Lose your shoes and grab a pipe. Saturday, Sept. 22 is the annual holiday known as Hobbit Day, a day for fans of the late J.R.R. Tolkien—author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings—to celebrate the writer and his writings. Adding to the excitement, this year’s Hobbit Day also marks the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit.
The Hobbit was originally released on Sept. 21, 1937. However, Hobbit Day is celebrated on the 22nd because that particularly merry day marks the Middle Earth birthday of Tolkien’s most famous hobbits: Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
For those unfamiliar with the lore, Bilbo and his nephew Frodo are, respectively, two of Tolkien’s major characters from The Hobbit and its sequel, The Lord of the Rings. They are the family tie linking the two tales. And just as the theme of family resonates throughout these stories of Middle Earth, Hobbit Day is the result of Tolkien fans feeling a close, familial connection to the stories and their characters.
“People like the idea of having a day like a birthday,” said Mike Foster, North American representative of the Tolkien Society. “It’s celebrating a family occasion.”
Dr. Amity Reading, assistant professor of English and a medievalist, appreciates that Tolkien is celebrated on the birthday of his titular hobbits. A student of Tolkien’s fiction and scholarship, she believes the hobbits represent one of Tolkien’s paramount themes: contentment.
“I think it’s appropriate that it is Hobbit Day,” Reading said. “He took and made a narrative creature that represents the idea that small does not equal unimportant. The fact that Frodo can bear the ring and not be affected by it as quickly as a man would is because hobbits have no overreaching ambition, and that is beautiful to me.”
Tolkien is not the only author who is celebrated on a day relating to his fiction. Bloomsday, the annual celebration of James Joyce, is every June 16. It is the single day in which his story Ulysses, arguably one of the most important novels of the 20th century, takes place. These commemorative holidays are a means for fans to share their love of the literature and to pay their respects to the authors.
“I hope we still celebrate [Hobbit Day] because it shows that a greater part of the population is aware of the contributions Tolkien made both to literature and to scholarship,” Reading said.
Of course, Peter Jackson’s three film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings—Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Two Towers (2001), and Return of the King (2002)—are responsible for many of our generation’s Tolkien fans. And for those of you who have yet to take the long, unexpected journey that is reading The Hobbit, Jackson is now adapting Bilbo’s tale for the big screen. The Hobbit will be separated into three separate films, the first of which premieres Dec. 14 (a great way to celebrate the end of the semester, as long as we’re discussing celebrations).
The popularity of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and the excitement over the upcoming Hobbit films prove that Tolkien still reigns as a master of fantasy. Though some die-hard Tolkien readers are worried that the films may deviate too far from Tolkien’s works, most appreciate the ability of the films to draw in potential Tolkien fans, which means more parties every Sept. 22.
“We are sure that the Hobbit movies, whatever their faults and virtues are—and there will be many of both—will bring new readers to The Hobbit for the first time and readers who read it long before back to read it again,” Foster said.
Tolkien was not only an influential writer of fiction or, as he would call it, sub-creation. Tolkien was primarily an Anglo-Saxon scholar at Oxford University. His work as translator and lecturer brought such literature as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf into major medieval studies and inspired his own fiction.
“What he does with Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is take the sensibilities of medieval literature—the things that made Beowulf a lasting, beautiful piece of art—and he translates those into modern relevance,” Reading said.
A fan of Tolkien before she was a student of Tolkien, Reading was able to enjoy the medieval quest of The Hobbit at a young age because it was so modern in its telling. Not interested in the writings of Francine Pascal or The Baby Sitters Club like most 8-year-old girls of her time, Reading originally entered Tolkien fandom as a third-grader when she read The Hobbit for a class at a Montessori school.
“I had this teacher who taught Lord of the Rings off The Hobbit so I took her class every time she offered it,” Reading said. “I think I read The Hobbit almost 20 times between third and fifth grade.”
She has been an avid Tolkien fan ever since. It’s evidenced by the décor of her office, which includes a Lord of the Rings calendar, various screenshots from the films on her walls and a life-size cutout of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, one of the heroes of The Lord of the Rings.
Reading says she would like to have more Tolkien-related events on campus, such as costume contests, reading groups and movie screenings.
Whether you look forward to such events or not, remember to celebrate your inner hobbit this Hobbit Day: go shoeless, consume gratuitous amounts of food (preferably salted pork) and enjoy some hearty fellowship.
“I know exactly what I’m going to do,” Reading said. “I’m going to watch all three [Lord of the Rings] movies in one session and then I think I have to have some beer.”
- The Hobbit: 75th Anniversary Edition is already for sale. The new edition contains all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original illustrations for The Hobbit and an introduction by Christopher Tolkien.
- The 2012 Oxenmoot, a gathering of up to 200 Tolkien Society members, will take place at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. It will go from Sept. 21 until Sept. 23.
- Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movie will be released in three parts over the next three years:
- An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14, 2012)
- The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
- There and Back Again (2014)