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Author Topic: Why did Tolkien write the Hobbit when he did?
Hamfast Gamgee
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This was just something I was thinking the other day. I know why Tolkien wrote/was pesuaded to write the Lotr as a sequal to the Hobbit. But why did he write the Hobbit in the first place? It seems a little odd that this rather eccentric Oxford professor of old English suddenly decided to write a little children's tale. And odd that someone asked him to. Did the publishers actively seek him out and ask him to write a tale? Or did he seek the publishers out? If it was the former, how did the publishers know that Tolkien could write and decide to take a risk with him? I don't know if anyone knows this, or if it is said in the History of the Hobbit, but it does seem a tale a little out of character for him to publish first!

[ 10-28-2009, 04:15 PM: Message edited by: Hamfast Gamgee ]

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White Gold Wielder
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I think his children were mostly in mind at the beginning of the process.

Wikipedia sez:
quote:
The Hobbit
Tolkien never expected his stories to become popular, but by sheer accident a book he had written some years before for his own children, called The Hobbit, came in 1936 to the attention of Susan Dagnall, an employee of the London publishing firm George Allen & Unwin, who persuaded him to submit it for publication.[72] However, the book attracted adult readers as well, and it became popular enough for the publishers to ask Tolkien to work on a sequel.


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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Yes, The Hobbit grew out of tales told to the Professor’s children. They called them “Winter Reads.” Almost certainly they were not initially intended for publication - they were for his children and for favoured friends.

Perhaps the most famous of these is the Father Christmas Letters that were later edited and published by Baille Tolkien, wife of Christopher. These were fun little adventures regarding Father Christmas, the North Polar Bear and his two cubs. As always, they also played with language - in this case Finnish, which always fascinated him.

But other tales were told, including what came to be The Hobbit. This was quite popular, and the Professor shared it with C.S. Lewis, the Mother Superior at Cherwell Edge, graduate student Elaine Griffiths, a young girl (probably Aileen Jennings) and almost certainly others.

He also did illustrations for these, just like he did with the published version. The 1932 Father Christmas Letter had an illustration of Father Christmas and the polar bears looking into a cave. Painted on the wall was no other than Smaug, and Gollum was peering around a corner!

I’ve looked for an online version of this picture, but can’t find one.

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Hamfast Gamgee
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That's interesting, so you're saying that the Hobbit developed slowly in much the same way as the rest of Tolkien's tales. But it's curious as to how someone thought that they would be good enough to be published. The correct decision, obviously but it was a bit of a risk from the publishers point of view, even though I don't suppose there was too much initial expense involved. If Tolkien didn't really intend for the Hobbit to be published, it sounds like he had to be pesuaded!
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Grimwulf Stormspear
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It’s not like he had a choice. [] []
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Mithrennaith
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Explain yourself more clearly, please?
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Grimwulf Stormspear
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Most novelists write novels because they feel an urge to write. [] Stories rattle around in their heads, demanding to be told. Or the novelist spends hours writing letters and finally decides to write more than just letters. For a writer, writing is a kind of madness and writing books or poems or plays is a kind of release. Tolkien was telling stories and creating worlds long before he wrote The Hobbit. He didn’t do it because he expected money from it. He did it because he needed to write something. And he wrote The Hobbit because it needed to be written.
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Alatar the Wizard
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Well explained, Grimwulf.
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Roll of Honor Marcho Blackwood - MSS
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Tolkien delighted in creating things for his children. Each year for 15 years he wrote a Christmas Letter to his children from Father Christmas. He included coded messages using runes and lots of pictures. They are really a fun read and if you have kids, fun to share with them!

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
Marcho Blackwood, MSS - #16 Brookshade Close - Bindbale, North Farthing, The Shire
1st Winner Mahanaxar's Boy Howdy of Approval with 2 Bronze Stars (3rd Award) & Balrog Cluster with Laurel.
King of Grammar with Queen SSA
Sass this hoopy hobbit frood who really knows where his towel is!

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Mithrennaith
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Well explained indeed, Grimwulf.

The reason I asked for it was because, following immediately on Hamfast's second post, yours could be read as saying that Tolkien had no choice but to be published, and that is a bit strong. But now you have confirmed you referred to the thread title and I agree.

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Hamfast Gamgee
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Bump this one up again! Might be relavant to another discussion.
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Madomir
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moved this comment here from a different thread..

Here's an idle question on Middle Earth's chronology. Did the professor already have plans or outlines for LotR when he wrote The Hobbit? I had always thought of The Hobbit as somewhat of a standalone tale, at least when originally created, yet that concept doesn't sync up well with the inclusion of the Necromancer. Unless the original purpose of the Necromancer was to simply act as a diversion for Gandalf which in turn allowed for the growth of Bilbo's character. However, if in JRRT's mind the Necromancer was already Sauron then it seems safe to assume the sequel was at least being planned. I know some things (ie:the riddle game) were later rewritten to better mesh with LotR, was the Necromancer's true identity determined at that time? Perhaps someone well versed in the HoME series would know. []

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Galin
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The simple answer is that Tolkien had not started The Lord of the Rings until after The Hobbit was published -- he even handed his publishers Silmarillion material in the late 1930s, but they 'rejected' it (a somewhat complex tale) and wanted more Hobbits.

Tolkien had various things to say about the Necromancer in certain letters, including...

quote:
'The Last two books were written between 1944 and 1948. That of course does not mean that the main idea of the story was a war-product. That was arrived at in one of the earliest chapters still surviving (Book 1, 2). It is really given, and present in germ, from the beginning, though I had no conscious notion of what the Necromancer stood for (except ever-recurrent evil) in The Hobbit, nor of his connexion with the Ring.'

letter 163, 1955

Or...


quote:
'To be the burden of a large story it had to be of supreme significance. I then linked it with the (originally) quite casual reference to the Necromancer, end of Ch. vii and Ch. xix, whose function was hardly more than to provide a reason for Gandalf going away and leaving Bilbo and the Dwarves to fend for themselves, which was necessary for the tale.'

letter 257, 1964

What was in Tolkien's head at any stage is one thing -- the Sketch of the 'Silmarillion' appeared, followed by the Qenta Noldorinwa of 1930, so the 'Silmarillion material' was moving along of course (generally speaking, preceded by The Book of Lost Tales material and the long poetic works for Beren and Luthien, and Turin), but the specific storyline of The Lord of the Rings did not begin on paper until the success of The Hobbit called for a 'sequel', and the matter of the Elder Days was rejected at the time.

[ 03-03-2011, 02:54 PM: Message edited by: Galin ]

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The White Hand
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I think the Silmarillion seems pretty Greco-Roman (i.e. gods, epic-heroes, very long etc), and it would seem fairly old hat, as well as dry and unappealing-- particularly if you've already read The Illiad.

Meanwhile European Folklore stories about little people, wizards, dragons, goblins etc are more fun and fascinating as well as familiar to
our culture-- and the Silmarillion didn't have much to do with that.
For this reason, The Silmarillion is a good background for the ancient time of Arda, similar to Greek Mythology, while LotR seems to realate more to Catholicism (i.e. forgiveness, redemption, deliverance through faith and grace, falling to temptation etc).
So he'd have to have his relation to that set up, before anyone would be interested in its background.

In other words, I think that The Silmarillion relates to LotR much like Greek Mythology relates to European Folklore, i.e. it's an ancient background which serves as a foundation, but doesn't relate to our culture.

[ 03-03-2011, 08:07 PM: Message edited by: The White Hand ]

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Madomir
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Thanks for the quotes Galin, that's exactly what I was looking for. []
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Galin
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quote:
I know some things (ie:the riddle game) were later rewritten to better mesh with LotR, was the Necromancer's true identity determined at that time?
Regarding this more specific aspect of the chronology: in 1947 Tolkien sent Allen and Unwin text that included revision to this chapter (IIRC John Rateliff notes that at least some of these papers appear to be as early as 1944) -- at the time JRRT didn't consider this as necessarily a finished product, but he was obviously aware that certain description was now a bit out of line with the story as imagined for The Lord of the Rings.

Much earlier, in a letter of 1937 Tolkien had noted that Sauron had (can't recall the exact wording at the moment, but something like) peeped in over the edge -- referring to The Hobbit, and in the early drafts for The Lord of the Rings the Necromancer is identified with the Dark Lord.

And interestingly, back in the Lay of Leithian:

quote:
'He [Tolkien] had written the passages in the poem referring to Thu in March and April of 1928 -- that is, just over two years before beginning the Hobbit. What's more, work on the two pieces overlapped...'

The Adventure Continues, The History of The Hobbit, John Rateliff

In the Lay, Thu is Morgoth's mightiest lord, Master of Wolves, and:

'(...) In glamoury
that necromancer held his hosts
of phantoms and of wandering ghosts,
of (...)'


So a version of Sauron (or Thu, or any other early variant names of the character) existed before The Lord of the Rings of course, but as I say, any outlines or draft text for the 'sequel' were made after The Hobbit was finished.

Incidentally, John Rateliff seems convinced regarding the date (1930) Tolkien began The Hobbit -- for instance, written versus oral beginnings incorporated, Hammond and Scull offer a wider range of dating, which includes 1930 in any event.

[ 03-04-2011, 05:30 PM: Message edited by: Galin ]

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Galin
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No problem Madomir (I posted my second response before I saw your last post).

[]

[ 03-04-2011, 05:31 PM: Message edited by: Galin ]

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