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Was there a change of tone between Book I and the rest of "The Lord of the Rings"?

From: The Tolkien Less FAQ by William D.B. Loos

Yes. Originally, the world of the Hobbit was not the same as the world of the Silmarillion (Tolkien threw in a few names from it, like Gondolin and Elrond, for effect, but there was no explicit connection). Thus, when he began LotR, he thought he was writing a sequel to "The Hobbit, and the tone of the early chapters, especially Ch 1, reflect this (it has the same "children's story" ambience as "The Hobbit"). With the coming of the Black Riders and Gandalf's discussion of Middle-earth history and the Ring a change began towards a loftier tone and a darker mood, though much less serious elements remained (e.g. Tom Bombadil). After the Council of Elrond LotR was overtly a sequel to the Silmarillion.

Oddly, Tolkien added new details but never changed the overall tone of Book I. He later claimed that the change in tone was intentional, that it was meant to reflect the changing perceptions of the hobbits as they became educated about the Wide World. This was certainly not his intention as he was writing. On the other hand, the tone of "The Scouring of the Shire" is very different from that of "A Long-expected Party", possibly indicating the altered perspective of the observers.

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