Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Hobbit at 75

Seventy-five years ago tomorrow The Hobbit was published:
In a letter to the poet W.H. Auden, J.R.R., Tolkien describes the events that took place on a quiet summer’s day in 1930 as he was working at home in his study on a quiet, tree-lined street in residential Oxford: “All I remember about the start of The Hobbit is sitting correcting School Certificate papers in the everlasting weariness of that annual task forced on impecunious academics with children.

On a blank leaf I scrawled: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ I did not and do not know why. I did nothing about it, for a long time.” ....

The Hobbit was published 75 years ago on September 21, 1937. Without its publication, there certainly would never have been the public demand for a sequel which resulted in The Lord of the Rings sixteen years later in 1953. Even with the now-famous opening line written, the whole thing might have ended there, except for the author’s extraordinary interest in names and word origins. “Names always generate a story in my mind,” Tolkien later explained. “Eventually I thought I'd better find out what hobbits were like.”

Eleven days after The Hobbit came out, on October 2, 1937, readers opened The Times Literary Supplement to find a review of this remarkable new book.

“This is a children’s book only in the sense that the first of many readings can be undertaken in the nursery,” the reviewer explained. He also made the point that the book “will be funniest to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or a twentieth reading, will they begin to realize what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and in its own way so true.”

The reviewer was C.S. Lewis. .... [more]
C. S. Lewis Blog: Happy 75th Birthday to The Hobbit!