August Books 12) The History of The Hobbit, vol 1: Mr Baggins, by John D. Rateliff
Having finished the History of Middle Earth series, I have made a start on the two-volume History of The Hobbit which I acquired a couple of years ago. It is actually rather good - as well as following through the manuscript changes (of which the most unsettling is that Gandalf was originally the name of the dwarf leader we know as Thorin Oakenshield; the wizard of early drafts was Bladorthin), Rateliff has taken the time to chase down the history of various elements of the story of The Hobbit; he argues, for instance, that Tolkien's trolls appear to have been the first in literature who were turned to stone by the rising sun, and that while invisibility-conferring rings were not completely new, many aspects of the Ring found by Bilbo are indeed original. He also shows how the writing of The Hobbit was affected by and in turn affected the other writing Tolkien was engaged in at the time, some of which became The Silmarillion and some of which only saw light in The History of Middle Earth. Note also that Laketown is the only culture in Middle Earth which is clearly rooted in the Western European medieval period which was Tolkien's own specialisation, and its Master is the only speaking character in the entire corpus who has won an election. Looking forward to the second volume now.