or There and Back Again
|Publisher||George Allen and Unwin (UK)|
Houghton Mifflin (US)
|Released||September 21 1937|
|Format||Hardcover; paperback; deluxe-edition; audio-book|
|Followed by||The Lord of the Rings (1954-55)|
- "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."
- ― The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, better known as The Hobbit, is a children's fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was published in 1937 to wide critical acclaim. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic in children's literature.
The Hobbit is set within Tolkien's Middle-earth and follows the quest of home-loving Bilbo Baggins, the titular hobbit, to win a share of the treasure guarded by a dragon named Smaug. Bilbo's journey takes him from his light-hearted, rural surroundings into more sinister 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 geography. Bilbo gains a new level of maturity, competence, and wisdom by accepting the disreputable, romantic, fey, and adventurous sides of his nature and applying his wits and common sense. 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.
There is an inscription in the Cirth characters in the title page, it reads:
- "The Hobbit or There and Back Again, being the record of a year's journey made by Bilbo Baggins of Hobbiton; compiled from his memoirs by J.R.R. Tolkien and published by George Allen and Unwin Ltd."
Gandalf tricks Bilbo Baggins into hosting a party for Thorin Oakenshield and his band of twelve dwarves (Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur), who sing of reclaiming their ancient home, Lonely Mountain, and its vast treasure from the dragon Smaug. When the music ends, Gandalf unveils Thrór's Map showing a secret door 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 travels into the wild. Gandalf saves the company from trolls and leads them to Rivendell, where Elrond reveals more secrets from the map. When they attempt to cross the Misty Mountains, 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 and then encounters Gollum, who engages him in a game, each posing a riddle until one of them cannot solve it. If Bilbo wins, Gollum will show him the way out of the tunnels, but if he fails, his life will be forfeit. With the help of the ring, which confers invisibility, Bilbo escapes and rejoins the dwarves, improving his reputation with them. The goblins and Wargs give chase, but the company are saved by eagles. They rest in the house of Beorn.
The company enters the black forest of Mirkwood without Gandalf, who has other responsibilities. In Mirkwood, Bilbo first saves the dwarves from giant spiders and then from the dungeons of the 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 reaches the mountain and finds the secret door. The dwarves send a reluctant Bilbo inside to scout the dragon's lair. He steals a great cup and, while conversing with Smaug, spots a gap in the ancient dragon's armour. The enraged dragon, deducing that Lake-town has aided the intruders, flies off to destroy the town. A thrush overhears Bilbo's report of Smaug's vulnerability and tells Lake-town resident Bard. Smaug wreaks havoc on the town, until Bard fires an arrow into Smaug's hollow spot, killing the dragon.
When the dwarves take possession of the mountain, Bilbo finds the Arkenstone, the most-treasured heirloom of Thorin's family, and hides it away. The Wood-elves and Lake-men request compensation for Lake-town's destruction and settlement of old claims on the treasure. When Thorin refuses to give them anything, they besiege the mountain. However, Thorin manages to send a message to his kinfolk in the Iron Hills and reinforces his position. Bilbo slips out and gives the Arkenstone to the besiegers, hoping to head off a war. When they offer the jewel to Thorin in exchange for treasure, Bilbo reveals how they obtained it. Thorin, furious at what he sees as betrayal, banishes Bilbo, and battle seems inevitable when Dáin Ironfoot, Thorin's second cousin, arrives with an army of dwarf warriors.
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 roughly a year and a month after he first left. Years later, he writes the story of his adventures.
- Bilbo Baggins
- Belladonna Took (mentioned only)
- Bungo Baggins (mentioned only)
- Old Took (mentioned only)
- Gandalf the Grey
- Thorin Oakenshield
- Thráin (mentioned only)
- Thrór (mentioned only)
- Thráin I (mentioned only)
- Azog (mentioned only)
- Bullroarer Took (mentioned only)
- Golfimbul (mentioned only)
- Durin (mentioned only)
- The Great Goblin
- The Lord of the Eagles
- Radagast the Brown (mentioned only)
- The Elvenking
- Bard the Bowman
- Master of Lake-town
- Girion of Dale (mentioned only)
- Carc (mentioned only)
- Dáin Ironfoot
Two illustrations have been present in all editions of The Hobbit, these are:
Many editions include a series of eight black and white illustrations, in some editions these have been coloured by H.E. Riddett, these are:
- The Trolls
- The Mountain-path
- The Misty Mountains looking West
- Beorn's Hall
- The Elvenking's Gate
- Lake Town
- The Front Gate
- The Hall at Bag-End
Tolkien recollects in a 1955 letter to W.H. Auden (Letters, no. 163) that, in the late 1920s, when he was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College, The Hobbit began when he was marking School Certificate papers, on the back of one of which he wrote the words "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit". He did not go any further than that at the time, although in the following years he drew up Thrór's map, outlining the geography of the tale. The tale itself he wrote in the early 1930s, and it was eventually published because he lent it to the Reverend Mother of Cherwell Edge when she was sick with the flu; while the Reverend Mother was in possession of the manuscript, it was seen by the 10-year old son of Sir Stanley Unwin, Rayner Unwin, who wrote such an enthusiastic review of the book that it was published by Allen and Unwin.
Tolkien introduced or mentioned characters and places that figured prominently in his legendarium, specifically Elrond and Gondolin, along with elements from Germanic legend. But the decision that the events of The Hobbit could belong to the same universe as The Silmarillion was made only after successful publication, when the publisher asked for a sequel. Accordingly, The Hobbit serves both as an introduction to Middle-Earth and as a link between earlier and later events described in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings, respectively.
Although a fairy tale, the novel is both complex and sophisticated: it contains many names and words derived from Norse mythology, and central plot elements from the Beowulf epic, it makes use of Anglo-Saxon Runes, information on calendars and moon phases, and detailed geographical descriptions that fit well with the accompanying maps. Near the end, the tale takes on epic proportions.
George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. of London published the first edition of The Hobbit on 21 September 1937. It was illustrated with many black-and-white drawings by Tolkien himself. The original printing numbered a mere 1,500 copies and sold out by 15 December that same year due to enthusiastic reviews. Houghton Mifflin of Boston and New York prepared 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, wartime conditions forced the London publisher to print small runs of the remaining two printings of the first edition.
As remarked above, Tolkien substantially revised The Hobbit's text describing Bilbo's dealings with Gollum in order to blend the story better into what The Lord of the Rings had become. This revision became the second edition, published in 1951 in both UK and American editions. Slight corrections to the text have appeared in the third (1966) and fourth editions (1978). (The original version of the Gollum chapter is included in The Annotated Hobbit, more information about the book's textual changes can be found in The History of The Hobbit.)
New English-language editions of The Hobbit spring up often, despite the book's age, with at least fifty editions having been published to date. Each comes from a different publisher or bears distinctive cover art, internal art, or substantial changes in format. The text of each generally adheres to the Allen & Unwin edition extant at the time it is published.
On first publication in October 1937, The Hobbit was met with almost unanimously favourable reviews from publications both in the UK and the US, including The Times, Catholic World, and New York Post. C.S. Lewis, friend of Tolkien (and later author of The Chronicles of Narnia between 1949 and 1954), writing in The Times reports:
The truth is that in this book a number of good things, never before united, have come together: a fund of humour, an understanding of children, and a happy fusion of the scholar's with the poet's grasp of mythology... The professor has the air of inventing nothing. He has studied trolls and dragons at first hand and describes them with that fidelity that is worth oceans of glib 'originality'.
Lewis 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, Phantastes, and The Wind in the Willows. W.H. Auden, in his review of the sequel The Fellowship of the Ring, 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 and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune 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. In 2012 it was ranked number 14 on a list of the top 100 children's novels published by School Library Journal.
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 Randel 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 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 to avoid dashing readers' expectations of tone and style.
Radio and audio
The Hobbit has been adapted for other media. BBC Radio 4 broadcast The Hobbit radio drama, adapted by Michael Kilgarriff, in eight parts (4 hours) from September to November 1968, which starred Anthony Jackson as narrator, Paul Daneman as Bilbo and Heron Carvic as Gandalf.
Middle-earth has been featured in songs notably by Enya and the Brobdingnagian Bards. Led Zeppelin's songs "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Ramble On" both contain references to Tolkien's mystical world. For The Hobbit itself, "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins", performed by Leonard Nimoy as part of his 1968 Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy album, is the most pertinent because it recounts the book's storyline in its two minutes. The ballad's music video became a minor Internet meme in the early 2000s when The Lord of the Rings movies were released.
In 1974, Argo Records released an audio adaptation of The Hobbit, with Nicol Williamson providing the voices for all the characters in the book. It was an abridged adaptation , as Williamson re-edited the original script, removing many instances of "he said" and so on, preferring instead to rely on his vocal characteristics to convey who was saying what to whom, feeling that this would keep the audience engrossed in the story rather than slowing the overall pace.
Several computer and video games, both official and unofficial, have been based on the story. One of the first was The Hobbit, a computer game developed in 1982 by Beam Software and published by Melbourne House for most computers available at the time, from the more popular computers such as the ZX Spectrum, and the Commodore 64, through to such esoteric computers as the Dragon 32 and Oric computers. By arrangement with publishers, a copy of the novel was included with each game sold.
Vivendi Universal Games published The Hobbit: Prelude to The Lord of the Rings in 2003 for Windows PCs, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube. It is a hack and slash game produced as a prequel to The Lord of the Rings video games, but also as a softer version of those two games: less brutal, fewer enemies but with an important platform aspect, the game was designed for smaller children. A similar version of this game was also published for the Game Boy Advance.
A three-part live-action film version of The Hobbit based on the book, and incorporating elements from the Apprendices of The Lord of the Rings was produced and directed by Peter Jackson, who had also produced and directed a film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Principal photography began in 2011 and ended in 2012, with the majority of the scenes being shot in New Zealand.
This film series was released in three parts: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released on 14 December 2012; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was released on 13 December 2013; and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was released worldwide on 17 December 2014.
A drama playscript was published in 1968, which is made of multiple simple sets and runs about 2 hours. An animated version of the story debuted as a television movie in the United States in 1977. A live action television dramatization was broadcast on USSR televsion in 1985. David T. Wenzel's graphic format adaptation of The Hobbit was published in 1989.
Publication history and gallery
- Please see Publication history and gallery.
- Poems in The Hobbit
- The Hobbit quotations
- Translations of The Hobbit
- "The Quest of Erebor", from Unfinished Tales
- Related books
- The Annotated Hobbit by Douglas A. Anderson
- The History of The Hobbit by John D. Rateliff
- The Art of The Hobbit by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
- Poems from The Hobbit
- Collection of edition covers, 1937–2005
- UK editions of The Hobbit
- The Hobbit: What has made the book such an enduring success? by Tom Shippey
- Every Dutch edition of The Hobbit
- Hobbits around the globe - gallery
- Laura Massey, "Identifying & Collecting Tolkien First Editions" dated 9 January 2012, PeterHarrington.co.uk (accessed 12 January 2012)
- Anderson, Douglas A. (ed.). The Annotated Hobbit
- Auden, W.H. "The Hero is a Hobbit"
- Carpenter, Humphrey; Tolkien, Christopher (eds.). The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
- "FAQ: Did Tolkien win any awards for his books?". The Tolkien Society. 2002
- "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results"
- Sullivan, C.W. (1996). High Fantasy
- Kocher, Paul (1974). Master of Middle-earth, the Achievement of J.R.R. Tolkien
- Rateliff, John D. (2007). The History of The Hobbit
|Illustrators of The Hobbit|
|Internal art||J.R.R. Tolkien (1937-present) · Eric Fraser (The Folio Society: 1979, 1992-present) · Michael Hague (1984-1992) · David T. Wenzel (graphic novel: 1989-present) · Alan Lee (1997-present) · David Wyatt (1998-2001, 2012-2013) · John Howe (pop-up: 1999) · Jemima Catlin (2013-present)|
|Cover art only||J.R.R. Tolkien (1937-present) · Pauline Baynes (1961) · Roger Garland (1987-1989) · John Howe (1991-present) · Ted Nasmith (1989-1991) · Barbara Remington (1965 US)|