C.S. Lewis Read Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ Years Before Release
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Much has been written about the famed friendship between two literary greats, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s been the subject of many books, documentaries, and even a handful of attempted films. But their relationship goes much deeper than many realize.
The pair met at Oxford in 1929 and, after a contentious first meeting, soon became fast friends. They bonded over a shared interest in languages, storytelling, and myth. Both aspiring authors, they would serve as one another’s earliest readers.
By 1932, Tolkien finished much of ‘The Hobbit’ but had reached a standstill with the story following Smaug’s demise. It was then that Tolkien permitted Lewis to read a copy, and to his surprise, Lewis loved it. In a letter to a close friend, Lewis wrote, “Since term began I have had a delightful time reading a children’s story which Tolkien has just written.”
It was still 5 years until the general public would be introduced to the world of Middle Earth after much support and encouragement from Lewis.
The unpayable debt that I owe to [Lewis] was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby”J.R.R. Tolkien
You can read Lewis’s original published review from 1937 here.