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AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
EditorChristina Scull & Wayne G. Hammond
IllustratorJ.R.R. Tolkien
PublisherHarperCollins (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
Released5 January 1998 (UK)
15 April 1988 (US)
SeriesTales from the Perilous Realm

Roverandom is a story written by J.R.R. Tolkien, originally told in 1925. It deals with the adventures of a young dog, Rover. In the story, an irritable wizard turns Rover into a toy, and Rover goes to the moon and under the sea in order to find the wizard again to turn him back into a dog. Tolkien wrote Roverandom for his son, Michael, to amuse him upon the loss of his favorite toy — a little lead dog. The work is in tone a children's story, but contains many allusions and references in the manner of Farmer Giles of Ham.

It was submitted for publication in 1936 after the success of The Hobbit, but was not published for over sixty years — finally being released in 1998.



In early September 1925, the Tolkien family (then Ronald, Edith, John, Michael and a one-year-old Christopher) went on holiday to the seaside resort of Filey in Yorkshire. Although Tolkien had holidayed there previously in 1922, Tolkien described Filey as "a very nasty little suburban seaside resort".[1]:146 During the holiday, Michael lost his beloved black-and-white toy dog on the beach; although the family searched for it, the toy dog could not be found.

To console his son, Tolkien created the story of Roverandom to explain the adventures of the dog. Tolkien wrote the story down, based on his own oral version, in 1927 and also provided a number of illustrations which have since been published.[2]:77-83 A few years later, Tolkien submitted Roverandom for publication to George Allen & Unwin in 1936 and although the book described by Rayner Unwin as "well written and amusing" it was never considered for publication, perhaps as a result of a desire for a sequel to The Hobbit.[3]:xvii

The popularity of Roverandom led to Tolkien creating other stories for his children, including Mr. Bliss.[1]:216 ff And whilst each of these tales remained distinct and separate, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull have noted a number of similarities and crossovers with Roverandom. These include points of convergence with The Book of Lost Tales and The Silmarillion[4] in both the great whale Uin and the geography of "the Shadowy Seas", "the great Bay of Fairyland beyond the Magic Isles" where Roverandom then saw "in the last West the Mountains of Elvenhome".[3]:73-4 They also note the similarly of not just the spiders of the Moon and those in The Hobbit, but that Tolkien also recycling several elements of his drawings in his illustrations of The Hobbit, including the dragon, the spider and the mountainous landscape.[2]:81

Roverandom was finally published by HarperCollins on 5 January 1998 edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, over 70 years since it was first written.[5] Since 2008, Roverandom has also been included in the collection Tales from the Perilous Realm.[6]

Description from the publisher

An unpublished full-length story written and illustrated by the author of The Hobbit.

In 1925, while the Tolkiens were on holiday at Filey in Yorkshire, four-year-old Michael lost his beloved little lead dog on the beach. To comfort him, J.R.R.Tolkien wrote Roverandom, a story about a real dog, Rover, who is turned into a toy by a wizard. When dropped on the beach by a small boy, the toy is transported to the moon along the path of light the moon makes when it shines over the sea. The Man in the Moon renames him ‘Roverandom’ and gives him wings.

Roverandom and Moondog set out on a series of adventures, encountering the Great White Dragon and other moon fauna like giant spiders and dragon-moths. Finally, back on Earth, Roverandom travels under the sea inside Uin, oldest of the whales, to ask the wizard who changed him into a toy to undo the spell.

J.R.R.Tolkien was a prolific storyteller to his children, though few of his early stories survive. Roverandom was a particular favourite, so much so that Tolkien wrote it out and even illustrated it himself. But for over 70 years it has remained unpublished. Bearing many of the hallmarks which were to make The Hobbit such a classic ten years later, this delightful book is finally published together with Tolkien’s own paintings and drawings. Introduced by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, authors of the acclaimed J.R.R.Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator, this book is destined to become a classic and will be welcomed by Tolkien fans of all ages.[5]




Most reviews from the general press offered modest praise, with more enthusiastic acclaim from Tolkien aficionados; reviewers particularly lauded Tolkien's descriptive ability. Tolkien scholar David Bratman praised Roverandom saying "Mum is not the word for Roverandom: this book can be enjoyed by anyone who loves The Hobbit, from the most abstruse Tolkien scholar to intelligent children of perhaps age 8 or 10." Although admitting that this was a less-polished work by Tolkien, Bratman did confirm that "Some of the best writing is in lyrical descriptions of the moonscape and seascape."[7] Jessica Yates, writing in Books for Keeps, pointed out the connections between Roverandom and both The Silmarillion and other children's stories from the 1920s. Yates concluded that Roverandom is "a jolly good children's tale" with a "scholarly and most useful introduction".[8]

Writing for January Magazine, David Grayson also praised the descriptions - particularly the "sense of awe" - of Roverandom's world and felt this would be a good book to introduce children to Tolkien. However, Grayson also made clear that this was a "mediocre tale".[9] Trent Walters felt that the editorial content was "tastefully done" and summarised the book: "Whether Roverandom will become a classic or not is up to the future generations of young readers and what they remember loving and what they choose to read to their own kids. But, if you're just looking for an unalloyed, unmolested good time to read aloud to your children (or your make-believe children), call up this book."[10]

Daniel Offer of Fantasy Book Review offered cautious praise of Roverandom giving it a 7/10 score: "While Roverandom will probably never be listed among the great classics, this theme rings true, making the book a valuable addition to any library." But Offer did caution that "The book is probably not so compelling that you will be unable to put it down, and it probably won’t be one that you reread every year. [...] The doggy protagonist seemed rather flat, and was much less interesting than the things he saw and the things he did." Offer summed up the book as "charming".[11]

Adam Mars-Jones, writing in The Observer, mirrors Bratman's praise of Tolkien's descriptions: "In his descriptions Tolkien brings off the occasional effect worthy of epic". However, Mars-Jones was overall more scathing as he criticsed the book for being edited "to within an inch of its life" whilst the characterisation was "rudimentary" and that the flat-Earth cosmology was unsatisfactory. He concluded that "most admirers of Tolkien will want to turn down this chance".[12] A review in The Telegraph, titled "Completists always prove willing buyers", argued that the story might not be strong enough in its own right,[13] whilst Kirkus offered the most strident warning: "The story was rejected by Tolkien's publisher in 1937 and has lain neglected ever since. With good reason. [...] Even for Tolkien scholars, these are awfully thin bones to pick over."[14]

Average readers' scores for Roverandom are fairly consistent in moderate praise. On Google, average readers' scores are 4.12/5 (8.24/10),[15] and the average score at Goodreads is 3.83/5 (7.66)[16] which was mirrored by users on Amazon who have given Roverandom an average score of 3.87/5 (7.73/10).[17]

Publication history

HarperCollins 1998 hardback  
HarperCollins 1998 paperback  
HarperCollins 2002 paperback  
HarperCollins 2013 pocket hardback  

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator
  3. 3.0 3.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Christina Scull, Wayne G. Hammond (eds.), Roverandom
  4. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. lxxii
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Roverandom", (accessed 1 June 2014)
  6. "Tales from the Perilous Realm Cover Revealed" dated 1 July 2008, Tolkien Library (accessed 1 June 2014)
  7. David Bratman, "Reviews: Roverandom" dated 1 April 1998, Mythprint (accessed 26 May 2014)
  8. Jessica Yates, "Review: Roverandom" in Books for Keeps, March 1998
  9. David Grayon, "A Forgotten Tolkien Tale", January Magazine (accessed 26 May 2014)
  10. Trent Walters, "Roverandom", SFSite (accessed 26 May 2014)
  11. Daniel Offer, "Roverandom by JRR Tolkien", Fantasy Book Review (accessed 26 May 2014)
  12. Adam Mars-Jones, "Hobbit forming" dated 1 January 1988, The Observer (accessed 26 May 2014)
  13. "Completists always prove willing buyers" in The Daily Telegraph 9 May 1998, p. A4
  14. "Roverandom" dated 1 February 1998, Kirkus (accessed 26 May 2014)
  15. "Roverandom", Google Books (accessed 26 May 2014)
  16. "Roverandom", Goodreads (accessed 26 May 2014)
  17. "Customer Reviews - Roverandom", (accessed 26 May 2014)
Tales from the Perilous Realm
Farmer Giles of HamThe Adventures of Tom BombadilLeaf by NiggleSmith of Wootton MajorRoverandom (since 2008)