The Info List - The Hobbit

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THE HOBBIT, OR THERE AND BACK AGAIN is a children\'s fantasy novel by English author J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
. It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune
New York Herald Tribune
for best juvenile fiction. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic in children's literature.

The Hobbit is set in a time "between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men ", and follows the quest of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure guarded by Smaug the dragon . Bilbo's journey takes him from 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 the Five Armies , where many of the characters and creatures from earlier chapters re-emerge to engage in conflict.

Personal growth and forms of heroism are central themes of the story, along with motifs of warfare. These themes have led critics to view Tolkien\'s own experiences during World War I
World War I
as instrumental in shaping the story. The author's scholarly knowledge of Germanic philology and interest in fairy tales are often noted as influences.

The publisher was encouraged by the book's critical and financial success and, therefore, requested a sequel. As Tolkien's work progressed on the successor The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings
, he made retrospective accommodations for it in 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. Several of these adaptations have received critical recognition on their own merits.


* 1 Characters * 2 Plot

* 3 Concept and creation

* 3.1 Background * 3.2 Influences

* 3.3 Publication

* 3.3.1 Revisions * 3.3.2 Posthumous editions

* 3.4 Illustration and design

* 4 Genre * 5 Style

* 6 Critical analysis

* 6.1 Themes * 6.2 Interpretation

* 7 Reception

* 8 Legacy

* 8.1 The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings
* 8.2 In education * 8.3 Adaptations * 8.4 Collectors\' market

* 9 See also * 10 Notes * 11 References * 12 External links


Main article: List of The Hobbit characters

Bilbo Baggins , the titular protagonist, is a respectable, reserved hobbit . During his adventure, Bilbo often refers to the contents of his larder at home and wishes he had more food. Until he finds a magic ring , he is more baggage than help. Gandalf , an itinerant wizard , introduces Bilbo to a company of thirteen dwarves . During the journey the wizard disappears on side errands dimly hinted at, only to appear again at key moments in the story. Thorin Oakenshield , the proud, pompous head of the company of dwarves and heir to the destroyed dwarvish kingdom under the Lonely Mountain , 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 is a dragon who long ago pillaged the dwarvish 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 : both puckish and more serious warrior types ; Men ; man-eating trolls ; boulder-throwing giants; evil cave-dwelling goblins ; forest-dwelling giant spiders who can speak; immense and heroic eagles who also speak; evil wolves, or wargs , who are allied with the goblins; Elrond the sage; Gollum , a strange creature inhabiting an underground lake; Beorn , a man who can assume bear form; and Bard the Bowman , a grim but honourable archer of Lake-town .


Gandalf tricks Bilbo into hosting a party for Thorin and his band of dwarves, who sing of reclaiming the Lonely Mountain and its vast treasure from the dragon Smaug. When the music ends, Gandalf unveils a 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, where Gandalf saves the company from trolls and leads them to Rivendell , where Elrond reveals more secrets from the map. Passing over 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 of riddles. As a reward for solving all riddles Gollum will show him the path out of the tunnels, but if Bilbo 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 before resting in the house of Beorn .

The company enters the black forest of Mirkwood without Gandalf. 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 travels to the Lonely Mountain and finds 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 thrush had overheard Bilbo's report of Smaug's vulnerability and reports it to Lake-town defender Bard . His arrow finds the chink and slays the dragon.

When the dwarves take possession of the mountain, Bilbo finds the Arkenstone , an heirloom of Thorin's dynasty, and hides it away. 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 Iron Hills, 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
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.



Further information: Hobbit (word)

In the early 1930s Tolkien was pursuing an academic career at Oxford as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon , with a fellowship at Pembroke College . Several of his poems had been published in magazines and small collections, including Goblin
Feet and The Cat and the Fiddle: A Nursery Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked , a reworking of the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle . His creative endeavours at this time also included letters from Father Christmas to his children—illustrated manuscripts that featured warring gnomes and goblins , and a helpful polar bear —alongside the creation of elven languages and an attendant mythology , which he had been creating since 1917. These works all saw posthumous publication.

In a 1955 letter to W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
, 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
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 , she is reported to have either lent Dagnall the book or suggested she borrow it from Tolkien. In any event, Dagnall was impressed by it, and showed the book to Stanley Unwin , who then asked his 10-year-old son Rayner to review it. Rayner's favourable comments settled Allen his works further helped Tolkien form his whole thinking on the role of fantasy within his Christian faith. Verne's runic cryptogram from Journey to the Center of the Earth

Tolkien scholar Mark T. Hooker has catalogued a lengthy series of parallels between The Hobbit and Jules Verne
Jules Verne
's Journey to the Center of the Earth . These include, among other things, a hidden runic message and a celestial alignment that direct the adventurers to the goals of their quests.

Tolkien's works show much influence from Norse mythology , reflecting his lifelong passion for those stories and his academic interest in Germanic philology . The Hobbit is no exception to this; the work shows influences from northern European literature, myths and languages, especially from the Poetic Edda
Poetic Edda
and the Prose Edda . Examples include the names of characters, such as Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur , Dori, Nori, Dwalin, Balin , Dain, Nain, Thorin Oakenshield and Gandalf (deriving from the Old Norse
Old Norse
names Fíli, Kíli, Oin, Glói, Bivör, Bávörr, Bömburr, Dori, Nóri, Dvalinn, Bláin, Dain, Nain, Þorin Eikinskialdi and Gandálfr). But while their names are from Old Norse, the characters of the dwarves are more directly taken from fairy tales such as Snow White and Snow-White and Rose-Red as collected by the Brothers Grimm
Brothers Grimm
. The latter tale may also have influenced the character of Beorn.

Tolkien's use of descriptive names such as Misty Mountains and Bag End echoes the names used in Old Norse
Old Norse
sagas . The names of the dwarf-friendly ravens, such as Roäc, are derived from Old Norse
Old Norse
words for "raven" and "rook", but their peaceful characters are unlike the typical carrion birds from Old Norse
Old Norse
and Old English literature. Tolkien is not simply skimming historical sources for effect: the juxtaposition of old and new styles of expression is seen by Shippey as one of the major themes explored in The Hobbit. Maps figure in both saga literature and The Hobbit. Several of the author's illustrations incorporate Anglo-Saxon runes , an English adaptation of the Germanic runic alphabets .

Themes from Old English literature , and specifically from Beowulf
, shape the ancient world Bilbo stepped into. Tolkien, a scholar of Beowulf, counted the epic among his "most valued sources" for The Hobbit. Tolkien was one of the first critics to treat Beowulf
as a literary work with value beyond the merely historical, and his 1936 lecture Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics is still required in some Old English courses. Tolkien borrowed several elements from Beowulf, 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 the dragon stretches its neck out to sniff for intruders. Likewise, Tolkien's descriptions of the lair as accessed through a secret passage mirror those in Beowulf. Other specific plot elements and features in The Hobbit that show similarities to Beowulf
include the title thief, as Bilbo is called by Gollum and later by Smaug, and Smaug's personality, which leads to the destruction of Lake-town. Tolkien refines parts of Beowulf's 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 Old English sources is the appearance of named blades of renown, adorned in runes. In using his elf-blade Bilbo finally takes his first independent heroic action. By his naming the blade "Sting " we 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."

The name of the wizard Radagast is widely recognized to be taken from the name of the Slavic deity Rodegast .

The representation of the dwarves in The Hobbit was influenced by his own selective reading of medieval texts regarding the Jewish people and their history. The dwarves' characteristics of being dispossessed of their ancient homeland at the Lonely Mountain, and living among other groups whilst retaining their own culture are all derived from the medieval image of Jews, whilst their warlike nature stems from accounts in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
. The Dwarvish calendar invented for The Hobbit reflects the Jewish calendar in beginning in late autumn. And although Tolkien denied allegory, the dwarves taking Bilbo out of his complacent existence has been seen as an eloquent metaphor for the "impoverishment of Western society without Jews."


See also: English-language editions of The Hobbit Dustcover of the first edition of The Hobbit, taken from a design by the author

George Allen & Unwin Ltd. of London published the first edition of The Hobbit on 21 September 1937 with a print run of 1,500 copies, which sold out by December because of enthusiastic reviews. This first printing was illustrated in black and white by Tolkien, who designed the dust jacket as well. Houghton Mifflin
Houghton Mifflin
of Boston 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 brought on by wartime conditions and not ending until 1949 meant that the Allen ">'s publisher, Stanley Unwin, asked Tolkien for a sequel. In response Tolkien provided drafts for The Silmarillion
The Silmarillion
, 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 , a course that would not only change the context of the original story, but 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, to reflect the new concept of the ring 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, 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 proofs 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 US.

Tolkien began a new version in 1960, attempting to adjust the tone of The Hobbit 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 in 1965, Houghton Mifflin
Houghton Mifflin
and Ballantine asked Tolkien to refresh the text of The Hobbit to renew the 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
The Lord of the Rings
and to cosmological developments from his still unpublished Quenta Silmarillion 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 " in his earlier writing to refer to the second kindred of the High Elves —the Noldor (or "Deep Elves")—thinking "gnome", 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 , derived from the 16th-century Paracelsus
, 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. Later editions added the text of The Quest
of Erebor . 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 . The edition also presents a number of little-known texts such as the 1923 version of Tolkien's poem "Iumonna Gold Galdre Bewunden".

With The History of The Hobbit , published in two parts in 2007, John D. 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 moreover provides the abandoned 1960s retelling and previously unpublished illustrations by Tolkien. The book keeps Rateliff's commentary separate from Tolkien's text, allowing the reader to read the original drafts as self-contained stories.


Tolkien's correspondence and publisher's records show that he 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: "In 1937 alone Tolkien wrote 26 letters to George Allen "> Runes and the English letter values assigned to them by Tolkien, used in several of his original illustrations and designs for The Hobbit.

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 (almost identical to 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 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 , The Front Gate , and The Hall at Bag-End . 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 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 of English, giving the title of the book and details of the author and publisher. The original jacket design contained several shades of various 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 runes: two "þ " (Thráin and Thrór) runes and one "d " (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
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
, and signed with two "þ" ("Th") runes. The additional illustrations proved so appealing that George Allen Bilbo hosts a party that sets the novel's main plot into motion; Gandalf sends the protagonist into a quest eastward; Elrond offers a haven and advice; the adventurers escape dangerous creatures underground ( Goblin
Town /Moria ); they engage another group of elves (The Elvenking\'s realm / Lothlórien ); they traverse a desolate region (Desolation of Smaug/the Dead Marshes ); they are received and nourished by a small settlement of men (Lake-town / Ithilien
); they fight in a massive battle (The Battle of Five Armies / Battle of Pelennor Fields
Battle of Pelennor Fields
); their journey climaxes within an infamous mountain peak ( Lonely Mountain / Mount Doom ); a descendant of kings is restored to his ancestral throne (Bard /Aragorn ); and the questing party returns home to find it in a deteriorated condition (having possessions auctioned off/the scouring of the Shire ).

The Lord of the Rings
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
The Lord of the Rings
for the same audience, who had subsequently grown up since its publication. Further, Tolkien's concept of Middle-earth was to continually change and slowly evolve throughout his life and writings.


The style and themes of the book have been seen to help stretch young readers' literacy skills, preparing them to approach the works of Dickens and Shakespeare . By contrast, offering advanced younger readers modern teenage-oriented fiction may not exercise their reading skills, while the material may contain themes more suited to adolescents. As one of several books that have been recommended for 11- to 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 , 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 , and critical tools from Freudian analysis, such as sublimation , 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.


Main article: Adaptations of The Hobbit Gollum as depicted in the 1989 comic-book adaptation by David Wenzel

The first authorized adaptation of The Hobbit appeared in March 1953, a stage production by St. Margaret\'s School, Edinburgh . The Hobbit has since been adapted for other media many times.

The first motion picture adaptation of The Hobbit, a 12-minute film of cartoon stills, was commissioned from Gene Deitch by William L. Snyder in 1966, as related by Deitch himself. This film was publicly screened in New York City. In 1969 (over 30 years after first publication), Tolkien sold the film and merchandising rights to The Hobbit to United Artists
United Artists
under an agreement stipulating a lump sum payment of £10,000 plus a 7.5% royalty after costs, payable to Allen border:solid #aaa 1px">

* Middle-earth portal

* Early American editions of The Hobbit * English-language editions of The Hobbit * "The Quest
of Erebor ", Tolkien's retconned backstory for the novel published in Unfinished Tales * Translations of The Hobbit * Middle-earth in film


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Houghton Mifflin
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