21 September 2014

77th Anniversary of The Hobbit

The popular imagination changed dramatically seventy-seven years ago today when Stanley Unwin published a curious little book the likes of which nobody had seen before. Of this book that would make Unwin famous, it's its author wrote:
All I remember of the start of The Hobbit is sitting correcting School Certificate papers in the everlasting weariness of that annual task forced on impecunious academics with children. On a blank leaf I scrawled: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why. I did nothing about it, for a long time, and for some years I got no further than the production of Thror's Map. But it became The Hobbit in the early 1930s, and was eventually published not because of my own children's enthusiasm (though they liked it well enough), but because I lent it to the then Rev. Mother of Cherwell Edge when she had flu, and it was seen by a former student who was at that time in the office of Allen and Unwin. It was I believe tried on Rayner Unwin [Stanley Unwin's son]; but for whom when grown up I think I should never have got the Trilogy published (Letter to W. H. Auden, 7 June 1955).

At the age of ten, little Rayner Unwin provided his father with this review of The Hobbit:
Bilbo Baggins was a Hobbit who lived in his Hobbit hole and never went for adventures, at last Gandalf the wizard and his Dwarves persuaded him to go. He had a very exiting (sic) time fighting goblins and wargs. At last they get to the lonely mountain; Smaug, the dragon who guards it is killed and after a terrific battle with the goblins he returned home — rich!

This book, with the help of maps, does not need any illustrations it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9.
A simple review, to be sure, but sufficient enough for his father to decide to publish the book. The rest, as they say, is history.


  1. Anonymous5:33 AM

    Father, you consistently mistake "its" and "it's."
    Its = 3rd person neuter possesive pronoun
    It's = "it is"

    N.B. there is no such word as its'

    1. Thank you, Ryan. I know the difference, but didn't realize I'd been making the mistake here on the blog. I'll try to keep an eye out for it in the future.