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Tom Shippey reads excerpt from 'Riddles in the Dark' from 1st edition Hobbit!

Tol Eressea

Sep 24 2012, 6:37am

Post #1 of 12 (419 views)
Tom Shippey reads excerpt from 'Riddles in the Dark' from 1st edition Hobbit! Can't Post

- with thanks to Trotter and those lovely folk at Tolkien Collector's Guide -


Though only seven and a half minutes long (as opposed to the thirty minutes it take Tolkien himself to read the whole chapter in 'The JRR Tolkien Collection), the brilliant thing about this is that Tom reads the excerpt from the first edition text of The Hobbit, published between 1937 and 1946. Gollum's role and character are quite different to those of every printing of that chapter thereafter, yes precious, quite.


(This post was edited by Silverlode on Sep 24 2012, 8:15am)

Forum Admin / Moderator

Sep 24 2012, 8:29am

Post #2 of 12 (253 views)
Thanks for this! [In reply to] Can't Post

That's very interesting indeed. I've heard the original version referred to before, but I don't think I've ever actually read it. So the original version had a sneaky, untrustworthy Gollum who wanted to eat Bilbo, but not the angry, scary version which "hates Baggins forever!" Frankly, I think the revised version is a far more memorable one. I know on my first reading, I found Gollum absolutely terrifying but I don't know if I'd have had the same reaction to this version.

Do you know anything of the reaction when the revised version was first published? Was there any sort of public feedback that we know about? Letters to the publisher and so on?

BTW, I edited your post to make a clickable link.


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Tol Eressea

Sep 24 2012, 9:35am

Post #3 of 12 (245 views)
Actually, [In reply to] Can't Post

the original version had a Gollum who was willing to keep his side of the bargain and give Bilbo a present - the present being the ring itself! Though not, as published in 1937 the One, the ruling Ring. In the 1st ed, Gollum felt bound by the rules of the riddle game and was very apologetic.

No, I haven't heard or read of any public reaction to the change in the story - but then, there were only a few thousand copies printed of the first edition, between 1937 and 1946. Indeed, the printing of the second version of ch.5 was a bit of a blunder on the part of Allen & Unwin's - Tolkien had sent them the revisions purely as an excercise, in 1947. He was most surprised to see it in print, in proofs for the 5th impression (ie, the first printing of the 2nd edition) which was published in 1951 - see Letters, no.111 and nos.128 - 130

Tolkien accepted the change in the story as printed, though somewhat reluctantly it seems - and added a prefaratory note to the 2nd edition, to the effect that the first version was that which Bilbo told to Gandalf and the Dwarves - in short, a fib! Here it is, from the geordie library copy of the fifth impression -

"This departure from truth on the part of a most honest hobbit was a portent of great signifcance."

Remember that this was first published some three years before 'The Fellowship of the Ring' - so, my reaction to 'a portent of great significance' would be, 'Not half!'


(This post was edited by geordie on Sep 24 2012, 9:44am)


Sep 24 2012, 10:17am

Post #4 of 12 (229 views)
Thank you for posting [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for posting i haven't been on that site for a while but is useful for hearing about rare books Smile

I have never heard or read the difference between the first and second editions though i have been told about them on forums etc. Was good to hear it finally!

(This post was edited by Altaira on Sep 24 2012, 2:55pm)

Tol Eressea

Sep 24 2012, 10:59am

Post #5 of 12 (200 views)
Thanks for making my link clickable! :-) // [In reply to] Can't Post


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Tol Eressea

Sep 24 2012, 12:52pm

Post #6 of 12 (207 views)
What a treat! [In reply to] Can't Post

I think I've only ever heard passing words about this (the difference in the original edition).

Thanks for posting this!

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"You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain."


Sep 24 2012, 4:43pm

Post #7 of 12 (220 views)
The First Edition text of the chapter [In reply to] Can't Post

Is available in Doug Anderson's The Annotated Hobbit, and in John Rateliff's The History of The Hobbit


Sep 24 2012, 11:36pm

Post #8 of 12 (190 views)
FYI, this was from My Middle Earth's Hobbit Day [In reply to] Can't Post

They had live video all day. It was a great day.


Sep 25 2012, 12:36am

Post #9 of 12 (190 views)
Well here's a thing I have never heard before. :) [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you so much for posting this link. I had always heard there was an original version of this scene, but never actually read it. The differences are really interesting. Even though he's still dangerous, this Gollum seems much more something to be pitied.
Really appreciated hearing this. Thanks again :).


Sep 25 2012, 2:20pm

Post #10 of 12 (197 views)
Slight clarification [In reply to] Can't Post

What you say is perfectly true, but not quite the full story. Tolkien sent several revisions to A&U that were meant to be incorporated in the second edition. Along with these revisions, he sent the revised chapter 5 with the heading "Proposed correction of Hobbit to simplify Sequel (Gollum does not give ring)". The publishers did not realize that the material, which was all sent together, actually consisted of two separate things, corrections that Tolkien definitely meant to have incorporated into the text, and a much more significant revision that he was proposing as a possibility. The publisher made all the changes including the proposed revision, which Tolkien did not realize until he received the proofs. However, he accepted the change at that point because he concluded (as I and I think most other people have since) that the revised version was superior in and of itself, and not just as a way of facilitating the burgeoning sequel.

Edit to add: Where are my manners? The main reason I was posting was to thank you for posting that wonderful link. Great to hear Mr. Shippey read that! Thank you very much!

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire

(This post was edited by Voronwë_the_Faithful on Sep 25 2012, 2:21pm)


Sep 28 2012, 10:04am

Post #11 of 12 (139 views)
They know how to do it right :D // [In reply to] Can't Post



I really need these new films to take me back to, and not re-introduce me to, that magical world.

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Unused Scenes


Sep 28 2012, 10:51pm

Post #12 of 12 (191 views)
Ah, that explains that [In reply to] Can't Post

I had wondered in my late discussion of the chapter (see questions C, L, & M regarding the changes #13,#14,#15), why it was that some of the changes to the Ch. 5 text that appeared in 1951 are minor tweaks of expression, having nothing to do with the Gollum plotline. Your explanation answers that question - Tolkien sent in two different requests for correction, one about stylistic matters, and one about Gollum. I had never heard that before.

I know I'm in the minority, but especially after re-reading and comparing the two texts this summer I remain convinced that the earlier version is the superior one, in the context of The Hobbit story. The changes in tone and action required to support a more evil "ring-driven" Gollum tend to be awkwardly inserted and out of proportion to the nature of Bilbo's more lightly-treated adventure. Of course, most readers now can't help but think of the Gollum of The Lord of the Rings when reading the chapter, and so he now seems just right to them - by Tolkien's intention, of course. I sometimes get the impression that such readers also rather wish that the rest of The Hobbit was more supportive of the sequel's deeper and darker nature. But that's a whole 'nother debate!

squire online:
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Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
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