The History of the Hobbit, Part 1: Mr. Baggins

The History of the Hobbit, Part 1: Mr. Baggins - John D. Rateliff Mr. Baggns is a scholarly book and one more suited to the die-hard Tolkien enthusiast than the casual reader. That's not to say that it's dry or boring; quite the reverse, in fact.This is a book about a book, or more precisely a book about part of a book, as it covers about 2/3s of the action of The Hobbit. Rateliff has taken a number of fragments and drafts of The Hobbit and presents them to us with copious notes and commentaries. Although the main plot is essentially the same as Tolkien's published story, there were many differences in detail and it's fascinating to see how the accumulation of such modifications affected the work as a whole.The book is divided into the chapters of the published story that we're familiar with, although the draft version had no such divisions. Tolkien's text is annotated to highlight the variations. Each chapter is then followed by Rateliff's commentaries on what we've just read, providing fascinating insight into Tolkien's sources, inspirations and useful background information.Thus we learn about Tolkien's fascination with "eagles-to-the-rescue"; the development of elves from Norse and Celtic folklore, through the Middle-ages and into the late Victorian and Edwardian era; Tolkien's likely source for Beorn the werebear; neolithic lake towns, etc.That the commentaries are annotated, and frequently refer back to Tolkien's own invented mythology, makes the book wonderfully convoluted and recursive. And some nice illustrated plates are thrown in for good measure.Next time I read The Hobbit, it will certainly be with this book, and the companion volume, The History of the Hobbit, Volume 2, by my side.