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The History of the Hobbit Hardcover – October 26, 2007

4.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John D. Rateliff is a writer, editor, and independent scholar. For many years, he worked with the Tolkien manuscripts at Marquette University and has written extensively on Tolkien and the Inklings. He lives in Seattle with his family.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Box Slp edition (October 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618964401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618964406
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 3.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,406,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Bilbo Baggins just wants to live his quiet, peaceful life in the Shire. And he's doing a mighty fine job of it until the great wizard, Bladorthin, shows up at his door with a gaggle of dwarves. Their leader, Gandalf, tells of the vicious dragon, Pryftan, who overtook their home. Bilbo joins up with them for a grand adventure. Ultimately he saves the day and along the way happens to discover a magical ring.

That is how the story originally took shape.

With THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT, author John D. Rateliff pieces together fragments of history in order to present THE HOBBIT as it was originally drafted by J.R.R. Tolkien. With access to the documents at Marquette University, the project was originally undertaken by Taum Santoski, who passed away following a battle with cancer at an all-too-young age. The torch was then passed to Rateliff with the full blessing of Christopher Tolkien.

Some of Tolkien's original papers have been lost to time. Seventy years is quite a period to have anything stashed away. The opening page, featuring the handwritten line "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit," is one of those long-lost pages, but for the most part, a rather complete version of the initial draft of this book can be pieced together. In essence, THE HOBBIT is a phenomenal read for a number of reasons.

On one level, it gives readers the first look at the origins of legend. This is how Tolkien originally viewed his mythical Middle-earth before it grew into THE LORD OF THE RINGS. These characters bore different names, endured different hardships and took on other roles. Gollum, in the original vision, held to his end of the riddle game and, after losing, shows Bilbo the way out of the mountain.
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Format: Hardcover
In this very lovely boxed set the fortunate reader gets the 70th anniversary edition of The Hobbit, the first American edition that I know of to contain Christopher Tolkien's own introduction (written originally for the British 50th anniversary edition in 1987). This edition also contains all the latest text corrections and all of JRR Tolkien's own line and color illustrations, which are far superior to the work of any other artist who has depicted the worlds of Middle earth.

Besides The Hobbit itself, this set also contains the two volume History of the Hobbit by John D. Rateliff. This is a masterwork containing complete texts of the different versions of The Hobbit written by Tolkien over the years, from a first draft created originally from stories he told his children to a very late revision planned to bring the book more in line with The Lord of the Rings. Rateliff also provides some fascinating notes and many intriguing essays throughout the two volumes (Mr. Baggins and Return to Bag End).

All three volumes are beautifully printed and bound, with lovely jackets inspired by Tolkien's own drawings. This will be a gift bound to please Tolkien lovers and anyone who treasures finely crafted books.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This boxed set will be appreciated by any hard-core Tolkien fan. It contains a two-volume set about the History of The Hobbit, and the 2007 edition of the novel. All three books are beautifully designed and bound.

The Hobbit novel is the first American edition to feature Tolkien's color illustrations made for the book, the latest round of typographic corrections, and an introduction by Christopher Tolkien. The endpapers are color reproductions of Thorin's map of the Lonely Mountain, another first for an American edition. And the dust jacket is produced with Tolkien's original design in mind with a red sun and dragon, and pink tint on the mountains, which were removed from the original design due to money concerns.

Fans of The Hobbit have heard for decades now how Tolkien rewrote the book after completion of the Lord of the Rings, in order to bring the two stories in line with each other. Until now, only people lucky enough to find a copy of the British first edition have been able to know how extensive the changes were. The History of the Hobbit not only recreates the original draft of the story, but points out how the story evolved and changed. For example, the ring was, originally, just a magic ring and not the One Ring. In fact, the ruling rings didn't even exist in Tolkien's history of the Middle Earth at the time The Hobbit was first written. The Hobbit wasn't even conceived as a part of the Tolkien universe, but was intended to stand apart and alone. J. R. R. Tolkien changed his mind about that when The Hobbit proved a best seller.

The author gives The Hobbit the same extensive treatment that Christopher Tolkien gave The Lord of the Rings in his History of Middle Earth series.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to admit that on my first glance at this, I was expecting disappointment - because, while it followed the format of Christopher Tolkien's ten-volume "History of Middle Earth," it was not BY that esteemed Professor of Anglo-Saxon, and therefore could not be as good. Believe me, I got over it quickly! Rateliff, who repeatedly mentions his debt to the younger Tolkiens, as well as to Tolkien scholars like Tom Shippey, has done a superb job of tracking down how Mr. Baggins started out at his doorstep in the 1930s with a wizard named Bladorthin and a dwarf-king named Gandalf (a dwarf by that name does appear in Sturlasson's "Voluspa," the source of most of Tolkien's dwarf names) and ended up back at Bag End somewhat wiser and richer in the 1960s with a wizard named Gandalf and the memory of a heroic dwarf-king named Thorin.

The history of "The Hobbit" itself is fascinating, the history of how it interwove with the developing mythology of "Lord of the Rings" and the "Silmarillion" even more so. But there are also detached analytical essays scattered throughout, on subjects like the goblins/orcs, Beorn, the Great Eagles and Tolkien's attitude towards spiders, which are unexpected bonuses, as well as the revelation that Gollum originally was not only more well-spoken but somewhat nicer than he later became.

One very minor niggle (unaccompanied by leaf): in his essay on Beorn, Rateliff mentions that the Middle Earth equivalent of Grizzly Adams was of indefinite but probably immense age, and in fact was a "leftover from an older world" -- but then died shortly after Bilbo's adventure, according to LOTR.
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