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The History of the Hobbit, Part 1: Mr. Baggins Hardcover – September 21, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
We find that the wizard Galdalf was first named Bladorthin. Thorin was originally named Gandalf, the dwarf. Even Smaug was once Pryftan. Why these names evolved and much much more make "The History of the Hobbit," a great read for mere fans, philologists, as well as certified literary critics of Professor Tolkien.
Each chapter-length section of early drafts by Tolkien is enhanced with excellent text notes about these fragments. Following these sections of The Hobbit, Rateliff presents notes on the characters, geography, and types of magic encountered in Middle Earth.
Because these commentaries are so engrossing, it is tempting to jump around. If you are a riddle-lover, than jumping to the chapter on Gollum is a must. Rateliff provides sumptuous and intriguing tidbits about riddles written in Old English as well as in Mother Goose. If the background of the Ring tickles your wonderment, then we find sources ranging from Plato's Republic to H.G. Wells' Invisible Man, as well as many other influences.
Like the winding path Bilbo takes, under mountains and through the air, readers of "The History of The Hobbit," will find that they will want to visit all the spots that Bilbo did with greater understanding and renewed joy.
One of the problems i have here is unsubstantiated claims based on opinion and not fact by the author being influenced by Dunsany. Had this been the case i think Christopher Tolkien would have at least mentioned it in passing in his series of books edited from his fathers manuscripts.
As long as you can separate fact from inference in reading this book i think you will enjoy it. I would have preferred Christopher Tolkien's version to be in the history of middle earth series, but since he decided not to do the hobbit this is the second best option.
A mistake on his part i believe since John Rateliff's two books on the history of the hobbit illuminate the connections it has to the rest of tolkien's legendarium. Particularly evidenced in connection to the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings.
I would have prefered a more in depth dicussion of tolkien's love of the norse sagas and his connection to the Beowulf poet.
But i supposed a beowulf gloss can wait the clamored for but not released tolkien translation of beowulf if it ever is released.