Tolkien Collector's Guide

New publication: The History of The Hobbit

Apr 23, 2007
Posts: 6

Rateliff's new two part publication coming out this year is commissioned work by Christopher Tolkien and the Tolkien Estate. This is *NOT* related to Doug Anderson's The Annotated Hobbit, but is an entirely new and thorough study of all things as it relates to Hobbits and Arda, and is meant to supplement The History of Middle-earth series. If you wish to find out more about this work, this interview is an excellent place to start.

What I have ascertained about the work:

During the mid 90s, John Rateliff and Taum Santoski were approached by Christopher Tolkien and granted all resources to exhaust in the compiling of this new in depth study about Hobbits, including Tolkien's manuscripts that relate to them. They were also given access and privileges at several major universities, which catalog Tolkien's work for research publication and peer review. Unfortunately, the project was delayed many years due to Santoski becoming terminally ill and Rateliff's obligations to his dissertation work. Rateliff was able to return to the project several years ago and see the work through to its completion. The History of the Hobbit comes in two parts, the first of the UK edition is currently available through Harper Collins, while the second is to be released in July. The Houghlin Mifflin U.S. edition will be published as a three-piece boxed set on September 9th. This box set includes volumes I and II of The History of the Hobbit; and additionally, a new edition of The Hobbit with a short introduction by Christopher Tolkien, a reset text incorporating the most up-to-date corrections, and all of Tolkien’s own drawings and color illustrations, including the rare "Mirkwood" piece. You can check out the Houghlin Mifflin version here.

The History of the Hobbit is said to include early unpublished drafts of The Hobbit, and is intended to be a full explanation with respect to hobbit-related subject matter. Much to my excitement, this will also feature drafts for an unpublished 3rd edition of The Hobbit that never came to be and that Tolkien wrote *after* the release of The Lord of the Rings! Rateliff specifically states it is not intended to build upon Doug Anderson's The Annotated Hobbit, though he acknowledges it and concedes reference to Doug's edition. This new work is commissioned by the Tolkien Estate as a textual study deliberately modeled on Christopher Tolkien’s example with The History of Middle-earth series.

I am very excited about this work and I now have both parts preordered. Though I will obviously need to read the entire work before making a true assessment, I suggest it will be just as important, if not a proper continuation of Christopher Tolkien's The History of Middle-earth volumes; a must own for the serious Tolkien enthusiast.

The following is my own personal thoughts about what this new work means in the greater scheme:

The History of the Hobbit publication marks a sign of things to come. This is the beginning of the end with respect to Christopher carrying on as his father's sole literary executor. I think The Children of Húrin will stand as the last major work he publishes, at least that is related specifically to Arda/Middle-earth. Adam Tolkien seems like the logical choice to carry on with the legalities of the Estate once Christopher finally retires or passes beyond the Walls of the World; however, if required further, I suspect a few very lucky and, more importantly, worthy individuals will be carefully selected and commissioned by the Estate to work on similiar projects like the The History of the Hobbit. I am not sure Adam will publish like his father. We might also consider, realistically, to be nearing the end of a long road as far as publications go from the Estate itself. What remains that can be published as a stand-alone work? What future beholds Tolkien's works as they relate to Arda, I cannot be certain.

I am aware that Christopher is still working on some of his father's unpublished literary texts, but I am unaware if this involves Arda-related material for publication. Will these other literary texts see the light of day? I hope so, but you must consider Christopher's age and admit we may be seeing the beginning of the end with respect to his own work. Also, be sure that I am not stating he is stepping down right now! I am only considering his age and what appears to be steps taken with the Estate's future in mind. It is difficult for me to imagine Christopher not doing The History of the Hobbit himself, considering his manner of work through the 70s, 80s and 90s. I may be entirely wrong, but such a tremendous work load combined with his age might have convinced him to commission someone else to undertake The History of the Hobbit. I know if in my senior I had a number of projects I wished complete under my tenor, but felt I could not with so much already on my shoulders, I might consider carefully an outside expert to take on such a task. Christopher does not appear to have slowed down, afterall, he did take the time to prepare the cohesive, stand-alone version of The Children of Húrin. But maybe he felt he would not have sufficient time to complete The History of the Hobbit himself? Again, I am only speculating at this point. Understand, it is my hope that Christopher continues to write about, edit and publish his father's work on his own if able and intent on doing such! But also realize he is not going to be around forever.
Surely that is a Silmaril that shines now in the West?

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