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So this past Saturday a group of my friends and I all watched the three The Lord of the Rings extended edition movies in one sitting.

That night, I borrowed a copy of The Hobbit, which I've never read, from my brother. When I got home, my wife informed me that she already has a copy of The Hobbit.

Comparing the two, the one from my brother was published in the late sixties or early seventies but doesn't have a publishing date or an ISBN. This book has a hardcover and has odd drawings of a hand pointing at something on the first few pages. This book is about nine inches tall by eight inches wide.

The cover just reads:

THE HOBBIT

The one my wife has is a recent paperback.

On the cover it says:

J.R.R. TOLKIEN

The enchanting prelude to Lord of the Rings

THE HOBBIT

with an illustration of the shire between J.R.R. TOLKIEN and the line about LotR.

Inside the paperback version it says:

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

(Revised Edition)

By J.R.R. Tolkien

What has been revised in the recent paperback version of The Hobbit compared to the one my brother owns?

58

It sounds like your wife has this one (goodreads.com), the same edition as mine.

The revision was made after Tolkien began work on The Lord of the Rings, to tie in the history and nature of the Ring and fix some minor inconsistencies between the two works. The primary difference in the revised version is the way Gollum is portrayed. Wikipedia summarizes the diverging scene:

In the first edition of The Hobbit, Gollum willingly bets his magic ring on the outcome of the riddle-game, and he and Bilbo part amicably. In the second edition edits, in order to reflect the new concept of the ring and its corrupting abilities, Tolkien made Gollum more aggressive towards Bilbo and distraught at losing the ring.

In LotR, Bilbo makes a reference to the revision himself at the Council of Elrond, when he asks any who heard another telling to forget it and forgive him. He explains that the original version was a lie he made up under the influence of the Ring, while the "revision" which he then tells in full is in fact the truth.

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    +1 Thanks for reference in LotR! Really interesting fact. – Zenon Aug 22 '11 at 18:25
  • 1
    That is the edition my wife has! Excellent answer. – Kalamane Aug 25 '11 at 14:11
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    Nice retcon by Bilbo :) – K-H-W Apr 26 '12 at 17:50
  • My comment to the other answer: There's a better way nowadays at least; they have reprinted the first edition. It's quite delightful. I first knew about it because of HoMe volume VI ('The Return of the Shadow') and when I found out about the reprint I was quite excited. Amazon has it and so does the Tolkien Online bookshop (don't have direct links now and it's way late here for me). – Pryftan May 17 '18 at 2:45
  • @K-H-W Yes Tolkien was able to use Bilbo's storytelling as a way to easily update the way the stories unfolded. Quite fortunate. – Pryftan May 17 '18 at 2:47
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While Travis' answer covers the largest edit, there are substantial minor edits, especially regarding dates (to make the travel time agree with the Lord of the Rings,) and foodstuffs (to ensure that the character's diet is limited to Old World food.)

The best source I have found for this is The Annotated Hobbit, which covers the changes in exhausting detail, in a running margin, so that it does not interfere with reading the story.

  • 1
    There's a better way nowadays at least; they have reprinted the first edition. It's quite delightful. I first knew about it because of HoMe volume VI ('The Return of the Shadow') and when I found out about the reprint I was quite excited. Amazon has it and so does the Tolkien Online bookshop (don't have direct links now and it's way late here for me). – Pryftan May 17 '18 at 2:44

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