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The Hobbit
J. R. R. Tolkien (Illustrated by Alan Lee)
Houghton Mifflin, 297 pages

The Hobbit
J.R.R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born of English parents at Bloemfontein, South Africa on Jan. 3, 1892 and died in England on Sept. 2, 1973. He received his education at Oxford University. After graduating in 1915, he joined the British army and saw action in the Battle of the Somme. He was eventually discharged after spending most of 1917 in the hospital.

Tolkien was a scholar by profession. He worked as a staff member of the New English Dictionary, Reader then Professor of English Language at Leeds between 1920-25, Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford between 1925-45 and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature until 1959.

The Tolkien Timeline
The Electronic Tolkien Encyclopedia Project
The Last Homely House
Tolkien's Birmingham
Tolkien's Oxford
The Internet Tolkien Book Society Page
The Tolkien Collector Resources Page
The Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor Page
The Halls of Tolkien
The Numenor Chronology

Past Feature Reviews
A review by James Seidman

It has been 60 years since the first publication of The Hobbit. Now, in the USA, Houghton Mifflin has released a sixtieth anniversary hardcover edition beautifully illustrated by Alan Lee.

If you are one of the few people who has never read The Hobbit, it should be on your "must-read" list. This is one of the most important, seminal works in fantasy fiction. It chronicles the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit used to his comfortable domestic life in a sleepy village. Gandalf, a powerful wizard, ropes Bilbo into serving as a hired burglar of dwarves to reclaim their mountain home (and the treasure there accumulated) from Smaug, a huge dragon.

What follows is an adventure that inspired much of the modern fantasy movement as well as such games as Dungeons & Dragons. Bilbo and the dwarves encounter goblins, elves, enchanted forests, magic rings, and many other fantastic things. As circumstances force Bilbo to deal with adversity, he rapidly transforms from a provincial homebody to a competent adventurer.

Tolkien originally created The Hobbit for his children, and consequently the narrative has a simple, easy to read style. There is a little violence in the story, but it is probably appropriate for anyone above the age of seven. This isn't to say that adults won't enjoy this book as well: it's one of those rare stories that appeals to all age groups.

The unique feature of this edition is Alan Lee's illustrations. Lee is a talented artist whose illustrations vividly bring the story to life. Each illustration is printed as a full-color, full-page picture, and they appear roughly every ten to fifteen pages. The images all resonate well with how I visualized the story in my mind's eye, with the exception that in Lee's drawings, Bilbo Baggins looks uncomfortably like Gene Wilder. There are also several small black and white pencil sketches scattered throughout the book. These pictures should make the story more accessible to younger readers.

For Tolkien collectors, the text in the book is identical to the 1978 British Fourth Edition. (This is true even down to the runes on the title page, which translate, in part, to "...and published by George Allen and Unwin Ltd.") This edition also features two-color maps, which is especially important for legibility in the Wilderland map.

This anniversary edition is expensive, but it is a particularly beautiful version of this classic. This book would even look appropriate sitting on a coffee table. Fantasy book collectors should definitely give it a look.

Copyright © 1997 James Seidman

James Seidman is co-founder and president of a small start-up company, which means that getting review copies of books is the only way he can afford to indulge his craving for science fiction. He lives with his wife, daughter, two dogs, and twenty-seven fish in Naperville, Illinois.

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