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The History of the Hobbit: Return to Bag-End v. 2 [Paperback]

John D. Rateliff
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

3 Mar 2008

The second half of a major new examination of how J.R.R.Tolkien came to write his original masterpiece ‘The Hobbit’, including his complete unpublished draft version of the story, and many little-known illustrations and previously unpublished maps by Tolkien himself.

The History of the Hobbit presents for the first time, in two volumes, the complete unpublished text of the original manuscript of J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Hobbit, accompanied by John Rateliff's lively and informative account of how the book came to be written and published. As well as recording the numerous changes made to the story both before and after publication, it examines – chapter-by-chapter – why those changes were made and how they reflect Tolkien's ever-growing concept of Middle-earth.

As well as reproducing the original version of one of literature's most famous stories, both on its own merits and as the foundation for The Lord of the Rings, this new book includes many little-known illustrations and previously unpublished maps for The Hobbit by Tolkien himself. Also featured are extensive annotations and commentaries on the date of composition, how Tolkien's professional and early mythological writings influenced the story, the imaginary geography he created, and how Tolkien came to revise the book years after publication to accommodate events in The Lord of the Rings.

This second volume picks up Bilbo Baggins’ story half-way through his journey and chronicles how, after much adversity, he must still face the mighty dragon, Smaug, carry out the burglary for which he has been recruited, and return safely home to Bag-End. But not everything goes to plan…


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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Ediition edition (3 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007266472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007266470
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 619,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

John D. Rateliff moved to Wisconsin in 1981 in order to work with the Tolkien manuscripts at Marquette University. He has been active in Tolkien scholarship for many years, delivering papers on Tolkien and the Inklings. While at Marquette, he assisted in the collation of their holdings with those Christopher Tolkien was editing for his History of Middle-earth series. A professional editor, he lives in the Seattle area with his wife and three cats, only one of whom is named after a Tolkien character.


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine and illuminating piece of scholarship 22 April 2010
Format:Paperback
This is essential reading for anyone interested in how The Hobbit developed as Tolkien wrote and re-wrote it. It includes the early drafts, and, particularly importantly, Tolkien's very late and unpublished attempt to re-write it more or less in the style of The Lord of the Rings. He was probably right to abandon this: as far as it goes, it does lose some of the special individuality of the earlier book. But it is very suggestive of what he might have done with the later and more serious episodes of the story, if he had got that far.

Rateliff writes well, and his comments are usually illuminating and only occasionally pedestrian. This is obviously not a book (or rather, two books) for someone simply wanting to read the story. But for those of us interested in how these works came into being, and what they led to, it is a fundamental piece of scholarship.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Making of a Masterpiece, Volume II 21 Sep 2007
By John D. Cofield - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Return to Bag End is the second part of John D. Rateliff's History of the Hobbit. It begins with page 469 and contains the Index for both volumes, so its important to start with Volume I, Mr. Baggins.

Return to Bag End begins with the thirteen dwarves and their hobbit companion's arrival at The Lonely Mountain. Rateliff has identified five phases in the writing of The Hobbit, and this volume begins towards the end of the second phase. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit in fits and spurts over a period of several years, and finally finished it in its first published form by the end of the third phase. Rateliff's fourth phase took place in the late 1940s, when Tolkien had nearly finished The Lord of the Rings and needed to rewrite part of The Hobbit to eliminate some inconsistencies. The most important of these inconsistencies dealt with the matter of how Bilbo came to possess the Ring. In the first published version Gollum gave Bilbo the Ring as a gift. Now Tolkien, to make the Ring darker and more ominous, had Bilbo purloin it from Gollum. Then in 1960 came the fifth phase, when Tolkien attempted to make The Hobbit even closer in tone and spirit to The Lord of the Rings by essentially rewriting it. He wisely abandoned this attempt after a few chapters when a friend advised that while it was brilliant, it wasn't The Hobbit.

As in the first volume, Return to Bag End abounds with fascinating textual notes and short essays interpolated with Tolkien's own words. These include some intriguing speculations, including one on whether the Arkenstone was a Silmaril and another on the ultimate fate of dwarves after their deaths. There are also several Appendices, one on the Denham Tracts, a nineteenth century list of imaginary beings which mentioned "hobbit" several years before Tolkien was even born; another on Tolkien's own speculations on the origin of the word hobbit which includes one of my own favorite childhood stories: "The Hobyahs;" and others dealing with the origins of dwarf names and with Tolkien's correspondence with Arthur Ransome.

Both volumes of The History of the Hobbit are essential additions to Tolkien scholarship. They will provide much fascinating reading and speculation for many years to come for all lovers of Middle-earth.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great resource - but use footnotes! 3 Nov 2012
By Enjolras - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For some reason, Christopher Tolkien did not extend his History of Middle-Earth scholarship to the Hobbit. Rateliff provides an invaluable contribution by chronicling J.R.R. Tolkien's writing of his first and arguable best novel.

In many respects, the early drafts of the Hobbit do not differ much from the published version. The first phase of the draft remains startlingly similar to the final book. The key plot elements - from the unexpected party to the trolls to Beorn - are all present. There are a few minor differences, particularly the names (I won't spoilt the surprise, but Gandalf and Thorin go by different aliases).

The end of the second phase of the draft and third, and fourth phases (most of which are covered in this volume) deal with the latter half of the Hobbit story, and boy were there some changes. Bard wasn't the original dragon-slayer - not by long shot! It's fascinating to see how Tolkien originally envisioned the story and how much it differs from the final version.

Finally, the book covers the fifth phase, Tolkien's attempt to rewrite the Hobbit in 1960 to make it better fit the style of Lord of the Rings. Ultimately, Tolkien only got to Rivendell and most of the changes only affect the tone, not the plot, of the story. Still, it's a fascinating "what if".

I took off one star for something that bugged me throughout Rateliff's book. Rateliff supplements Tolkien's drafts with hundreds of detailed endnotes at the end of each chapter commenting on the text. These are generally very insightful, but because they're endnotes it's difficult and quite frustrating to have to flip back and forth to see how the comment relates to the text. This is especially so because the endnotes refer to very specific language or details in the text. The book ought to have used footnotes, or sidenotes such as those found in the Annotated Hobbit, so that readers can read the note right after reading the relevant text.

Other than that quibble, this is a MUST for any Hobbit fan.
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the story 25 Jan 2014
By Judee G. Ash - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There is a lot more to learn about Bag End than I thought. Very interesting look at a great story and characters. The history and story is very intriguing.
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