Inspired by the £60,000 sales price for a first edition of JRR Tolkein’s ‘The Hobbit’, a collector in Solihull has revealed details of a collection of hand-written manuscripts by the author.
"I found it in an old tea chest of oddments I bought at a car boot sale in Oxford," said retired market trader ‘Sailor’ Harry Billingsworth. "I didn’t realise it could possibly be so important as it just seemed to be a bit of whimsical nonsense about fairies or something."
The manuscript is an early draft of Tolkein’s famous ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy although in its hand-written form and under an earlier title of ‘Swords and Things’.
"Clearly he is just getting to grips with his saga. The setting isn’t in the majestic middle-earth, for instance, " explained Billingsworth. "’Swords’ is set in Middlesborough."
Mr Billingsworth explained that the cast of characters was also very different from the litany of Orcs and Wizards we have come to know so well over the decades.
"We may now think of Hobbits as little, jovial, carousing adventurers, but in this early manuscript it appears Tolkein had less affection for them, referring to them as ‘drunken short-arsed gits," said ‘Sailor’. "Instead of living in the ‘pastoral land of the shire’, they instead ‘wallow in the shite’."
There are references to the rich tapestry of the fantasy world back-story that has spawned an entire industry, although perhaps it would have been less successful had the original imaginings seen the light of day.
"The elves were so central to the battles throughout the history of middle-earth," said Billingsworth. "It is surprising to find that they were originally described as ‘those massed ranks of the tree-dwelling, pointy-eared twats’."
The manuscript was found hidden in an old medicine cabinet that is believed to have belonged to Tolkein during his distinguished professorship at Oxford, during the time he wrote ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’.
"I just opened the old cabinet and under several packets of ‘Mr Hollingberry’s Fabulous Powders’ were a couple of battered old notebooks full of strange drawings of dragons," explained the hopeful seller.
In addition to revealing some surprises about the origins of the saga of Arda the notebooks are said to also contain writing that was a complete break with Tolkein’s preferred ‘High Fantasy’ genre.
"There are some 25 recipes in there for a collection entitled ‘How to cook those Wild Mushrooms at the Bottom of your Garden’, said Billingsworth. "There is also a self-help book entitled ‘Write whatever you can remember when you wake up face down in your Mushroom Omelette’."
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