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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
The Hobbit: Pocket Edition
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on May 26, 2009
13 May 2011 - I got an email from Amazon and on my response with "YES" the corrected version of this text downloaded to my Kindle, finally!!! just short of 2 years after I first complained about it. Spot checks show that errors I had noted before are in fact really corrected. Finally a readable version!

Text of my original rant-review follows unmodified "for historical purposes".


I've read the whole of LOTR over and over since I first got a secondhand copy of the BB edition in 1969. I have been known to describe it as "the best book ever written".

But here is a one-star (really, zero star) review FOR A PARTICULAR PRODUCT.

That product is this Harper Collins Kindle Edition.

It is littered with typographical errors and dropouts. How bitterly ironic to find those starting in the preface in the explanation of the effort to arrive at a definitive text!

LOTR expert readers will be enraged.
Newcomers will be baffled.
Harper Collins editors should be jailed for gross negligence: no one could have ever proof read even the first 10 pages of this waste product and allowed it to be published; we can only conclude that THEY NEVER LOOKED AT THE PRODUCT THEY ARE SELLING HERE.

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on January 29, 2008
"The Hobbit" is many things. It is an inspirational coming-of-age tale, starring a reluctant hero who is made of tougher stuff than he realizes. It is a classic--perhaps timeless--children's tale that adults enjoy more so than the younger audience, especially in modern times. It is an epic fantasy tale that has influenced the genre--along with The Lord of the Rings--more than any other book. However, it is not--in my opinion--perfect.

The biggest complaint you'll find about "The Hobbit" is that the prose is 'too descriptive.' You'll see many Tolkien-enthusiasts bashing those who think that, insinuating that those reviewers who dislike Tolkien's style are simply too stupid to properly understand it. I, however, disagree. It all comes down to a matter of taste and, for me (at times), Tolkien's highly descriptive prose bogs the story down a bit too much. However, not a sentence in this story can be deemed "bad," because the writing--whether you consider it too descriptive or 'just right'--is beautiful. His talent for describing both landscape and character is immense, and will leave any high-fantasy fan more than satisfied.

"The Hobbit" is undoubtedly a beautiful book. As I said, I wouldn't call it perfect, but the story of Bilbo Baggins and his epic adventure is at the very least a "must-have." I recommend you buy it in hardcover, preferably the Alan Lee Illustrated Edition, so it will last through the ages.

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on January 5, 2009
I know it's heresy to give Tolkien anything less than a 5. He is the undisputed Lord and Master of the contemporary fantasy genre, from whom all subsequent attempts are somehow derivative. No one has since been able to write speculative fiction without owing Tolkien a great debt. But, while Middle Earth is certainly more complex than Hogwarts, those who sneered at JK Rowling's godawful prose stylings might want to take a look back at Tolkien's first novel.
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on December 16, 2001
Okay, I know I'm setting myself up for a lot of flack by giving "The Hobbit" only three stars, but I don't think these reviews are worth much unless you're willing to be perfectly honest about your opinions...even if those opinions happen to be different than those of everyone else on the planet, or in the solar system. So here goes.
I'm twenty-eight, and I've been a huge fan of horror and sci-fi books and movies since I was about 12. I haven't read much in the way of fantasy fiction, however, even though it's such a closely related sibling to the two genres I love so dearly. As a kid, I loved the Narnia books, and I recently enjoyed the Harry Potter series quite a bit. So with the new movies based on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy coming out, I decided it was time to dig into these pillars of the fantasy genre.
I decided to start with "The Hobbit," since I'm the kind of person who always reads forewords and afterwards. I had heard so many people talk about it over the years, that I felt like I had already inhaled most of the characters and plot points like second hand smoke.
Okay, let me start with some of what I liked: I think "The Hobbit" is an original, often charming and fun-to-read story with some great thematic floorboards holding it all up. I like that Bilbo Baggins has some roguish family blood in his veins causing him to crave adventure in a most unhobbit-like manner. It is inspiring that Bilbo is unafraid to follow his own path. His actions and his unbending courage to be himself make him a role model for anyone. In addition to Bilbo, most of the other hobbits, dwarves, and elves that inhabit this book are also quite likable.
It's generally a fun quest story that appeals to the imaginations of all ages. There's a dragon guarding some stolen treasure, and a series of fortunes and misfortunes along the way that keep the reader vested in the group's concerns.
But there were also a couple of major shortcomings to "The Hobbit" that, in my view, kept it from being a great book. Now here's the part where my opinion will probably veer off from most anyone else's. But like Bilbo, I feel compelled to be my own self.
I felt that the style of the narration was overly intrusive; it made me feel less than involved in the story most of the time. I've read the complaints that "The Hobbit" reads too much like a kids' book. I didn't feel that exactly, but rather, that the point of view was just too off-putting. There's an omniscient narrator who sweeps in on invisible wings from time to time, taking you away from characters and events you've invested large chunks of pages following.
Also, despite a pretty decent set up and first half, I felt that the book's ending just wasn't very well constructed. The writing isn't actually bad, but the dramatic momentum is often lacking. With less than a hundred pages left to go, a huge inter-race war breaks out, taking you away from the story you've spent most of the book following. When you finally get back to the end of the original quest, the role of hero and dragonslayer is unceremoniously taken from Bilbo by a character that we hardly know.
I just felt that there was way too much narrative gear-shifting throughout this book. It felt like I was taking a ride with someone who's just learning to drive a stick.
I don't mean to offend anyone with this review. I just felt it was best to be honest. I know lots of people who love this book, people whose opinions I greatly respect. I'll just have to live with a differing opinion on this. In my view, "The Hobbit" is a pretty good story with some major structural flaws that detract from the pleasure of reading it.
If you grew up with "The Hobbit" as I did with "Star Wars" or the stories of Ray Bradbury, you probably have the urge at this moment to poke my eye out with a key or to do something equally terrible. So I'd like to extend a peace offering of some kind. I don't think "The Hobbit" is a bad book, and I think if I had first read it as a young kid, I might have loved it. The same way that if I hadn't seen "Star Wars" until I was an adult, I might have only criticized its bad acting and been blind to the bottomless ocean of magic that swells hypnotically under its surface.
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on October 26, 2004
While the price of this book is steep, this is easily the best version of this book in print. The gilded pages and high-quality leather look, smell and feel wonderful. This is not the questionable quality leather used on previous versions, this is the real deal. More importantly, this version has, as J.R.R. recorded in letters, reproductions of the Book of Marzubul. These are the pages from the Dwarven book found in the Mines of Moria by Gandalf and the Fellowship. In the begining and ending of the book are also included maps that fold out to render Middle-earth for the reader, again as the author originally wanted.

This is the book that Tolkien dreamed of having published but couldn't due to the realities of post-WWII publishing costs and questions about a 400,000 word publication.

For me, there is an emtoional response to this book for two reasons. One, it is as fine or better than the book the author originally wished to have published and two, it is a beautiful piece of art all on its own, suitable for display. If you love books or love Tolkien or both, this is a must have and the centerpiece of any worthy collection.

(Some are commenting that the book isn't actually leather. Be sure to check your version as there are others available, but the information provided to me stated my copy was leather and if it is fake, it fooled me.)
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on May 11, 2015
Very nice books, binding seems nice. I love the covers although they are not "paperback" and are more of a fake leather material. These books are beautiful and very convenient. They are pocket-sized which is great for on the go, they aren't too small or too big (actually bigger than I anticipated which is a plus). The font size is readable, the only thing I would have to note is that the font size isn't the same throughout the different books. The font size seems to be based on the length of the books, the longer the books are, the smaller the font is (I suppose this was in order to keep them pocket-sized as well as consistent with the sizes of the other books throughout the set). If you have decent to good eyes, this set would be perfectly fine for you on the go but those people who don't have as good of eye sight, because I know some people who tend to get headaches while focusing on small font, this set may not be for you. I will upload some pics of the font comparisons, books, etc.
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on December 17, 2000
This is not a review of Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings". Its having been voted "The Greatest Book of the Millenium" here on Amazon.com says more than enough about the worth of Tolkien's work. Rather, it is a review of the several hardcover editions of this fantastic story.
There are for major hardcover editions of LOTR, all published by Houghton Mifflin Co. They are essentially the same price, so I will not take that into consideration.
The best of the editions (5 stars) is the blue Alan Lee illustrated version printed in Nov 1991. I have owned this book for several years, and read it three times. It is durable, beautiful, and has no flaws that I have found. The illustrations are wonderful, though most Tolkien fans will have seen these pictures before.
The red edition printed in Nov 1974 is also a solid edition of the book (4 stars). It is every bit as good as the blue version, but does not have the illustrations. If you are the type of reader that prefers to leave everything to your imagination, this is the version for you.
Both the blue and red versions have matching editions of "The Hobbit" (Houghton Mifflin, Sep 1997 or Oct 1973, respectively). I found both of these editions to be satisfactory.
The other two major editions of LOTR - the white three-volume edition from Oct 1988 and the black seven-volume edition from Jan 2000 - are not recommended (2 stars). The print quality in both is poor, and the durability is less than that of the red and blue versions. The only advantage of these editions is portability, as the red and blue versions are single-volume and quite hefty.
Ramble on....
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on October 21, 2008
JRR Tolkien is the grandfather of modern fantasy; his epic work THE LORD OF THE RINGS continues to inspire writers. Without Tolkien, we don't have Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling, Jim Butcher, Mercedes Lackey -- the list is long. Tolkien took fantasy from the province of children and created a new genre of literature that was the proper playground for adults. He made a place for the myths and legends of the past to come and be welcome in the modern world.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS is a grand epic story set in the world that Tolkien created called Middle-Earth, astonishingly peopled and rich in lore, languages and cultures. (The different languages caused publication errors and inconsistencies in many early editions.) It is fabulous entertainment on so vast a scale that no movie to date has completely captured all the diverse themes and characters. (Yes, Peter Jackson made a great try, but where's Saruman, eh?) It is difficult for a short review to do this great work justice. But part of the impact and fascination of the work can be explained by examining Tolkien's three main heroes.

Gandalf the Wizard is an attractive figure, mysterious and powerful. With his long beard, homespun robes and long staff, he has some of the characteristics of a Biblical prophet, and he is indeed a messenger of the gods, sent to struggle against the evil of the Enemy. He's kind to hobbits and children, good with fireworks and special effects at parties, but he's also capable of chasing away Nazgul and healing King Theoden. He's likable, compelling, magical and not without touches of humor. He can't even die -- he gets sent back to assure that his job gets done.

Aragon is a figure out of legend--the king in exile who will defeat the Great Enemy and restore the kingdom to peace and glory. Spurring him on in his ambition is the great love of his life, Arwen Evenstar, who will chose a mortal life to be his wife and Queen. Aragon changes in the eyes of the reader from the suspicious Strider to the noble king being crowned at Minas Tirith but this is a case of his nature being gradually revealed to us.

Wizard and warrior king are stock characters in traditional fantasy. Tolkien gives us great examples in Gandalf and Aragon, but the compelling edge of his great epic comes from the character of Frodo. Whereas Gandalf has a job to do and is given great powers to help accomplish it, Frodo has only dogged perseverance. While Aragon wins his kingdom and his elven princess, Frodo hazards all he has, and loses it. He sacrifices everything for the Shire, but returns so damaged in spirit that he can not live there.

When I first read this book as a teeny-bopper, I thought Gandalf was cool--galloping around on a fabulous horse and zapping bad guys on winged monsters. Later, I thought Aragon was a heartthrob--so handsome and noble, all the girls are crazy about him. But as I get older, the character of Frodo speaks to me: the little guy, putting one foot after another on a hopeless quest, bearing a treasure that must be destroyed, knowing in his heart that he will fail before the end, and at the last, accomplishing his quest only because he showed mercy to an enemy. Is this fantasy? Or wisdom to armor one in the quest for a life well-lived?

More than 40 years after I first read this, I bowed to the inevitable and replaced my tattered paperback edition with a boxed hardback set. I love having the red and black ink maps of Middle Earth in full fold-out glory.
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on October 24, 2007
[This is a review of the 70th Anniversary Edition, not so much of "The Hobbit" itself. I've reviewed the book proper elsewhere, and would rather focus on the actual edition itself.]

"The Hobbit" is one of those few books that I have felt justified to buy multiple copies over the years. It is a book I have read and cherished, and a book I dearly love. "The Hobbit" is a novel that deserves to be bought multiple times over, and I always enjoy looking at new editions of this classic work. So imagine my excitement when I found out they would be publishing a 70th anniversary edition of one of my most cherished novels!

This has been a big year for Tolkien fans. Christopher Tolkien published "The Children of Hurin", a newly completed version of Turin's legend, in April. We've gotten (at long last), "The History of the Hobbit", expertly handled by brilliant Tolkien scholar John D. Ratcliffe and published in two separate volumes. And of course, we have the 70th anniversary of Tolkien's first primary work, "The Hobbit", which this edition is published in celebration of that momentous occasion. And does it live up as a major new edition of this fantasy classic?

That's a pretty easy answer. The answer is NO.

First off, here are the positives. The 70th anniversary edition is pretty much how the first edition of "The Hobbit" was actually published back in 1937 with some notable improvements, and conforming to Tolkien's pretty exacting specifications, including how the dust jacket should appear, as well as the art and maps that accompany the text.

These are the notable differences between the first edition and this edition. Due to cost, Tolkien was not able from a production standpoint to have the book appear exactly as he envisioned. The 1937 publication cut some of his artwork, the map was not how he so desired, and the dust jacket, due to printing cost, was limited to three primary colours (green, black, and white). Originally, Tolkien wanted the sun on the front cover and the dragon on the back cover to be totally in red, but this was not feasible.

Obviously Tolkien's work is successful enough that these production costs are no longer an issue, and so this is a relatively accurate facsimile of what Tolkien would have wanted to publish in 1937 had money not been an object, as it too often is in the real world. For that, this edition has some worth.

Now, there are some negatives. And these are big negatives.

First off, paper quality and binding. It's bad.

Then there's the actual art work. The colour artwork is quite nicely implemented into the main text, and overall I don't have a problem with the colour artwork from a production standpoint. The paintings are bright and colourful, and remain true to higher quality prints of Tolkien's phenomenal painting. But unfortunately the same cannot be said of the black and white illustrations. Like a reviewer said before me, it appears Tolkien's drawings were reproduced on a cheap scanner. Tolkien's artwork is highly valuable, but unfortunately the drawings here are rather badly reproduced in this edition.

Then there's the advertisement for "The Lord of the Rings" at the end that's rather annoying. They reproduce the first chapter of "The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings" and place it at the end of the novel, acting like a cheap plug for Tolkien's masterpiece. I don't have any problem with plugging "The Lord of the Rings", but to me this inclusion of the first chapter just cheapens the whole book, especially when it's supposed to be a major edition of a major work. We all know about "The Lord of the Rings". Do we really need the first chapter here? Rather tacky, to say the least.

Then there's the problem of Christopher Tolkien's forward. This is what I was most looking forward too, actually. Having read E. A. Solinas's review, I was under the impression this was a new forward prepared specifically by Christopher for the 70th anniversary of his father's work. Not the case. It's simply a reprint of the forward he wrote for the 50th anniversary of "The Hobbit", twenty years previously.

As far as textual authenticity, I must be honest in the fact that I've only browsed it at a Borders bookstore, but I'd be very surprised if they did not use the text from The Annotated Hobbit, as it is the most definitive and accurate text yet established for the book. Still, I can't verify that that is the case.

Overall, this is a fair edition of "The Hobbit". It could have been a lot more. What sets this apart from the other copies is this is how Tolkien truly envisioned how he wanted the book to appear, and for that fact alone, this is a valuable edition to the Tolkien collector. Unfortunately the poor production quality of the black and while illustrations, the rather tacky inclusion of "The Lord of the Rings"'s first chapter, and the disappointment of the publishers' just reprinting a twenty year old introduction to the 50th anniversary publication rather brings the whole affair down. I think I'll pass on this one.

For those looking for the best edition of Tolkien's book, buy "The Annotated Hobbit", first published in 1988 and republished in a new format in 2003. The second version of "The Annotated Hobbit", is the definitive edition of this phenomenal work as far as I'm concerned.
[I originally wrote a review back in 2000 for "The Hobbit", detailing the differences between "The Hobbit", "The Lord of the Rings", and "The Silmarillion". In 2012 I wrote a new review, and am editing my original text to include this new review. Mike London 10-3-2012]

New Review 2012: "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." Thus begins the most famous series in fantasy literature. For such a universe of high caliber, the sentence is a rather unassuming beginning for quite an unassuming, down-to-earth race known as Hobbits.

Unfortunately "The Hobbit" has become overshadowed by "The Lord of the Rings", seen as an "enchanting prelude" to the more substantial sequel. C. S. Lewis said in "A Preface to Paradise Lost" that to accurately judge an item, you first must know its purpose. The books were written for different purposes - "The Hobbit" as an entertaining story for his children, and "The Lord of the Rings", initially a sequel to "The Hobbit", became much more a continuation of "The Silmarillion". For those who underestimate "The Hobbit" using the criteria of "The Lord of the Rings" as their guide are missing out on a rich work.

What are Hobbits, you may ask? If you go researching where Tolkien got inspiration for the Hobbits, you will soon get mixed up in "The Denham Tracks" (a 19th century list of various folk-lore creatures) and E. A. Wyke-Smith's ""The Marvellous Land of Snergs (Dover Children's Classics)". Honestly, neither of these will get you very far.

The Denham Tracks reads like a laundry list of folk-lore creatures, and though the actual word "hobbit" appears, there is no context for what a "hobbit" actually is. "The Marvelous Land of the Snergs" will get you a tad bit further. Snergs are creatures about half the height of man (like the Hobbits), enjoy their food (again, like the Hobbits), and there the resemblance ends. The World of the Snergs is far removed from Middle-earth, having more to do with 19th century adventure stories set in fantasy with such dispargant elements as a vegetation Troll (by far the best character in the book), witches, knights similiar to stories of King Arthur, ad a waylaid sea crew hailing from the ship "The Flying Dutchman"

Tolkien certainly anticipated the question, for he answered this inquiry within the opening pages of this very book. They are a race two to four feet high, shy of "Big People", and have no beards, unlike dwarves. Hobbits are chubby, "dress in bright colours, (chiefly green and yellow)", and wear no shoes because of the hick tufts of hair and thick leathery soles of their feet. They eat as often as they can.

The story of "The Hobbit" is well known, having been published in 1937 and continually in print (save only for a brief interruption in the early 1940s, when Great Britian were facing paper shortages due to World War II).

"The Hobbit" began life as an entertaining story of Tolkien's children (as so many of Tolkien's stories began as well). Written between 1929-1933, the book details the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. Gandalf the Wizard meets with Bilbo in the opening pages, telling him he is looking for some "to go on an adventure". Bilbo, not quite as respectible as he would like to believe himself to be, tells Gandalf life was much more interesting when Gandalf was around, but no, he would not have any adventures, thank you very much. Naturally, thirteen dwarves show up, and ultimately Bilbo sets off to reclaim the gold that the Dragon Smaug has stolen from the dwarves. Like the later Aragorn, Thorin Oakenshield, the chief dwarf, is a king-in-exile, and wants to reclaim both his throne and his gold stolen by the dragon..

The real meat of "The Hobbit", and one of the reasons why I believe the book has had such a long lasting appeal, is the book's transformation of Bilbo.

"The Hobbit" shows the reader how an unassuming modern character (for though Bilbo lives in the far removed past, he is THOROUGHLY MODERN) goes from being an out-of-place bumbler in situations far removed from his life experience to an equal among beings and races that belong only in the distant past.

Although initially inept, Bilbo, just as Gandalf predicted, proves to be a worthwhile companion, coming through for the dwarves on several key occasions, such as freeing them from the Elven prisons, fighting back the spiders, and facing the dragon alone. He even eventually aids in bringing about a resolution to the growing distress between the Dwarves, Men, and Elves after the fallout of Smaug's demise (albeit, rather unconventionally, using the Arkenstone, the Heart of the Mountain and the jewel which Thorin prizes above all others).

This journey, this transformation of Bilbo into something more, something greater, is the true heart of the book. Tolkien himself said that he removed Gandalf from the story shortly after Beorn's house, due to the dramatic need for Bilbo to proove himself without assistance from the wizard. Fortunately, Tolkien was able to use Gandalf's absence as a springboard into more expansive story ideas when he began developing "The Lord of the Rings" after the unbridled success of "The Hobbit".

Also, the book displays a moral complexity often not seen within the confines of children's liteature. By this, I am referring to the whole matter of Bilbo's handling of the Arkenstone, the chief jewel of the hoard that Bilbo and the dwarves are setting out to recover. The claims of the Elves and Men, and counter claims of the dwarves, and Bilbo's claiming of the Arkenstone and how he wants to use the Arkenstone to move the uprising battle toward resolution are complex and startling legal in tone.

For all its story-book qualities, "The Hobbit" is a much different work from its subsequent heir, "The Lord of the Rings". Although early manuscripts explicitly prove Tolkien was casting the "The Hobbit" in the universe of his mythology from initial composition, "The Hobbit" features several elements and passages that are altogether incongruous with "The Lord of the Rings", especially in the First Edition published in 1937.

For one, the ring found in Gollum's cave is not the One Ring, the Ruling Ring of Sauron. The magic ring was simply that - a magic ring, a stage prop that, in the words of Tom Shippey helped equalize Bilbo in the archaic world he found himself in. Tolkien only began developing the concept of the Ruling Ring AFTER publication of "The Hobbit" when he was trying to come up with ideas for a sequel. When reading "The Hobbit", readers, especially those who know the sequel, may approach the Ring as though this was truly a dark and sinister ring, which the text does not simply support. Indeed, Bilbo's deception about the ring, so important in "The Lord of the Rings", is not explicit in "The Hobbit".

Next, and probably most fascinating of all, is the nature of Gollum himself. We all know he's a hobbit, long ago corrupted by his long possession of the One Ring. However, prior to 1951 when Allen and Unwin (Tolkien's publishers) published the revised version of "Riddles in the Dark" that Tolkien had written in 1947, not only was Gollum explicitly NOT a hobbit, we were not even sure what kind of creature he was (or what his physical size was). He was more akin to Tom Bombadil and Beorn, a one item category unique unto himself. There were no textual indications of Gollum's size in comparison to Bilbo, leading some illustrators in foreign editions to show Gollum as a much larger creature than he would later become.

Then there's the matter of the original version of "Riddles in the Dark". Initially Gollum was going to give away his magic ring as a gift if Bilbo won the contest as well as show him the way out; after winning, Gollum is unable to find the ring (naturally, as Bilbo had already found the ring), so he showed Bilbo the way out, constantly apologizing. In "The Return of the Shadow", Book Six of "The History of Middle-earth", we find Tolkien trying to work within the parameters of this original chapter. Naturally, Tolkien ultimately abandoned the original conception and rewrote the chapter in 1947 as a specimen of what a new chapter could look like and sent this to his publisher. Tolkien was quite surprised to see that, four years later, Allen & Unwin published the rewritten version, and Tolkien accepted the text as authoritative.

While that's the most interesting of the differences, there are still several passages at odds with Middle-earth as described in "The Lord of the Rings". There is no Shire. There are references to policemen and an unnamed "king". The trolls fit more into fairy-book stories than Middle-earth, and, as Douglas Anderson points out in "The Annotated Hobbit", Tolkien references other trolls with multiple heads, a thing not found in Middle-earth. Then there are the stone giants, which only appear once and then are never heard of again in any other story, before or after. There is speculation that one of Bilbo's ancestors took a FAIRY wife, a conception wholly alien to Middle-earth. There are no fairies in Middle-earth. Then there's the matter of the ruins of the mysterious city upon which Lake-town is built upon. This ruined city is mentioned only in "The Hobbit"; it goes unnamed, unreferenced, and undocumented in any of Tolkien's other writings regarding his legendarium.

Probably the single biggest difference between "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" is there is no developed nomenclature in "The Hobbit". The majority of the names are simple descriptions of the things involved: Bilbo lives in The Hill, is traveling to the River Running, visits a city named Dale, as neighbors across the Water, etc. There are very few proper names in "The Hobbit". The thirteen dwarves names and Gandalf (with the exception of "Balin") are all simply lifted from "The Devergatal", a section of the Elder Edda In "The Lord of the Rings" however, nomenclature is king, and Tolkien spent vast amounts of time creating vast landscape, cultures, and races all with their own unique linguistic flavour.

There are also some geographic inconsistencies between the two works. From the bridge to where Bilbo and the dwarves meet the trolls is within sight; however, in "The Lord of the Rings", this same spot takes Aragorn and company SIX DAYS to go from the river to the spot where the trolls are.

Tolkien was aware of these differences, and in 1960 wrote several different passages and revisions to bring "The Hobbit" stylistically more in line with "The Lord of the Rings". These passages were published for the first time in 2007 with "The History of The Hobbit". However, he showed the revised passages to someone (it is unknown who) who discouraged him from changing "The Hobbit".

Ultimately, "The Hobbit" is a much different experience than "The Lord of the Rings", much more akin to classical fantasy fairy tale books such as "The Wind in the Willows" and "The Marvellous Land of the Snergs" in both style and tone than "The Lord of the Rings". Too its credit, the success of "The Hobbit" was what prompted Tolkien to write the sequel.

In the seventeen years between initial publication and the appearance of the first volume of its sequel (1937-1954), "The Hobbit" never went out of print (save only for a brief period during World War II due to paper shortages) and was a tremendous seller, without support from "The Lord of the Rings". It is indeed a rich work, and is an undisputed classic. This book is so much more than a "prelude" to bigger and better things. It's a keystone work in children's fantasy, and stands among the titans of literature.


Original Review 2000: "Inferiour to L.R.? I think not! No, just different!"

The biggest problem with this novel is perception. Tolkien wrote this story for children; to be more specific, this was written for HIS children. There were several stories like this, but it was this, The Hobbit, that was his master achievement in children's literature.

The Lord of the Rings ( a single epic, NOT a trilogy) was written to cash in on The Hobbit's success. Tolkien wanted to get on with the more serious work of his mythology, and ultimately that is what happened with The Lord of the Rings. It became attached to his mythology, and became as important to him as The Silmarillion.

So delineation is required if you want to read this. Do not go in with the thought that The Hobbit is a "precursor" or any such nonsense to The Lord of the Rings. Think of it like you would think of any other children's classics: children's classics. If you take it on The L. R.'s terms, this is a failure, primary because it is not written to be like that. But, on the flipside, The L. R. is as much a failure in children's fiction. It is not children's fiction, it is epic fantasy, and one should not equate it with children's fiction. That is EXACTLY what people try to do with The Hobbit. They try to put it in the same type of genre or playing field as The L. R. They are both masterpieces, and I love them both dearly. But one is for children, the other with adults.

Of course, Tolkien is part of the problem. How many books do you know that is a children's book and has an adult sequel? Not very many. The Hobbit, scarcely 300 pages, was written and published in the children's market. He then talked to his publishers, and they wanted a sequel. So he began "the new Hobbit", as C. S. (Jack) Lewis so aptly put it. He was preoccupied with his mythology, and the sequel was drawn into it. So we have two works, spanning two different genres, and as far as surface connections go its little more than prequel/sequel. Instead of looking at The Hobbit as a prequel, a precursor to his ADULT masterpiece, an inferiour version, think of as his CHILDREN'S masterpiece. The Hobbit is top of the class in children's fiction, one of the few contenders against such other great children's works as Narnia and Wrinkle in Time. The Lord of the Rings, likewise, is THE crowning masterpiece of the fantasy genre, of which its influence is incalculable to that fantasy market. Both are as important as the other, just in different fields.

I haven't talked about The Silmarillion much. I have already reviewed it, so I won't go real in-depth here. But the same thing happened with it. People, expecting another Lord of the Rings, were inevitably disappointed with the Biblical style of the published version. If Tolkien wrote that book out in narrative form as he did Lord of the Rings, it would be ten times longer than Lord of the Rings. The biggest problem with Tolkien is people have to many preconceptions that are incorrect.

So, basically, in conclusion, think of it like this:

1. The Hobbit - Children's masterpiece. He scores big with this one.

2. The Lord of the Rings - a single fantasy, not a trilogy. (Tolkien was always quick to point that out). The Crowning achievement of modern fantasy.

3. The Silmarillion - the Bible of Middle-earth. Much more for students of his work than the causal reader.

[From the Amazon.co.uk review: Enjoy Tolkien's Middle-earth! I certainly have! Mike London]
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on December 29, 2000
As someone else mentioned, we all know the Lord of the Rings to be by the far one of the greatest works of writing of the 20th century. It is all a game we play with Tolkien, for he too took it much more seriously then any other Fantasy of Science Fiction writer ever has. He made up languages that existed in relationship to languages and dialects that we have in english, and thus created a nightmare for Translators. He told stories of all sorts of perils of creation, and made sure everything was done right. Thus, when an edition like this comes out, it is truly painful. For one, originally, Tolkien created some of the most beautiful maps of Middle Earth, spending time making sure that all of the proportions were accurate. He didn't just jumble down some lines for the coast line, for example. He spent many hours making sure everything was proportinate and made sense. However, sometime after 1988, Ballantine started to release editions of the triliogy with completely new maps, all signed by some Shelly Shapiro. In either case, these new maps were plauged with problems, from being too cartoony and unproportinate to having names of locations from the original maps done away with. The maps, from the very beginning, have been essential to the LoTR books, and having cheap maps made is annoying beyond belief. It shows a sign of disrespect from the editors. To me, it says, "People won't notice anyway. Lets make a smaller sized book with less detailed maps and save some money." If you truly want to expierience this epic (or history, more accurately) as Tolkien envisioned it (not some editor at Ballantine), spend some extra cash and either get a different edition or buy a good map (there is currently an excellent one made by Christopher Tolkien, which is much larger and detailed). Of course, were the map adequate, this edition still suffers from annoying miscopies and misprints and so on. Don't sell out for cheap editions. You've been warned.
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