Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The life of J.R.R. Tolkien

Published in 1937 The Hobbit was Tolkien’s first published work of fiction, though he had been writing on legends since at least 1915. His creation — a mythological race of ‘hobbits’, in which Bilbo Baggins takes the lead — had originally been intended for children. But from the outset Tolkien’s saga also proved popular with adults, perhaps appreciative of the hobbits’ curiously English blend of resourcefulness and respectability. The book was published by Stanley Unwin, following the recommendation of his 10-year old son, Rayner, who received a one shilling reader’s fee. Its success prompted Unwin to press for a sequel, and Tolkien now began work on The Lord of the Rings — a story that ‘grew in the telling’ at readings for the famous Inklings circle in Oxford.


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