Hobbitus Ille: The Latin Hobbit The review copy of Hobbitus Ille by Mark Walker is a beautifully presented hardcover edition with art and interior maps in the style of early English copies and is provided by Harper Collins.

Walker has taken up a very brave challenge in providing us with the first Latin translation of Tolkien’s The Hobbit. His intent was to provide as direct a translation of Tolkien’s own words as possible and the end result is a complete and unabridged volume where even the poetry is in Latin. This direct translation is not the hallmark of the best translations, nor is it the Classical Latin of Caesar and Cicero.

The vocabulary and grammar bears a far closer resemblance to later and more colloquial forms of Latin. Some scholars will undoubtedly cringe at the compromises of grammar and word choice that have been made in order to create a Latin edition. I’m not particularly fond of the use of “dryads” for elves, among others. However, I think that given his comments on translation in “The Monsters and the Critics”, Tolkien, as both linguist and translator, would be pleased with the opportunity this first edition presents for others to discover Latin and to create their own translations, improving on language and word choice.

This edition is a seminal work and thus a valuable addition to the Tolkien corpus. It will certainly be easier for those more skilled in Latin to read, but there is no reason that it can’t be enjoyed by the novice or Tolkien enthusiast by reading in parallel with their own language edition.

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Reviewed for TheOnering.net by Ringer Valiron, a final-year university student specialising in Classics and Roman History, including beginning studies in Latin.

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