustrations together with maps, timelines, and so forth. Visually, the book is stunning and can be a great piece for Tolkien lovers. However, I have to admit that the things discussed in the book are not very great. Starting from Melkor and going all the way to the Third Age, Day compares the evil figures in Tolkien's works with figures from Gr
Nathanael Crisp
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick read with some gorgeous illustrations. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is new to Tolkien’s world, or who has read the books but not delved between the lines too much.

However, for any experienced Tolkien scholar this book may be too basic, and some sections focus more on retelling events than on the powers themselves. Minor spelling mistakes and occasionally questionable connections are minor gripes but regardless the book is highly enjoyable and informative on both Tolkien’s word and
Bookteafull (Danny)
Skim-Read, so no rating.

SUPERB pictures and really informative and engaging work on Tolkien's portrayals of evil and sources of inspiration. Definitely a future pick for the book club I cohost with Mads, @AnUnexpectedRead on insta.

*Picked up and skim-read initially to figure out if the novel would be a good choice for the club next year. Wanted to make sure the content wasn't dry af lol - and it wasn't! Yay!
Allan Williams
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice place to start if Christopher Tolkien’s explorations are too daunting for you. Not much here for anyone who has already started digging into the old bones of JRR Tolkien’s work. My copy has a very nice leather cover and the book is filled with plenty of delightful art.
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. Traces the conscious and perhaps subconscious inspiration to Tolkien's work. ...more
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Beautiful illustrations and binding. Interesting insight into Tolkien’s realm and characters from the perspective of their inspiration. Some greater detail would’ve made it better.
Simon Pelletier
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very instructive if not repetitive at parts.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read with some stunning illustrations
Aug 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: my-library
The book initially stirred my interest when it promised to focus on the evil characters from the Legendarium. As an avid Tolkien fan and admitted fan of Melkor, I felt this book would be a good read. David Day, however, immediately ignores Tolkien's disdain for allegory as he stretches to draw parallels between Tolkien's mythology and the Judaeo-Christian mythos. Day seemingly cannot wait to re-write the Ainulindalë in a fashion all too similar to the story of Lucifer's fall as he has read in Mi ...more
Dec 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5/5 - More of a reference book than a cover to cover read. There were a couple of conspicuous typos and some of the illustrations were a bit cheesy and lacked any ‘Tolkien-essence’. It was, however, interesting to read about the numerous mythologies that inspired Tolkien’s work- despite the fact that some were a bit far fetched. Overall a good read and a cool way to further one’s knowledge in Tolkien lore.
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
The Dark Powers of Tolkien is a part of a series from David Day that tries to talk about the meaning and origins of Tolkiens characters, world, etc.

First and foremost - This book is gorgeous! From the cover until the last page this book took my breath away with the amazing art. The artists and designers involved in the making of this book really do deserve praise. Now onto the content however..

The way the written part of this book is built up is basically 40% of interesting canon information
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book about Tolkien and his Middle Earth saga that I've read. David Day illuminates both the sources to Tolkien's inspiration as well as Tolkien's own creative originality. Reading it has motivated me to read some of the myths that helped inspire Tolkien for myself. The artwork and timelines in the book are worth the price alone. I'm not sure if there is an electronic version of the book, but this is one that you need in your hands. Even the cover work is attractive and far super ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second book I've gotten from David Day about Tolkien's Middle-Earth (the first being The Atlas of Middle-Earth). Both come with wonderful illustrations and great information. This is a bit more in-depth out of universe than the previous one which was mostly all in-universe.

Reading up on some of the influences, mythologies, and legends that Tolkien used to create the various monsters/realms/ideas behind his writing was fascinating.

This is a fast, quick, engaging read for anyone interested or
Garance J. Bonadonna (The Nerdy Artivist)

First of all, this book is gorgeous. The cover is soft and old school, the illustrations inside are diverse and incredible. I don't regret buying it because it's a real joy to have it on my shelves. I'm thinking about buying the other books in this collection just for the beauty of it.

In terms of content, it's quite basic information. I think die hard fans will find it a little too basic. But for me it was perfect because I know the universe of the movies very well but not the universe
Yochanan Brody
May 22, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this as part of a box set.
I read this book second, after reading "The Hobbits of Tolkien" so I was prepared for an interesting read about the source of creatures, their descriptions, and the etymology of their names...
When I finished this book, I found myself checking the book's bindings, sure that the same guy couldn't have written them...
The entire book is bland and reads like a series of Wikipedia entries that haven't even been edited or proofread.
There are many mistakes and omission
Taylor Rollo
Another helpful reference book from Day for Tolkien fans. This one shows the mythological background in Tolkien's creation of his mythology--background from Norse, English, Greek and other mythologies. Yet, as the author says at the end:
"Tolkien's art is by no means mere imitation... [it] is a highly realized and originally conceived novel that has renewed, invigorated and finally reinvented the ring quest for the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries."
I think Tolkien's will work will live far b
Susan Ferguson
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paperback, 2019
A very interesting look at sources for Tolkien's evil beings in The Lord of the Rings. I was unaware of all the possible sources (mythology from all around the world) and found it instructive. The book is very well researched and no broad sweeping mistakes concerning the Lord of the Rings. The only quibble I had was where he claimed the Istari all had long white beards - where Gandalf's was originally grey (Greybeard was one of the names he was called).
Worth the read.
Jason Roberts
First and foremost, the art work is amazing and the maps/timeline are well planned out. That’s where it kinda ends really.. Where it does history of the characters, it’s rather basic. It spends more time focusing on the parallels between Christian icons and Middle Earth icons. As well the Norse and Geek mythology themes/icons. Which is well and good, but it comes off as Sunday school lesson and I found myself loosing interest after awhile.
The rest of the review is at
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is now the third book I have read in this collection, and I have found them all incredibly interesting. This book looks specifically at the dark powers within Middle Earth, and it is interesting to know where Tolkien may have got his inspiration from. As I also enjoy reading about Greek and Norse mythology, this was a great read.
A beautifully illustrated book that takes a look at the Dark Powers in Tolkien's Middle-Earth books. David Day also makes several comparisons between Tolkien's "bad guys" and various mythologies throughout the work, some of which are rather superficial. If you are a Tolkien fan, you won't find anything new in this book, but the illustrations and timelines are nice. ...more
Lance Johnson
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is beautiful, but the writing is slightly simpler than I had hoped. It was still quite good, but it was more like a taster than a full on meal. The book is chock full of art, which is gorgeous. The connections to real life mythology and history are interesting and well worth reading. Overall, I recommend this book.
Michael Davison
Not great. Very basic information without almost any in-depth analysis. This is a good book if you’re someone who has never read any Tolkien material, otherwise it’s just a short book with lots of illustrations and charts. Not terrible, just not really worth the read if you’ve simply seen the movies.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is a beautifully-produced, gorgeously-illustrated tour through the dark side of Middle Earth. It's thought-provoking and meaningful, though it's not meant to be academic or scholarly. The book as a physical object is a delight to hold, and the art is alluring. It's nice to know others are drawn to the darker side of Tolkien as well! ...more
Kurt Vosper
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book about the world of Tolkien by David Day. The books is a beautiful book with a wonderful leather cover. The inside covers many of the evil characters that form the world of Tolkien. Interesting notes on where he found his inspiration for some of his characters and ideas in mythology of our world.
James Miller
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid account of some of the myths behind Tolkien's works. At times more is assumed of the reader's knowledge than one might expect (Gyges' ring for instance is not general knowledge) and the pictures are of varying quality. Still it's good fun. ...more
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brief, yet comprehensive over-view of Tolkien’s villains, this book is great for a lazy Sunday afternoon for any fantasy fan or for readers wishing to deepen their knowledge of Middle Earth. I love this series of companion books and always look forward to the next ones!
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David Day (b. 14 October 1947 in Victoria, British Columbia) is a Canadian author of over forty books: poetry, natural history, ecology, mythology, fantasy, and children's literature. Internationally he is most notably known for his literary criticism on J. R. R. Tolkien and his works.

After finishing high school in Victoria, British Columbia, Day worked as a logger for five years on Vancouver Isla

Other books in the series

Tolkien Illustrated Guides (7 books)
  • A Tolkien Bestiary
  • Tolkien: An Illustrated Atlas
  • The Battles of Tolkien
  • The Heroes of Tolkien
  • The Hobbits of Tolkien
  • Ring Legends of Tolkien

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