A Year: Day to Day Men: 29th of July, Solar Year 2018

Stripping Among the Cattails

July 29, 1954 was the publishing date for Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring”.

“The Lord of the Rings” started as a sequel to J. R. R. Tolkien’s work “The Hobbit”, published in 1937. The popularity of “The Hobbit” had led George Allen & Unwin, the publishers, to request a sequel. Tolkien warned them that he wrote quite slowly, and responded with several stories he had already developed; however the publishers thought more stories about hobbits would be popular. So at the age of 45, Tolkien began writing the story that would become “The Lord of the Rings”.

Persuaded by his publishers,Tolkien started the new Hobbit series in December of 1937. After several false starts, the story of the One Ring emerged. The idea for the first chapter , which became entitled “A Long-Expected Party” arrived fully formed, although the reasons behind Bilbo’s disappearance, the significance of the Ring, and the series title “ The Lord of the Rings” did not arrive until the spring of 1938.

Originally, Tolkien planned to write a story in which Bilbo had used up all his treasure and was looking for another adventure to gain more; however, Tolkien remembered the Ring and its powers and thought that would be a better focus for the new work. As the story progressed, he also brought in elements from his “Simarillion” mythology.

Because J.R.R. Tolkien had a full-time academic position and needed to earn further money as a university examiner, his writing on the project was slow. Tolkien abandoned writing the series during most of 1943 not restarting it until April of 1944. This spate of writing became a serial for his son Christopher, who was sent chapters as they were written while he was stationed with the Royal Air Force in South Africa. Tolkien made another concerted effort in 1946, and showed the manuscript to his publishers in 1947. The story was effectively finished the next year, but Tolkien did not complete the revision of earlier parts of the work until 1949. Finished after twelve years, the original manuscript totaled 9,250 pages.

A dispute between Tolkien and his publisher George Allen and Unwin led to the book being offered to Harper Collins Publishers in 1950.  After Milton Waldman, Tolkien’s contact at Collins, expressed the belief that the book urgently needing “cutting”, Tolkien demanded that they publish it in 1952, Collins did not; so Tolkien took it back to Allen and Unwin, stating that he would consider it being published in parts.

For publication, the book was divided into three volumes to minimize any potential financial loss due to the high cost of type-setting and modest anticipated sales: “The Fellowship of the Ring“(Books I and II), “The Two Towers” (Books III and IV), and “The Return of the King”(Books V and VI plus six appendices). Delays in producing appendices, maps and especially an index led to the volumes being published later than originally hoped. The first volume of the “Fellowship of the Ring” was finally published in the United Kingdom on July 29th of 1954.

Leave a Reply