- Aug 21, 2010
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This is very funny as it's simply incorrect as Shippey mentions in The Road to Middle-earth. In the first edition of The Hobbit this part wasn't even present.Silvianus curses by name the person he suspects. Similarly, when Gollum works out that Bilbo has found and kept his ring, he cries out in rage: ‘Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!
The Hobbit, p. 92."We are ssorry; we didn't mean to cheat, we meant to give it our only present, if it won the competition."
And received this as the reply:In “The Inspiration for Tolkien’s Ring” (History Today, January 2014) you wrote about the cursing of the thieves Bilbo Baggins and Senicianus as one of the “significant patterns of resemblance” between the two rings. It is interesting to note that in The Hobbit, as published in 1937, the curse ‘Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!’ – also quoted in your article – is not present. The scene was originally a game of riddles in which Gollum promises Bilbo the ring if he was to lose. When Gollum in fact loses the game, he does not want to give it up anymore and his last words are not a curse but: “We are ssorry; we didn’t mean to cheat, we meant to give it our only present, if it won the competition.” The claim that Tolkien’s presence at the excavation in 1928 is significant because “The Hobbit was taking its final shape” cannot be true because the cursing of the thief was added in after the original version of 1937. The reason for the altering of the scene, more than a decade later, as published in 1952, must be that Tolkien had now come to realise that the magic ring Bilbo had found was in fact the One Ring of Sauron and Gollum could never have offered his Precious as a prize in a silly game of riddles. It is highly unlikely that Tolkien re-wrote the scene because he suddenly remembered the excavations with Collingwood and Silvianus’ cursing of Senicianus, but the claim that the professor used his visits to the excavations during the original conceiving as proposed in the article, must be incorrect.
Any thoughts?Thank you for your email, which Professor Horton has passed on to me as I am responsible for the textual matters while he wrote the archaeological material. You are of course quite right that in the original version the riddle game ended with an honourable Gollum, and maybe the text in the article should have been more precise.
It is also certainly true that Tolkien did not rewrite because he 'suddenly remembered' the excavation, but once he agreed to write his new 'Hobbit' story and found the need to 'upgrade' Gollum from a creature suitable for children to one better suited to the themes of LotR.
However, it does not follow that Tolkien did not visit the excavations while writing the original Hobbit, even though evidence of such a visit does not emerge in that version. He may well have visited with or without Collingwood, out of interest, but his visit(s) or otherwise are immaterial to this textual matter since he certainly knew of the curse (and did not need to visit Lydney to know of it), and it is this that affects the later text.