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The Hobbit has been my favorite book since I was seven. I first heard it-before I knew how to read-as a Recorded Books production from the Cambridge Public Library. From the first reel, I fell in love with Tolkien’s world, and I listened to the whole book twice through. During the following winter, my father read The Lord ofthe Rings aloud to me before bedtime. Each night we would settle onto our living room couch to share a chapter or-if I had my way-two. On especially cold evenings, we would build a fire. When we began with The Fellowship ofthe Ring, the thick blocs of text that filled each page remained an impenetrable enigma to me, unlocked only by my father’s voice. But by the time we reached the last chapter of The Return ofthe King, I could follow along with each word.
Teaching me to read is just one of the ways Tolkien’s works have influenced me. As Christopher Tolkien once said of his father’s stories, “As strange as it may seem, I grew up in the world he created. For me, the cities of The Silmarillion are more real than Babylon.” Although I first encountered Middle-earth some three generations after J.R.R. Tolkien’s youngest son, his words speak to me with the same timeless quality captured in the books that defined both our childhoods. Already at the age of seven, I considered J.R.R. Tolkien’s world-building, his elegant prose, and his characterization to be the gold standard by which all other literature should be measured. Now, fifteen years on, if! were to deconstruct my most basic beliefs about history, politics, narrative, and morality, I suspect that many strands of my adult Weltanschauung would find root somewhere in his mythology.
For me The Hobbit was, in many respects, a beginning. In my first encounter with the Recorded Books version in the Cambridge library, I locate not only my introduction to Tolkien, but also the genesis of many of my favorite pastimes and academic interests. Adorning the front cover of the cassette case was Tokien’s iconic image of Smaug, the dragon sprawling across his lonely mountain of hoarded treasure. This image is for me the illustration, the picture that taught me how texts can be externalized through visual media. It helped instill in me a love of art that eventually led me to illustrate my own edition of The Hobbit, and which still finds expression in my drawings and oil paintings. In a similar manner, the voice of Rob Inglis, who narrated the Recorded Books production, continues to sound in my head each time I think of Bilbo, Gandalf, and the thirteen dwarves. Engles’ masterful narration revealed to me how stories take on new life through the creative interpretation of each reader-an insight I draw on daily through my studies of History and German Literature. Finally, The Hobbit led me into a passion for collecting. Fascinated by the lore and scholarship surrounding Middle-earth, I soon began amassing dozens of books by or about Tolkien, with a special focus on my favorite of his stories, The Hobbit.
This collection centers on my relationship with The Hobbit; it is an exploration of a single book and of that book’s impact on my life. I have read The Hobbit at least once each year for fifteen years, and each of those readings has left a different set of memories and impressions. I find that the text changes for me as I bring it into conversation with my shifting locations, moods, and literary knowledge. The Hobbit on a mountain peak with a storm brewing is much different than The Hobbit in bed just before drifting off to sleep. In my annotations I will discuss what different editions of The Hobbit have meant for me, with regard both the physical qualities of the books themselves, as well as the conditions in which I read them. My bibliography will focus on The Hobbit-to the exclusion of The Lord ofthe Rings and other works by Tolkien-both because it is my favorite book, and also because I want to delve into The Hobbit in its own right, as it is significantly different than The Lord ofthe Rings in both style and tone. For this reason, I do not include all the Tolkien-related books I own, but only those most directly pertaining to The Hobbit.
I have divided my collection into four sections, each organized alphabetically. First, “Editions and Translations” includes my various copies of The Hobbit. Second, “Commentary and Scholarship” comprises interpretations and reading aids, such as dictionaries, biographies, and reference books. Third, “Art and Illustration” includes books that depict Middle-earth graphically. And finally, “Related Works” brings some of my favorite novels from Alice in Wonderland to The Wind in the Willows into dialogue with The Hobbit in a discussion of inter-textuality.
In an epigraph at the beginning of his Annotated Hobbit, Tolkien scholar Douglas Anderson suggests that an ideal existence would be to settle down “in the not too remote country where I could reread and annotate my favorite books.” I am thankful for the opportunity to follow Anderson in his Hobbit-like wish. As Bilbo reminds us often enough, we are not always so lucky as to be at home “by the fire with the kettle just beginning to sing,” but sometimes we do get the chance to record our journeys, before the road goes ever on.
1) Tolkien, J.R.R. The Annotated Hobbit, annotated by Douglas A. Anderson. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.
This is the definitive annotated edition of The Hobbit, revised and expanded in a beautiful second edition. Annotator Douglas Anderson has provided a wonderful introduction, as well as several appendices. One of these appendices is an unpublished final chapter of The Hobbit entitled “The Quest of Erebor” which explains Gandalf’s reasons for recruiting Bilbo for the journey with Thorin and company. On each page of text for the original nineteen chapters, Anderson has included expansive notes. These include information on the etymology of Tolkien’s words and on the origins of his ideas and concepts for the books. The inspiration for Gandalf, for example, first came from a German postcard showing an old man in a red cloak and captioned “Der Berggeist.” Anderson also includes myriad illustrations (many in full color) from the various editions of The Hobbit published around the world over the past eighty-two years. I purchased this book at the beginning of last semester and enjoyed reading it throughout the fall. I was particularly interested in its treatment of The Hobbit as a locus for Tolkien’s various influences-in The Hobbit, Tolkien wedded mythology, philology, his favorite children stories, his travels, his childhood memories, and his artistic talent (he produced an extensive set of illustrations for the first edition, published in 1935).
2) Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. Audio recording produced by the Mind’s Eye. Novato, CA: Soundelux Audio Publishing. no date.
I picked up this audio recording at the Jumble Sale of the Swarthmore Friends Meeting two years ago. It’s contained in a small wooden box and is a dramatized recording on several cassette tapes with different actors reading the parts of each character. Sound effects are included, and some text, such has dialogue tags, has been excluded. I love the idea behind the recording, but in my mind, it will never stand up to that of Rob Inglis for Recorded Books! This recording represents a genre of creative interpretations of The Hobbit of which I hope to collect more in the future. For example, there are several comic books and parodies of The Hobbit which I would like to pick up.
3) Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. Audio recording read by Rob Inglis. Recorded Books. no date.
This recording is the time honored and classic production that first introduced me to Tolkien’s world. While the Cambridge Public Library probably long ago discarded or sold the original copy that I heard at age seven, I was thrilled to pick up my own copy at a local Barnes and Noble. I purchased this recording, on nine cassette tapes, with Christmas money, I believe when I was in the third grade. I also bought cassette tapes of the complete Lord ofthe Rings trilogy. These tapes, dozens of hours in all, were the soundtrack to much of my childhood years. I listened to them in my room when I was drawing or playing and on long car trips with my family. Over the years, I internalized the inflections and intonations of narrator Rob Inglis, and when I read The Hobbit aloud, I mimic his reading. Incidentally, the first time I listened to this recording at age seven, the beginning of the first cassette tape was garbled, so I had to begin the story part way through, with the encounter between Bilbo and the trolls. Aside from the encounter with the tolls, my most explicit memory of listening to the audio book at age seven was in the back seat of my parents’ truck on the way to the Boston airport. I was listening to the section on the Battle of Five Armies for the second time. My sister was sitting next to me, and I handed her the headphones, suggesting that the book was so awesome, she would like it too. At age 4, she was less enamored than me.
4) Tolkien, J.R.R. Der kleine Hobbit. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co., 2004.
This is the first copy of The Hobbit that I purchased abroad. I bought it in 2005 in a large bookstore in Berlin on a trip there with my family. I was beginning to study German at the time, and I hoped to read my favorite book in German for practice. As it turns out, The Hobbit was an excellent choice. It is easy to follow and has fairly simple sentence structure. Also, because much of the mythology Tolkien incorporated into the book is based on Germanic traditions, German is an excellent language to read it in. Words like ‘ dwarf,’ ‘dragon,’ ‘troll,’ and even ‘hobbit’ all sound very proper in German. I read this book primarily in Colorado over two summers while working at a summer camp. My German wasn’t very fluent at the time, meaning that it was pretty slow going. But I know The Hobbit almost word for word, so even if I only knew a few German words in each sentence, I could easily fill in the rest with my own knowledge of the English version.
5) Tolkien, J.R.R. La hobbit: a la Riconquista del Tesoro, translated by Elena Jeronimidis Conte, Milan : Adelphi Edizioni S.P.A., 2004.
After buying a copy of The Hobbit in German, I decided that I would start collecting it in other languages. On a trip to Rome with my parents , I found this edition in a local bookstore. I hope that one day I can read Italian, but until then this book will remain an invitation to begin learning the language. The volume is red with a picture on the cover depicting one of the great eagles-originally painted by Tolkien for the first British edition. The Hobbit has been translated into many other languages. (Tolkien made extensive notes for translators on just what emotions and traditions invented words like ‘hobbit’ or ‘ Carrock’ ought to evoke .) From Finish to Japanese, I have many more copies to collect! And new translations are popping up all the time. Just this last year, a new translation of The Hobbit appeared in Latin.
6) J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit. Illustrated by me. 2002-2013
When I was twelve, I began illustrating The Hobbit. The movie of The Fellowship ofthe Ring had just come out, which I enjoyed very much, and for Christmas my parents gave me a book on the art production for the movie. Inspired by the drawings and diagrams in this book, I began illustrating The Hobbit in my own style. Significantly, I picked The Hobbit, rather than The Lord a/the Rings to illustrate. I did this for two reasons. First, The Hobbit was my favorite book, and second, it was shorter and would therefore require fewer illustrations complete (although I did envision eventually illustrating The Lord a/the Rings as well). My illustrations are influenced by the art direction of Peter Jackson’s movies, but they are not entirely derivative. For example, where visions that I had had in my mind prior to watching the movie differed from the cinematic version , I always chose to portray my own images. Also, I had always loved Tolkien’s original illustrations for The Hobbit. I did not want to diverge from his representations, so I often incorporated elements of his illustrations into my own. (It is also worth noting that these were not the first or only illustrations of Tolkien’s work that I have done . I did my first Tolkien-inspired illustrations-of Cirith Ungol and Barad Dur-at age eight.) I worked on my project to illustrate The Hobbit on and offthrough my high school years, and completed approximately three illustrations per chapter for the first nine chapters. I still hope to finish the project one day. When I have illustrated the whole book, I plan to bind the illustrations with a copy of the text. While traveling in Morocco last year, I found a red leather book cover at a local market. The craftsman who was selling it offered to print a few words on the cover in gold leaf, and so I had him imprint “THE HOBBIT” in bold capitals. When it’s all bound, it should have the look of “The Red Book” in which Bilbo supposedly wrote down his tale.
7) Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. New York: Ballantine Books, Inc., 1966.
This is an old paperback copy of The Hobbit. It says “Official Authorized Edition” on the back above Tolkien’s printed signature. This label was introduced to distinguish the book from contraband facsimile editions that were being circulated at the time in violation of copyright. It was such a popular book that American publishers didn ‘t wait for rights to get a corner on the market. I bought this book several years ago at my favorite used book shop, The Dusty Bookshelf, in Lawrence, Kansas. The picture on the cover is a 1960s illustration that was not done by Tolkien. This is my oldest copy of The Hobbit, and it is one of the first revised editions, in which Tolkien altered the text of the book to accommodate the storyline of The Lord ofthe Rings. In the original 1935 edition, there are several major differences. The most notable occurs in the chapter “Riddles in the Dark” (which has long been my favorite chapter) in which Biblo wins the one ring from Gollum in a riddle game, rather than finding in the cave floor prior to meeting Gollum, as he does in later editions. The switch is important for Biblo’s psychology and is explained by Gandalf in the first book of The Fellowship ofthe Ring. Swarthmore College owns a copy of the first American edition of The Hobbit, which was bought at the request of Craig Williamson, and it is housed in the rare book room. One day my friend Chris and I got a chance to look at it with librarian Anne Garrison. We were so excited to see a copy with the original text and went through the whole book finding details that diverge from contemporary editions. While scholars have long noted the major change in Bilbo’s finding of the ring, we were excited to make a different discovery, which we had never seen mentioned before: in the original edition, Gollum is not a lost and wizened hobbit, but rather some unrelated cave creature. Very important for his own psychology and characterization as well!
8) Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. New York: Ballantine Books, Inc., 1973.
I also bought this copy at The Dusty Bookshelf in Lawrence. It is a slightly more recent paperback from Ballantine, and the cover illustration is one of Tolkien’s original illustrations and depicts Bilbo riding a barrel into the Long Lake before arriving with the dwarves in Lake Town. I remember reading sections of it in my room at home. I keep it on a long lower shelf on the south side of my room which holds many of my Tolkien books.
9) Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. New York: Ballantine Publishing Group, 1980.
This is a green book with a picture of Hobbiton on the front. I bought it at a used book store in Buena Vista, Colorado on a sweltering afternoon in June of2011. At the time I was leading backpacking trips for the summer camp I work at, and I had the afternoon off while the group of kids I was working with that week were on a rafting trip. My fellow trip leaders and I decided to read a book to the next group of campers, and the following week we read The Hobbit aloud from cover to cover to a group of eight or nine middle schoolers. It was amazing to read the book during a backpacking trip, as The Hobbit is also about a journey. During our trip, we explored caves, climbed high peaks, swam in lakes, and slid down talus slopes-all things that Bilbo does in his own adventures. Often, our current location or the mood of the weather reflected the events of the story. We spent one stormy afternoon huddled in our sleeping bags listening to “The Gathering of the Clouds.” My favorite moment was when we read a chapter on the top ofa 13,000 foot mountain, Bushnell Peak, overlooking the San Louis Valley. When storm clouds started gathering, we packed up and scrambled down the mountain as fast as we could!
10) Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972.
A clothbound volume, this book belonged to my mother as a child . It has the black, white, green, and blue just jacket that Tolkien designed for the original British edition. Tolkien originally intended the sun and the dragon , which here appear in white , to be drawn in red. The publishers decided to leave the red out as it cost too much to add an extra color. More recent editions that use this dust jacket design, such as the 75th anniversary edition, show the dragon and sun in red. I’ve read through this volume a couple oftimes, but not in recent years. I remember reading it in our living room before my father remodeled the lower level of our house. The cover is creased and a little torn in places. I always thought of this volume as somewhat antiquated and belonging to a past much older than myself-it made me think about The Hobbit as a book with age that belonged to a tradition stretching back to my mother’s youth.
11) J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994.
This is my favorite copy of The Hobbit. It is a green leather edition with the title, author, and runic inscriptions imprinted on the cover in gold leaf. The interior includes all ofTolkien’s original illustrations. These were not always included in the paperback books I had first read, or even in the hardback from the 70s that belonged to my mother. In this volume I saw some of Tolkien’s illustrations for the first time-including his paintings of the eagles’ eerie and of Hobbiton. I bought the book at a Barnes and Noble when I might have been fourteen or fifteen. I already had the leather bound edition of The Lord ofthe Rings, and I wanted one of The Hobbit as well. It is primarily ornamental; I have never actually sat down and read this copy (I’m afraid of damaging it), but I look through it often.
12) Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.
When I first checked out The Hobbit on tape from the Cambridge Public Library, I was browsing in the children’s audio book section with my mother, where we often picked up recorded books for me. I saw The Hobbit and was intrigued by cover illustration of the red dragon on his golden hoard. But I was skeptical of the title The Hobbit, which sounded odd to me. I didn’t initially want to check it out, but my mother, not remembering having read it herself as a child, told me that my father liked it and that I probably would too. Later, after having been especially impressed by The Battle of Five Armies, I talked about the book with my father. He said he had also really liked The Lord ofthe Rings and suggested that we read it together. The name The Lord ofthe Rings initially sounded odd to me as well; I pictured a strange figure sitting at a table with a set of rings laid out before him. My father convinced me that I would like the book despite my doubts , and we went to the local Barnes and Noble to buy a copy. We were living on our own at the time; my mother and sister were living in Indiana, and my father and I were in Kansas. We were separated for just one year because of my parents ‘ jobs, so my father and I had some bonding time. Our evening readings of The Lord ofthe Rings are my most vivid memories of that year. When we got to the bookstore , we looked at two different copies of The Lord ofthe Rings. The first was a red leather bound edition. I think it may be one I later bought, but I also remember it having a black and white picture crammed with orcs, which my copy doesn’t have. IfI’m remembering correctly and there is a volume with that illustration, I would very much like to find it again. Anyway, we decided to go for a less expensive and more versatile boxed set with copies of The Hobbit and each of the three volumes of The Lord ofthe Rings. Each book had a simple white and gray cover with designs and words in single colors.
Each book had a different color. The Hobbit’s color was red. We didn ‘t read it together that year, as I had already heard it twice on tape the year before. But I did read this particular volumes a few times in later years. Every time I look at it, it still reminds me of that trip to the bookstore which for me was a very physical entre to The Lord ofthe Rings. The memory of comparing editions at the bookstore was also influential for the way I have thought about book collecting and specifically my Hobbit collection ever since.
13) Carpenter, Humphrey, The Letters ofJR.R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981.
In this thick hard cover volume, Humphrey Carpenter has collected and edited J.R.R. Tolkien’s personal letters. Many of these are family letters and still others are exchanges with his various publishers, especially Allen & Unwin. Carpenter has selected those letters which most directly pertain to the development ofTolkien’s legendarium. For me the most interesting selections are those which deal with the saga of writing, publishing and revising the Hobbit. The letters reveal especially Tolkien’s revision process. He accepted many suggestions from readers and changed the text of The Hobbit several times. In one example, Tolkien switched out the word “tomatoes” for “pickles” because he wanted to keep his flora primarily English, and tomatoes are an American food and name. Letters has taught me that Tolkien’s process was one filled with conversation and dialogue. He did not invent his world in isolation, but rather in partnership with his family, his colleagues, his publishers, and his readers. Today, Letters reminds us that we are ourselves in a conversation with Tolkien, and each time we read his works , they take on new meaning as we roll them into our own cosmologies, writings, relationships, and lives.
14) Coren, Michael, JR.R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created the Lord ofthe Rings. New York: Scholastic, Inc, 200 1. Evans, Robley, JR.R. Tolkien, New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1972. Kocher, Paul, Master ofMiddle-earth: The Fiction ofJR.R. Tolkien. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972.
These biographies of Tolkien have given me some valuable insight into the great author himself. He spent his first years in South Africa, was close to his brother Hillary, and was a devoted Roman Catholic . Of course his many life experiences colored and shaped his life’s work. From traumatic childhood events (he was bit once by a poisonous spider in South Africaeventually giving rise to the chapter “Flies and Spiders” in The Hobbit)-to seemingly arcane philology seminars at Oxford, understanding the experiences of the author is imperative for the interpretation of his books. When I read biographies of Tolkien, I am usually most struck by just how different his life was from mine. We share the common first language of English, are both male, and have led middle or upper middle class lives. But it is still difficult for me to grasp the great span of time-especially the pre WWII world in which Tolkien wrote The Hobbit-that separates us. Because I identify so intimately with Tolkien’s works , it is shocking to me that his daily life could have been so different than mine ; how could someone with such a different background write something that speaks to me so clearly? I get this feeling more often with Tolkien biographies than with the biographies of any other individual.
15) Foster, Robert. A Guide to Middle-earth. New York: Ballantine Books, Inc., 1978. Lobdell, Jared. A Tolkien Compass. New York : Ballantine Books, Inc., 1975. Tyler, J.E.A. The Tolkien Companion. New York: Gramercy Books, 2000.
These are encyclopedias of Middle-earth. In all three books, entries are organized alphabetically (i.e. from Arkenstone to Zirakzigil). Entries can range from just one sentence to over a page in length. The encyclopedias are invaluable because they compile all of the knowledge contained in Tolkien’s voluminous writings and present it an accessible fashion. So if I’m curious about Gandalf’s history or want to know how Moon Letters work, I can just flip though one of these reference works to find the answer. Just randomly reading through them is fun as well. Robert Foster’s A Guide to Middle-earth is particularly well designed and comprehensive.
16) Noel, Ruth. The Languages ofTolkien ‘s Middle-earth. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1980.
This book provides a critical analysis and complete dictionary for all of the fourteen languages that Tolkien invented for the various races and creatures of Middle-earth. Quenya and Sindarin, the two Elvish languages, are the most highly developed, but the book also includes information on Dwarvish, Entish, the Black Speech, and many others. This book introduced me to comparative linguistics and inspired me to learn a bit ofElvish on my own. I began with Sindarin, because it was the ‘lower’ language of the Elves and was supposedly easier to learn. I never got terribly far, but I did translate several texts from The Lord ofthe Rings and even wrote them out in the proper Tengwar script. In The Hobbit, most of the characters speak the common tongue, or Westron, which Tolkien suggests is close (or at least easily translated) to modem English. Elvish does appear a number of times, however-most often in place names, such as Gondolin, and object names, like Glamdring, and characters’ names, like Elrond. The dwarves’ names are not actually given in Dwarvish, but rather an old eastern common tongue that predates Westron. This is the same language that produced the name Gandalf-only one of the wizards many appellations. In Elvish, for example, his name is Mithrandir.
17) Duriez, Colin. The JR.R. Tolkien Handbook: A Concise Guide to His Life, Writings, and World ofMiddle-Earth. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1992. Ready, William, Understanding Tolkien and the Lord ofthe Rings, Henry Regnery Company, 1966. Shippey, Tom. The Road to Middle-earth. Mariner Books, 2003. Shippey, Tom. JR.R. Tolkien: Author ofthe Century. Mariner Books, 2002.
These are my four commentaries on Tolkien’s work which most directly bear on The Hobbit. Most commentaries, including all of these actually, tend to focus on The Lord ofthe Rings as opposed to any of Tolkien’s other writings. That is certainly understandable as they are his most popular and bestselling books. But these all have sections with direct bearing on The Hobbit as well. Tom Shippey’s books are particularly interesting. In The Road to Middle-earth, Shippey discusses the evolution of Tolkien’s Legendarium and links his writings to Old English literature and to philology. Shippey is one ofthe world’s leading Tolkien experts, and his analysis of Tolkien’s relationship to medieval texts like Beowulf is excellent. In Author ofthe Century, Shippey builds on his earlier Tolkien scholarship to argue that Tolkien’s linguistic abilities place him among the greatest writers of the last century. I was excited to hear Tom Shippey speak when he came to Swarthmore to give presentations on the philology of Middleearth and on his role as a consultant for the Peter Jackson movies.
18) Tolkien, lR.R. The Monsters and the Critics: And Other Essays. Grafton, 1997.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Tolkien Reader: Stories, Poems, and Commentary by the Author of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord ofthe Rings. ‘ New York: Ballantine Books, Inc., 1975. These two anthologies of Tolkien’s work include key insights by Tolkien himself into his own work. Last night I happened to read Walter Kaufman’s introduction to Nietsche’s Ecce Homo, an autobiographical retrospective of the philosopher’s previous works. In his introduction, Kaufman claims that Ecce Homo is one of his favorite Nietsche books because it includes the author’s own commentary on his work: “we should gladly trade the whole vast literature on Nietzsche for this one small book. Who would not rather have Shakespeare on Shakespeare, including the poet’s own reflections on his plays and poems, than the exegeses and conjectures of thousands of critics and professors?” Kaufman might overstate the case a bit, but his comment does remind me that my own thinking about Tolkien’s work has been strongly influenced by these essays. The Tolkien Reader includes a section called “On Fairy-Stories,” in which Tolkien explains how to write a good fantasy tale. The next section is “Leaf by Niggle,” in which he puts his ideas into practice and produces a “fairy-story.” The story is particularly fun because it revolves around nature symbolism (trees and leaves) and has been influential for scholars who have written about environmentalism in Tolkien’s works. The Monsters and the Critics contains Tolkien’s most famous essay on Beowulf, which he rescued from “the critics,” repositioning it from its early twentieth century status as a minor medieval soap opera into the foundational text of English literature. Learning about Tolkien’s approach to medieval texts as (and specifically their influence on his own works) has shown me that all writers channel the books they have read and loved. Just as Beowulfis Tolkien’s foundational text, The Hobbit may be mine.
19) Tolkien, lR.R. The Peoples ofMiddle-Earth, edited by Christopher Tolkien. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.
This is the twelfth and final volume of Christopher Tolkien’s edited series The Histories ofMiddle-earth. Christopher Tolkien has spent decades editing and unpublished works of his father and has published them systematically. Many of the volumes in this series explore early drafts of The Silmarilion and The Lord ofthe Rings. It’s fascinating to read how Tolkien originally conceived each character and chapter. Christopher Tolkien chose, however, not to issue a book on the history of The Hobbit, as he considered of tangential relation to the other stories of Middle-earth and felt that its style did not fit with his father’s other major works. A two volume History ofthe Hobbit, with complete early drafts of the book, has been compiled and edited by John Rateliff and was published in 2007 by Houghton Mifflin. I hope to add these books to my collection soon. For years, however, I have had to content myself with The Peoples ofMiddle-Earth, which is a history of the prologue and appendices to The Lord ofthe Rings. It does not directly concern The Hobbit, but is more useful than any of the other books in The Histories for understanding Tolkien’s thoughts on hobbits themselves, as a good section of this volume is devoted to the evolution of his essay, “Concerning Hobbits.”
20) Green, Michael. A Hobbit’s Travels: being the hitherto unpublished Travel Sketches ofSam Gamgee with space for notes. Philadelphia: Running Press, 1978.
This is a blank diary filled with marginal pictures inspired by the flora, fauna, and architecture of The Lord ofthe Rings. It is intended to be used as a trip journal, and I recorded my first and second visits to Europe-in 2004 and 2005-in its pages. I think my parents gave it to me for Christmas one year. Being entitled A Hobbit’s Travels, I always associated it more closely with The Hobbit than The Lord ofthe Rings-also, I think, because the pictures are generally brightly colored and whimsical and therefore more in the style of Bilbo’s adventures than Sam’s. I love the idea of tracing my own journey along side that of Tolkien’s hobbits’. Their escapades provide a framework with clear reference points for my own travels. That the journey is represented through art rather than text in this volume has been particularly significant for me. By showing a hobbit’s journey through illustration, Michael Green created a world partway between Tolkien’s and his own. When I recorded my own journeys in this book, I built on both of their creativity to form a new tripartite dialogue that brought text, art, and personal experience together in a unique way.
21) Hammond, Wayne and Christina Scull. JR.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. London: Harper Collins, 1995.
Artist and Illustrator was one of my favorite Christmas presents from my parents this year. It is the most comprehensive published collection of Tolkien’s drawings and paintings. It includes sections on his early artwork, his pictures for The Hobbit, those for The Lord ofthe Rings, and his graphic and ornamental design work. Tolkien took art lessons as a boy and was encouraged to draw and paint especially by his mother. Many of his boyhood drawings are included in this book. He particularly enjoyed depicting seaside scenes, townscapes, a few cityscapes, and trees. He never professed to be particularly good with the human form. The section on the art of The Lord ofthe Rings was very interesting for me, as I had never seen the majority of Tolkien’s illustrations for the book; almost none of them have ever accompanied the text. The final section on design was also fascinating; the authors discuss how Art Nouveau influenced Tolkien’s calligraphy and artwork. Authors Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull argue in their introduction that understanding Tolkien’s illustrations is critical to unlocking his texts. His pictures reveal much about the way he saw his world, and they are impressive works of art in their own right. This is especially true for The Hobbit, which is the only book Tolkien ever comprehensively illustrated.
22) Lee, Alan. The Lord ofthe Rings Sketchbook. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.
Another Christmas present from my parents, Alan Lee’s Sketchbook has significantly influenced the way I visualize Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Lee was one of the two main concept artists for Peter Jackson’s Lord ofthe Rings movies, and through those films, millions of people have become acquainted with his style, if only in its cinematic manifestation. I had known about Alan Lee for years before Peter Jackson began filming The Fellowship ofthe Ring. At the time, Lee was already a well known illustrator of Tolkien. The box containing The Hobbit and The Lord ofthe Rings, which my father and I purchased in 1998 to read at bedtime, prominently displayed an Alan Lee illustration of the Nazgul king riding a fell beast near Minas Tirith. One of my friends also had the complete set of The Lord ofthe Rings illustrated by Lee. In the near future, I hope to pick up a copy of The Hobbit with Lee illustrations. I have copied a number of Lee’s sketches and employed his style and ideas throughout much of my work. When reading Hammond and Scull’s Artist and Illustrator this winter, I was surprised to realize that there are actually close similarities between Lee’s illustrations and several of those that Tolkien completed decades earlier (I am thinking particularly of Tolkien’s watercolor of the Old Forest).
23) Russell, Gary. The Lord ofthe Rings: The Art ofthe Fellowship ofthe Ring. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002.
This is a hardback coffee table book that discusses the concept and visual art for Peter Jackson’s film version of The Fellowship ofthe Ring. There many sections on the illustrations of John Howe and Alan Lee (my love ofthis book prompted my parents to get me The Lord ofthe Rings Sketchbook a year or two later), as well as sections on costume and set design. A Christmas present from my parents in 2002, this book directly inspired the majority of my Tolkien drawings, including my project to illustrate The Hobbit. Many of the pages in this book are still crystal clear in my mind, and conceptually, it is my go-to reference whenever I think about any number of topics, including medieval architecture, cinema production, and landscaping.
24) Smith, Chris. The Lord ofthe Rings: Weapons and Warfare. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.
I liked The Art ofthe Fellowship ofthe Ring so much that after Peter Jackson’s Return of the King came out, I immediately bought the corresponding book for that movie. This one was less art oriented and focused on weapons and warfare. I would have preferred more drawings and concept art, but was still very happy with the extensive articles and pictures on the mechanics and history behind the combat scenes in Jackson’s movies. Many of the pictures in this book have also influenced my drawing and artwork.
25)Adams, Richard. Watership Down. New York, Avon Books, 1972.
If The Hobbit wasn’t already my favorite book, Watership Down might be. I often think about it in connection to The Hobbit, and I find many similarities in the stories. My father also read me Watership Down for the first time when I was eight and we were living on our own in Topeka. Of the books we read that year, The Lord ofthe Rings and Watership Down are the two that I recall most vividly. The journey of Hazel, Fiver, and their friends parallels Bilbo’s surprisingly closely. It is episodic, much of the action takes place underground (many commentators have noted the similarities between the name and behavior of ‘rabbits’ and of Tolkien’s ‘hobbits’), there are talking birds, and it ends with a major battle. In the same way that Tolkien created a sprawling, convincing, and exciting literary world, Richard Adams succeeded in etching Watership Down and Efrafa onto my mental landscape. As with The Hobbit, I have tried to read Watership Down regularly over the years. Often, I read it in the springtime when the rabbits are just coming out of their holes.
26) Alexander, Michael and Anonymous. Beowulf. Penguin Classics, 2003.
Without Beowulf, there would be no Bilbo Baggins. Of this, Tolkien scholars are quite certain. Tolkien’s Middle-earth mythology evolved out of his love for medieval texts and especially his passion for the epic, Beowulf. He translated this book, as well as other Old and Middle English texts, including Pearl, Sir Orfeo, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I own all these books, but none of them are Tolkien’s own translations. I hope to pick up those translated by Tolkien in the near future. Many scholars, including Swarthmore’s own Craig Williamson, have extensively documented the influences of Beowulf on The Hobbit.
27) Asimov, Isaac. Foundation. Spectra, 1991. In my literary pantheon, the second greatest and second most extensive imaginary world ever created (after Tolkien’s Middle-earth) is the universe ofIsaac Asimov’s Foundation. From I Robot to Foundation and Earth, Asimov created a seventeen volume, multi-millennial universe. Asimov uses his science fiction to delve into questions of ethics, science, and historyas well as narrative and characterization. Science Fiction and Fantasy are two sides of the same coin, and for me, Asimov and Tolkien were the premier representatives of their respective genres in the mid-twentieth century. Earlier representatives of the science fiction genre who have been particularly significant for me are Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.
28) arroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. New York: Signet, 2000.
Any book that begins with a journey down a rabbit hole cannot help being compared with another book that begins, “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” I actually didn’t read Lewis Carroll’s books until after my senior year of high school, but I knew the story well from films and popular culture, and I always classed the Alice stories with Tolkien’s The Hobbit. There’s something in late nineteenth! early twentieth century British children’s literature that binds the genre together-some common essence that I find intrinsically appealing. Maybe it’s the authors’ focus on talking animals. Perhaps it’s the whimsy. Or again maybe it’s the focus on children and little people. I never considered Alice all that different in age from Bilbo (even though he’s some fifty years old during his adventure with Gandalf and the dwarves), probably because Bilbo and Alice are the same height.
29) Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles ofNarnia, New York: Harper Collins, 2001.
Any Tolkien-oriented book collection would be remiss to omit a reference to C.S. Lewis. Tolkien and Lewis were friends and members of the by now infamous Oxford literary club known as the “Inklings.” Tolkien, Lewis, and their friends would meet for beer and discuss their writings. The thematic elements and style of The Chronicles ofNarnia and The Hobbit draw on similar sources and were created, literally, in dialogue with each other. C.S. Lewis also wrote one of the first (and most positive) reviews of The Hobbit when it appeared in 1935. I think the act of traveling from rural England through a wardrobe to a magical land must approximate how Tolkien wanted his readers to imagining entering the world of The Hobbit. Much of the shire and the surrounding lands draw on elements of rural England, but they are also different, magical, other.
30) Porter, Jane. The Scottish Chiefs. New York: Simon & Shuster, 1991.
Although I find little in common between the stories of The Hobbit and The Scottish Chiefs, I often mentally pair the two books. The Scottish Chiefs was the first book illustrated by N.C. Wyeth that I ever purchased (at age 10). Wyeth is my favorite illustrator, and his paintings significantly influenced the way I chose to portray Tolkien’s Middle-earth in my own drawings of The Hobbit. As two of my favorite books, The Hobbit and The Scottish Chiefs are both displayed prominently on the south wall of my room. Their proximity and prominent locations alone are enough to forever link them in my mind-along with the many other Wyeth illustrated books I have on display in my room.
31) Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows. New York: Avon Books, 1966. The Wind in the Willows has been one of my favorite books since well before I read The Hobbit. My mother read it to me at age three and then again two years later. I remember this second reading clearly-I loved the wonderful arc ofthe story that runs from Mole’s cluttered hole to rat’s house, to the river, Badger’s, adventures with Mr. Toad, prison, a train, a barge, and a final underground invasion of Toad Hall. Mr. Toad may be a poor approximation for Gandalf, but for me, Mole certainly prefigured Bilbo. The tension between the ideas of ‘home’ and ‘journey’ especially links the characters. The Wind in the Willows ends with Mole’s return to his hole, while The Hobbit concludes with Bilbo back in the comfort of his own hobbit hole, smoking pipeweed with Gandalf and Badin. (This trope is most poignantly exemplified in the final line of The Lord ofthe Rings, when Sam says, “Well, I’m back.” During his visit to Swarthmore, Tom Shippey called this “the most tragic line in all of western literature.”)
32) Homer, The Odyssey, translated by George Herbert Palmer. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1949.
I actually didn’t explicitly make the connection to myself until quite recently, but of course, The Hobbit is a modem-day odyssey. It’s a little too glib to suggest that Gollum is Scylla to the ore’s Charybdis, that Beorn is Circe, or that Smaug is Polyphemus. But Tolkien surely had a twinkle in his eye when he turned the brawny and battle-hardened Odysseus into the portly country gentleman of Mr. Bilbo Baggins. In addition to the episodic nature and general structure of the plot, The Hobbit borrows much from Homer’s Odyssey. Tolkien’s interest in riddling, wordplay, and trickery comes to mind, for instance. Bilbo’s games with Gollum-as well as Gandalf’s interactions with the tolls and with Beorn—ehannel the spirit of Homer’s ancient Greek heroes. The ideas of home and homecoming also play central roles in both texts (and in the figure of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, we surely catch some allusion to Penelope’s suitors).
33) Tolkien, J.R.R. The Adventures ofTom Bombadil. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.
Tom Bombadil is essentially an epic whimsical poem. It tells the story of one of The Lord ofthe Ring’s oddest characters, and it is recounted in a style much closer to The Hobbit than The Lord ofthe Rings. This particular edition includes many wonderful illustrations, as well as a selection of Tolkien’s poems, some of which are related to Middle-earth and some of which are not. I found this book in my grandparents’ basement when I was maybe thirteen or so. At the time, I hadn’t started to research Tolkien terribly extensively and only knew about those books for sale at my local bookseller-which did not include The Adventures ofTom Bombadil. So when I discovered that there was a whole book devoted to Tom Bombadil, it was like discovering a lost chapter of The Lord ofthe Rings. Finding the book was a physical reminder of the true extensiveness of Tolkien’s legendarium.
34) Tolkien, IR.R. The Lord ofthe Rings. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994.
This is my favorite copy of The Lord ofthe Rings. It is a large red leather bound edition that I purchased with Christmas money around 2004 or so. It has its own box and the spine is adorned with a gold gilt tree, which I think represents the white tree of Gondor. This book is the companion to my green leather bound edition of The Hobbit. Technically, The Hobbit should be the one in red, as Frodo refers to it as The Red Book, but I’m willing to forgive the publishers the oversight. The father of one of my childhood friends had two copies of this edition of The Lord ofthe Rings. One was from his college years and it was thoroughly dog-eared and beaten up. The newer one was pristine. As a kid, whenever I discussed The Lord ofthe Rings with my friend and his father, we would always pull out these two red leather volumes and go over the text together. This experience was probably my first equivalent of a literature seminar. (My friend’s father’s other favorite author was Asimov, and we did much the same thing with the Foundation novels.) Because of these memories, I consider this particular iteration of The Lord ofthe Rings to be the definitive edition. Also, Tolkien originally intended The Lord ofthe Rings to be published in one volume, so it is appropriate that this definitive edition be only one volume rather than three separate books.
35) Tolkien, J.R.R.. Roverandom. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.
36) Tolkien, J.R.R. Roverandom. Published by some company in Turkey, 2007.
Tolkien wrote Roverandom in 1925 for his son Michael, who had recently lost a toy dog. In the story, a wizard turns a dog, Rover, into a toy which then goes on adventures to the moon and under the sea. Written a decade before The Hobbit, Rover prefigures Bilbo in the same way that the wizard in Roverandom prefigures Gandalf. After reading this book, I came to think of The Hobbit as one of several whimsical children’s stories that Tolkien wrote in the 1920s and 30s and which only grew to have major mythological significance because it later led to the creation of The Lord ofthe Rings. To think about The Hobbit in its first decade of existence means imagining it without The Lord ofthe Rings. That’s a difficult prospect for many of us, but reading Roverandom and thinking about it as a single book without a blockbuster sequel provides one possible avenue of conceptualizing what it must have been like to read The Hobbit between 1935 and 1944. Roverandom was posthumously published for the first time in 1998. The cover includes a wonderful watercolor by Tolkien of Rover under the ocean. I have two copies of this book. One of them I picked up this summer in Istanbul, and it is in Turkish. I was looking around for a copy of The Hobbit in Turkish, but couldn’t find one, so I settled for a Turkish edition of Roverandom.
37) Tolkien, J.R.R. Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles ofHam. New York: Ballantine Books, 1967.
Like Roverandom and The Adventures ofTom Bombadil, Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles ofHam are two short children’s books that are written in a style similar to The Hobbit. I have especially enjoyed Farmer Giles ofHam, which like The Hobbit, is a story about an unlikely hero who sets out to best a dragon. Both Smith and Farmer have medieval settings and are amusing but fairly modest fairy-stories.