The Story of The Hobbit

The Story of The Hobbit

Original illustration by Cory Godbey, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

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Taught by Professor Corey Olsen

This course will examine the life of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  We will examine several important precursors of the book, works that helped establish the genre in which Tolkien was writing, or which influenced Tolkien’s own thinking.  We will then read not the final published version of The Hobbit, but the growth of the story in manuscript and typescript, examining carefully how the story developed and in what directions.  We will then turn to the publication and reception of The Hobbit, including its adaptation to film.  We’ll end the semester with a discussion of the Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit and, after a brief delay, a discussion of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Professor Olsen will be joined in this class by two distinguished guest lecturers: John D. Rateliff, author of The History of The Hobbit, and Douglas A. Anderson, author of The Annotated Hobbit, two of the foremost scholars on The Hobbit in the world.

Course Schedule

Week 1 (August 27-31):
Sources and Analogs I: Writing for Children
Reading: Through the Looking Glass (Carroll), Winnie-the-Pooh (Milne)

Week 2 (September 3-7):
Sources and Analogs II: Children’s Fantasy
Reading: The Princess and the Goblin (MacDonald)

Week 3 (September 10-14):
Sources and Analogs III: “An Unconscious Source-Book!”
Reading: The Marvellous Land of Snergs (Wyke-smith)

Week 4 (September 17-21):
“Where in Middle-earth Are We?”: The Contemporary Writings
Reading: The 1930 “Quenta,” The Lay of Leithian (selections)

Week 5 (September 24-28):
The Story Emerges I: In a Hole in the Ground…
Reading: The History of The Hobbit, Introduction and The First Phase

Week 6 (October 1-5):
The Story Emerges II: Bag End to Beorn
Reading: The History of The Hobbit, The Second Phase Ic – VII

Week 7 (October 8-12):
The Story Emerges III: Mirkwood to the Lake
Reading: The History of The Hobbit, The Second Phase PN A – X

Week 8 (October 15-19):
The Story Emerges IV: At the Lonely Mountain
Reading: The History of The Hobbit, The Second Phase XI – PN F

Week 9 (October 22-26):
The Story Emerges V: Eucatastrophe and Return
Reading: The History of The Hobbit, The Third Phase

Week 10 (October 29-November 2):
Revisions and Rewritings
Reading: The History of The Hobbit, The Fourth Phase, The Fifth Phase

Week 11 (November 5-9):
Publication, Illustration, and Reception
Reading: The Annotated Hobbit

Week 12 (November 12-16):
The Hobbit on Film I: Rankin-Bass

(Later, in December) Bonus Discussion: The Hobbit on Film II: Peter Jackson, Part 1

Required Texts