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This isn't so much a second volume as a second half of Rateliff's book; the first numbered page is 469! So the two really need to be read as a single unit. Having recovered from this discovery, I still enjoyed the detail on Tolkien's construction of the original text of The Hobbit, the subsequent revisions to bring the Gollum episode and other elements better in line with The Lord of the Rings, and finally his abandonment of an attempt to rewrite the entire thing to get rid of some of the continuity errors (eg, what did the dwarves do with their musical instruments after they played them in Bag End?) at the behest of an unnamed female friend who persuaded him to let the text be.

Rateliff incudes more nuggets of analysis of the story's roots in literature and in Tolkien's other writing, in which the Father Christmas Letters, written around the same time, are a prominent source. The best bits were in the first volume, but I did find it interesting to note that Tolkien drew more illustrations of Smaug than of any other character in his legendarium, and Rateliff teases out Tolien's fascination with dragons from the first thing he could recall ever writing, as a small child, through Beowulf and the early versions of what was to become the Silmarillion, to Smaug. There's also an interesting reflection on whether the Arkenstone is a Silmaril: it is, and at the same time it isn't, and the fact that we ask the question at all says interesting things about concepts of canonicity.

The two volumes are really for completists only, but strongly recommended for them.

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