The Hobbit programme for the New College School, Oxford production, 1967, signed by Tolkien




Printed programme for the New College School, Oxford, production of The Hobbit, adapted by Humphrey Carpenter from the book by J. R. R. Tolkien with music by Paul Drayton. 4pp (28 x 21 3/4cm). 14-17th December 1967.

The production of The Hobbit at New College School was the second stage dramatisation of Tolkien’s seminal work of fantasy to be performed, but the first to be authorised by Tolkien. The first had been a school production, performed for parents and teachers at St Margaret’s School, Edinburgh, in 1953. Carpenter and Drayton’s production was a much larger, more ambitious affair – combining narration, music, and cinematic projection – and, importantly, it had Tolkien’s blessing. Humphrey Carpenter (1946-2005) first read The Hobbit at the age of ten, and, as with many of his generation, the book and its author were to have a lasting impact on him. His personal association with Tolkien began in the spring of 1967 when he obtained Tolkien’s permission to script an authorised stage version of The Hobbit. Carpenter wrote the play, and his friend and colleague, Paul Drayton, New College School’s inspirational Director of Music, wrote the music (and also drew the map and dragon for the programme). The production ran for three nights in December that year, with Tolkien in attendance for the final night, when he signed programmes for the cast. According to Drayton, Tolkien "seemed reasonably content with what he saw and heard" (Drayton and Carpenter, 16), while according to Carpenter, who was playing double bass in the orchestra and closely watching Tolkien, who was sitting near the front, “he had a broad smile on his face whenever the narration and dialogue stuck to his own words, which was replaced by a frown the moment there was the slightest departure from the book” (Carpenter, 2001).

Among the cast were Simon Halsey (the English choral conductor), who played one of the Elves of Rivendell, a Goblin of the Misty Mountains, and one of the men of Lake Town; and Martin Pickard (Opera North), who played Gandalf, and who said of the experience “[it] set me on a career path in music and theatre and was a major influence in my life”. The audience included a young Howard Goodall (the English composer) and, on the last night, Tolkien himself.

Following the success of the production, Carpenter later went on the write the first, authorised biography of Tolkien (1977),  which remains one of the cornerstones of Tolkien scholarship, a further work on The Inklings (1978), and also edited The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (1981). He was a biographer, broadcaster, musician, and children’s author, who also penned the magical books centred around the kindly wizard and school teacher, Mr Majieka, between 1984-2006.

Light creasing to outer margin, the odd spot, with rust mark to lower cover, otherwise near fine.

Humphrey Carpenter, ‘Our Brief Encounter’, The Sunday Times Magazine, 25 November 2001; and Paul Drayton and Humphrey Carpenter, ‘A Preparatory School Approach’ in Music Drama in School, ed. Malcolm John (1971). Quoted in:

Douglas A. Anderson, Obituary: Humphrey Carpenter (1946-2005). Tolkien Studies 2.1 (Jan 2005), pp. 217-224

Matthew Jenkinson, New College School, Oxford: A History. 2013. pp.59-61.


Stock Code: 239464

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