How The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels were received upon release

The Lord of the Rings has become one of the most recognizable franchises, but how were Tolkien’s original novels received upon their release?


It’s hard to remember a time before Peter Jackson The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as these films became instant classics in cinema and showed exactly what the fantasy genre is capable of. While JRR Tolkien’s stories have been popular for a long time, there’s no denying the franchise wouldn’t be where it is today without the film trilogy. So with what solidified The Lord of the Rings is in pop culture nowadays, it’s fascinating to look back on the reception of the original novels upon release.


There’s a huge amount of fans who were first introduced to Middle-earth through cinema, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of people who grew up reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. A prime example is Saruman actor Christopher Lee, who read the books every year long before he landed the role. However, no matter which side of the spectrum a fan falls on, there is less and less amount who remember the original version.

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The Hobbit released to universal praise

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Tolkien’s writing career can be traced back to the trenches of World War I, where he began writing much of the mythology that would one day become Middle-earth. But Tolkien did not write The Hobbit until the early 1930s after the iconic phrase “In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit”. he jumped on his head. In 1932 the first copy of The Hobbit it came to a UK-based publisher named George Allen & Unwin. And with a positive impression made on the owner and his young son, The Hobbit it was finally printed for publication.

1500 copies of The Hobbit they were first released to the public on September 21, 1937 and sold out within a couple of months. Rave reviews immediately flooded the scene, calling The Hobbit one of the best modern children’s books out there. Over the next few years, new editions of the book were sold in Britain and America to consistently positive reception. However, the arrival of the Second World War resulted in a significant slowdown in publishing. So while the book was being celebrated, Tolkien was still far from the popular figure he is today.

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The Lord of the Rings received mixed reviews

The Lord of the Rings Scouring the Shire 3

With the success of The Hobbit, Tolkien was prompted to work on a sequel, which he called “A New Hobbit”. This would later become The Lord of the Rings, but clearly felt no need to rush things, as, during WWII, he redacted and rebooted the trilogy numerous times. Finally, in 1950, he was ready to publish and wanted The Lord of the Rings to be released together with his other novel, The Silmarillion. But with how different The Lord of the Rings has been compared to The Hobbitit was already a tough sell for the publishers hence the addition of the complex Silmarillion it didn’t go well.

However, The Lord of the Rings it was published in three books over the course of 1954 and received much more mixed reviews than before. Criticisms ranged from calling it one of the best stories of the twentieth century to others calling it nothing more than a story about boys acting as adult heroes. These conflicting opinions carried over to general audiences, where some thought it was incredible and others found it too ambitious. Even so, that hasn’t stopped the sales from coming, like The Lord of the Rings has been steadily pushed around the world from release to the present day.

Reception for The Lord of the Rings the trilogy gradually became more positive over time, and the popularity of the books in America skyrocketed. Tolkien himself became more famous and visible in public, forcing him to move house and remove his name from the telephone directory. And at the time of his death in 1971, he was considered one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

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