On this day in 1937 J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was published.
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, is a fantasy novel and children’s book by English author J. R. R. Tolkien. It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic in children’s literature.
Set in a time “Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men”, The Hobbit follows the quest of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug.
Bilbo’s journey takes him from light-hearted, rural surroundings into more sinister territory. The story is told in the form of an episodic quest, and most chapters introduce a specific creature, or type of creature, of Tolkien’s Wilderland.
By accepting the disreputable, romantic, fey and adventurous side of his nature and applying his wits and common sense, Bilbo gains a new level of maturity, competence and wisdom.The story reaches its climax in the Battle of the Five Armies, where many of the characters and creatures from earlier chapters re-emerge to engage in conflict.
Personal growth and forms of heroism are central themes of the story. Along with motifs of warfare, these themes have led critics to view Tolkien’s own experiences during World War I as instrumental in shaping the story. The author’s scholarly knowledge of Germanic philology and interest in fairy tales are often noted as influences.
Encouraged by the book’s critical and financial success, the publisher requested a sequel. As Tolkien’s work on the successor The Lord of the Rings progressed, he made retrospective accommodations for it in The Hobbit.
These few but significant changes were integrated into the second edition. Further editions followed with minor emendations, including those reflecting Tolkien’s changing concept of the world into which Bilbo stumbled. The work has never been out of print.
Its ongoing legacy encompasses many adaptations for stage, screen, radio, board games and video games. Several of these adaptations have received critical recognition on their own merits.