On the Tolkien Society’s Facebook page, Neil Holford recently shared a link to a forthcoming book, A Brief History of The Hobbit, by John Rateliff and J.R.R. Tolkien, to be published this coming September by HarperCollins. At 400 pages and priced at £9.99, it’s clearly not the same two-volume treatment I reviewed in Mythlore almost six years ago. But what is it, exactly? An abridgment, I presumed, but to find out more, I went straight to the source. John Rateliff, after all, is practically my next-door neighbor! :)
John clarified the scope of the project, and he doesn’t mind my sharing, so here you go. It is indeed an abridgment of the one-volume revised edition, in which John’s goal is “to reduce the size of the book by half without leaving out any of the Tolkien. […] You could say the original edition was Tolkien and Rateliff in roughly equal portion, while this version will be mostly Tolkien.”
In other words, what John is pruning is his own commentary and notes. He’s cutting that down aggressively, aiming to preserve only the essentials, and leaving mostly just the original draft text of The Hobbit. It should be a welcome addition for those fans who might have found the complete History a bit overwhelming — although personally, I revel in minutiae. Likewise, it will be a convenient copy to have nearby for when one need only refer to the draft text of the novel. The original treatment can be just a bit unwieldy when one only wants to look up a draft passage and nothing more. This will give us the best of both worlds. Looking forward to it!