September: A Hobbit Month
Why are Tolkien fans so crazy about September? Let me tell you all about it
There are many days of celebration in a Tolkien fan’s calendar. But there’s only one day which is the celebration of celebrations. It’s in September, precisely on the 22nd: Bilbo’s Birthday.
Bilbo’s birthday is also Frodo’s birthday, so two of the main stories that Tolkien created (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) find an ideal union on this day.
Bilbo’s Birthday, The Long-Expected Party, is where The Lord of the Rings begins, with a ‘party of particular magnificence’. The quintessential hobbit party, where people comes together, exchange gifts (hobbits give away gifts on their birthday, rather than receive them) and enjoy good food, company and great entertainment.
Is it any surprise that we Tolkien fans regard this as a celebration not to miss?
Have a look at any place where fans gather (especially where readers come together), and you’ll find all kind of frenzy carried out by us Tolkien fans. And please do join in, we’re not jealous of our favourite professor.
I’m taking part in a read-along of The Hobbit with two different readers groups, for example, together with a few Instagram photo challenges.
It’s great fun.
One year of reading Tolkien (almost) every day
In the summer of 2017 I went on an adventure
If you’re a Tolkien fan like me, you probably adore The Hobbit. It is an adorable story, about a little creature who has nothing special about him. In a world populated by elves thousands of years old (and wise), where magic works its way through Rings of Powers and swords have their own names. Where dragons still hoard treasures, and great Eagles carry out the gods’ will, the little hobbits are possibly the least consequential people.
Still, they have a lot in them that even they often overview. They consider themselves plain people who love little common things, like good food, quiet times, green meadows, old stories listened to by the fire, a pint of beer enjoyed with friends. But it is in these little common things that they find their strength. They are willing to give to themselves and to other people the opportunity to still enjoy those everyday things, no matter how much the world might change, and this willingness — which is also care — is what gives them the strength to face any adversity. Even the most unexpected, those they would maybe think are too big for them.
This is what I love about hobbits.
They are special, precisely because there’s nothing special about them.
And I think this is what conquered even their creator, in spite of himself.
The Hobbit and Tolkien’s legendarium
The Hobbit was never meant to be part of Tolkien’s legendarium. Before publishing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien had mostly published poems and children’s stories. He had worked at what he called The Silmarillion for a couple of decades, but that was more of a private vice than a viable story. Basically, no one had read that material.
Almost all of his children’s stories were initially created for his own children.
The Hobbit was no exception. Tolkien recounted it to his children before writing it down. It wasn’t supposed to be part of his Silmarillion, but Tolkien wasn’t an author who could create in the void. He needed a world that felt real. He needed histories beyond the contingent story. A past and possibly a future for his characters.
That’s a huge undertaking and possibly he wasn’t interested in going that far for a children story. So, instead of creating a background from scratch for his hobbit, he took up his own legendarium. There are many hints at the Silmarillion. They were there even before Tolkien revised The Hobbit after publishing The Lord of the Rings to atone them to each other. These hints were not meant to make The Hobbit part of the stories of Middle-earth, they were just handy to use in the background as a skeleton to sustain the actual story.
But then, The Hobbit proved to be so successful, that Tolkien’s publisher wanted a sequel.
In one of his letters, Tolkien said that he would consider that, but really he had nothing more to say about hobbits. To him, Bilbo had already shown everything a hobbit could offer to the world.
But the publisher insisted, and Tolkien in the end accepted to at least attempt a sequel.
There’s a reason why the first chapters of The Lord of the Rings feel so different from the rest of the novel. The New Hobbit, as Tolkien called it for a long time, really started off as more of its predecessor: more light adventure and children’s stuff — though honestly, I’d hesitate to consider The Hobbit just that.
But slowly, the hints to The Silmarillion that Tolkien had disseminated throughout the original story started to take over.
That was where Tolkien’s heart lay: his legendarium, his Silmarillion.
He had tried many times to get it published, but his publisher had always considered it too strange and too difficult. In short, unpublishable. But apparently, as Tolkien explored what hobbits could give to the world that Bilbo still hadn’t, he found that they did belong to Middle-earth, after all. They were no less than the thousand-year-old Elves or the Bearers of the Rings of Power. They only looked small and powerless, but they had a strength inside themselves that was second to no other Middle-earth dwellers.
They were heroes. And no small ones.
The poet of people
This is what I adore about Tolkien. In his epic stories, he celebrates everyday life. Everyday people and their courage and braveness. Everyday values and joys. Everyday bonds and loyalties.
It isn’t the special hero the one who counts in Tolkien’s stories. It isn’t the heroic action. It’s what is beyond it. It’s what remains once the battle is over and life goes on. As Faramir would put it, “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
It’s no mere chance that a grand story as The Lord of the Rings started off with a little hobbit.
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Sarah Zama is a Tolkien nerd and proud of it. She read The Hobbit the first time as a teenager and was a Tolkien fan years before Peter Jackson’s trilogy ever hit the theatres. She’s always been involved with Tolkien groups, both online and in person. In 2004, she founded a Tolkien group in her city, Verona (Italy), which is still meeting and divulging the Professor’s work. In 2017, she started reading Tolkien’s work with a group of other nerdy readers, one chapter a day. They are still on the road together.