September 22 is Hobbit Day. Remember? The beginning of The Lord of the Rings, the very first part of The Fellowship of the Ring, starts out in Hobbiton. It starts with Bilbo and Gandalf discussing Bilbo’s upcoming eleventy-first birthday. A birthday he shares with his nephew Frodo. Frodo will be thirty-three on that day, his “coming-of-age”. In hobbit legal terms, Frodo will be an adult.
J.R.R. Tolkien named that birthday as September 22. Then he backtracked and said that the Shire Calendar might not be quite the same as the other Western Lands, and maybe the date was off a little. But the American Tolkien Society went with the text as written, and declared that September 22 was THE day in 1978.
Hobbit Day made me look back at the books and what they mean to me. I read The Hobbit for the first time when I was 9, give or take. And read The Lord of the Rings in the next year or so after. A friend’s older brother loaned them to me. Eddie, wherever you are, I still remember you fondly for that.
I sometimes wonder how many other kids read Narnia after LOTR? It’s supposed to be the other way around. Narnia was way more age appropriate when I was 10 or 11. I know I didn’t get everything that was going on in LOTR the first time I read it. Didn’t matter. I kept re-reading it. All the way through the rest of grade school. And high school. And college. I lost count somewhere after the 25th re-read. I kept re-reading because I got more out of it each time. I understood more as I grew up.
I got more annoyed too. I loved the story. Still do. But there was no one for me to identify with. There are no strong female characters except Galadriel. I wanted to write a new version with at least one girl added to the fellowship. Fantasy has changed since Tolkien, and now women are heroes. But before Tolkien, fantasy wasn’t even considered literature. As always, today’s writers stand on the shoulders of giants. Tolkien was one, even if he didn’t intend to be.
There are recommended ways to celebrate Hobbit Day. Hobbits regularly eat 7 meals per day. They also walk barefoot–all the time–even outdoors.
A movie marathon would be good, too. Peter Jackson’s vision of Tolkien’s world was pretty close. When I saw the opening scene of Fellowship, Hobbiton came to life, and I teared up. My fantasy was suddenly in front of me. But movies are always compromises. Please never judge a book by its movie.
The best celebration of Hobbit Day would be to visit Tolkien’s world as he wrote it. If you have read them before, maybe it’s time to read The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit again. If you have never had the pleasure, I envy you the journey of discovery that awaits you. Me, I plan to dip into some of my favorite scenes again.
Tolkien was right. The road does goes ever on and on. I still love to travel a bit of it with him.
Happy Hobbit Day!