The Tolkien Road

A podcast about Middle-earth and all things Tolkien.

0192 – The Hobbit – The Lost Chapters – Pt1

“…around 1960, [Tolkien] decided to undertake a detailed revision of The Hobbit and fully reconcile it to [Lord of the Rings]…”

While The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings share a continuous narrative focused on “The Great Years” of Middle-earth’s late Third Age, for serious readers of Tolkien the two works appear, in many respects, to be of entirely different literary genres. It’s often noted that The Hobbit feels like more of a children’s fairy-tale, while The Lord of the Rings elevates the Baggins saga to the level of an ancient epic. Considering this, it’s fascinating to note that despite The Hobbit’s immense popularity, Tolkien was in many ways unsatisfied with it, especially in the way the tale had been told. Around 1960, he even went so far as to begin a complete rewrite of The Hobbit, a rewrite that, for better or for worse, never saw completion. Beginning with this episode, we will take a close look at the the texts and notes associated with this effort, as contained in John Rateliff’s The History of The Hobbit.

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3 Responses

  1. When Tolkien mentioned that many people commented that The Lord of the Rings is too short, I have always thought that he was referring to the parts that he removed to the Appendices. But he also had in mind the unfinished Epilogue. On the other hand, he abandoned the Epilogue because he knew that he could answer all those questions directly in letters. Ironically, the narrative style and language of The Hobbit would probably have been more like that of The Lord of the Rings, but how would an Epilogue have improved the former without ruining the ending? Maybe Tolkien abandoned rewriting The Hobbit because he realized that most people liked it the way it is. You may not like the narrative style at times, but other times to change it would spoil the whole thing. The Hobbit doesn’t need rewriting, just as The Lord of the Rings doesn’t need an Epilogue. Even The Phantom of the Opera has an Epilogue even though Gaston Leroux admitted that knowing Eric’s full story does not excuse the things he did.

  2. We discussed your comment on episode 195, and tend to agree. While there’s more we’d all love to know, it’s not really fitting to mess with the style of The Hobbit, or for that matter, any established classic. And Tolkien proved he could add to the lore via Appendices and other writings (like the ones we finally got in Unfinished Tales).

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It will help you…

  • Grasp the book’s complex structure.
  • Become familiar with key plot points.
  • Visualize the changing world with simple maps.
  • Deepen your appreciation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.