September 22 is when we celebrate the birthday of Bilbo Baggins and his mythic heir apparent, Frodo. It is a day for hobbitish celebrations, both fantastic and epic.
That the “New Hobbit” adventure begins with a birthday party that begins a long, dark journey has always been to me a poignant reminder. I think fans would have love another two or three books like The Hobbit, books filled with that curious rugged hominess of hobbits stepping out on the road of adventure. Another fairy tale of childlike wonder was not to be, however. As much as Frodo’s journey was an echo of Bilbo–the journey to a mountain to give away rather than find a great treasure of inestimable worth and the capacity for imaginative slavery–there is a literary depth and mythic sadness in Frodo’s journey that makes The Lord of the Rings a completely different book.
How we compare birthdays shows the difference. Bilbo’s 111st birthday, when Frodo has turned 33, is filled with joy and a bittersweet departure. 17 years later, on Frodo’s 50th birthday, he has his last night of ease in the Shire. The next morning, Ringwraiths enter the Shire and Frodo finds himself on the road, fleeing his home for Bree. By his next birthday, Frodo will have won and lost many things.
Though some may call it a fairy tale, it occurs to me that this is very much like real life. Fans and friends would have lapped up another friendly there-and-back-again tale of dragons and dwarfs. But Tolkien’s story to tell was deeper and darker, richer and more joy-full at the most intimate levels of where myth meets fact. But even at the storied level of the adventures of our own lives, the story doesn’t usually go how we wish it to. For
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
So to two fair hobbits, Happy Birthday!
In celebration of Hobbit Day, and to kick off the annual fundraising campaign for Signum University, why don’t you join the free Hobbit Day Reading by Dr. Corey Olson (@TolkienProf). I’m actually hoping to make an appearance myself.
So dear Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks, Grubbs, Chubbs, Hornblowers, Bolgers, Bracegirdles and Proudfoots, here is the announcement:
Join Signum University on September 22, 2018 – also known as “Hobbit Day” because it is the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins – for a special event to kick-off this year’s Annual Fund Campaign.
As we did last year, we are starting the campaign with a special Hobbit Day Reading. However, this year we are expanding it to include not only Signum Founder and President Dr. Corey Olsen, but a host of special guest readers and panelists who will be performing and discussing various works by Tolkien along some of our other favorite fantasy and science fiction authors.
The event will also signal the official kick-off of our Annual Fund Campaign, which will include a number of special events, as well as a focus on our regularly scheduled activities for both Signum University and the Mythgard Institute. During the event, Dr. Olsen will provide more details about this year’s campaign, including fundraising goals and details about our Donor Appreciation Program.
Click Here for more.
The ‘poignant reminder’ in ”That the ‘New Hobbit’ adventure begins with a birthday party that begins a long, dark journey …. a poignant reminder …” made me wonder if hobbits could face the greatest dangers with such amazing resilience, exactly because they could enjoy daily life to the full, with memories of that life helping them through the darkest hours? And that that might be the reason for Tolkien’s setting of those departures for dark journeys in the midst of celebrations?
Your great sentence “But Tolkien’s story to tell was deeper and darker, richer and more joy-full at the most intimate levels of where myth meets fact.” made me wonder of this would coincide with Lewis’s thoughts on myths being facts in another world, eg might there be real unicorns on the new earth? (eg the medieval Hereford map discussion)
And with his myth becoming fact in our world in Christ? “Now as myth transcends thought, incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the dying god, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens-‐at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences.” (From: “Myth became Fact” in “God in the Dock”)
With regard to wondering “if hobbits could face the greatest dangers with such amazing resilience, exactly because they could enjoy daily life to the full, with memories of that life helping them through the darkest hours”, it occurs to me that there is a very good example of this when Sam asks Frodo if he remembered a happy incident on their already arduous journey, and Frodo as Ring Bearer says he cannot – Sam consciously so helped, Frodo no longer so, but perhaps strengthened to his persistence at that point in part by such things in the past. (Again, what of their reunion a bit earlier through Frodo responding to Sam’s singing? It makes me think it might well be possible to collect a number of these examples, illustrating that well-asked question!)
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David, thanks for the great response to Hannah’s question. Personally, I think the two are linked: capacity for great perseverance rooted in soulful ordinariness. I think that’s partly why some nations have done well in times of war and trouble even when lacking technological greatness or superior strength. I don’t know if that makes sense; the link is intimate and not terrible intellectual for me.
Hannah, I think you caught me being Lewisian there!
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;-)) It enabled me to slip in that great quote … stemming from the quite crucial Addison’s walk discussion for Lewis with Tolkien (and Hugo Dyson) on true myth (and metaphors). They did agree on that basic concept, although they differed later on in life about their ‘usage’ of mythical characters in eg Lord of the Rings and Narnia chronicles ..?
And yes, there surely are more examples to be found of the hobbits reminiscing on the good life in the Sire when in dire straits on their journeys, by Sam but also by Merry and Pippin (I can’t recall Frodo doing it, but might that be because he is more ‘introvert’ than the others?).
their good life in the Shire
Your “I don’t know if that makes sense; the link is intimate and not terrible intellectual for me” reminded me of the 30 August post on “Erasing the Division between Head and Heart”, but then upon reflection, it is not a rationally watertight link – Puddleglum the marshwiggle, being used to harsh environments, broke the witch’s spell and rescued Prince Caspian from her underground world, because he held on to the hope of Aslan’s world under her spell weaving in that darkness – so maybe the real key to that resilience is Hope, rather than memories of a good life?
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Yes, maybe. I don’t live a simple life, so perhaps I’m reaching!
I often think of the comparison between Plato’s ‘Myth of the Cave’ and the events in The Silver Chair, but this makes me attend to the fact that those in the Cave will never have experienced the ‘outside world’, real sunlight, etc., (till one is graciously ‘drawn up’), while Puddleglum has – those memories of reality are deeply there, though being successfully muddled to a considerable extent by the Witch, so in his case there seems to a complicated interaction between experience, memory, and reasoning as well as Hope in his resilience and resistance.
It also suddenly strikes me that all three of those talking together were veterans of the Great War, and that Tolkien was invalided out with ‘trench fever’, and Lewis with a wound (after having recovered from ‘trench fever’), while Dyson was wounded as well, at Passchendaele. Whether that was any conscious part of their discussion or not, it was there as a fact in the background – all were in one way or another rather like Bilbo after the Battle of Five Armies or Frodo after Mount Doom.
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This might really get us too far away from this post’s subject, Hobbit birthday parties, but I was thinking of a study I once read on concentration camp survival reasons, and googling on it, it probably was by Victor Frankl. The main reasons jumping out are hope, meaning and love for his wife – “Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.” (http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/frankl/frankl.html)
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Thanks for sharing that, Hannah.
I hope all went well, making it as enjoyable as it sounds! What fun reading aloud to each is!
It was a bit peculiar but kind of fun.
Met with this, hitherto unknown to me, in The Inklings and King Arthur – War Letters of Fallen Englishmen, edited by Laurence Housman – including one by E.B. Nottingham included “By courtesy of Mrs. Nottingham, Mr. F.J. Page, and Mr. Charles Williams”:
Great find! It’s the kind of thing I would have loved to edit.
It’s ProudFEET! Not ProudFOOTS! Ach!