Anyone who would be looking up the Annotated Hobbit, has probably read the un-annotated Hobbit. So I’ll keep the story review extremely short and just go for the annotations and extra bits that come with this edition.
Story Review –
It’s awesome. Not the best Tolkien has to offer but it’s lovely and a great introduction to the world that is fully expounded upon in the rest of his work, most especially of course the Lord of the Rings.
That part done with let’s move on to the annotations and extra’s.
I’m not sure what I expected out of this edition, I love LOTR like the vast majority of fantasy fans, fiercely and with great passion so I picked this up as soon as I saw it on a dealers room table at a convention. I packed it away in my collection sure that the day would come that I would want to reread the Hobbit.
There is a LOT of information crammed onto the pages along with the original story. If you read the annotations as they appear in the text there are some points where you will be going ahead 8-10 pages to find them. These annotations range from interesting (which is thankfully most of them), such as how he came up with Bilbo’s last name to rambling and unnecessary. For instance, at several points it goes into detail about Tolkiens’ relationship and ever changing feelings towards George Macdonald (author of Princess and the Goblin) and his work.
The annotations start to bog down a bit with the seemingly endless notes about the changes that have been made to the book. If you are at all familiar with Tolkien you know he was a linguist and therefore obsessed with using language to communicate precisely what he meant to those reading his books. He would make tiny edits and changes to subsequent editions after the initial publishing and in this book you will find what I can only assume to be all of them reprinted in exhausting detail. Even if the change was insignificant you get to read about it along with an explanation for the change if applicable. A few of them are quite interesting but most are grammatical or spelling related. You could tell that the editor of the annotations was doing his best to be respectful of the changes made and that was the impetus for throwing them all in there but I did find myself glancing at those kind and moving on if there wasn’t much info.
The illustrations on the other hand are awesome. The book contains the cover art from several international editions which are anything from funny to terrifying. There are copious amounts of Tolkiens’ own illustrations as well, usually simple pen and ink drawings that will be familiar to long time readers.
Now for the extra’s.
The appendices are a mixed bag, most of it is made up a giant bibliography and further reading section but in there you will find the gem that makes this book worth purchasing. We are treated to Gandalf regaling the hobbit’s at the end of LOTR with how he initiated all the whole story and why Bilbo was chosen. It was fascinating stuff and although it’s quite short I loved every second of it.
If you love LOTR and Tolkien in general do yourself a favor and buy this. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even with some of the annotations being a bit much.