Tolkien fact 3 – An Unexpected Edit

[Originally posted on March 5th, 2015]

Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum in the original edition of The Hobbit was different than the version we see in current ones. The Hobbit was written without thought for a sequel, especially one as extravagant as LotR. Originally, Gollum was more friendly, gave Bilbo the Ring as a prize, and actually led him out of the tunnels. Seeing the Ring as a crucial way to connect his children’s with the new adult sequel, Tolkien altered the chapter. Since the original edition was already published and owned by many before this change, Tolkien wrote the alteration into LotR in the chapter The Shadow of the Past: Gandalf explains that Bilbo indeed told a “false” version of his encounter with Gollum to Thorin’s company, but the wizard guessed the “true” story and coaxed Bilbo into telling him. This is a classic and important example of the concept of retroactive continuity

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