Saturday, January 5, 2008

Belated Tolkien's Birthday

Happy Belated Tolkien's birthday, all.

2007 was a big year for us, between finally completing and seeing published MR. BAGGINS and RETURN TO BAG-END, as well as making my first trip to England in thirteen years (and my first research trip in fifteen). 2008 also promises to be eventful, if somewhat more low key, as I absorb the research I did in Oxford and start sketching out the next project(s).

Thanks to all who sent in errata; I've passed along a list of corrections to the good folks at HarperCollins, who will be incorporating them into the forthcoming trade paperback edition, due out in March. This expanded edition will include Appendix V, which looks at whom Tolkien sent his author's copies of THE HOBBIT to, and the Addendum, some late material from 1965-66 that came to light too late for inclusion in the original edition. It's not many more pages, and I don't think any startling revelations are included therein, but I think folks will find these last few odds and ins interesting in and of themselves. More on this later.

Thanks also to the good folks at Houghton Mifflin, who pointed out to me a favorable review in the L. A. TIMES by Nick Owchar. My two favorite lines:

"Rateliff's labors have resulted in a rich treatment of the many changes, false starts and motivations behind Tolkien's storytelling choices."


"Rateliff's efforts have a paradoxical effect: Even as they demystify Tolkien and show us that there is no such thing as easy genius, they remind us that his willingness to endure numbing revisions to develop a nuanced story is even greater reason to revere him."

Needless to say, I've very pleased. The whole review can be found here:,1,6672345.story?coll=la-headlines-bookreview

I've also done a ten-minute audio interview that should soon be posted online in what is, for me, an unlikely forum; I'll provide the link once it's up.

Finally, here's another little piece I came across that supports the argument that MR. BLISS dates from 1932 or '33, not the late '20s. In the same illustration that shows Gaffer Gamgee, a character who entered the family mythology following the Tolkiens' holiday to Lamora Cove in Cornwall in the summer of 1932, one of the shops on the street is ALLBONE the butcher (MR. BLISS page 36). Given the otherwise unexplained appearance of the name Allibone-Baggins in the final chapter of the first draft HOBBIT (soon to be renamed the Sackville-Bagginses), I would now suggest that the 'allibone' element is probably another family joke, the significance of which is lost. In any case, as with all the elements from THE HOBBIT incorporated into the 1932 FATHER CHRISTMAS LETTER, the Allbone/Allibone parallel suggests that MR. BLISS might have been written around the same time (1932-33) as the conclusion of THE HOBBIT (January 1933).



Indiana Douche said...

The link you had didn't work. I found the review here:,1,6672345.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

Of course that one might not work either. What I did to find it was to go to:

And search on "rateliff" and that pulled it up.

Kind of a short review.

I'm reading "The Hobbit" to my 6.5 year old as I read "The History Of The Hobbit". It's very interesting to read the latest edition and read the about the historical development too.

Next up, I will read LOTR to him and re-read Christopher Tolkien's "History of the Lord of the Rings" myself.

kchm_80 said...

I have been waiting to see Mr. Baggins in my local bookstore, but I haven't seen it yet.
I spent most of last year buried in Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle Earth, so I can't wait to read The History of the Hobbit.
My dad got me hooked on Tolkien as a child and now I'm perusing my Master's in English with the intent of earning my doctorate by studying Tolkien.

Beren said...

I heard the new paperbacks will only include some minor corrections... but does this mean the Appendix V did not make it into the paperback edition or does this mean the publisher finds adding some extra pages only a minor correction?