Happy Birthday, Mr. Tolkien

My oldest child is pleased beyond belief that he shares his birthday with his favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien. While Harry Potter and Percy Jackson are held dear to his heart, it is Tolkien's Middle Earth that will forever reign as the pinnacle of fantasy literature in his world. And so it has been for millions of readers since that first edition of The Hobbit was released in 1937.

And yet did you know that the 1937 edition of The Hobbit, should you be so lucky as to get your hands on a copy today, would bear a striking difference from the story you are most likely familiar with today? Tolkien's original publication, you see, was made quite before he had written his famous sequel, The Lord of the Rings. It wasn't until he began writing this sequel that he decided that Bilbo's magic ring - yes, the one he bested from Gollum - was going to play a major (and quite dark) role in the entire story.

This was going to prove to be a problem because in the original publication of The Hobbit, Tolkien had written that after winning the game of riddles, Gollum actually intended to make a present of the ring to Bilbo. The ring was just a silly magic ring of little consequence.

Uh oh. Those of you familiar with the plot of The Lord of the Rings (and is there anyone left on the planet who isn't?) knows that wasn't going to work.

So Tolkien actually had to revise The Hobbit to the version we all know and love today (Gollum is utterly devastated to lose that ring and for good reason!). This new version wasn't published until 1951. That's right, a full fourteen years after its original release.

The Lord of the Rings was published in 1954, three years after this new and improved Hobbit was in circulation.

What did readers of the time think of this major re-write? It's difficult to tell how many even noticed at the time. But given that a 1937 edition of The Hobbit currently retails for around $15,000, we can assume fans today are quite appreciative.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Tolkien. And thank you so very much.


  1. Don't you think he kinda looks like a friendly Hobbit? Interesting facts here. But I like how he is flexible enough to change his gears for the betterment of the story.

    1. I always want to hug him. Kind of like Pope Francis.

  2. My ex-husband's birthday is January 3. Why couldn't he have been more like Tolkien? haha!

    Happy Birthday to your son!

    That is very interesting about The Hobbit. I had no idea!

  3. I have read LOTR and was a Tolkien fan since, the second movie was about to be out so i bought it, just to read it before i watch the movie. This book(available in a set of 2, or sometimes as a single book), is just as the other Tolkien's masterpiece, truly amazing. Buy it if you are a LOTR fan, trust me it is for a collector, and something you won't regret.

    1. One can never, ever go wrong collecting Tolkien books. I keep hoping I will find a pre-1950 edition of the Hobbit at an estate sale someday. Hope springs eternal.


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