People have been commenting on my blog concerning this book, so I am going to try and do this review justice. I thought this book was brilliant. I got it just a matter of days ago, and read the first chapter. I had planned to just read it chapter by chapter, but the book was so interesting that I found myself wanting to learn more.
The History of the Hobbit presents for the first time, in two volumes, the complete unpublished text of the original manuscript of J.R.R.Tolkien's The Hobbit, accompanied by John Rateliff's lively and informative account of how the book came to be written and published. As well as recording the numerous changes made to the story both before and after publication, it examines – chapter–by–chapter – why those changes were made and how they reflect Tolkien's ever–growing concept of Middle–earth.
The Hobbit was first published on 21 September 1937. Like its successor, The Lord of the Rings, it is a story that "grew in the telling", and many characters and story threads in the published text are completely different from what Tolkien first wrote to read aloud to his young sons as part of their "fireside reads".
As well as reproducing the original version of one of literature's most famous stories, both on its own merits and as the foundation for The Lord of the Rings, this new book includes many little–known illustrations and previously unpublished maps for The Hobbit by Tolkien himself. Also featured are extensive annotations and commentaries on the date of composition, how Tolkien's professional and early mythological writings influenced the story, the imaginary geography he created, and how Tolkien came to revise the book years after publication to accommodate events in The Lord of the Rings.
Like Christopher Tolkien's The History of The Lord of the Rings before it, this is a thoughtful yet exhaustive examination of one of the most treasured stories in English literature. Long overdue for a classic book now celebrating 70 years in print, this companion edition offers fascinating new insights for those who have grown up with this enchanting tale, and will delight those who are about to enter Bilbo's round door for the first time.
I remember getting The Hobbit. It was several years ago, and I had just finished reading The Lord of the Rings. My mother was going on a trip, and she always asks me for a book list. I mentioned wanting to read The Hobbit now that I had read the other books. My mother was on the plane, and seated beside her was a little boy and he was reading The Hobbit. My mother can talk to anyone, so she struck up a conversation with him and told him that he was reading the book that I wanted to read. When the plane landed, the little boy gave my mother the book! So, that is how I came to own The Hobbit. Cute story, huh?
John Rateliff's book is not exactly Tolkien, but that is not why I liked it so much. I think the book was so great because I feel like I know Tolkien now. I have read things on him, heard people talk about him, but it was by reading a book that explained why or possibly why Tolkien wrote The Hobbit the way that he did that I feel like I connected with a man that died several years ago. I read my fair share of non-fiction, but never have I felt like I have read so much. This book illuminated The Hobbit for me, but it also showed me things about other Tolkien works that I did not know, and I enjoyed learning.
Essentially what this book is is early versions of what became The Hobbit. Rateliff goes chapter by chapter and discusses the key things in each chapter, what was changed for the published works, why things were the way they were, and much more. The insight is amazing because I was reading one of my favourite books, by one of my favourite authors, but I was also getting inside his head at the same time. The things I learned are really interesting too, they are still running around in my mind after finishing the book a few hours ago. For example, Gandalf's name was originally Bladorthin, and Gandalf was originally the name of the chief dwarf, Thorin. Reading Tolkien's notes you can actually see where the change took place. I have to say, I like Gandalf much better... mainly because I can actually say it.
I want to say so much about this book, but at the same time, I do not want to reveal all Tolkien's secrets to everyone. I think Tolkien fans should read this book. I have always wanted to read The Annotated The Hobbit, but it is out of print. I no longer feel that way, this book was enough for me. The best thing was, some things were not changed between the manuscript and the actual published version, but readers just do not notice it. When you think of "The Ring" do you not think of it as evil? It was not evil in The Hobbit, though. It was just a ring that made Bilbo invisible. I read Lord of the Rings first, though, and I think I probably took the evilness from those books and transferred it to Bilbo's ring.
The book also includes never before seen drawings, plot notes, insights on how Tolkien writes (I mentioned it on my other blog, he writes in pencil and then to correct, he writes over it with pen. He was very thrifty, but then The Hobbit was written in the 30's), discussion of the languages that are the basis of the names in the book, a look at the what inspired him in the real world to write these scenes, and so much more. I honestly cannot wait for the sequel because I really want to know "the rest of the story".
Rateliff has a fantastic book here, Tolkien helped of course, and I hope that other people can see that as well. He ties The Hobbit in with other works so you get the larger picture, not just one book.