The Story of the Hobbit

The Story of the Hobbit, by Dr. Corey Olsen

May 7, 2018
12 Weeks
LITA 5305


Dr. Corey Olsen – suit and tie
Corey Olsen
University President; Board Member Ex Officio; Lecturer
Dr. Sara Brown
Sara Brown
Lecturer; Preceptor
Larry Swain

What were the literary precursors to The Hobbit? What inspired Tolkien to write The Hobbit?

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 follow 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 a discussion of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films.

The class will also offer two guest lectures.  These are hosted by Professor Olsen and feature scholars 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 – Sources and Analogs I: Writing for Children


  • Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
  • Winnie-the-Pooh – A. A. Milne

Week 2 – Sources and Analogs II: Children’s Fantasy

Reading: The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald

Week 3 – Sources and Analogs III: “An Unconscious Source-Book!”

Reading: The Marvellous Land of Snergs, by E. A. Wyke-Smith

Week 4 – “Where in Middle-earth Are We?”: The Contemporary Writings

Reading: The 1930 “Quenta,” The Lay of Leithian (selections)

Week 5 – The Story Emerges I: In a Hole in the Ground…

Reading: The History of The Hobbit, Introduction and The First Phase

Week 6 – The Story Emerges II: Bag End to Beorn

Reading: The History of The Hobbit, The Second Phase Ic – VII

Week 7 – The Story Emerges III: Mirkwood to the Lake

Reading: The History of The Hobbit, The Second Phase PN A – X

Week 8 – The Story Emerges IV: At the Lonely Mountain

Reading: The History of The Hobbit, The Second Phase XI – PN F

Week 9 – The Story Emerges V: Eucatastrophe and Return

Reading: The History of The Hobbit, The Third Phase

Week 10 – Revisions and Rewritings

Reading: The History of The Hobbit, The Fourth Phase, The Fifth Phase

Week 11 – Publication, Illustration, and Reception

Reading: The Annotated Hobbit

Week 12 – The Hobbit on Film I: Rankin-Bass

Bonus Discussion: The Hobbit on Film II: Peter Jackson

Required Texts

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

The Story of the Hobbit Offerings
Summer 2018Sara Brown, Larry Swain
Spring 2016Christopher Vaccaro
Spring 2013Erin Aust
Fall 2012Liam Daley, Faith Acker, Erin Aust