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Customer Review

on December 20, 2007
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. Multiple versions of the novel are given, with extensive annotations, and footnotes to the footnotes. The only drawback to the History is that the author is frequently referring to obscure and out of print books and documents that the majority of readers will not have access to, without reprinting the illustrations or articles referred to. And the double layer of annotations and footnotes are hard to follow. But the History can be enjoyed without digging all the way through the notes.

The book presents a shocker, too. In the 1960's J. R. R. Tolkien set about rewriting The Hobbit in the style of The Lord of the Rings. What survives of this attempt is reprinted for the reader's enlightenment. I won't spoil the surprise by saying anything further.

This set is an excellent gift for any Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fan.
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