This page is a marker. Its future contents can presently be read in a draft essay here (which you are invited to read and comment on). Once the essay is revised (hopefully early in the new year) a summary will appear here.
My basic idea is that we cannot hope to make sense of the making of The Lord of the Rings if we see it as conceived as a sequel to The Hobbit that we know. This story was a byproduct of the writing of the sequel – for in the second edition of 1951 a revised version of the riddle game appeared. This revision of the very center of the story fundamentally changed not only Gollum and the magic ring but also Bilbo. More importantly, it obscured the meaning of the original story.
The very first business of any attempt to tell the story of the making of The Lord of the Rings must therefore be to restore the original meaning of The Hobbit so that we can begin to think about what it even meant for Tolkien to sit down in the week before Christmas, 1937, and write the first chapter of a ‘sequel.’