Tolkienís Hobbit gets a Marathi version, to be released soon

Harry Potter fever may have enveloped the world and spawned industry offshoots worth billions of dollars but before this hoopla, there was a fascinating tale about elfs, hobbits and other fantasy characters ó The Hobbit (or the original, longer name, The Hobbit, Or There, And back Again ) by J R R Tolkien. It was first published in 1937 and has never gone out of publication since then, selling over 100 million copies worldwide. An eponymous film on the book, directed by Peter Jackson, is set for release this year.

D G Pashte of Pune-based Diamond Publications was aware of all these when he and his son Nilesh set out to secure the copyright for translating it into Marathi six months ago. Today, the translated version is ready for a formal launch, making it the first one in any Indian language. "The Hobbit has quite a niche audience, unlike the Harry Potter series. The middle class in this country isn't aware of this book much. We wanted to propagate this book, and the idea of adventure that it contains, to a much wider audience," Pashte says.

The book has been translated into over 50 languages in multiple editions. Pashte says the idea for a Marathi translation came about when he realised a critical fact about Marathi readers. "They have a taste for adventure stories; for works of fantasy."

The publishing house, after securing the royalties arrangement, roped in Pune-based writer Mina Kinikar for the textual translation, and now plan to go all out with the promotional efforts. "We are trying to get in touch with all forms of media to spread the word. We decided to go with an initial print of 5,000 copies, which is quite unusual."

Its illustrative narration, however, is the best part about the book. The translated version features close to 26 colour paintings and over 50 sketches by Academy Award-winning English illustrator Alan Lee. "The illustrations bring the story to readers, especially to ones who aren't aware how an elf or a dwarf looks like. It gives us the confidence that the book will find good demand," Nilesh says.

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