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The Hobbit

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The Hobbit 75th Anniversary Edition

AJ Padlock

The Hobbit is a novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, set in Middle-earth. The book was first published on September 21, 1937 and is set in the years 2941 to 2942 of the Third Age before the events of The Lord of the Rings.[1]

Disambiguation: This page relates to the novel (although adaptations are discussed below). You may be looking for the pages specifically relating to the word Hobbit, the Hobbit films by Peter Jackson, the 1977 film The Hobbit, or the 2003 video game The Hobbit.

The Book

TheHobbit FirstEdition

Cover of the 1937 first edition

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit (as well as the first two books of The Lord of the Rings) during his time as a Fellow and Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College of the University of Oxford in England.[2] Tolkien recollected in a 1955 letter to W.H. Auden[3] that The Hobbit began in the late 1920s when he was marking School Certificate papers and wrote the words "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit" on the back of one of them. The Hobbit didn't go any further than that at the time, although in the following years he drew up Thror's map, outlining the geography of the tale. The story itself he wrote in the early 1930s, and it was eventually published because he lent it to the Rev. Mother of Cherwell Edge when she was sick with the flu, and while she had the manuscript it was seen by a former student who was employed in the office of Allen & Unwin, a British publishing house.

Tolkien introduced or mentioned characters and places that figured prominently in his legendarium, specifically Elrond and Gondolin, along with elements from Germanic legend. But the decision that the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings could belong the same universe as The Silmarillion was made only after his initial success and the request by his publisher for a sequel.

Although a fairy tale, the book is both complex and sophisticated: it contains many names and words derived from Norse mythology, and central plot elements from the Beowulf epic, it makes use of Anglo-Saxon runes, information on calendars and moon phases, and detailed geographical descriptions that fit well with the accompanying maps.


Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, was smoking in his porch-way at Bag End one day, when Gandalf the Wizard visits him. After a lengthy discussion, during which Bilbo uses the phrase "Good Morning" several times, Bilbo finding himself flustered, invites Gandalf to tea, and goes back inside his Hobbit-House with a final "Good Morning".  Gandalf carves a secret mark on Bilbo's front door, which translated means "Burglar wants a good job, plenty of excitement and reasonable reward." Soon after, 13 Dwarves (Thorin Oakenshield, Gloin, Óin, Ori, Nori, Dori, Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur) show up and begin rudely discussing their planned treasure hunt while the hapless Bilbo provides the obligatory hospitality. After the dwarves and Bilbo clean up the mess, a map is produced and Gandalf arranges for Bilbo to get the job — as well as to break the unlucky number 13. The company's quest: Use a secret door to get into the Lonely Mountain, send forth their burglar to steal as much of the riches within its halls as is possible, and give a recon report, then have everyone kill Smaug, become way to rich.

The next morning, after oversleeping and nearly missing the start of the journey, Bilbo goes off with the Dwarves. They are nearly eaten by 3 trolls, but Gandalf manages to trick the trolls into staying up all night whereupon they are turned into stone by the first light of dawn and die (the stone trolls appear later in The Fellowship of the Ring). In the trolls' cave they find the trolls' storage of supplies, including several weapons. Bilbo acquires an elvish short sword which he will later name Sting, which glows blue in the presence of goblins. Thorin acquires Orcrist, and Gandalf acquires Glamdring.

The party travels to Rivendell, where they enjoy the hospitality of the elves. There, Elrond finds moon-runes on the company's map of the mountain, giving information about a secret door on its side. They then proceed eastward toward the Misty Mountains. There they are captured by goblins, and carried under the mountain. They run away, and during the escape Bilbo loses the Dwarves. Alone in the dark after running away from the goblins, Bilbo finds a gold ring on the floor of a cave passage and puts it in his pocket. Little did he know that this was the One Ring lost by Sauron centuries ago.

Continuing down a tunnel, he finds himself at the shore of an underground lake. Gollum quietly paddles up in his boat, and the two enact the Riddle Game, under the condition that if Bilbo wins, Gollum will show him the way out, but if Bilbo loses, Gollum will eat him. After several riddles, which each manages to answer, Bilbo, whilst fiddling in his pocket unable to think of a riddle, asks himself aloud "What have I got in my pocket?". Gollum thinks this is supposed to be the next riddle, and as it doesn't comply with the rules of the riddle game, demands three guesses; in the end he fails to guess the answer. Bilbo demands his reward, but Gollum refuses and paddles off in his boat to an island in the lake, upon which he lives. After searching around for a while asking aloud "Where is it? Where's my precious!?" to which Bilbo replies, "I don't know and I don't care. I just want to get out of here", Gollum becomes suspicious, gets in his boat, and starts paddling back across the lake towards Bilbo. Bilbo realizes his life is in danger and makes his escape down the maze of pitch-black tunnels, and Gollum gives chase. Bilbo trips, and finds the ring on his finger.  Realising he has no chance to escape his pursuer, he stays where he is and prepares to meet his fate, but Gollum runs right over him. Bilbo realises the ring makes him invisible. He manages to escape past Gollum, who has gone to guard the only exit, and finds his way to the surface where he rejoins the Dwarves.

Descending from the Misty Mountains, they survive an encounter with Wargs (large evil wolves) and goblins by climbing trees. Eagles, summoned by Gandalf, then came to rescue them.  They soon meet Beorn, a man who can transform into a bear.  They depart, having rested for several days.  Gandalf leaves soon on an errand. The party traverses the great forest, Mirkwood, eventually running out of supplies. Gandalf had warned them not to leave the path, but they saw fire and heard singing, so, hopeless, they leave the path to beg food from Wood-elves, only to get lost. They are captured by giant spiders, but Bilbo rescues the Dwarves by becoming invisible and killing many spiders with Sting and rocks. Elves then capture the Dwarves and imprison them, but Bilbo manages to sneak into the Elvenking Thranduil's palace unnoticed using the ring; he then helps the Dwarves escape in barrels floating down the river.

After staying for a short period of time at Laketown, the treasure-seekers proceed to the Lonely Mountain. Finding themselves unable to locate the secret door, the company sits down, depressed, on a cliff. Hearing a Thrush knocking on a stone, Bilbo looks up just in time to see the last rays of the Sun of Durin's Day, shining on the cliff wall, to magically reveal the secret door (as was foretold by moon-letters upon a map that the company was in possession of). Bilbo is sent down to meet Smaug. The dragon, realising the Company received help from the people of Laketown, sets out to destroy it. However, the Thrush that had been knocking on the stone was no ordinary bird but of an ancient race with whom the men of the lake could communicate, and it had heard Bilbo's report to the dwarves, that Smaug had a bare patch in his armor on the left side of his chest (nearest his heart) that could be used to slaughter him, if only you could get close enough. It conveyed this message to one Bard the Bowman, who seeing the bare patch on the chest of Smaug, dispatched the dragon with a single arrow, thus allowing the party of Dwarves to take possession of the treasure.

The citizens of Laketown arrive to make historical claims and demand compensation for the help they had rendered, as well as reparations for damage Smaug inflicted during his attack. They're joined by the Elves, who also demand a share based on historical claims. The Dwarves refuse all negotiations and in turn summon kin from the mountains to strengthen their position. Seeing no other way to avert a war, Bilbo uses the ring to steal the prized Arkenstone from the Dwarves, which he uses to broker peace.

Just as a grudging truce is agreed to, the three armies at the Lonely Mountain (Elves, Men, and Dwarves) are attacked by Goblins and Wargs from the Misty Mountains. A bitter battle ensues (named the Battle of the Five Armies). Though suffering heavy losses, Elves, Men, and Dwarves prevail with the help of the Eagles. The treasure is apportioned. Bilbo refuses most of the riches, realising he has no way to bring them back home; he nevertheless takes enough with him to make himself a wealthy hobbit and live happily thereafter, unaware of the dangerous nature of his ring.

Alternate version

In the first edition, Gollum willingly bets his magic ring on the outcome of the riddle game. During the writing of The Lord of the Rings Tolkien saw the need to revise this passage, in order to reflect the concept of the One Ring and its powerful hold on Gollum. Tolkien tried many different passages in the chapter that would become chapter 2 of The Lord of the Rings, "The Shadow of the Past". Eventually Tolkien decided a rewrite of The Hobbit was in order, and he sent a sample chapter of this rewrite ("Riddles In The Dark") to his publishers. Initially he heard nothing further, but when he was sent galley proofs of a new edition he learned to his surprise the new chapter had been incorporated as the result of a misunderstanding.

Tolkien explained the two different versions in the introduction of The Lord of the Rings, as well as inside "The Shadow of the Past", as a "lie" that Bilbo made up, probably because of the One Ring's influence on him, and which he originally wrote down in his book. Inside The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo finally confesses the real story at the Council of Elrond, although Gandalf had deduced the truth earlier. As Tolkien presented himself as the translator of the supposedly historic Red Book of Westmarch, where Bilbo and Frodo's stories were recorded, he further explained the two differing stories in The Hobbit by stating he had originally used Bilbo's original story, but later re-translated the work with the "true story" recorded by Frodo.

This first edition also mentions "gnomes", an earlier word Tolkien used to refer to the second kindred of the High Elves — the Ñoldor (or "Deep Elves"). Tolkien thought that "gnome", being derived from the Greek gnosis (knowledge), was a good name for the Ñoldor he created to be the wisest of the other Elves. However, because of its English connotations of a small, secretive, and unattractive creature (see garden gnome), Tolkien removed it from later editions. He made other minor changes in order to conform the narrative to events in The Lord of the Rings and in the ideas he was developing for the Quenta Silmarillion.

However, this still doesn't fit perfectly: even revised, The Hobbit is so much different in tone that it sometimes seems to belong in another universe from other Middle-earth works. Examples include the following:

  • Anachronisms: Bilbo has a clock (the clock makes an appearance in Lord of the Rings as well[4][5], the Shire has clocks, and the term 'o'clock' is mentioned throughout as a specific hobbit term in Shire reckoning of time based on said clocks). Many artists like John Howe prefer to omit it from their paintings. Bilbo also is mentioned to have matches for his pipe (it does make a point to note that Dwarves only use tinder-boxes[6] and thus suggesting it also a Shire specific technology). In the world of Lord of the Rings matches had not yet been invented[Source?] and all use flints. To be fair the LOTR never describes how Hobbits light their pipes (when pipes are mentioned Hobbits are already smoking them), Gimli the dwarf lights his pipe with flint and tinder). Sam has a tinder-box (which he prominently needs for his cooking gear). Even matches and fireworks (which feature prominently in Hobbit and LOTR both) have similar histories (both using similar chemistry) in the real world (matches actually predate fireworks in development in China, and may go back further in other cultures as well). Tinder-boxes are better for long journies as well (only times the Hobbit mentions matches Bilbo had already run out of them).
  • The Trolls have English first and last names, like fairy-tale characters.
  • Lighthearted use of "magic": when Bilbo tries to steal a purse from the Trolls, the purse shouts.
  • Elves appear as either silly mischiefs (Rivendell) or hostile (Mirkwood).
  • Orcs are still called Goblins, and are more like bogeymen than man-eating humanoid warriors (although in Lord of the Rings Orcs are also called Goblins in places).
  • Gandalf mentions Radagast as his cousin. (Then again, both Gandalf and Radagast are angelic Maiar spirits, and thus in a sense are "related", both being children of the thought of Ilúvatar.)
  • The extensive mentioning (and brief appearance) of Giants and stone-giants. Giants were never developed in Tolkien's other works, but since they should exist and possibly take a grand part in the past and upcoming Wars, they are never mentioned again. Even if Giants are seen as a kind of large Troll, they are hard to justify, as trolls are described as either incredibly stupid or incredibly evil: quite unlike the stone-giants of The Hobbit. Giants actually do get mentioned several times in Lord of the Rings but as rumors, tales, or legends of the past (i.e. Giants on the boarders of the shire or in the High Moor, or that men say the Hornburg was built with the hands of giants).
  • The comical allusion to Vita Sackville-West, who had been involved in a sensational court case over an English estate in the decade before The Hobbit was written.
  • The Orcs pictured in The Hobbit are not depicted as being allied to either Sauron (called the Necromancer in this case) or Saruman. They are simply depicted as hating all the Free Peoples, and attacking them randomly.
  • References to fairies and ogres are also included.
  • Direct references to wicked dwarves a nod back to some of his earlier dwarves such as Mim (which would later divide into ideas of Petty-dwarves and other Dwarves). Dwarves are also spell casters and use enchanted curses in similarity to his earlier tales.

Some of the tone differences can be explained by accepting Bilbo as the author of the work: Bilbo wrote the story of his journeys to recount them to the children of Hobbiton and therefore changed the story somewhat. Apparent major differences such as the different perception of the Ring can also be explained by Bilbo's lacking knowledge of these matters.

From a development standpoint The Hobbit and also some of the material in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil was first written when Tolkien was still enmeshed in and writing material in The Book of Lost Tales and Lays of Beleriend  in the early tales. Not all of that earlier material was edited out in the final editions.

Similarities to Beowulf

During his time as a professor at the University of Oxford Tolkien studied Anglo-Saxon. One of the Anglo-Saxon pieces of literature he studied is the epic poem Beowulf, about which he wrote essays such as The Monsters and the Critics. Interesting parallels can be found between The Hobbit and Beowulf.

The plots of the two stories are very similar. In both of them a party of 13 sets out to seek satisfaction for a crime committed by a dragon. Both parties contain a thief, which in The Hobbit is Bilbo, who steals a cup from the sleeping dragon's hoard by using a secret passage. Both dragons then awake from their deep slumber and cause terror and destruction. Both dragons are well protected by their armour, a natural one in Beowulf and one made of gold and diamonds in The Hobbit, but finally they are killed. Both stories end or almost end with a fight with a dragon.

But not only the plots share similarities: both main characters, Bilbo and Beowulf, share characteristics. Both heroes defy their enemies with their supernatural power, which in Bilbo's case is the ring and in Beowulf's case is his supernatural strength. While Beowulf has the help of God, Bilbo often prevails because of his sheer luck. Both are of noble ancestry and both get separated from their group, Bilbo in the mountains, Beowulf when he travels down to the lair of Grendel's mother in order to kill her.

Additionally some elements of Anglo-Saxon culture can be found. In both books a king, which in Anglo-Saxon sometimes is called ring or gold giver, awards his warriors with treasures and war gear. In Anglo-Saxon culture poems are important, as they contain the people's history and they are sung by scops. Two of these songs are found in Beowulf and more in The Hobbit. The Anglo-Saxon society was one of warriors and Tolkien's dwarves are close to this culture. They are warriors and like Anglo-Saxons they value jewellery and war gear.



One of the many covers of The Hobbit

George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. of London published the first edition of The Hobbit in September 1937. It was illustrated with many black-and-white drawings by Tolkien himself. The original illustrations would be colour plates. Allen & Unwin decided to incorporate the colour illustrations into their second printing, released at the end of 1937. Despite the book's popularity, wartime conditions forced the London publisher to print small runs of the remaining two printings of the first edition.

As remarked above, Tolkien substantially revised the text describing Bilbo's dealings with Gollum in order to blend the story better into what The Lord of the Rings had become. This revision became the second edition, published in 1951 in both UK and American editions. Slight corrections to the text have appeared in the third (1966) and fourth editions (1978).

New English-language editions of The Hobbit spring up often, despite the book's age, with at least fifty editions having been published to date. Each comes from a different publisher or bears distinctive cover art, internal art, or substantial changes in format. The text of each generally adheres to the Allen & Unwin edition extant at the time it is published.

The remarkable and enduring popularity of The Hobbit expresses itself in the collectors' market. The first printing of the first English language edition rarely sells for under U.S. $10,000 in any whole condition, and clean copies in original dust jackets signed by the author are routinely advertised for over $100,000. Online auction site eBay tends to define the market value for those who collect The Hobbit.


The Hobbit has been translated into many languages. Known languages, with the first date of publishing, are:

  • Arabic (2009)
  • Bulgarian (1975)
  • Catalan (1983)
  • Chinese (Traditional characters) (2001)   
  • Czech (1973)
  • Danish (1969)
  • Dutch (1960)
  • Esperanto (2000)
  • Estonian (1977)
  • Faroese (1990)
  • Finnish (1973)
  • French (1969)
  • Galician (2000)
  • German (1957) 
  • Greek (1978)
  • Hawaiian (2015)
  • Hebrew (עברית)(1976) 
  • Hungarian (1975)
  • Icelandic (1978)
  • Irish Gaelic (2012)
  • Indonesian (1977)
  • Italian (1973)
  • Japanese (1965)
  • Latvian (1982)
  • Lithuanian (1985)
  • Norwegian (Bokmål) (1972)
  • Norwegian (Nynorsk) (2008)    
  • Persian (2005)    
  • Polish (1960)
  • Portuguese (1962)
  • Romanian (1975)
  • Russian (1976)
  • Serbo-Croatian (1975)
  • Slovak (1973)
  • Spanish (1964)
  • Swedish (1947; new translations 1962 and 2007)
  • Thai (2002)
  • Turkish (1996)
  • Ukrainian (1985)
  • Yiddish (2015)

Portrayal in Adaptations

The Hobbit is a 1977 animated television movie adaptation of the book by J. R. R. Tolkien. The film was made by Rankin/Bass Productions and manages to economically retell most of the story within its 78-minute duration. An LP with the soundtrack and dialogue from the film was also released in 1977 by Disney through its Buena Vista Records label and an edited version, along with accompanying "storyteller read-alongs," was later issued for the Mouse Factory's Disneyland Records imprint. Harry N. Abrams published a large coffee-table illustrated edition of the book featuring concept art and stills. A second album by Glenn Yarbrough of music "inspired" by The Hobbit was also released.

The film was first broadcast on NBC in the United States, on November 27, 1977 (on Sunday night, three days after Thanksgiving) and is presented in a heart-warming style, featuring a lot of songs (many of which are based on poems and lyrics from the book). Much of the story has been simplified and several episodes and key scenes are omitted.

Hobbitmovie poster

The poster for part 1 (Unexpected Journey)

A live-action three-part movie adaption of The Hobbit, directed by Peter Jackson, was released in 2012, 2013 and 2014.[7] The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on December 14, 2012, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on December 13, 2013[8] and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies on July 18, 2014.[8]

The Hobbit has been adapted for other media. BBC Radio 4 broadcast The Hobbit radio drama, adapted by Michael Kilgarriff, in eight parts (4 hours) from September to November 1968, which starred Anthony Jackson as narrator, Paul Daneman as Bilbo, and Heron Carvic as Gandalf. Another famous audio adaptation authorized by Professor Tolkien was published by Conifer Records in 1974 and featured Nicol Williamson as every character.

Middle-earth has been featured in songs notably by Enya and the Brobdingnagian Bards. Led Zeppelin's songs "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Ramble On" both contain references to Tolkien's mystical world. For The Hobbit itself, "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins", performed by Leonard Nimoy as part of his 1968 Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy album, is the most pertinent because it recounts the book's storyline in its two minutes. The ballad's music video became a minor Internet meme in the early 2000s when The Lord of the Rings movies were
Remote image20111104-31809-ttxqgv-0-1-

A version of The Hobbit.


Several computer and video games, both official and unofficial, have been based on the book. One of the first was The Hobbit, a computer game developed in 1982 by Beam Software and published by Melbourne House for most computers available at the time, from the more popular computers such as the ZX Spectrum, and the Commodore 64, through to such esoteric computers as the Dragon 32 and Oric computers. By arrangement with the book publishers, a copy of the book was included with each game sold.An animated version of the story debuted as a television movie in the U.S. in 1977. In late 2007, New Line Studios and Peter Jackson announced that their legal differences over the Lord of the Rings trilogy had been resolved and that production of a new film adaptation of the The Hobbit (as well as a sequel) produced by Jackson would begin as soon as possible. It is currently in production. As of now, the first part: The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey was released in theaters the 14th of December, 2012. The second part: The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug was released on the 13th of December 2013. An announced third and final part: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is due to be released in 2014.

Vivendi Universal Games published The Hobbit in 2003 for Windows PCs, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube. It is a hack and slash game produced as a prequel to The Lord of the Rings video games, but also as a softer version of those two games: less brutal, fewer enemies, but with an important platform aspect, the game was designed for smaller children. A similar version of this game was also published for the Game Boy Advance.


  1. The Lord of the Rings was written from 1937 to 1949 and was published in 1954 and 1955.
  2. Although he had been an undergraduate at Exeter College, Tolkien was a Fellow of Pembroke from 1925 to 1945.
  3. Auden, W.H., Letters, no. 163
  4. Bilbo took out the envelope, but just as he was about to set it by the clock, his hand jerked back, and the packet fell on the floor.
    • J.R.R. Tolkien (2009-04-17). The Lord of the Rings (p. 35). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
  5. ‘About a couple of hours after daybreak,’ said Sam, ‘and nigh on half past eight by Shire clocks, maybe.
    • J.R.R. Tolkien (2009-04-17). The Lord of the Rings (p. 655). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
  6. Gandalf, too, was lying down after doing his part in setting the fire going, since Oin and Gloin had lost their tinder-boxes. (Dwarves have never taken to matches even yet.) Tolkien, J.R.R. (2009-04-17). The Hobbit (Kindle Locations 1796-1797). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
  7. Rottenberg, Josh (July 30, 2012). Peter Jackson announces a third 'Hobbit' film. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on July 30, 2012.
  8. 8.0 8.1 McClintock, Pamela (August 31, 2012). Third 'Hobbit' Film Sets Release Date. Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved on September 1, 2012.

See also

J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium

Works published during his lifetime
The Hobbit | The Lord of the Rings | The Adventures of Tom Bombadil | The Road Goes Ever On

Posthumous publications
The Silmarillion | Unfinished Tales | The History of Middle-earth (12 volumes) | Bilbo's Last Song | The Children of Húrin

Lists of LOTR Wiki articles about Middle-earth
by category | name | writings | characters | peoples | rivers | realms | ages

Small Wikipedia logo This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at The Hobbit. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with The One Wiki to Rule Them All, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

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