Product Added : February 18th, 2013
Category : Books
"This Best Selling The Hobbit (or There and Back Again) Tends to SELL OUT VERY FAST! If this is a MUST HAVE product, be sure to Order Now to avoid disappointment!"
This deluxe collector's edition of Tolkien's modern classic is boxed and bound in green leatherette with gold and red foil rune stamping on the spine and cover. The text pages are printed in black with green accents. It includes five full page illustrations in full color and many more in two color in addition to Thror's map — all prepared by the author.
J.R.R. Tolkien's own description for the original edition: "If you care for journeys there and back, out of the comfortable Western world, over the edge of the Wild, and home again, and can take an interest in a humble hero (blessed with a little wisdom and a little courage and considerable good luck), here is a record of such a journey and such a traveler. The period is the ancient time between the age of Faerie and the dominion of men, when the famous forest of Mirkwood was still standing, and the mountains were full of danger. In following the path of this humble adventurer, you will learn by the way (as he did) — if you do not already know all about these things — much about trolls, goblins, dwarves, and elves, and get some glimpses into the history and politics of a neglected but important period. For Mr. Bilbo Baggins visited various notable persons; conversed with the dragon, Smaug the Magnificent; and was present, rather unwillingly, at the Battle of the Five Armies. This is all the more remarkable, since he was a hobbit. Hobbits have hitherto been passed over in history and legend, perhaps because they as a rule preferred comfort to excitement. But this account, based on his personal memoirs, of the one exciting year in the otherwise quiet life of Mr. Baggins will give you a fair idea of the estimable people now (it is said) becoming rather rare. They do not like noise."
Okay, so I say that this is the best way to read The Hobbit. And I am dead serious.
I know that annotated books can be difficult to navigate, filled with useless, pointless, or just plain boring information, and can be grossly oversized. That is not the case here.
So – here’s the scoop.
The original story is very nicely presented, with all original illustrations in color when possible, and in black and white elsewhere. The type is nice and clear, very easy to read. (Many cheaper editions are also rather hard on the eyes. Check the print before you buy, folks!)
The illustrations are printed very clearly, and with very good notes on what they are.
And then the annotations – useful, engaging, and very well done. You will WANT to read these. We discover how the book was written, and what was changed between editions. (There were many changes made so that The Hobbit would conform more easily to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.) There are fascinating tidbits about Tolkien’s life and the experiences that made their way into the story.
The forward tells about the writing of the novel, and the appedices give additional details about the text.
There are also many illustrations from other editions of the book. These are varied, from thought-provoking to not-provoking.
And the book is not too big. Some editions are simply too big to be read, but this book is reasonably sized so that you can actually READ IT! In fact, I have not read any other edition of The Hobbit for years, since the original annotated version came out.
The new edition is very much worthwhile. Enjoy!
This newly published, annotated version of THE HOBBIT is excellent for fans of the book. It may be TMI (“too much information”) for the first-time reader. The text of THE HOBBIT settles in the center of the book while Doug Anderson’s notations appear in the outer margins. At times it’s a bit busy – but there’s always fascinating reading! Tolkien fans are sure to get excited over this one.
Doug Anderson includes lots of sources in his notes. He quotes Tolkien’s own letters, other fairy tales and legends that may have inspired Tolkien, as well as previous versions of the section he’s noting. The Gollum section (“Riddles in the Dark”) is interesting. Tolkien did some tinkering with the original Gollum story as its follow-up (LORD OF THE RINGS) was taking shape. Seems that George Lucas is not the only person who’s revised previously released work! Tolkien was his predecessor.
Also interesting are the many black and white illustrations that Anderson includes, many from foreign editions of THE HOBBIT. Some of the art is hilarious, as it does not resemble Tolkien’s characters at all! There is a nice color section of illustrations in the center of the book.
THE ANNOTATED HOBBIT is a handsome, interesting book to own if you’re a fan of Bilbo and his adventures with the dwarves (or dwarfs? That’s covered in the book as well!)
This version of the Hobbit is a pleasure to long-time fans but will also serve new readers well. Anderson released the original “Annotated Hobbit” years ago but this new format with the annotations in the column most often directly next to the orginal book text is supurb.
Included are Hobbit illustrations around the word, a rich addition, but the real joy of this book is learning background and details about The Hobbit, author J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord Of The Rings. At times the footnotes are scholarly and at other times they are amusing gems.
Anderson has compared all of Tolkien’s revisions and has researched the ‘whys’ ‘hows’ and ‘whens’ that helps reveal to reader the meaning of the text and the personality of the author.
My favorites are anecdotes about Tolkien’s personal life that involve his family and personal history. They are facinating and at times touching.
WIthout rambling on too much, I can confidently recommend this version of “The Hobbit” as the best available.
`The Annotated Hobbit’, annotated by bookseller Douglas A. Anderson is published by J.R.R. Tolkien’s American publisher, Houghton Mifflin (important because it means the cover of this book uses the same art as the cover of the most popular hard-covered American edition of the Hobbit, published in the 1960′s).
Let me be perfectly clear that this is first and foremost a review of the Annotation, not of the novel, `The Hobbit’ itself. I have an almost reverential respect for the original novel, having bought my first copy of this work on a cold February day in 1965 in the Lehigh University bookstore. I began reading it on the bus on the way home from my college classes at about 1:00 PM, and simply could not put it down. I finished reading it at about 8:30 that evening. The experience is not unlike some cinematic versions of experiences like Dorothy’s opening the door of her Kansas house to step out onto the grass of Oz. I am totally unsurprised by a statement in this annotation that says that the entire first page of `The Hobbit’ has been reproduced in `Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations’. There are few more magical or evocative openings to novels I have read in my whole life. And, while I can appreciate that there are adult readers, my Hemingway loving uncle being one of them, who simply `don’t get it’, I am often driven to the point of dispair when I can’t interest young readers or listeners in `The Hobbit’. Like `Winnie the Pooh’ and `Alice in Wonderland’, I really think these are books designed much more to bring back memories of childhood in adults than to engage young readers. And oh how much I enjoy reading `The Hobbit’ aloud!
But back to this Annotation’. Like similar annotations to works of fiction such as `Alice in Wonderland’ and the Arthur Conan Doyle stories of Sherlock Holmes, there are four different subjects for annotation. One is internal; where names and events are cross-referenced to other parts of the work to explain, elaborate, resolve, or point out inconsistencies. The second is external, where correspondences can be made to sources or, in the case of Conan Doyle or Carroll, events of the day that may have found their way into the fiction. The third is references to the author’s unpublished notes and letters. Tolkien’s works should be rich sources for all three types of annotation, as the world of `The Hobbit’ and `The Lord of the Rings’ is based on an enormous body of Norse, Celtic, and Teutonic mythology, fable, and epic literature. Also, standing behind `The Hobbit’ is the great events of `The Lord of the Rings’, `The Silmarillion’, and over twelve volumes of Tolkien writings compiled and annotated by Christopher Tolkien.
So why are the annotations in this volume so sparse? The author certainly does not limit himself to only one kind of annotation. There are examples of all three references to other Tolkien works, notes and letters, and other sources. The author does give us lots of illustrations of scenes from `The Hobbit’ published in translations of the work from around the world. There are also a few illustrations from books that certainly influenced Tolkien, such as `The Marvelous Land of Snergs’. The one thing that all these illustrations tell me is that, on average, they are not very good, oriented primarily towards a children’s audience rather than some of the more heroic art familiar to us from modern fantasy illustrators. It seems to me a lost opportunity also to not include Tolkien’s own color illustrations for `The Hobbit’, as they appeared on the very first `Tolkien’ calendar in, I believe 1966 or 1967.
I will give just a few illustrations of where I think the author may have disappointed his readers. By far the most interesting character in `The Hobbit’ next to Bilbo and Gandalf is Smaug. And yet, the book has next to nothing to say about the fictional antecedents of that delightfully cagey old worm. One of my only fond memories of the rather insipid cartoon version of `The Hobbit’ done several decades ago is the gravely voice of Smaug done by Paladin himself, Richard Boone. If you couldn’t get John Huston, then Boone was certainly the next best thing. To the whole conversation between Bilbo and Smaug, there are but two notes regarding Smaug and dragons. At least we get a reference about the source of Smaug’s name, a primitive Germanic verb, `smugan’ meaning to squeeze through a hole. Tolkien confessed that this was `a low philological jest’. In the wider story culminating in the great events of `The Lord of the Rings’ coming at the end of the Third Age, it is much more important to Gandalf to remove this great dragon from the field so Sauron could not use him as a weapon in the War of the Rings than it was to restore a small band of dwarves to their treasures. The book has practically nothing to say about this, or the fact that the character of the `necromancer’ who takes up residence at the southwestern tip of Mirkwood forest is actually either the leader of the Nazgul or Sauron himself.
I keep thinking, as I turn each page of ample, empty white margins, all the things that could have been included.
In balance, this is not a bad book or even a poor purchase, especially if, like me, you simply must have a copy of every different version of Tolkien’s works imaginable. It has a very nice bibliography and an Appendix of all textual changes between the 1937 and 1966 editions. For those notes it does have, it is great as a version to read to children where you can record your own notes with answers to their questions.
Tolkien’s Hobbit takes the imagination on a wonderful flight
of fantasy. I read this book on a yearly basis and each
year I am delighted and captivated by the world of Bilbo
Bilbo is a reluctant member of an adventure that will
forever change his life and the lives of those around him.
He accompanies 13 dwarves on a mission to reclaim the gold
and mountain kingdom of their ancestors from the dragon,
Smaug. They have many adventures and mishaps on their
journey to the lonely mountain including the climactic battle of
five armies. Bilbo finds a magic ring along the way which
leads, not only to a rise in his stature, but also to a new
adventure for his friends in “The Lord of the Rings.”
Tolkien is a master storyteller and the depth of his skill
is best seen in this tale. In the following trilogy, “The
Lord of the Rings” the story is continued, but the sheer
delight of “The Hobbit” is never fully recaptured.
This collector’s edition is beautifully bound. Even more
enjoyable are the illustrations and paintings by the author
I always thought this book was for children so I got it for my son for Christmas. He had read all the Harry Potter books and was waiting for the next one so I figured this classic fantasy would help fill the void.
Well fill the void it did! My son absolutely loved it and has already read through it twice. Intrigued, I picked up the book myself and was immediately captivated by the story and stayed up until 2AM one morning to finish it! This is a book that any adult can appreciate and while it might be challenging for a child under 14, the effort will be rewarded.
This is the story of a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who is very much like many of us. He would rather avoid “adventure” and sit by the fireplace with a mug of beer and a good meal in his stomach. He is suddenly dragged unwittingly into an adventure that ends up transforming him and teaching him things about himself that he never knew.
As Bilbo and his dwarf companions encounter trolls, goblins, giant spiders and ultimately a giant dragon in their quest to recover lost treasure, you will find it increasingly difficult to put the book down.
J.R.R. Tolkien is a master of prose and you find yourself reading paragraphs over again to absorb all the rich detail. They sure don’t write them like that anymore!
I highly recommend getting this book on tape (or CD) as well. My son and I “re-read” the book this way and we gained much more appreciation for this timeless classic (the medieval music added a whole new dimension to the tale).
This is a fun adaptation of Tolkien’s classic work and I enjoy it as such, but it is *not* as described here by Amazon. First, buyers need to know that this is a graphic novel and an abridgment of Tolkien’s work. Second, it is *not* illustrated by Alan Lee as stated in Amazon’s description, the illustrations were done by David Wenzel. This is a glaring mistake that Amazon needs to correct quickly. There are plenty of Alan Lee fans out there, especially after the LOTR movies were made with his assistance, and those fans may be disappointed to find the work of a different illustrator show up in their mailbox. Amazon also gives the wrong ISBN-10 number, though I doubt many will notice or care.
Having said all this, I have enjoyed this adaptation of Tolkien’s work. I bought it primarily for my 5 year old daughter who is a bit too young for the unabridged and non-illustrated novel but is still very interested in the story. She loves for me to read it to her and she gets a fuller and more accurate depiction of the story than the 1977 cartoon video provides.
I recommend this work, but Amazon needs a fuller, more honest description of what buyers will be receiving.
I bought this book because I wanted a hardcover illustrated fancy version of “The Hobbit”.
I’m just going to pretend that everyone who reads this review has already read “The Hobbit” and knows what it’s about. Like I suspect many others do, I have my own old sacred tattered and dog-eared paperback version on the Tolkien bookshelf.
This book (the physical object, not just the story) is beautiful. It’s clothbound in dark green and embossed in gold, and the bottom corner of the front cover has a gold embossed dragon, tastefully rendered. The paper dustjacket/cover features a dragon as well (I’m guessing Smaug). Eye-catching.
There are many full-page color paintings, and many grayscale drawings (not full page) throughout. I’m not an art student, so I don’t know what they’re really called. Pencil-drawings or something. I call them grayscale because they’re gray. Anyway, the Allen Lee illustrations are utterly charming, soft and colorful without being too bright. However, I wouldn’t recommend this illustrated book for very young children; some of the goblins and trolls are frightening!
I was a bit disappointed that Alan Lee didn’t include more illustrations of Elves. Most of the pictures dealt with Bilbo and the dwarves, with a few of goblins and Gollum (scary). Also, I pictured Bilbo Baggins to be somewhat on the “stout” side…the text *does* refer to Hobbits as being “inclined to be fat in the stomach” and liking two dinners a day, “when they can get it.” The Bilbo Baggins in these illustrations is quite slender and looks as if he could use that second dinner right away! Maybe even a third and fourth! The balding, skinny Hobbit did surprise me. But then, I kind of expected the chubby halfling I saw on some old Tolkien calendars.
This book makes a wonderful coffee table book and would make a great gift. It’s printed on thick glossy paper, so the book is heavy. In these days of cheap hardcover bookbinding and paperbacks that have the consistency of the thick weekly manga, this book is truly a work of art in itself.
Recommended for all but the very young, or the easily frightened.
[I originally wrote a review back in 2000 for "The Hobbit", detailing the differences between "The Hobbit", "The Lord of the Rings", and "The Silmarillion". In 2012 I wrote a new review, and am editing my original text to include this new review. Mike London 10-3-2012]
New Review 2012: “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” Thus begins the most famous series in fantasy literature. For such a universe of high caliber, the sentence is a rather unassuming beginning for quite an unassuming, down-to-earth race known as Hobbits.
Unfortunately “The Hobbit” has become overshadowed by “The Lord of the Rings”, seen as an “enchanting prelude” to the more substantial sequel. C. S. Lewis said in “A Preface to Paradise Lost” that to accurately judge an item, you first must know its purpose. The books were written for different purposes – “The Hobbit” as an entertaining story for his children, and “The Lord of the Rings”, initially a sequel to “The Hobbit”, became much more a continuation of “The Silmarillion”. For those who underestimate “The Hobbit” using the criteria of “The Lord of the Rings” as their guide are missing out on a rich work.
What are Hobbits, you may ask? If you go researching where Tolkien got inspiration for the Hobbits, you will soon get mixed up in “The Denham Tracks” (a 19th century list of various folk-lore creatures) and E. A. Wyke-Smith’s “”The Marvellous Land of Snergs (Dover Children’s Classics)“. Honestly, neither of these will get you very far.
The Denham Tracks reads like a laundry list of folk-lore creatures, and though the actual word “hobbit” appears, there is no context for what a “hobbit” actually is. “The Marvelous Land of the Snergs” will get you a tad bit further. Snergs are creatures about half the height of man (like the Hobbits), enjoy their food (again, like the Hobbits), and there the resemblance ends. The World of the Snergs is far removed from Middle-earth, having more to do with 19th century adventure stories set in fantasy with such dispargant elements as a vegetation Troll (by far the best character in the book), witches, knights similiar to stories of King Arthur, ad a waylaid sea crew hailing from the ship “The Flying Dutchman”
Tolkien certainly anticipated the question, for he answered this inquiry within the opening pages of this very book. They are a race two to four feet high, shy of “Big People”, and have no beards, unlike dwarves. Hobbits are chubby, “dress in bright colours, (chiefly green and yellow)”, and wear no shoes because of the hick tufts of hair and thick leathery soles of their feet. They eat as often as they can.
The story of “The Hobbit” is well known, having been published in 1937 and continually in print (save only for a brief interruption in the early 1940s, when Great Britian were facing paper shortages due to World War II).
“The Hobbit” began life as an entertaining story of Tolkien’s children (as so many of Tolkien’s stories began as well). Written between 1929-1933, the book details the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. Gandalf the Wizard meets with Bilbo in the opening pages, telling him he is looking for some “to go on an adventure”. Bilbo, not quite as respectible as he would like to believe himself to be, tells Gandalf life was much more interesting when Gandalf was around, but no, he would not have any adventures, thank you very much. Naturally, thirteen dwarves show up, and ultimately Bilbo sets off to reclaim the gold that the Dragon Smaug has stolen from the dwarves. Like the later Aragorn, Thorin Oakenshield, the chief dwarf, is a king-in-exile, and wants to reclaim both his throne and his gold stolen by the dragon..
The real meat of “The Hobbit”, and one of the reasons why I believe the book has had such a long lasting appeal, is the book’s transformation of Bilbo.
“The Hobbit” shows the reader how an unassuming modern character (for though Bilbo lives in the far removed past, he is THOROUGHLY MODERN) goes from being an out-of-place bumbler in situations far removed from his life experience to an equal among beings and races that belong only in the distant past.
Although initially inept, Bilbo, just as Gandalf predicted, proves to be a worthwhile companion, coming through for the dwarves on several key occasions, such as freeing them from the Elven prisons, fighting back the spiders, and facing the dragon alone. He even eventually aids in bringing about a resolution to the growing distress between the Dwarves, Men, and Elves after the fallout of Smaug’s demise (albeit, rather unconventionally, using the Arkenstone, the Heart of the Mountain and the jewel which Thorin prizes above all others).
This journey, this transformation of Bilbo into something more, something greater, is the true heart of the book. Tolkien himself said that he removed Gandalf from the story shortly after Beorn’s house, due to the dramatic need for Bilbo to proove himself without assistance from the wizard. Fortunately, Tolkien was able to use Gandalf’s absence as a springboard into more expansive story ideas when he began developing “The Lord of the Rings” after the unbridled success of “The Hobbit”.
Also, the book displays a moral complexity often not seen within the confines of children’s liteature. By this, I am referring to the whole matter of Bilbo’s handling of the Arkenstone, the chief jewel of the hoard that Bilbo and the dwarves are setting out to recover. The claims of the Elves and Men, and counter claims of the dwarves, and Bilbo’s claiming of the Arkenstone and how he wants to use the Arkenstone to move the uprising battle toward resolution are complex and startling legal in tone.
For all its story-book qualities, “The Hobbit” is a much different work from its subsequent heir, “The Lord of the Rings”. Although early manuscripts explicitly prove Tolkien was casting the “The Hobbit” in the universe of his mythology from initial composition, “The Hobbit” features several elements and passages that are altogether incongruous with “The Lord of the Rings”, especially in the First Edition published in 1937.
For one, the ring found in Gollum’s cave is not the One Ring, the Ruling Ring of Sauron. The magic ring was simply that – a magic ring, a stage prop that, in the words of Tom Shippey helped equalize Bilbo in the archaic world he found himself in. Tolkien only began developing the concept of the Ruling Ring AFTER publication of “The Hobbit” when he was trying to come up with ideas for a sequel. When reading “The Hobbit”, readers, especially those who know the sequel, may approach the Ring as though this was truly a dark and sinister ring, which the text does not simply support. Indeed, Bilbo’s deception about the ring, so important in “The Lord of the Rings”, is not explicit in “The Hobbit”.
Next, and probably most fascinating of all, is the nature of Gollum himself. We all know he’s a hobbit, long ago corrupted by his long possession of the One Ring. However, prior to 1951 when Allen and Unwin (Tolkien’s publishers) published the revised version of “Riddles in the Dark” that Tolkien had written in 1947, not only was Gollum explicitly NOT a hobbit, we were not even sure what kind of creature he was (or what his physical size was). He was more akin to Tom Bombadil and Beorn, a one item category unique unto himself. There were no textual indications of Gollum’s size in comparison to Bilbo, leading some illustrators in foreign editions to show Gollum as a much larger creature than he would later become.
Then there’s the matter of the original version of “Riddles in the Dark”. Initially Gollum was going to give away his magic ring as a gift if Bilbo won the contest as well as show him the way out; after winning, Gollum is unable to find the ring (naturally, as Bilbo had already found the ring), so he showed Bilbo the way out, constantly apologizing. In “The Return of the Shadow”, Book Six of “The History of Middle-earth”, we find Tolkien trying to work within the parameters of this original chapter. Naturally, Tolkien ultimately abandoned the original conception and rewrote the chapter in 1947 as a specimen of what a new chapter could look like and sent this to his publisher. Tolkien was quite surprised to see that, four years later, Allen & Unwin published the rewritten version, and Tolkien accepted the text as authoritative.
While that’s the most interesting of the differences, there are still several passages at odds with Middle-earth as described in “The Lord of the Rings”. There is no Shire. There are references to policemen and an unnamed “king”. The trolls fit more into fairy-book stories than Middle-earth, and, as Douglas Anderson points out in “The Annotated Hobbit”, Tolkien references other trolls with multiple heads, a thing not found in Middle-earth. Then there are the stone giants, which only appear once and then are never heard of again in any other story, before or after. There is speculation that one of Bilbo’s ancestors took a FAIRY wife, a conception wholly alien to Middle-earth. There are no fairies in Middle-earth. Then there’s the matter of the ruins of the mysterious city upon which Lake-town is built upon. This ruined city is mentioned only in “The Hobbit”; it goes unnamed, unreferenced, and undocumented in any of Tolkien’s other writings regarding his legendarium.
Probably the single biggest difference between “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” is there is no developed nomenclature in “The Hobbit”. The majority of the names are simple descriptions of the things involved: Bilbo lives in The Hill, is traveling to the River Running, visits a city named Dale, as neighbors across the Water, etc. There are very few proper names in “The Hobbit”. The thirteen dwarves names and Gandalf (with the exception of “Balin”) are all simply lifted from “The Devergatal”, a section of the Elder Edda In “The Lord of the Rings” however, nomenclature is king, and Tolkien spent vast amounts of time creating vast landscape, cultures, and races all with their own unique linguistic flavour.
There are also some geographic inconsistencies between the two works. From the bridge to where Bilbo and the dwarves meet the trolls is within sight; however, in “The Lord of the Rings”, this same spot takes Aragorn and company SIX DAYS to go from the river to the spot where the trolls are.
Tolkien was aware of these differences, and in 1960 wrote several different passages and revisions to bring “The Hobbit” stylistically more in line with “The Lord of the Rings”. These passages were published for the first time in 2007 with “The History of The Hobbit”. However, he showed the revised passages to someone (it is unknown who) who discouraged him from changing “The Hobbit”.
Ultimately, “The Hobbit” is a much different experience than “The Lord of the Rings”, much more akin to classical fantasy fairy tale books such as “The Wind in the Willows” and “The Marvellous Land of the Snergs” in both style and tone than “The Lord of the Rings”. Too its credit, the success of “The Hobbit” was what prompted Tolkien to write the sequel.
In the seventeen years between initial publication and the appearance of the first volume of its sequel (1937-1954), “The Hobbit” never went out of print (save only for a brief period during World War II due to paper shortages) and was a tremendous seller, without support from “The Lord of the Rings”. It is indeed a rich work, and is an undisputed classic. This book is so much more than a “prelude” to bigger and better things. It’s a keystone work in children’s fantasy, and stands among the titans of literature.
Original Review 2000: “Inferiour to L.R.? I think not! No, just different!”
The biggest problem with this novel is perception. Tolkien wrote this story for children; to be more specific, this was written for HIS children. There were several stories like this, but it was this, The Hobbit, that was his master achievement in children’s literature.
The Lord of the Rings ( a single epic, NOT a trilogy) was written to cash in on The Hobbit’s success. Tolkien wanted to get on with the more serious work of his mythology, and ultimately that is what happened with The Lord of the Rings. It became attached to his mythology, and became as important to him as The Silmarillion.
So delineation is required if you want to read this. Do not go in with the thought that The Hobbit is a “precursor” or any such nonsense to The Lord of the Rings. Think of it like you would think of any other children’s classics: children’s classics. If you take it on The L. R.’s terms, this is a failure, primary because it is not written to be like that. But, on the flipside, The L. R. is as much a failure in children’s fiction. It is not children’s fiction, it is epic fantasy, and one should not equate it with children’s fiction. That is EXACTLY what people try to do with The Hobbit. They try to put it in the same type of genre or playing field as The L. R. They are both masterpieces, and I love them both dearly. But one is for children, the other with adults.
Of course, Tolkien is part of the problem. How many books do you know that is a children’s book and has an adult sequel? Not very many. The Hobbit, scarcely 300 pages, was written and published in the children’s market. He then talked to his publishers, and they wanted a sequel. So he began “the new Hobbit”, as C. S. (Jack) Lewis so aptly put it. He was preoccupied with his mythology, and the sequel was drawn into it. So we have two works, spanning two different genres, and as far as surface connections go its little more than prequel/sequel. Instead of looking at The Hobbit as a prequel, a precursor to his ADULT masterpiece, an inferiour version, think of as his CHILDREN’S masterpiece. The Hobbit is top of the class in children’s fiction, one of the few contenders against such other great children’s works as Narnia and Wrinkle in Time. The Lord of the Rings, likewise, is THE crowning masterpiece of the fantasy genre, of which its influence is incalculable to that fantasy market. Both are as important as the other, just in different fields.
I haven’t talked about The Silmarillion much. I have already reviewed it, so I won’t go real in-depth here. But the same thing happened with it. People, expecting another Lord of the Rings, were inevitably disappointed with the Biblical style of the published version. If Tolkien wrote that book out in narrative form as he did Lord of the Rings, it would be ten times longer than Lord of the Rings. The biggest problem with Tolkien is people have to many preconceptions that are incorrect.
So, basically, in conclusion, think of it like this:
1. The Hobbit – Children’s masterpiece. He scores big with this one.
2. The Lord of the Rings – a single fantasy, not a trilogy. (Tolkien was always quick to point that out). The Crowning achievement of modern fantasy.
3. The Silmarillion – the Bible of Middle-earth. Much more for students of his work than the causal reader.
[From the Amazon.co.uk review: Enjoy Tolkien's Middle-earth! I certainly have!