“The Hobbit”: 5 Things You Didn’t Know

The dust jacket of the first edition of "The Hobbit."
The dust jacket of the first edition of “The Hobbit.”

On this date in 1937, “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien was published for the first time.

Here are some things you may not have known about the book.

Tolkien was professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College, Oxford. In his spare time he wrote poetry and short stories.

In the early 1930’s Tolkien said he found a blank sheet of paper among the papers he was grading. On the page, with little forethought, he wrote the words, “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.”

He finished the story in late 1932, he shared it with friends, including C.S. Lewis and a student named Elaine Griffiths. Griffiths told a friend who worked in publishing about Tolkien’s book and her publishing house eventually published it.

The publisher printed 1,500 copies of the book, which sold out quickly. It was released in the United States in early 1938. It was frequently unavailable in the UK because of wartime paper rationing.

The book has been translated into more than 40 languages, including five updated editions.

After the success of “The Hobbit,” the publishers requested a sequel. He began work on what would become “The Lord of the Rings.”

Certain character developments made in the sequel required Tolkien to revise parts of “The Hobbit.” In one scene, Gollum bets his magic ring on the outcome of a game, loses, and parts ways amicably with Bilbo Baggins, who wins the ring. The second edition of “The Hobbit” is revised so that Gollum is distraught at losing the ring and curses Bilbo.

Tolkien is traditionally credited with creating the word “hobbit.” However, he never claimed to have invented it, only that it came to him in flash of inspiration. The word has since turned up in a 19th century folklore journal, referring to a type of hobgoblin, or bogeyman.

Our question: What was the name of the literary discussion group that Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were members of?

Today is Independence Day in Armenia, Belize and Malta.

It’s unofficially International Day of Peace, National Pecan Cookie Day, and Miniature Golf Day.

It’s the birthday of author H.G. Wells, who was born in 1866; animator Chuck Jones, who was born in 1912; and actor Bill Murray, who is 66 today.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1988, the top song in the U.S. was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.

The No. 1 movie was “A Fish Called Wanda,” while the novel “The Cardinal of the Kremlin” by Tom Clancy topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


Weekly question

In what song does Paul Simon allude to Art Garfunkel as Tom, a reference to their act’s original name, Tom and Jerry?


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