Tolkien Gateway

Letter 129

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 129
RecipientSir Stanley Unwin
Date10 September 1950
Subject(s)The precise wording for changes in the new edition of The Hobbit

Letter 129 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

For the new edition of The Hobbit, Tolkien's publishers asked for the "precise wording" for a note that explained the changes.[notes 1] People who had read both versions had told Tolkien that the alteration was an improvement, apart from its relationship to a sequel. But explaining the alteration was not as simple as he had thought.

He now had two printed versions of a crucial incident. Either the first must be portrayed as a mere miswriting or there must be an explanation for the existence of two versions. The former was his original intention but was awkward if the pretense of depending on historic records was to be maintained. The second option could be done more convincingly, but not in a short note. In the former case just saying nothing was the best thing to do, though he did not like it. There was no need for the American reprint and they could warn him when a note was needed for a new English edition. In the meantime he was sending them a specimen of what to put in an altered reprint, if he decided to go with two versions of the Ring-finding. This was not for copy but for comments.[notes 2]

[edit] Notes

  1. The most important change was the rewritten version of how Bilbo had acquired the Ring.
  2. In a few more days Tolkien decided to accept the second option of two different versions – see Letter 130.