The History of the Hobbit, Hardback
4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


In one volume for the first time, this revised and updated examination of how J.R.R.Tolkien came to write his original masterpiece 'The Hobbit' includes his complete unpublished draft version of the story, together with notes and illustrations by Tolkien himself.

For the first time in one volume, The History of the Hobbit presents the complete unpublished text of the original manuscript of J.R.R.Tolkien's The Hobbit, accompanied by John Rateliff's lively and informative account of how the book came to be written and published.

As well as recording the numerous changes made to the story both before and after publication, it examines - chapter-by-chapter - why those changes were made and how they reflect Tolkien's ever-growing concept of Middle-earth.

The Hobbit was first published on 21 September 1937.

Like its successor, The Lord of the Rings, it is a story that "grew in the telling", and many characters and story threads in the published text are completely different from what Tolkien first wrote to read aloud to his young sons as part of their "fireside reads". As well as reproducing the original version of one of literature's most famous stories, both on its own merits and as the foundation for The Lord of the Rings, this new book includes many little-known illustrations and previously unpublished maps for The Hobbit by Tolkien himself.

Also featured are extensive annotations and commentaries on the date of composition, how Tolkien's professional and early mythological writings influenced the story, the imaginary geography he created, and how Tolkien came to revise the book years after publication to accommodate events in The Lord of the Rings.

Like Christopher Tolkien's The History of The Lord of the Rings before it, this is a thoughtful yet exhaustive examination of one of the most treasured stories in English literature.

Long overdue for a classic book now celebrating 75 years in print, this companion edition offers fascinating new insights for those who have grown up with this enchanting tale, and will delight those who are about to enter Bilbo's round door for the first time.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 960 pages, 16 b/w, 15 col plates (16pp)
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Fantasy
  • ISBN: 9780007440825



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First, a disclaimer. This book is not for the feint of heart.After having devoured Christopher Tolkien's twelve-volume History of Middle Earth, I was left (as many no doubt were) with a profound sense of incompletion. Where was the Hobbit? The official explanation was that the Hobbit, at the time of its writing, did not truly take part in the rest of the legendarium, and therefore did not warrant inclusion.Rateliff goes to great pains to show where this viewpoint was in error. Although its exact place in the legendarium was not decided for some time, the ties were striking and immediate. Was the Elvenking Thranduil originally going to be Thingol? Had Gondolin fallen only a few years before? Was the Arkenstone a Silmaril? As it later transpired, this was not the case, but as this book illustrates, not only did the earlier concepts influence the Hobbit, but the flow of information went both ways.For the casual reader, it is possible simply to read the earliest drafts of the Hobbit, to read the initial scene with Gollum which was supplanted in later revisions, and generally get a glimpse of a master at his craft. For the more intense and engaged reader, there is sufficient scholarship to satisfy any appetite. The structure is much like that of Christopher Tolkien's work, with end notes to the drafts, long discourses on various subjects pertaining to the drafts, end notes to those discourses, and occasionally, footnotes to the end notes to the discourses to the text. The result is a great depth of information, but presented in a way that allows the reader to go as deep as he or she wishes.This book is recommended most highly for stalwart fans of Tolkien, but despite its great size, I can't help but think that it could be enjoyed by more casual readers as well.