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on January 2, 2013
Some of the reviews of this translation call for a response. A book like this ought above all to be judged on the basis of how nearly it attains its goals. First of all, then, some of the complaints can be dispensed with. The price of the kindle edition or the absence of the English text are irrelevant to how good the book is. (N.B. If an Amazon description says "Latin and English", this means nothing more than that the book contains Latin, and that it contains English. It does not imply that is a dual-language edition of the text, unless it explicitly says so.)

As for its being "bad latin" or "a latin catastrophe", I think such complaints overlook the purpose of the translation. One reviewer complains, "This is not the experience of Neo-Latin that one finds in Winnie Ille Pu or Harrius Potter." But that's not a problem, because the translator was not aiming at such an experience. Take the first example: Winnie Ille Pu is a more elegant and finely crafted text than this one. But it's also a kind of joke: in a letter to Roger Lancelyn Green, C.S. Lewis calls it "a Latin version of a children's book in such extremely advanced Latin that only an adult could possibly read it". For goodness' sake, it has notes giving precedents for its expressions from Virgil and Apuleius and Greek derivations of certain terms in its glossary. It's the literary equivalent of a teddy bear sculpted in immaculate marble: a thing of beauty, perhaps, but a thing to be admired rather than used; just as a marble teddy bear cannot be played with by children like a plush one, but will sit on an adult's desk and remind him of his childhood, Winnie Ille Pu is of no use to the Latinate neophyte, but provides a pleasing diversion for those whose scholarship is already well advanced. The goal of Hobbitus Ille is entirely different from this: the translator states that his aim is not to write in a Roman idiom but to provide copious easy reading material while presenting Tolkien's words as faithfully and comprehensively as possible. This he does very well. The book sticks very close to the original and is very easy to read.

Is the Latin "bad"? It is certainly unclassical. Latin teachers cannot hold it up for emulation when teaching their students how to compose "correctly". But the avowed point of the translation is not to provide a model of style or idiom, but to say what Tolkien says, in Latin. The fact is that "bad", that is, simple and unclassical, Latin, can be much easier to read than idiomatically correct Latin; and that in order to learn to read fluently one must read a vast amount, and in order to do this easily one must have a vast amount of engaging and fun and easy reading material. The best material for the learner to practice on is not Virgil or Cicero, and also not Winnie Ille Pu and Harrius Potter, but things like the Vulgate Bible or the Historia Apollonii Regis Tyri or the Gesta Romanorum, medieval texts whose Latin is "bad" in exactly the ways that Hobbitus Ille is. Everything complained of here about the Anglicisms, odd syntax, etc., in Hobbitus, applies at least as strongly, ceteris paribus, to the Vulgate, the most widely-read and influential text in the entire Latin corpus. If Hobbitus is written in "Linglish" then the Vulgate is written in "Lebrew"; but to suggest that the Vulgate isn't really Latin, or that it shouldn't be read, or that it will corrupt its readers, is (I would hope self-evidently) absurd. Those of us who have read as much or more medieval Latin as classical Latin will be used to the charms and oddities of its departures from classical norms, and even enjoy them, and I enjoyed Hobbitus Ille in the same way. It's a children's book, in a Latin that a relative novice could read with relative ease, a toy, not a marble simulacrum of one.

All that said, the translation is certainly not perfect even on its own terms. There are outright errors, and strange and disconcerting choices. I don't know why Walker insists on translating "smoke-rings" as "corona fumi" or always says "homines" for "folk" or "people"; examples like this could be multiplied. "Gandalphus" is an abomination, I think (look at what Tom Shippey has to say about reviewers who mistake "Gandalf" for "Gandalph" in his "Author of the Century"), and translating "elves" as "nymphae" or "dryades" is indefensible. My Smith-Hall "Copious and Critical Latin-English Dictionary" tentatively suggests "nympha" as a possible translation of "fairy", but any connotation of "fairies" would be abhorrent to Tolkien; and Roman nymphs are just not like elves. For "elf" Smith-Hall suggests no decent equivalent, giving merely "numen quoddam phantasticum"; in Susanna Clarke's "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell", the elvish "gentleman" is addressed in Latin as "Lar", which on the whole seems to me like a better option.

Such complaints are carping, however. Tolkien says in his essay "On Translating Beowulf", "Perhaps the most important function of any translation used by a student is to provide not a model of imitation, but an exercise for correction. The publisher of a translation cannot often hedge, or show all the variations that have occurred to him; but the presentation of one solution should suggest other and (perhaps) better ones. The effort to translate, or to improve a translation, is valuable, not so much for the version it produces, as for the understanding of the original which it awakes." Noticing how I might translate otherwise than Walker, then, is good for my awareness of both English and Latin, and no reason to reject the translation wholesale, especially given that it's the only one that exists. For myself I would love to see a translation of The Lord of the Rings (done in a higher style, just as its English is higher than that of The Hobbit), taking as its linguistic models neither the classical Latin of Winnie Ille Pu nor the vulgar medieval semi-dog-Latin of Hobbitus Ille, but that of such forbears as Bede, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and Saxo Grammaticus.
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on September 23, 2012
It is a huge task to translate such a classic novel as "The Hobbit" into Latin, and the translator should be commended for attempting it. Unfortunately, however, he is clearly not up to it, seeing that literally every page contains basic grammatical errors, such as

* erroneous usage of words; consider, for example, the sentence "paene in aliquo loco paene ex aliquo, cum uento aut nullo, nani ignem accendere possunt". (In the original: "Dwarves can make a fire almost anywhere out of almost anything, wind or no wind.") The main problem is that "aliquis" simply does not mean "any" in this sense; it means "some". So the Latin translates to "Dwarves can make a fire almost in some place, almost out of some thing..." (or even "... from some place"; the meaning is unclear.) Poor dwarves!

* faulty morphology: "utamus" instead of "utamur", "ulterias" in place of "ulteriores", "eum" once when it should be "id", "arboris suis" instead of "arboris suae", "reficeri" for "refici", to name just a few examples. (To be fair, note that these are isolated mistakes, and that the forms are not consistently faulty throughout.)

* non-Latin constructions and syntax: for example, "epistolium tuum non accepi quoad decem atque quinque quadraginta, exactum esse." (Original: "I didn't get your note until after 10.45 to be precise.") That is not the way to indicate the time in Latin, and "to be precise" can not be rendered with an infinitive in Latin when the meaning is "in order for me to be precise."

As another example we can take the admonishment "silly time to go practising pinching and pocket-picking...", which is rendered as "tempus stultum fuit ad exercendum furantem et subripientem e sinibus", revealing a confusion of English gerunds and present participles (a recurring problem).

* the hallmark of a bad translation, literally translated English idioms, such as "tange et i!" as a translation of "touch and go!" (an idiomatic expression meaning "precarious"), and "hoc non prorsum bene facit!" for "This won't do at all!"

These are just a few examples; many more can be supplied. All in all, the book throughout reads as the work of an ambitious student, yet one with little experience of writing in Latin, and indeed with little insight in what it entails to make an idiomatic translation into any language at all. A huge disappointment, to say the least. In short, avoid this book.
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on March 5, 2013
I appreciate the comments that ponted out the flaws in this translation. Some of them seem petty to me, some legitimate and made me wince. A translator needs to translate concepts and not try to transliterate words. Using gerundd where particlples belong, or vice versa, is unfortunate, especially when you consider the fact that Tolkien was a philologist and could have written the book in Latin himself had he had a mind to do so. It would be best not to make too many errors.

Still, I found the book to be very entertainng...especially the poetry. It's fun to read aloud. As for being instructive, the book comes through on that score, too. I'm pleased to have bought the book. I highly recommend it. For those who bought it simpy to add to their Tolkien collection, use it as an opportunity to learn some Latin yourself. There are resourcs online to help you do so. A book untouched on a shelf has very little life. It's like a hobbit in a hole that has no adventures.
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on December 3, 2012
Sadly, the Latin in this translation is a complete disaster. Even basic grammatical mistakes are not infrequent, but real Latinity is altogether absent. Latin idiom is everywhere replaced with solecism. There are countless errors that would never make it past an introductory course in Latin composition!

This is a great loss. What we have here is a text that we could never give to students, because nothing in the text is trustworthy or able to be imitated. I'm personally reluctant to read another page of it, for fear my Latin might be seriously harmed. One chapter of this thing and you might just forget that direct objects should be in the accusative!

Perhaps we can hope Harper would consider republishing it if they could find a translator familiar with Latin.
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on December 16, 2012
Ok, let's dispense with the infelicities in the Latin (as other reviewers have indicated). Are there some? Yes. Are they on purpose? Yes. Why would the translator do that? Because he is trying to recreate Tolkien's style, which is quite distinct in English, in a Latin setting. Thus you get some things that seem distinctly un-Latin. Is it out of place? Of course not, The Hobbit is a thoroughly English story. Walker would have been failing Tolkien and the story had he chosen to ignore its unique--how to call it?--Anglitas. The remaining infelicities would have been caught if this hadn't been a Latin translation (i.e. a language with a bigger market and correspondingly bigger editorial budget).

The translation is fun and accessible to students at post-beginner stages of Latin. The great part is that it is not too demanding on strange vocabulary--and Walker provides a good glossary for all of those words, so points there. The other nice thing, as long as you're aware of the Anglitas of the Latin, it's great extensive reading--and Latin is sorely lacking in extensive reading that is fun and not too hard.

It's in Latin and it's fun. What more can you want?
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on October 25, 2014
It's a rather impressive translation but I feel like the book probably should have been proof-read one more time. Occasional spelling errors (about once every two or three chapters) cause confusion and improper use of the word "cum" is very prevalent.
Overall though, the translation does a good enough job that you can understand the story and enjoy it in Latin. Good for a for fun read, but not for introducing new Latin students.
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on July 3, 2014
This could have been a lot of fun, but it's going to grate on your Latinity for a few reasons:

1. No macra are employed. Therefore if you're still in the stage where you need macra, this book will prove far more difficult than it should have.
2. Translator does not employ capital letters at the beginning of sentences. See, 'cause the ancient Romans didn't! Get it? (Er, if we're going to be so faithful, why are we then employing question marks, quotation marks, exclamation points, line-breaking hyphens, and the division of our thoughts into paragraphs? The ancient Romans didn't!) Sheesh. It's like the translator was afraid there might be ancient Romans around who might read this and get offended from the lack of fidelity.
3. In the same vein, the translator uses "u" for consonantal "v" and vocalic "u". 'Cause the ancient Romans didn't! Get it? This is going to prove a constant distraction and annoyance that yields no countervailing advantage.

I agree with the other Latinists here: this translation needs to be redone.
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on May 12, 2014
Wonderful book for all of those who love Tolkien, and are intrigued by Latin. I purchased this for my daughter, and she's in seventh heaven.
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on May 23, 2015
This is such a unique book. Latin scholars may quibble over his neologisms but I love that it exists and find it more than just readable.w
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on October 7, 2014
The Latin has some issues. It's way too close to the English grammar and syntax, and one hopes to see a more Latin-appropriate style. I'd compare Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis to this to explain what I mean; that translation is solid, idiomatic Latin, but with stylistic choices that echo the lively, chatty tone of Rowling. This is more like someone's trying to stick as close to the English original as possible without trying to come up with a Latin tone that's the same combination of old-school British chattiness you get from Tolkien. (Letters of Cicero would be a good start.)

This kind of Latin prose comp is OK for student compositions (I don't mean to say this is THAT bad - again, the translator clearly knows the rules and follows them), but not for professional translations. It's like listening to a well educated non-native speaking; it'll be comprehensible and technically correct, but full of weird turns of phrases that an advanced Latin reader will notice.
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