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The Hobbit

The Hobbit

Overview
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, better known by its abbreviated title The Hobbit, is a fantasy novel
Juvenile fantasy
Juvenile fantasy is children's literature with fantasy elements: fantasy intended for readers not yet adult.The protagonists are usually children or teens who have unique abilities, gifts, possessions or even allies that allow them to face powerful adversaries...

 and children's book by J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

. It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal
Carnegie Medal
The Carnegie Medal is a literary award established in 1936 in honour of Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and given annually to an outstanding book for children and young adults. It is awarded by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals...

 and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune
New York Herald Tribune
The New York Herald Tribune was a daily newspaper created in 1924 when the New York Tribune acquired the New York Herald.Other predecessors, which had earlier merged into the New York Tribune, included the original The New Yorker newsweekly , and the Whig Party's Log Cabin.The paper was home to...

for best juvenile fiction. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic in children's literature.

Set in a time "Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men
Dominion of Men
The Dominion of Men is a period in J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium that follows the events of The Lord of the Rings and the Third Age.-The End of the Third Age:...

", The Hobbit follows the quest of home-loving hobbit
Hobbit
Hobbits are a fictional diminutive race who inhabit the lands of Middle-earth in J. R. R. Tolkien's fiction.Hobbits first appeared in the novel The Hobbit, in which the main protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, is the titular hobbit...

 Bilbo Baggins
Bilbo Baggins
Bilbo Baggins is the protagonist and titular character of The Hobbit and a supporting character in The Lord of the Rings, two of the most well-known of J. R. R...

 to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug
Smaug
Smaug is a fictional character in the novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. He is a dragon, and the main antagonist within the story.-The Hobbit:...

.
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Quotations

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

"Good morning!" said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out farther than the brim of his shady hat. :"What do you mean?" he said. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?" :"All of them at once," said Bilbo.

"I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone." :"I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!"

Far over the misty mountains coldTo dungeons deep and caverns oldWe must away ere break of dayTo seek the pale enchanted gold.

As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and a jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves.

The stars were out in a dark sky above the trees. He thought of the jewels of the dwarves shining in dark caverns. Suddenly in the wood beyond The Water a flame leapt up - probably somebody lighting a wood-fire - and he thought of plundering dragons settling on his quiet Hill and kindling it all to flames. He shuddered; and very quickly he was plain Mr Baggins of Bag-End, Under-Hill, again.

"I should like to know about risks, out-of-pocket expenses, time required and remuneration, and so forth" - by which he meant: "What am I going to get out of it? and am I going to come back alive?"

Old Took's great-grand-uncle Bullroarer...was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of The Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfimbul's head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit hole, and in this way the battle was won, and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.

Chip the glasses and crack the plates! Blunt the knives and bend the forks! That's what Bilbo Baggins hates.

He guessed as well as he could, and crawled along for a good way, till suddenly his hand met what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel. It was a turning point in his career, but he did not know it. He put the ring in his pocket almost without thinking; certainly it did not seem of any particular use at the moment.

Encyclopedia
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, better known by its abbreviated title The Hobbit, is a fantasy novel
Juvenile fantasy
Juvenile fantasy is children's literature with fantasy elements: fantasy intended for readers not yet adult.The protagonists are usually children or teens who have unique abilities, gifts, possessions or even allies that allow them to face powerful adversaries...

 and children's book by J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

. It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal
Carnegie Medal
The Carnegie Medal is a literary award established in 1936 in honour of Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and given annually to an outstanding book for children and young adults. It is awarded by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals...

 and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune
New York Herald Tribune
The New York Herald Tribune was a daily newspaper created in 1924 when the New York Tribune acquired the New York Herald.Other predecessors, which had earlier merged into the New York Tribune, included the original The New Yorker newsweekly , and the Whig Party's Log Cabin.The paper was home to...

for best juvenile fiction. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic in children's literature.

Set in a time "Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men
Dominion of Men
The Dominion of Men is a period in J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium that follows the events of The Lord of the Rings and the Third Age.-The End of the Third Age:...

", The Hobbit follows the quest of home-loving hobbit
Hobbit
Hobbits are a fictional diminutive race who inhabit the lands of Middle-earth in J. R. R. Tolkien's fiction.Hobbits first appeared in the novel The Hobbit, in which the main protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, is the titular hobbit...

 Bilbo Baggins
Bilbo Baggins
Bilbo Baggins is the protagonist and titular character of The Hobbit and a supporting character in The Lord of the Rings, two of the most well-known of J. R. R...

 to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug
Smaug
Smaug is a fictional character in the novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. He is a dragon, and the main antagonist within the story.-The Hobbit:...

. Bilbo's journey takes him from light-hearted, rural surroundings into darker, deeper territory. The story is told in the form of an episodic quest, and most chapters introduce a specific creature, or type of creature, of Tolkien's Wilderland. By accepting the disreputable, romantic, fey and adventurous side of his nature (the "Took
Took clan
In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium, the Took clan was one of the most famous Hobbit families.The first recorded Took was an Isumbras Took, who became the 13th Thain of the Shire after Gorhendad Oldbuck crossed into Buckland, becoming Master there.After Isumbras, the Thain position...

ish" side) and applying his wits and common sense, Bilbo develops a new level of maturity, competence and wisdom. The story reaches its climax in the Battle of Five Armies, where many of the characters and creatures from earlier chapters re-emerge to engage in conflict.

Themes of personal growth and forms of heroism figure in the story. Along with conflict, these themes lead critics to cite Tolkien's own experiences, and those of other writers who fought in World War I, as instrumental in shaping the story. The author's scholarly knowledge of Anglo-Saxon literature
Anglo-Saxon literature
Old English literature encompasses literature written in Old English in Anglo-Saxon England, in the period from the 7th century to the Norman Conquest of 1066. These works include genres such as epic poetry, hagiography, sermons, Bible translations, legal works, chronicles, riddles, and others...

 and interest in fairy tales are also often noted as influences.

Due to the book's critical and financial success, Tolkien's publishers requested a sequel. As work on The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings is a high fantasy epic written by English philologist and University of Oxford professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier, less complex children's fantasy novel The Hobbit , but eventually developed into a much larger work. It was written in...

progressed, Tolkien made retrospective accommodations for it in one chapter of The Hobbit. These few but significant changes were integrated into the second edition. Further editions followed with minor emendations, including those reflecting Tolkien's changing concept of the world into which Bilbo stumbled.

The work has never been out of print. Its ongoing legacy encompasses many adaptations for stage, screen, radio, board games and video games. Some of these adaptations have received critical recognition of their own, including a video game that won the Golden Joystick Award, a scenario of a war game that won an Origins Award, and an animated picture nominated for a Hugo Award
Hugo Award
The Hugo Awards are given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and was officially named the Science Fiction Achievement Awards...

.

Characters

  • Bilbo Baggins
    Bilbo Baggins
    Bilbo Baggins is the protagonist and titular character of The Hobbit and a supporting character in The Lord of the Rings, two of the most well-known of J. R. R...

    , the titular protagonist, a respectable, conservative hobbit
    Hobbit
    Hobbits are a fictional diminutive race who inhabit the lands of Middle-earth in J. R. R. Tolkien's fiction.Hobbits first appeared in the novel The Hobbit, in which the main protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, is the titular hobbit...

    . During his adventure, Bilbo often refers to the contents of his larder at home and wishes he had more food. Until he finds the magic ring
    One Ring
    The One Ring is a fictional artifact that appears as the central plot element in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth fantasy novels. It is described in an earlier story, The Hobbit , as a magic ring of invisibility. The sequel The Lord of the Rings describes its powers as being more encompassing than...

    , he is more baggage than help.
  • Gandalf
    Gandalf
    Gandalf is a character in J. R. R. Tolkien's novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In these stories, Gandalf appears as a wizard, member and later the head of the order known as the Istari, as well as leader of the Fellowship of the Ring and the army of the West...

    , an itinerant wizard
    Wizard (Middle-earth)
    In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Wizards of Middle-earth are a group of beings outwardly resembling Men but possessing much greater physical and mental power. They are also called the Istari by the Elves. The Sindarin word is Ithryn...

     who introduces Bilbo to a company of thirteen dwarves
    Dwarf (Middle-earth)
    In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Dwarves are a race inhabiting the world of Arda, a fictional prehistoric Earth which includes the continent Middle-earth....

    . During the journey he disappears on side errands dimly hinted at, only to appear again at key moments in the story.
  • Thorin Oakenshield
    Thorin Oakenshield
    Thorin Oakenshield, son of Thráin, son of Thrór, King Under the Mountain is a major character in The Hobbit and is mentioned in passing in The Lord of the Rings...

    , proud, pompous head of the company of dwarves and heir to the destroyed dwarven kingdom under the Lonely Mountain
    Lonely Mountain
    In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium, the Lonely Mountain is a mountain in the northeast of Rhovanion. It is also the source of the Celduin river.- Origins of the Kingdom Under the Mountain :...

    . Thorin makes many mistakes in his leadership, relying on Gandalf and Bilbo to get him out of trouble, but he proves himself a mighty warrior.
  • Smaug
    Smaug
    Smaug is a fictional character in the novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. He is a dragon, and the main antagonist within the story.-The Hobbit:...

    , a dragon
    Dragon (Middle-earth)
    J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium features dragons closely based on those of European legend.Besides dragon , Tolkien variously used the terms drake and worm .-History:The dragons were created by Morgoth...

     who long ago pillaged the dwarven kingdom of Thorin's grandfather and sleeps upon the vast treasure.


The plot involves a host of other characters of varying importance, such as the twelve other dwarves of the company; two types of elves
Elf (Middle-earth)
In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, Elves are one of the races that inhabit a fictional Earth, often called Middle-earth, and set in the remote past. They appear in The Hobbit and in The Lord of the Rings, but their complex history is described more fully in The Silmarillion...

: both puckish
Puck (mythology)
In English folklore, Puck is a mythological fairy or mischievous nature sprite. Puck is also a generalised personification of land spirits. In more recent times, the figure of Robin Goodfellow is identified as a puck.-Etymology:...

 and more serious warrior types
Aos Sí
The aos sí are a supernatural race in Irish mythology and Scottish mythology are comparable to the fairies or elves. They are said to live underground in the fairy mounds, across the western sea, or in an invisible world that coexists with the world of humans...

; men
Man (Middle-earth)
The race of Men in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth books, such as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, refers to humanity and does not denote gender...

 (humans); man-eating trolls
Troll (Middle-earth)
In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, Trolls are large humanoids of great strength and poor intellect.While in Norse mythology, the Troll was a magical creature with special skills, in Tolkien's writings they are portrayed as evil, stupid, with crude habits, although still intelligent enough to...

; boulder-throwing giants; evil cave-dwelling goblins
Orc (Middle-earth)
In J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy writings, Orcs or Orks are a race of creatures who are used as soldiers and henchmen by both the greater and lesser villains of The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings — Morgoth, Sauron and Saruman...

; forest-dwelling giant spiders who can speak; immense and heroic eagles
Eagle (Middle-earth)
In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional universe of Middle-earth, the eagles were immense flying birds that were sapient and could speak. Often emphatically referred to as the Great Eagles, they appear, usually and intentionally serving as agents of deus ex machina , in various parts of his legendarium,...

 who also speak; evil wolves, or Wargs, who are allied with the goblins; Elrond
Elrond
Elrond Half-elven is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He is introduced in The Hobbit, and plays a supporting role in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.-Character overview:...

 the sage; Gollum
Gollum
Gollum is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. He was introduced in the author's fantasy novel The Hobbit, and became an important supporting character in its sequel, The Lord of the Rings....

, a strange creature inhabiting an underground lake; Beorn
Beorn
Beorn is a fictional character created by J. R. R. Tolkien. He appears in The Hobbit as a shape-shifter , a man who could assume the appearance of a great black bear.-Literature:...

, a man who can assume bear form; and Bard the Bowman, a grim but honourable archer of Lake-town
Esgaroth
Esgaroth, or Lake-town is a fictitious community of Men upon the Long Lake, in The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. The town is constructed entirely of wood and stands upon wooden pillars sunk into the bed of the Long Lake, south of the Lonely Mountain and east of Mirkwood...

.

Plot


Gandalf tricks Bilbo into hosting a party for Thorin and his band of twelve dwarves, who sing of reclaiming the Lonely Mountain
Lonely Mountain
In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium, the Lonely Mountain is a mountain in the northeast of Rhovanion. It is also the source of the Celduin river.- Origins of the Kingdom Under the Mountain :...

 and its vast treasure from the dragon
Dragon (Middle-earth)
J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium features dragons closely based on those of European legend.Besides dragon , Tolkien variously used the terms drake and worm .-History:The dragons were created by Morgoth...

 Smaug. When the music ends, Gandalf unveils a map showing a secret door
Secret passage
Secret passages, also commonly referred to as hidden passages or secret tunnels, are hidden routes used for stealthy travel. Such passageways are sometimes inside buildings leading to secret rooms. Others allow occupants to enter or exit buildings without being seen...

 into the Mountain and proposes that the dumbfounded Bilbo serve as the expedition's "burglar". The dwarves ridicule the idea, but Bilbo, indignant, joins despite himself.

The group travel into the wild, where Gandalf saves the company from trolls and leads them to Rivendell
Rivendell
Rivendell is an Elven outpost in Middle-earth, a fictional realm created by J. R. R. Tolkien. It was established and ruled by Elrond in the Second Age of Middle-earth...

, where Elrond reveals more secrets from the map. Passing over the Misty Mountains
Misty Mountains
In J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy world of Middle-earth, the Misty Mountains is a mountain range, running for 795 miles from north to south, between Eriador and the valley of the Great River, Anduin, and...

, they are caught by goblins and driven deep underground. Although Gandalf rescues them, Bilbo gets separated from the others as they flee the goblins. Lost in the goblin tunnels, he stumbles across a mysterious ring
One Ring
The One Ring is a fictional artifact that appears as the central plot element in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth fantasy novels. It is described in an earlier story, The Hobbit , as a magic ring of invisibility. The sequel The Lord of the Rings describes its powers as being more encompassing than...

 and then encounters Gollum, who engages him in a game of riddles for the path out of the tunnels, or his demise. With the help of the ring, which confers invisibility
Invisibility
Invisibility is the state of an object that cannot be seen. An object in this state is said to be invisible . The term is usually used as a fantasy/science fiction term, where objects are literally made unseeable by magical or technological means; however, its effects can also be seen in the real...

, Bilbo escapes and rejoins the dwarves, improving his reputation with them. The goblins and Wargs give chase but the company are saved by eagles before resting in the house of Beorn
Beorn
Beorn is a fictional character created by J. R. R. Tolkien. He appears in The Hobbit as a shape-shifter , a man who could assume the appearance of a great black bear.-Literature:...

.

The company enter the black forest of Mirkwood
Mirkwood
Mirkwood is a name used for two distinct fictional forests in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. In the First Age, the highlands of Dorthonion north of Beleriand were known as Mirkwood after falling under Morgoth's control. During the Third Age, the large forest in Rhovanion, east of the Anduin in ...

 without Gandalf. In Mirkwood, Bilbo first saves the dwarves from giant spiders and then from the dungeons of the Wood-elves
Silvan Elves
Silvan Elves are an ethnic group of Elves in J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional universe of Middle-earth, mainly the Elves of Mirkwood and Lothlórien.In the First Age the Elves of Ossiriand, or Laiquendi, were also referred to as wood-elves....

. Nearing the Lonely Mountain, the travellers are welcomed by the human inhabitants of Lake-town, who hope the dwarves will fulfil prophecies of Smaug's demise. The expedition travel to the Mountain and find the secret door; Bilbo scouts the dragon's lair, stealing a great cup and learning of a weakness in Smaug's armour. The enraged dragon, deducing that Lake-town has aided the intruder, sets out to destroy the town. A noble thrush
Thrush (bird)
The thrushes, family Turdidae, are a group of passerine birds that occur worldwide.-Characteristics:Thrushes are plump, soft-plumaged, small to medium-sized birds, inhabiting wooded areas, and often feed on the ground or eat small fruit. The smallest thrush may be the Forest Rock-thrush, at and...

 who overheard Bilbo's report of Smaug's vulnerability reports it to Bard, who slays the Dragon.

When the dwarves take possession of the mountain, Bilbo finds the Arkenstone, an heirloom of Thorin's dynasty, and steals it. The Wood-elves and Lake-men besiege the Mountain and request compensation for their aid, reparations for Lake-town's destruction, and settlement of old claims on the treasure. Thorin refuses and, having summoned his kin from the mountains of the North, reinforces his position. Bilbo tries to ransom the Arkenstone to head off a war, but Thorin is intransigent. He banishes Bilbo, and battle seems inevitable.

Gandalf reappears to warn all of an approaching army of goblins and Wargs. The dwarves, men, and elves band together, but only with the timely arrival of the eagles and Beorn do they win the climactic Battle of Five Armies. Thorin is fatally wounded and reconciles with Bilbo before he dies. Bilbo accepts only a small portion of his share of the treasure, having no want or need for more, but still returns home a very wealthy hobbit.

Background



In the early 1930s Tolkien was pursuing an academic career at Oxford as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon
Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon
The Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon, until 1916 known as the Rawlinsonian Professorship of Anglo-Saxon, was established by Richard Rawlinson of St. John's College, Oxford, in 1795. The Chair is associated with Pembroke College. 'Bosworth' was added to commemorate Joseph...

, with a fellowship at Pembroke College
Pembroke College, Oxford
Pembroke College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England, located in Pembroke Square. As of 2009, Pembroke had an estimated financial endowment of £44.9 million.-History:...

. He had had two poems published in small collections: Goblin Feet and The Cat and the Fiddle: A Nursery Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked
The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late
The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late is the imagined original ditty that is recorded in 'our time' as the simplified nursery rhyme "Hey Diddle Diddle". The supposed original was invented by J. R. R. Tolkien...

, a reworking of the nursery rhyme
Nursery rhyme
The term nursery rhyme is used for "traditional" poems for young children in Britain and many other countries, but usage only dates from the 19th century and in North America the older ‘Mother Goose Rhymes’ is still often used.-Lullabies:...

 Hey Diddle Diddle
Hey Diddle Diddle
"Hey Diddle Diddle" is an English nursery rhyme...

. His creative endeavours at this time also included letters from Father Christmas
The Father Christmas Letters
The Father Christmas Letters is a collection of letters written and illustrated by J. R. R. Tolkien between 1920 and 1942 for his children, from "Father Christmas"...

 to his children—illustrated manuscripts that featured warring gnome
Gnome
A gnome is a diminutive spirit in Renaissance magic and alchemy, first introduced by Paracelsus and later adopted by more recent authors including those of modern fantasy literature...

s and goblin
Goblin
A goblin is a legendary evil or mischievous illiterate creature, a grotesquely evil or evil-like phantom.They are attributed with various abilities, temperaments and appearances depending on the story and country of origin. In some cases, goblins have been classified as constantly annoying little...

s, and a helpful polar bear
Polar Bear
The polar bear is a bear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world's largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak Bear, which is approximately the same size...

—alongside the development of elven languages
Sindarin
Sindarin is a fictional language devised by J. R. R. Tolkien, and used in his secondary world, often called Middle-earth.Sindarin is one of the many languages spoken by the immortal Elves, called the Eledhrim or Edhellim in Sindarin....

 and an attendant mythology
The Book of Lost Tales
The Book of Lost Tales is the title of a collection of early stories by J. R. R. Tolkien, and of the first two volumes of Christopher Tolkien's 12-volume series The History of Middle-earth, in which he presents and analyses the manuscripts of those stories, which were the earliest form of the...

, which he had been developing since 1917. These works all saw posthumous publication.

In a 1955 letter to W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden , who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet,The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also...

, Tolkien recollects that he began work on The Hobbit one day early in the 1930s, when he was marking School Certificate papers. He found a blank page. Suddenly inspired, he wrote the words, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." By late 1932 he had finished the story and then lent the manuscript to several friends, including C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

 and a student of Tolkien's named Elaine Griffiths. In 1936, when Griffiths was visited in Oxford by Susan Dagnall, a staff member of the publisher George Allen & Unwin
Allen & Unwin
Allen & Unwin, formerly a major British publishing house, is now an independent book publisher and distributor based in Australia. The Australian directors have been the sole owners of the Allen & Unwin name since effecting a management buy out at the time the UK parent company, Unwin Hyman, was...

, she is reported to have either lent Dagnall the book or suggested she borrow it from Tolkien. In any event, Miss Dagnall was impressed by it, and showed the book to Stanley Unwin
Stanley Unwin (publisher)
Sir Stanley Unwin was a British publisher, founder of the George Allen and Unwin house in 1914. This published serious and sometimes controversial authors like Bertrand Russell and Mahatma Gandhi....

, who then asked his 10-year-old son Rayner
Rayner Unwin
Rayner Stephens Unwin was the son of publisher Sir Stanley Unwin of the publishing firm George Allen & Unwin....

 to review it. Rayner's favourable comments settled Allen & Unwin's decision to publish Tolkien's book.

Publication


George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. of London published the first edition of The Hobbit on 21 September 1937. The original printing numbered 1,500 copies and sold out by December due to enthusiastic reviews. This first printing was illustrated with many black-and-white drawings by Tolkien, who also designed the dust jacket
Dust jacket
The dust jacket of a book is the detachable outer cover, usually made of paper and printed with text and illustrations. This outer cover has folded flaps that hold it to the front and back book covers...

. Houghton Mifflin
Houghton Mifflin
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is an educational and trade publisher in the United States. Headquartered in Boston's Back Bay, it publishes textbooks, instructional technology materials, assessments, reference works, and fiction and non-fiction for both young readers and adults.-History:The company was...

 of Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 and New York reset type for an American edition, to be released early in 1938, in which four of the illustrations would be colour plates. Allen & Unwin decided to incorporate the colour illustrations into their second printing, released at the end of 1937. Despite the book's popularity, paper rationing
Rationing
Rationing is the controlled distribution of scarce resources, goods, or services. Rationing controls the size of the ration, one's allotted portion of the resources being distributed on a particular day or at a particular time.- In economics :...

 brought on by wartime
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 conditions and not ending until 1949 meant that the book was often unavailable in this period.

Subsequent editions in English were published in 1951, 1966, 1978 and 1995. The novel has been reprinted frequently by many publishers
English-language editions of The Hobbit
This list contains only complete, printed English-language editions of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. It is not for derived or unprinted works such as screenplays, graphic novels, or audio books.-Criteria for separate editions:...

. In addition, The Hobbit has been translated into over forty languages
Translations of The Hobbit
J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit has been translated into many languages. Known translations, with the first date of publishing, are:...

, some of them more than once.

Revisions


In December 1937, The Hobbit publisher, Stanley Unwin, asked Tolkien for a sequel. In response Tolkien provided drafts for The Silmarillion
The Silmarillion
The Silmarillion is a collection of J. R. R. Tolkien's mythopoeic works, edited and published posthumously by his son Christopher Tolkien in 1977, with assistance from Guy Gavriel Kay, who later became a noted fantasy writer. The Silmarillion, along with J. R. R...

, but the editors rejected them, believing that the public wanted "more about hobbits". Tolkien subsequently began work on 'The New Hobbit', which would eventually become The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings is a high fantasy epic written by English philologist and University of Oxford professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier, less complex children's fantasy novel The Hobbit , but eventually developed into a much larger work. It was written in...

, a course that would not only change the context of the original story, but also lead to substantial changes to the character of Gollum.

In the first edition of The Hobbit, Gollum willingly bets his magic ring on the outcome of the riddle-game, and he and Bilbo part amicably. In the second edition edits, in order to reflect the new concept of the ring
One Ring
The One Ring is a fictional artifact that appears as the central plot element in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth fantasy novels. It is described in an earlier story, The Hobbit , as a magic ring of invisibility. The sequel The Lord of the Rings describes its powers as being more encompassing than...

 and its corrupting abilities, Tolkien made Gollum more aggressive towards Bilbo and distraught at losing the ring. The encounter ends with Gollum's curse, "Thief! Thief, Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!" This presages Gollum's portrayal in The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien sent this revised version of the chapter "Riddles in the Dark" to Unwin as an example of the kinds of changes needed to bring the book into conformity with The Lord of the Rings, but he heard nothing back for years. When he was sent galley proof
Galley proof
In printing and publishing, proofs are the preliminary versions of publications meant for review by authors, editors, and proofreaders, often with extra wide margins. Galley proofs may be uncut and unbound, or in some cases electronic...

s of a new edition, Tolkien was surprised to find the sample text had been incorporated. In The Lord of the Rings, the original version of the riddle game is explained as a "lie" made up by Bilbo under the harmful influence of the Ring, whereas the revised version contains the "true" account. The revised text became the second edition, published in 1951 in both the UK and the USA.

Tolkien began a new version in 1960, attempting to fit the tone of The Hobbit better to its sequel. He abandoned the new revision at chapter three after he received criticism that it "just wasn't The Hobbit", implying it had lost much of its light-hearted tone and quick pace.

After an unauthorized paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings appeared from Ace Books
Ace Books
Ace Books is the oldest active specialty publisher of science fiction and fantasy books. The company was founded in New York City in 1952 by Aaron A. Wyn, and began as a genre publisher of mysteries and westerns...

 in 1965, Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine
Ballantine Books
Ballantine Books is a major book publisher located in the United States, founded in 1952 by Ian Ballantine with his wife, Betty Ballantine. It was acquired by Random House in 1973, which in turn was acquired by Bertelsmann AG in 1998 and remains part of that company today. Ballantine's logo is a...

 requested Tolkien to refresh the text of The Hobbit in order to renew US copyright. This text became the 1966 third edition. Tolkien took the opportunity to align the narrative even more closely to The Lord of the Rings and to cosmological developments from his still unpublished Quenta Silmarillion
Quenta Silmarillion
Quenta Silmarillion is a collection of fictional legends written by the high fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien. It was published after the author's death in The Silmarillion together with four shorter stories...

as it stood at that time. These small edits included, for example, changing the phrase elves that are now called Gnomes from the first and second editions on page 63, to High Elves of the West, my kin in the third edition. Tolkien had used "gnome
Gnome
A gnome is a diminutive spirit in Renaissance magic and alchemy, first introduced by Paracelsus and later adopted by more recent authors including those of modern fantasy literature...

" in his earlier writing to refer to the second kindred of the High Elves
High elves
Many fantasy settings contain elves, often, particularly in western fantasy elves are divided into multiple different kinds. High elves are one of the most common sub-types of elf appearing in many different fantasy settings....

—the Noldor
Noldor
In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Noldor are Elves of the Second Clan who migrated to Valinor and lived in Eldamar. The Noldor are called Golodhrim or Gódhellim in Sindarin, and Goldoi by Teleri of Tol Eressëa. The singular form of the Quenya noun is Noldo and the adjective is Noldorin...

 (or "Deep Elves")—thinking "gnome
Gnome
A gnome is a diminutive spirit in Renaissance magic and alchemy, first introduced by Paracelsus and later adopted by more recent authors including those of modern fantasy literature...

", derived from the Greek gnosis (knowledge), was a good name for the wisest of the elves. However, because of its common denotation of a garden gnome
Garden gnome
A garden gnome or lawn gnome is a figurine of a small humanoid creature, usually wearing a pointy hat, produced for the purpose of ornamentation and protection from evil sorcery, typically of gardens or on lawns....

, derived from the 16th Century Paracelsus
Paracelsus
Paracelsus was a German-Swiss Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist....

, Tolkien abandoned the term.

Posthumous editions


Since the author's death, two editions of The Hobbit have been published with commentary on the creation, emendation and development of the text.

In The Annotated Hobbit Douglas Anderson provides the entire text of the published book, alongside commentary and illustrations. Anderson's commentary shows many of the sources Tolkien brought together in preparing the text, and chronicles in detail the changes Tolkien made to the various published editions. Alongside the annotations, the text is illustrated by pictures from many of the translated editions, including images by Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson
Tove Marika Jansson was a Swedish-Finnish novelist, painter, illustrator and comic strip author. She is best known as the author of the Moomin books.- Biography :...

. Also printed here are a number of hard-to-find texts such as the 1923 version of Tolkien's poem "Iumonna Gold Galdre Bewunden". Micheal D. C. Drout and Hilary Wynn comment the work provides a solid foundation for further criticism.

With The History of the Hobbit
The History of The Hobbit
The History of The Hobbit is a two-volume study of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It was published by HarperCollins in June and July 2007 in the UK, with both volumes released in the United States by Houghton Mifflin on September 21, 2007; a boxed set combining The Hobbit with The History of The...

, published in two parts in 2007, John Rateliff provides the full text of the earliest and intermediary drafts of the book, alongside commentary that shows relationships to Tolkien's scholarly and creative works, both contemporary and later. Rateliff also provides the abandoned 1960s retelling. The book keeps Rateliff's commentary separate from Tolkien's text, allowing the reader to read the original draft as a story. Rateliff also provides previously unpublished illustrations by Tolkien. Jason Fisher, published in Mythlore, states in his review that the work is "an indispensable new starting point for the study of The Hobbit."

Illustration and design


Tolkien's correspondence and publisher's records show that Tolkien was involved in the design and illustration of the entire book. All elements were the subject of considerable correspondence and fussing over by Tolkien. Rayner Unwin, in his publishing memoir, comments:

Even the maps, of which Tolkien originally proposed five, were considered and debated. He wished Thror's map to be tipped in (that is, glued in after the book has been bound) at first mention in the text, and with the moon-letters (Anglo-Saxon runes) on the reverse so they could be seen when held up to the light. In the end the cost, as well as the shading of the maps, which would be difficult to reproduce, resulted in the final design of two maps as endpapers, Thror's map, and the Map of the Wilderland, both printed in black and red on the paper's cream background.

Originally Allen & Unwin planned to illustrate the book only with the endpaper maps, but Tolkien's first tendered sketches so charmed the publisher's staff that they opted to include them without raising the book's price despite the extra cost. Thus encouraged, Tolkien supplied a second batch of illustrations. The publisher accepted all of these as well, giving the first edition ten black-and-white illustrations plus the two endpaper maps. The illustrated scenes were: The Hill: Hobbiton across the Water, The Trolls, The Mountain Path, The Misty Mountains looking West from the Eyrie towards Goblin Gate, Beorn's Hall, Mirkwood, The Elvenking's Gate, Lake Town, and the Front Gate. All but one of the illustrations were a full page, and one, the Mirkwood illustration, required a separate plate.

Satisfied with his skills, the publishers thence asked Tolkien to design a dust jacket. This project, too, became the subject of many iterations and much correspondence, with Tolkien always writing disparagingly of his own ability to draw. The runic inscription around the edges of the illustration are a phonetic transliteration
Transliteration
Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another...

 of English, giving the title of the book and details of the author and publisher. The original jacket design contained several shades of several colours, but Tolkien redrew it several times using fewer colours each time. His final design consisted of four colours. The publishers, mindful of the cost, removed the red from the sun to end up with only black, blue, and green ink on white stock.

The publisher's production staff designed a binding, but Tolkien objected to several elements. Through several iterations, the final design ended up as mostly the author's. The spine shows Anglo Saxon runes: two "þ" (Thráin and Thrór) and one "D
Dagaz
The d rune is called Daeg "day" in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem. The corresponding letter of the Gothic alphabet d is called dags. This rune stave is also part of the Elder Futhark, with a reconstructed Proto-Germanic name *dagaz....

" (Door). The front and back covers were mirror images of each other, with an elongated dragon characteristic of Tolkien's style stamped along the lower edge, and with a sketch of the Misty Mountains stamped along the upper edge.

Once illustrations were approved for the book, Tolkien proposed colour plates as well. The publisher would not relent on this, so Tolkien pinned his hopes on the American edition to be published about six months later. Houghton Mifflin rewarded these hopes with the replacement of the frontispiece (The Hill: Hobbiton-across-the Water) in colour and the addition of new colour plates: Rivendell, Bilbo Woke Up with the Early Sun in His Eyes, Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves and a Conversation with Smaug, which features a dwarvish curse written in Tolkien's invented script Tengwar
Tengwar
The Tengwar are an artificial script created by J. R. R. Tolkien. In his fictional universe of Middle-earth, the tengwar were invented by the Elf Fëanor, and used first to write the Elven tongues: Quenya, Telerin, and also Valarin. Later a great number of languages of Middle-earth were written...

, and signed with two "þ, "Th" runes. The additional illustrations proved so appealing that George Allen & Unwin adopted the colour plates as well for their second printing, with exception of Bilbo Woke Up with the Early Sun in His Eyes).

Different editions have been illustrated in diverse ways. Many follow the original scheme at least loosely, but many others are illustrated by other artists, especially the many translated editions. Some cheaper editions, particularly paperback, are not illustrated except with the maps. "The Children's Book Club" edition of 1942 includes the black-and-white pictures but no maps, an anomaly.

Tolkien's use of runes, both as decorative devices and as magical signs within the story, has been cited as a major cause for the popularization of runes within "New Age
New Age
The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational...

" and esoteric
Esotericism
Esotericism or Esoterism signifies the holding of esoteric opinions or beliefs, that is, ideas preserved or understood by a small group or those specially initiated, or of rare or unusual interest. The term derives from the Greek , a compound of : "within", thus "pertaining to the more inward",...

 literature, stemming from Tolkien's popularity with the elements of counter-culture
Counterculture of the 1960s
The counterculture of the 1960s refers to a cultural movement that mainly developed in the United States and spread throughout much of the western world between 1960 and 1973. The movement gained momentum during the U.S. government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam...

 in the 1970s.

Genre


The Hobbit takes cues from narrative models of children's literature
Children's literature
Children's literature is for readers and listeners up to about age twelve; it is often defined in four different ways: books written by children, books written for children, books chosen by children, or books chosen for children. It is often illustrated. The term is used in senses which sometimes...

, as shown by its omniscient narrator and characters that pre-adolescent children can identify with, such as the small, food-obsessed, and morally ambiguous Bilbo. The text emphasizes the relationship between time and narrative progress and it openly distinguishes "safe" from "dangerous" in its geography. Both are key elements of works intended for children, as is the "home-away-home" (or there and back again) plot structure typical of the Bildungsroman
Bildungsroman
In literary criticism, bildungsroman or coming-of-age story is a literary genre which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood , and in which character change is thus extremely important...

. While Tolkien claimed later to dislike the aspect of the narrative voice addressing the reader directly, the narrative voice contributes significantly to the success of the novel, and the story is, therefore, often read aloud. Emer O'Sullivan, in her Comparative Children's Literature, notes The Hobbit as one of a handful of children's books that is accepted into mainstream literature, alongside Jostein Gaarder
Jostein Gaarder
Jostein Gaarder /ˈju:staɪn ˈgɔːrdər/ is a Norwegian intellectual and author of several novels, short stories and children's books. Gaarder often writes from the perspective of children, exploring their sense of wonder about the world. He often uses metafiction in his works, writing stories within...

's Sophie's World
Sophie's World
Sophie's World is a novel by Jostein Gaarder, published in 1991. It was originally written in Norwegian, but has since been translated into English and many other languages. It sold more than 30 million copies and is one of the most successful Norwegian novels outside of Norway...

(1991) and J. K. Rowling
J. K. Rowling
Joanne "Jo" Rowling, OBE , better known as J. K. Rowling, is the British author of the Harry Potter fantasy series...

's Harry Potter
Harry Potter
Harry Potter is a series of seven fantasy novels written by the British author J. K. Rowling. The books chronicle the adventures of the adolescent wizard Harry Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...

series (1997–2007).

Tolkien intended The Hobbit as a fairy story and wrote it in a tone suited to addressing children. Many of the initial reviews refer to the work as a fairy story. However, Bilbo Baggins is not the usual fairy tale protagonist – not the handsome eldest son or beautiful youngest daughter – but a plump, middle-aged, well-to-do Hobbit. The work is much longer than Tolkien's ideal proposed in his essay On Fairy Stories. Many fairy tale motifs, such as the repetition of similar events seen in the dwarves' arrival at Bilbo's and Beorn's homes, and folklore themes, such as troll
Troll
A troll is a supernatural being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In origin, the term troll was a generally negative synonym for a jötunn , a being in Norse mythology...

s turning to stone, are to be found in the story. The Hobbit conforms to Vladimir Propp
Vladimir Propp
Vladimir Yakovlevich Propp was a Russian and Soviet formalist scholar who analyzed the basic plot components of Russian folk tales to identify their simplest irreducible narrative elements.- Biography :...

's 31-motif model of folktales presented in his 1928 work Morphology of the Folk Tale, based on a structuralist analysis of Russian folklore.

The book is popularly called (and often marketed as) a fantasy
Fantasy literature
Fantasy literature is fantasy in written form. Historically speaking, literature has composed the majority of fantasy works. Since the 1950s however, a growing segment of the fantasy genre has taken the form of films, television programs, graphic novels, video games, music, painting, and other...

 novel, but like Peter Pan and Wendy by J. M. Barrie
J. M. Barrie
Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. The child of a family of small-town weavers, he was educated in Scotland. He moved to London, where he developed a career as a novelist and playwright...

 and The Princess and the Goblin
The Princess and the Goblin
The Princess and the Goblin is a children's fantasy novel by George MacDonald. It was published in 1872 by Strahan & Co.The sequel to this book is The Princess and Curdie....

by George MacDonald
George MacDonald
George MacDonald was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister.Known particularly for his poignant fairy tales and fantasy novels, George MacDonald inspired many authors, such as W. H. Auden, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, E. Nesbit and Madeleine L'Engle. It was C.S...

, both of which influenced Tolkien and contain fantasy elements, it is primarily identified as being children's literature. The two genres are not mutually exclusive, so some definitions of high fantasy
High fantasy
High fantasy or epic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is set in invented or parallel worlds. High fantasy was brought to fruition through the work of authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, whose major fantasy works were published in the 1950s...

 include works for children by authors such as L. Frank Baum
L. Frank Baum
Lyman Frank Baum was an American author of children's books, best known for writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz...

 and Lloyd Alexander
Lloyd Alexander
Lloyd Chudley Alexander was a widely influential American author of more than forty books, mostly fantasy novels for children and adolescents, as well as several adult books...

 alongside the works of Gene Wolfe
Gene Wolfe
Gene Wolfe is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He is noted for his dense, allusive prose as well as the strong influence of his Catholic faith, to which he converted after marrying into the religion. He is a prolific short story writer and a novelist, and has won many awards in the...

 and Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

, which are more often considered adult literature. Sullivan credits the first publication of The Hobbit as an important step in the development of high fantasy, and further credits the 1960s paperback debuts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as essential to the creation of a mass market for fiction of this kind as well the fantasy genre's current status.

Style


Tolkien's prose is unpretentious and straightforward, taking as given the existence of his imaginary world and describing its details in a matter-of-fact way, while often introducing the new and fantastic in an almost casual manner. This down-to-earth style, also found in later fantasy such as Richard Adams
Richard Adams
Richard Adams was a non-conforming English Presbyterian divine, known as author of sermons and other theological writings.-Life:...

' Watership Down
Watership Down
Watership Down is a classic heroic fantasy novel, written by English author Richard Adams, about a small group of rabbits. Although the animals in the story live in their natural environment, they are anthropomorphised, possessing their own culture, language , proverbs, poetry, and mythology...

and Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn
The Last Unicorn
The Last Unicorn is a fantasy novel written by Peter S. Beagle and published in 1968. It has sold more than five million copies worldwide since its original publication, and has been translated into at least twenty languages....

, accepts readers into the fictional world
Fictional universe
A fictional universe is a self-consistent fictional setting with elements that differ from the real world. It may also be called an imagined, constructed or fictional realm ....

, rather than cajoling or attempting to convince them of its reality. While The Hobbit is written in a simple, friendly language, each of its characters has a unique voice. The narrator, who occasionally interrupts the narrative flow with asides (a device common to both children's and Anglo-Saxon literature), has his own linguistic style separate from those of the main characters.

The basic form of the story is that of a quest
Quest
In mythology and literature, a quest, a journey towards a goal, serves as a plot device and as a symbol. Quests appear in the folklore of every nation and also figure prominently in non-national cultures. In literature, the objects of quests require great exertion on the part of the hero, and...

, told in episodes. For the most part of the book, each chapter introduces a different denizen of the Wilderland, some helpful and friendly towards the protagonists, and others threatening or dangerous. However the general tone is kept light-hearted, being interspersed with songs and humour. One example of the use of song to maintain tone is when Thorin and Company are kidnapped by goblins, who, when marching them into the underworld, sing:
This onomatopœic singing undercuts the dangerous scene with a sense of humour. Tolkien achieves balance of humour and danger through other means as well, as seen in the foolishness and Cockney dialect of the trolls and in the drunkenness of the elven captors. The general form—that of a journey into strange lands, told in a light-hearted mood and interspersed with songs—may be following the model of The Icelandic Journals by Tolkien's literary idol William Morris
William Morris
William Morris 24 March 18343 October 1896 was an English textile designer, artist, writer, and socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement...

.

The novel draws on Tolkien's knowledge of northern European historical literature, myth and languages. The names of Gandalf and all but one of the thirteen dwarves were taken directly from the poem Völuspá
Völuspá
Völuspá is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a völva addressing Odin...

from the Poetic Edda
Poetic Edda
The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius. Along with Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda is the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends, and from the early 19th century...

. Several of the author's illustrations (including the dwarven map, the frontispiece and the dust jacket) make use of Anglo-Saxon runes. The names of the dwarf-friendly ravens are also derived from Old Norse for raven and rook, but their characters are unlike the typical war-carrion from Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon literature. Tolkien, however, is not simply skimming historical sources for effect: linguistic
Natural language
In the philosophy of language, a natural language is any language which arises in an unpremeditated fashion as the result of the innate facility for language possessed by the human intellect. A natural language is typically used for communication, and may be spoken, signed, or written...

 styles, especially the relationship between the modern and ancient, has been seen to be one of the major themes explored by the story.

Themes


The development and maturation of the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, is central to the story. This journey of maturation, where Bilbo gains a clear sense of identity and confidence in the outside world, may be seen as a Bildungsroman
Bildungsroman
In literary criticism, bildungsroman or coming-of-age story is a literary genre which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood , and in which character change is thus extremely important...

 rather than a traditional quest. The Jungian
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

 concept of individuation
Individuation
Individuation is a concept which appears in numerous fields and may be encountered in work by Arthur Schopenhauer, Carl Jung, Gilbert Simondon, Bernard Stiegler, Gilles Deleuze, Henri Bergson, David Bohm, and Manuel De Landa...

 is also reflected through this theme of growing maturity and capability, with the author contrasting Bilbo's personal growth against the arrested development of the dwarves. The analogue of the "underworld
Underworld
The Underworld is a region which is thought to be under the surface of the earth in some religions and in mythologies. It could be a place where the souls of the recently departed go, and in some traditions it is identified with Hell or the realm of death...

" and the hero returning from it with a boon (such as the ring, or Elvish blades) that benefits his society is seen to fit the mythic archetype
Archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

s regarding initiation and male coming-of-age
Coming of age
Coming of age is a young person's transition from childhood to adulthood. The age at which this transition takes place varies in society, as does the nature of the transition. It can be a simple legal convention or can be part of a ritual, as practiced by many societies...

 as described by Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

. Jane Chance compares the development and growth of Bilbo against other characters to the concepts of just Kingship versus sinful kingship derived from the Ancrene Wisse
Ancrene Wisse
Ancrene Wisse or Guide for Anchoresses is an anonymous monastic rule for anchoresses, written in the early 13th century. Ancrene Wisse was originally composed for three sisters who chose to enter the contemplative life...

 (which Tolkien had written on in 1929) and a Christian understanding of Beowulf. Specific plot elements and features in The Hobbit that show similarities to Beowulf include Bilbo's title thief, the underground path into the mountain, and Smaug's personality which leads to the destruction of Laketown.

The overcoming of greed and selfishness has been seen as the central moral of the story. Whilst greed is a recurring theme in the novel, with many of the episodes stemming from one or more of the characters' simple desire for food (be it trolls eating dwarves or dwarves eating Wood-elf fare) or a desire for beautiful objects, such as gold and jewels, it is only by the Arkenstone's influence upon Thorin that greed, and its attendant vices "coveting" and "malignancy", come fully to the fore in the story and provide the moral crux of the tale. Bilbo steals the Arkenstone—a most ancient relic of the dwarves—and attempts to ransom it to Thorin for peace. However, Thorin turns on the Hobbit as a traitor, disregarding all the promises and "at your services" he had previously bestowed. In the end Bilbo gives up the precious stone and most of his share of the treasure in order to help those in greater need. Tolkien also explores the motif of jewels that inspire intense greed which corrupts those that covet them in the Silmarillion, and there are connections between the words "Arkenstone" and "Silmaril
Silmaril
The Silmarils are three brilliant jewels which contained the unmarred light of the Two Trees in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. The Silmarils were made out of the crystalline substance silima by Fëanor, a Noldorin Elf, in Valinor during the Years of the Trees...

" in Tolkien's invented etymologies.

The Hobbit employs themes of animism
Animism
Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

. An important concept in anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 and child development
Child development
Child development stages describe theoretical milestones of child development. Many stage models of development have been proposed, used as working concepts and in some cases asserted as nativist theories....

, animism is the idea that all things—including inanimate objects and natural events, such as storms or purses, as well as living things like animals and plants—possess human-like intelligence. John D. Rateliff calls this the "Doctor Dolittle
Doctor Dolittle
Doctor John Dolittle is the central character of a series of children's books by Hugh Lofting starting with the 1920 The Story of Doctor Dolittle. He is a doctor who shuns human patients in favour of animals, with whom he can speak in their own languages...

 Theme" in The History of the Hobbit, and cites the multitude of talking animals as indicative of this theme. These talking creatures include ravens, spiders and the dragon Smaug, alongside the anthropomorphic goblins and elves. Patrick Curry notes that animism is also found in Tolkien's other works, and mentions the "roots of mountains" and "feet of trees" in The Hobbit as a linguistic shifting in level from the inanimate to animate. Tolkien saw the idea of animism as closely linked to the emergence of human language and myth: "...The first men to talk of 'trees and stars' saw things very differently. To them, the world was alive with mythological beings... To them the whole of creation was "myth-woven and elf-patterned".'

Interpretation


The Hobbit can be seen as a creative exposition of Tolkien's theoretical and academic work. Themes found in early English literature
Anglo-Saxon literature
Old English literature encompasses literature written in Old English in Anglo-Saxon England, in the period from the 7th century to the Norman Conquest of 1066. These works include genres such as epic poetry, hagiography, sermons, Bible translations, legal works, chronicles, riddles, and others...

, and specifically in the poem Beowulf, have a heavy presence in defining the ancient world Bilbo stepped into. Tolkien, an accomplished Beowulf
Beowulf
Beowulf , but modern scholars agree in naming it after the hero whose life is its subject." of an Old English heroic epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines, set in Scandinavia, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature.It survives in a single...

scholar, claims the poem to be among his "most valued sources" in writing The Hobbit. Tolkien is credited with being the first critic to expound on Beowulf as a literary work with value beyond merely historical, and his 1936 lecture Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics
Beowulf: the monsters and the critics
"Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" was a 1936 lecture given by J. R. R. Tolkien on literary criticism on the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf...

is still required reading for students of Anglo-Saxon. The Beowulf poem contains several elements that Tolkien borrowed for The Hobbit, including a monstrous, intelligent dragon. Certain descriptions in The Hobbit seem to have been lifted straight out of Beowulf with some minor rewording, such as when each dragon stretches out its neck to sniff for intruders. Likewise, Tolkien's descriptions of the lair as accessed through a secret passage mirror those in Beowulf. Tolkien refines parts of Beowulf plot that he appears to have found less than satisfactorily described, such as details about the cup-thief and the dragon's intellect and personality.

Another influence from the Anglo-Saxon is the appearance of named blades of renown, adorned in runes. It is in the use of his elf-blade that we see Bilbo finally taking his first independent heroic action. By his naming the blade "Sting" we also see Bilbo's acceptance of the kinds of cultural and linguistic practices found in Beowulf, signifying his entrance into the ancient world in which he found himself. This progression culminates in Bilbo stealing a cup from the dragon's hoard, rousing him to wrath—an incident directly mirroring Beowulf, and an action entirely determined by traditional narrative patterns. As Tolkien wrote, "...The episode of the theft arose naturally (and almost inevitably) from the circumstances. It is difficult to think of any other way of conducting the story at this point. I fancy the author of Beowulf would say much the same."

As in plot and setting, Tolkien brings his literary theories to bear in forming characters and their interactions. He portrays Bilbo as a modern anachronism
Anachronism
An anachronism—from the Greek ανά and χρόνος — is an inconsistency in some chronological arrangement, especially a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other...

 exploring an essentially antique world. Bilbo is able to negotiate and interact within this antique world because language and tradition make connections between the two worlds. For example, Gollum's riddles are taken from old historical sources, while those of Bilbo come from modern nursery books. It is the form of the riddle game, familiar to both, which allows Gollum and Bilbo to engage each other, rather than the content of the riddles themselves. This idea of a superficial contrast between characters' individual linguistic style, tone and sphere of interest, leading to an understanding of the deeper unity between the ancient and modern, is a recurring theme in The Hobbit.

Smaug is the main antagonist. In many ways the Smaug episode reflects and references the dragon of Beowulf
Beowulf
Beowulf , but modern scholars agree in naming it after the hero whose life is its subject." of an Old English heroic epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines, set in Scandinavia, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature.It survives in a single...

, and Tolkien uses the episode to put into practice some of the ground-breaking literary theories he had developed about the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon may refer to:* Anglo-Saxons, a group that invaded Britain** Old English, their language** Anglo-Saxon England, their history, one of various ships* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, an ethnicity* Anglo-Saxon economy, modern macroeconomic term...

 poem and its portrayal of the dragon as having bestial intelligence rather than being of purely symbolic value. Smaug the dragon and his golden hoard may be seen as a symbol of the traditional relationship between evil and metallurgy as collated in the depiction of Pandæmonium
Pandæmonium (Paradise Lost)
Pandæmonium is the capital of Hell in the epic poem Paradise Lost by the 17th century English poet John Milton."Pandæmonium" stems from Greek "παν", meaning "all" or "every", and "δαιμόνιον", meaning "little spirit" or "little angel", or, as Christians interpreted it, "little daemon", and later,...

 with its "Belched fire and rolling smoke" in Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

's Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 in ten books, with a total of over ten thousand individual lines of verse...

. Of all the characters, Smaug's speech is the most modern, using idiom
Idiom
Idiom is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is comprehended in regard to a common use of that expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made...

s such as "Don't let your imagination run away with you!"

Just as Tolkien's literary theories have been seen to influence the tale, so have Tolkien's experiences. The Hobbit may be read as Tolkien's parable of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, where the hero is plucked from his rural home and thrown into a far-off war where traditional types of heroism are shown to be futile. The tale as such explores the theme of heroism. As Janet Croft notes, Tolkien's literary reaction to war at this time differed from most post-war writers by eschewing irony as a method for distancing events and instead using mythology to mediate his experiences. Similarities to the works of other writers who faced the Great War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 are seen in The Hobbit, including portraying warfare as anti-pastoral
Pastoral
The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an...

: in "The Desolation of Smaug", both the area under the influence of Smaug before his demise and the setting for The Battle of the Five Armies later are described as barren, damaged landscapes. The Hobbit makes a warning against repeating the tragedies of World War I, and Tolkien's attitude as a veteran may well be summed up by Bilbo's comment:

Reception


On first publication in October 1937, The Hobbit was met with almost unanimously favourable reviews from publications both in the UK and the USA, including The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

, Catholic World and The New York Post
New York Post
The New York Post is the 13th-oldest newspaper published in the United States and is generally acknowledged as the oldest to have been published continuously as a daily, although – as is the case with most other papers – its publication has been periodically interrupted by labor actions...

. C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

, friend of Tolkien (and later author of The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels for children by C. S. Lewis. It is considered a classic of children's literature and is the author's best-known work, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages...

between 1949–1964), writing in The Times reports:
Lewis also compares the book to Alice in Wonderland in that both children and adults may find different things to enjoy in it, and places it alongside Flatland
Flatland
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions is an 1884 satirical novella by the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott. Writing pseudonymously as "A Square", Abbott used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to offer pointed observations on the social hierarchy of Victorian culture...

, Phantastes
Phantastes
Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women is a fantasy novel written by George MacDonald, first published in London in 1858. It was later reprinted in paperback by Ballantine Books as the fourteenth volume of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in April 1970.The story centres on the character...

, and The Wind in the Willows
The Wind in the Willows
The Wind in the Willows is a classic of children's literature by Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908. Alternately slow moving and fast paced, it focuses on four anthropomorphised animal characters in a pastoral version of England...

. W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden , who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet,The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also...

, in his review of the sequel The Fellowship of the Ring
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Fellowship of the Ring is the first of three volumes of the epic novel The Lord of the Rings by the English author J. R. R. Tolkien. It takes place in the fictional universe Middle-earth. It was originally published on July 29, 1954 in the United Kingdom...

calls The Hobbit "one of the best children's stories of this century". Auden was later to correspond with Tolkien, and they became friends. The Hobbit was nominated for the Carnegie Medal
Carnegie Medal
The Carnegie Medal is a literary award established in 1936 in honour of Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and given annually to an outstanding book for children and young adults. It is awarded by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals...

 and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune
New York Herald Tribune
The New York Herald Tribune was a daily newspaper created in 1924 when the New York Tribune acquired the New York Herald.Other predecessors, which had earlier merged into the New York Tribune, included the original The New Yorker newsweekly , and the Whig Party's Log Cabin.The paper was home to...

for best juvenile fiction of the year (1938). More recently, the book has been recognized as "Most Important 20th-Century Novel (for Older Readers)" in the Children's Books of the Century poll in Books for Keeps.

Publication of the sequel The Lord of the Rings altered many critics' reception of the work. Instead of approaching The Hobbit as a children's book in its own right, critics such as Randell Helms picked up on the idea of The Hobbit as being a "prelude", relegating the story to a dry-run for the later work. Countering a presentist
Presentism (literary and historical analysis)
Presentism is a mode of literary or historical analysis in which present-day ideas and perspectives are anachronistically introduced into depictions or interpretations of the past...

 interpretation are those who say this approach misses out on much of the original's value as a children's book and as a work of high fantasy in its own right, and that it disregards the book's influence on these genres. Commentators such as Paul Kocher, John D. Rateliff and C. W. Sullivan encourage readers to treat the works separately, both because The Hobbit was conceived, published, and received independently of the later work, and also in order to prevent the reader from having false expectations of tone and style dashed.

The Lord of the Rings


While The Hobbit has been adapted and elaborated upon in many ways, its sequel The Lord of the Rings is often claimed to be its greatest legacy. The plots share the same basic structure progressing in the same sequence: the stories begin at Bag End, the home of Bilbo Baggins; Gandalf sends the protagonist into a quest eastward; Elrond offers a haven and advice; the adventurers escape dangerous creatures underground (Goblin Town/Moria
Moria (Middle-earth)
In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, Moria was the name given by the Eldar to an enormous underground complex in north-western Middle-earth, comprising a vast network of tunnels, chambers, mines and huge halls or 'mansions', that ran under and ultimately through the Misty Mountains...

); they engage another group of elves (The Elf King's realm
Mirkwood
Mirkwood is a name used for two distinct fictional forests in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. In the First Age, the highlands of Dorthonion north of Beleriand were known as Mirkwood after falling under Morgoth's control. During the Third Age, the large forest in Rhovanion, east of the Anduin in ...

/Lothlórien); they traverse a desolate region (Desolation of Smaug/the Dead Marshes
Dead Marshes
The Dead Marshes is a fictional place from J. R. R. Tolkien's universe, Middle-earth.-Literature:Once a part of the ancient battlefield of Dagorlad, the Dead Marshes lie north-west of the Morannon, the principal entrance to Mordor...

); they fight in a massive battle; a descendant of kings is restored to his ancestral throne (Bard/Aragorn
Aragorn
Aragorn II is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, one of the main protagonists of The Lord of the Rings. He is first introduced by the name Strider, which the hobbits continue to call him...

); and the questing party returns home to find it in a deteriorated condition (having possessions auctioned off/the scouring of the Shire
Shire (Middle-earth)
The Shire is a region of J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional Middle-earth, described in The Lord of the Rings and other works. The Shire refers to an area settled exclusively by Hobbits and largely removed from the goings-on in the rest of Middle-earth. It is located in the northwest of the continent, in...

).

The Lord of the Rings contains several more supporting scenes, and has a more sophisticated plot structure, following the paths of multiple characters. Tolkien wrote the later story in much less humorous tones and infused it with more complex moral and philosophical themes. The differences between the two stories can cause difficulties when readers, expecting them to be similar, find that they are not. Many of the thematic and stylistic differences arose because Tolkien wrote The Hobbit as a story for children, and The Lord of the Rings for the same audience, who had subsequently grown up since its publication. Some differences are in minor details; for example, goblins are more often referred to as Orcs in The Lord of the Rings. Further, Tolkien's concept of Middle-earth
Middle-earth
Middle-earth is the fictional setting of the majority of author J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy writings. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place entirely in Middle-earth, as does much of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales....

 was to continually change and slowly evolve throughout his life and writings.

The Hobbit in education


The style and themes of the book have been seen to help stretch precocious young readers' literacy skills, preparing them to approach the works of Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 and Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

. By contrast, offering readers modern teenage-oriented fiction may not exercise their advanced reading skills, while the material may contain themes more suited to adolescents. As one of several books that has been recommended for 11–14 year old boys to encourage literacy in that demographic, The Hobbit is promoted as "the original and still the best fantasy ever written."

Several teaching guides and books of study notes have been published to help teachers and students gain the most from the book. The Hobbit introduces literary concepts, notably allegory
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

, to young readers, as the work has been seen to have allegorical aspects reflecting the life and times of the author. Meanwhile the author himself rejected an allegorical reading of his work. This tension can help introduce readers to 'readerly' and 'writerly' interpretations, to tenets of New Criticism
New Criticism
New Criticism was a movement in literary theory that dominated American literary criticism in the middle decades of the 20th century. It emphasized close reading, particularly of poetry, to discover how a work of literature functioned as a self-contained, self-referential aesthetic...

, and critical tools from Freudian analysis, such as sublimation
Sublimation (psychology)
In psychology, sublimation is a mature type of defence mechanism where socially unacceptable impulses or idealizations are consciously transformed into socially acceptable actions or behaviour, possibly converting the initial impulse in the long term...

, in approaching literary works.

Another approach to critique taken in the classroom has been to propose the insignificance of female characters in the story as sexist. While Bilbo may be seen as a literary symbol of 'small folk' of any gender, a gender-conscious approach can help students establish notions of a "socially symbolic text" where meaning is generated by tendentious readings of a given work. By this interpretation, it is ironic that the first authorized adaptation was a stage production in a girls' school.

Adaptations


In 1969 (over 30 years after first publication), Tolkien sold the film and merchandising rights to The Hobbit to United Artists
United Artists
United Artists Corporation is an American film studio. The original studio of that name was founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks....

 under an agreement stipulating a lump sum payment of £10,000 plus a 7.5% royalty after costs, payable to Allen & Unwin and the author. In 1976 (three years after the author's death) United Artists sold the rights to Saul Zaentz
Saul Zaentz
Saul Zaentz is an American film producer and former record company executive. He has won the Academy Award for Best Picture three times and in 1996 was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award....

 Company, who trade as Tolkien Enterprises
Tolkien Enterprises
Middle-earth Enterprises, formerly known as Tolkien Enterprises, is a trading name for a division of the Saul Zaentz Company based in Berkeley, California which owns the worldwide exclusive rights to certain elements of J. R. R. Tolkien's two most famous literary works; The Lord of the Rings and...

. Since then all "authorized" adaptations have been signed-off by Tolkien Enterprises. In 1997 Tolkien Enterprises licensed the film rights to Miramax, which assigned them in 1998 to New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema, often simply referred to as New Line, is an American film studio. It was founded in 1967 by Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne as a film distributor, later becoming an independent film studio. It became a subsidiary of Time Warner in 1996 and was merged with larger sister studio Warner...

. The heirs of Tolkien, including his son Christopher Tolkien
Christopher Tolkien
Christopher Reuel Tolkien is the third and youngest son of the author J. R. R. Tolkien , and is best known as the editor of much of his father's posthumously published work. He drew the original maps for his father's The Lord of the Rings, which he signed C. J. R. T. The J...

, filed suit against New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema, often simply referred to as New Line, is an American film studio. It was founded in 1967 by Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne as a film distributor, later becoming an independent film studio. It became a subsidiary of Time Warner in 1996 and was merged with larger sister studio Warner...

 in February 2008 seeking payment of profits and to be "entitled to cancel... all future rights of New Line... to produce, distribute, and/or exploit future films based upon the Trilogy and/or the Films... and/or... films based on The Hobbit."

The first authorized adaptation of The Hobbit appeared in March 1953, a stage production by St. Margaret's School, Edinburgh
St. Margaret's School, Edinburgh
St. Margaret's School was an independent school in the Newington area of Edinburgh, Scotland. The curriculum was based on the Scottish education system. The school closed its doors for the last time once the summer term ended in June 2010....

. The Hobbit has since been adapted for other media many times.

The BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

 series The Hobbit
The Hobbit (1968 radio series)
The Hobbit is a 1968 BBC Radio adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 children's fantasy novel of the same name.The series was adapted by Michael Kilgarriff and produced by John Powell in eight half-hour mono episodes for BBC Radio 4.-Story:...

radio drama was an adaptation by Michael Kilgarriff
Michael Kilgarriff
Michael Kilgarriff is a British actor, born 16 June 1937 in Brighton. As an actor he is well known for two things: his rich voice, leading to much radio and voice over work; and his height. At six feet seven inches tall, he is sought for certain roles, the most notable of which has been The Cyber...

, broadcast in eight parts (four total hours) from September to November 1968. It starred Anthony Jackson
Anthony Jackson (actor)
Anthony Thomas Jackson was an English actor, who reached his widest audiences as founder of the eponymous ghost hiring agency in the long-running BBC children's comedy series Rentaghost. Jackson began his career with the Birmingham Repertory. He studied at Rose Bruford College and won the BBC...

 as narrator, Paul Daneman
Paul Daneman
Paul Daneman was an English film, television, theatre and voice actor.Paul Frederick Daneman was born in Islington, London. He attended the Haberdashers' Aske's School and Sir William Borlase's Grammar School in Marlow and studied stage design at Reading University where he joined the dramatic...

 as Bilbo and Heron Carvic
Heron Carvic
Heron Carvic was a British actor and writer who provided the voice for Gandalf in the BBC Radio version of The Hobbit, and played Caiphas the High Priest every time the play cycle The Man Born To Be King was broadcast....

 as Gandalf. The series was released on audio cassette
Compact Cassette
The Compact Cassette, often referred to as audio cassette, cassette tape, cassette, or simply tape, is a magnetic tape sound recording format. It was designed originally for dictation, but improvements in fidelity led the Compact Cassette to supplant the Stereo 8-track cartridge and reel-to-reel...

 in 1988 and on CD in 1997.

The Hobbit, an animated version of the story produced by Rankin/Bass
Rankin/Bass
Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc. , also known as Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment, was an American production company, known for its seasonal television specials, particularly its work in stop-motion animation. The pre-1974 library is currently owned by Classic Media,while the post-1974 library is...

, debuted as a television movie in the United States in 1977. In 1978, Romeo Muller
Romeo Muller
Romeo Muller, Jr. was an American screenwriter and actor most remembered for his screenplays such as for the 1964 TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.-Early years:...

 won a Peabody Award
Peabody Award
The George Foster Peabody Awards recognize distinguished and meritorious public service by radio and television stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals. In 1939, the National Association of Broadcasters formed a committee to recognize outstanding achievement in radio broadcasting...

 for his teleplay
Teleplay
A teleplay is a television play, a comedy or drama written or adapted for television. The term surfaced during the 1950s with wide usage to distinguish a television plays from stage plays for the theater and screenplays written for films...

 for The Hobbit. The film was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation
Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation
The Hugo Awards are given every year by the World Science Fiction Society for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and was once officially...

, but lost to Star Wars
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, originally released as Star Wars, is a 1977 American epic space opera film, written and directed by George Lucas. It is the first of six films released in the Star Wars saga: two subsequent films complete the original trilogy, while a prequel trilogy completes the...

. The adaptation has been called "execrable" and confusing for those not already familiar with the plot.
A two-part live-action film version is planned to be co-produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. is an American media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of films and television programs. MGM was founded in 1924 when the entertainment entrepreneur Marcus Loew gained control of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer...

 and New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema, often simply referred to as New Line, is an American film studio. It was founded in 1967 by Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne as a film distributor, later becoming an independent film studio. It became a subsidiary of Time Warner in 1996 and was merged with larger sister studio Warner...

, produced and directed by Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson
Sir Peter Robert Jackson, KNZM is a New Zealand film director, producer, actor, and screenwriter, known for his The Lord of the Rings film trilogy , adapted from the novel by J. R. R...

. Martin Freeman
Martin Freeman
Martin John C. Freeman is an English actor. He is known for his roles as John in Love Actually, Tim Canterbury in the BBC's Golden Globe-winning comedy The Office, Arthur Dent in the film adaptation of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock and Mr. Madden...

 will be portraying Bilbo.

ME Games Ltd
Middle-earth PBM
Middle-Earth PBM is a turn-based, strategy play by email and play-by-mail game set in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, including elements from ICE's Middle-earth Role Playingunder licence from GSIL....

 (formerly Middle-earth Play-by-Mail), which has won several Origin Award
Origins Award
The Origins Awards are American awards for outstanding work in the game industry. They are presented by the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design at the Origins Game Fair on an annual basis for the previous year, so the 1979 awards were given at the 1980 Origins.The Origins Award is commonly...

s, uses the Battle of Five Armies as an introductory scenario to the full game and includes characters and armies from the book.

Several computer and video games, both licensed and unlicensed, have been based on the story. One of the most successful was The Hobbit
The Hobbit (video game)
The Hobbit is a computer game released in 1982 and based on the book The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien. It was developed at Beam Software by Philip Mitchell and Veronika Megler and published by Melbourne House for most home computers available at the time, from more popular models such as the ZX...

, an award-winning computer game developed in 1982 by Beam Software and published by Melbourne House
Melbourne House
Krome Studios Melbourne, originally Beam Software, was a video game development studio founded in 1980 and based in Melbourne, Australia. The studio operated independently from 1987 until 1999, when it was acquired by Infogrames, who changed the name to Melbourne House...

 with compatibility for most computers available at the time. A copy of the novel was included in each game package in order to encourage players to engage the text, since ideas for gameplay could be found therein. Likewise, it can be seen that the game is not attempting to re-tell the story, but rather sits along-side it, using the narrative to both structure and motivate gameplay. The game won the Golden Joystick Award for Strategy Game of the Year in 1983 and was responsible for popularizing the phrase, "Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold."

Collectors' market


While reliable figures are difficult to obtain, estimated global sales of The Hobbit run between 35 and 100 million copies since 1937. In the UK The Hobbit has not retreated from the top 5,000 books of Nielsen BookScan since 1995, when the index began, achieving a three-year sales peak rising from 33,084 (2000) to 142,541 (2001), 126,771 (2002) and 61,229 (2003), ranking it at the 3rd position in Nielsens' "Evergreen" book list. The enduring popularity of The Hobbit makes early printings of the book attractive collectors' items. The first printing of the first English-language edition can sell for between £6,000 and £20,000 at auction, although the price for a signed first edition has reached over £60,000.

See also



  • English-language editions of The Hobbit
    English-language editions of The Hobbit
    This list contains only complete, printed English-language editions of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. It is not for derived or unprinted works such as screenplays, graphic novels, or audio books.-Criteria for separate editions:...

  • Early American editions of The Hobbit
    Early American editions of The Hobbit
    The early United States editions of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit were published by the Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston and New York. They are very collectible but extraordinarily difficult to identify...

  • Translations of The Hobbit
    Translations of The Hobbit
    J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit has been translated into many languages. Known translations, with the first date of publishing, are:...

  • "The Quest of Erebor
    The Quest of Erebor
    "The Quest of Erebor" is a work of fantasy fiction by J. R. R. Tolkien, posthumously published by his son Christopher Tolkien in Unfinished Tales...

    ", Tolkien's retconned backstory for the novel published in Unfinished Tales
    Unfinished Tales
    Unfinished Tales is a collection of stories and essays by J. R. R. Tolkien that were never completed during his lifetime, but were edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and published in 1980.Unlike The Silmarillion, for which the narrative fragments were modified to connect into a consistent and...


  • The Hobbit (1977 film)
  • The Hobbit (2012 film)

External links