For a Hobbity Birthday on September 22

Oh, no!!! I have missed it!…
I am looking at the harvest brought today in my email box by my ‘Google search’ about ‘The Hobbit’ films to come… And, with a deep shock of sadness, here is what I find, posted on September 22:

‘Happy Hobbit Day!
Will you indulge old Gaffer’s Home Brew?
While it isn’t Bilbo’s 111th birthday, it is a special day for fans of Tolkien as Frodo and Bilbo are said to both have been born today, by Shire Reckoning of course.
Add to that the fact that “The Hobbit” was first published this week in 1937 and you’ve got the makings for a party of special magnificence! Tolkien fan groups have parties planned at which books are discussed and movies are watched. Cookies, honey cakes and even Lembas (Elven waybread) are among some of the Middle-earth themed snacks that can be found at these gatherings.
“Lord of the Rings” cosplayers and casual fans alike can indulge their “inner Hobbit” by going barefoot to celebrate.
“Hobbit Day” has been observed for over 30 years and with the films in production, the event will only surely grow as the upcoming “Hobbit” films near completion.
Do you have any plans to celebrate?’

Too late!… Too late!…
This was posted on Thursday 22 September, that is, two days ago, by Nikki Rau-Baker, contributor on ‘Geek Out!’, a site I didn’t know before.
That was really a nice reminder, but it is two days ago that I needed to read it, not today!!! Why don’t I always check this Google search everyday?…

My gosh, it is the first time in years that I have missed September 22, the Birthday Anniversary indeed of both my dear Bilbo and Frodo. Shame on me!…
*sigh*… What to do now???
All right, at least I’ll post something here about this, to have marked that day somehow, and made this important date known to all that visit my blog!…

These last few days, as I was writing about the importance of Fun and Laughter in our lives, I did think that I needed to have a post also soon about Tolkien’s own tremendous sense of humor… It seems that today is the day to do it!

I am glad this time to notice on ‘Geek Out’ another article, by the same author, about my favorite Tolkien site, The One Ring net; here is the beginning of this article, as it is a quite good introduction to TORn:

‘TORn is the fan’s gateway to Middle-earth.

The three panels on “The Hobbit” at Dragon*Con, all presented by The One Ring.net, were a fan force to be reckoned with. And that’s not surprising, considering how TORn is the dominant entity that has united Tolkien fans.

It was standing room only over Labor Day weekend at Dragon*Con as we filed in to learn more about the films and it’s tumultuous journey from page to screen.

Since last year’s announcement of a greenlight for “The Hobbit” one place people have been flocking to for information is TORn. TORn is the premiere Tolkien related website. It was founded in 1999 and has been on the leading edge of LoTR film information since the first casting rumors were heard. Initially TORn was a fringe website in the world of Tolkien and Peter Jackson, but has grown so much in influence and reputation in the last decade that when the studio photo of Thorin – a major dwarf character in “The Hobbit” – was released, it was sent to TORn first.

TORn staffers have been traveling to the various comic book and sci-fi/fantasy cons this year, giving fans the latest information on “The Hobbit” from casting, to release dates and special messages from Guillermo Del Toro and Weta Workshop.

The Lord of The Rings director(s), actors and special effects artists all have visited TORn at one point or another, solidifying it’s place amongst Tolkien enthusiasts as a “go-to” site for not only movie news, but trivia, meetups (known as moots, a reference to a meeting of The Ents of Middle-earth) and to generally share their love of Tolkien.’

As because of the delays Guillermo del Toro finally couldn’t direct the two films as planned, Peter Jackson is the one who will do it, just as he did so well for the three films of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, and I am very happy that it is so.

One thing I really enjoy, visiting TORn’s Discussion ‘Boards’, is the sheer fun quality of what is said, and how it is said, by the many contributors there, most of them actually very knowledgeable about all things Tolkien, but keeping it all light and entertaining as well as thoroughly well documented and argumented. So there, Tolkien’s sense of humor is very much appreciated, and part of what is talked about.

Of course ‘The Hobbit’, having been written by Tolkien originally for children (at first told orally only, his own kids loved his story-telling at bed-time!…), is quite funny besides being sometimes quite scary too, as after all it is really an Adventure, if an unexpected one for the Hobbit Bilbo.

But even ‘The Lord of the Rings’ has some very funny passages and scenes too, for ‘JRRT’ was most of the time far from a gloomy man himself.

He may have looked very serious, but from childhood he loved acting, and that didn’t stop at all during his schooling at King Edward’s, Birmingham. In the excellent ‘authorized’ biography of him written by Humphrey Carpenter, we find this:

‘The summer term of 1911 was his last at King Edward’s. It ended as was usual with the performance of a Greek play with the choruses set to music-hall tunes. This time the choice was Aristophanes’ ‘The Peace’, in which Tolkien took the part of Hermes. Afterwards (another King Edward’s custom) the National Anthem was sung in Greek, and then the curtain dropped on his school carrier. ‘The school-porter was sent by waiting relatives to find me’, he recalled years later. He reported that my appearance might be delayed. “Just now”, he said,” he is the life and soul of the party”. Tactful. In fact, having just taken part in a Greek play, I was clad in a himation and sandals, and was giving what I thought a fair imitation of a frenzied Bacchic dance.’

And further in the biography, speaking now of the grown man, the eminent Philologist, the Oxford Professor, Carpenter gives us more hilarious examples of JRRT’s sometimes surprising behavior:

‘He could laugh at anybody, but most of all at himself, and his complete lack of any sense of dignity could and often did make him behave like a riotous schoolboy. At a New Year’s Eve party in the nineteen-thirties he would don an Icelandic sheepskin hearthrug and paint his face white to impersonate a polar bear, or he would dress up as an Anglo-Saxon warrior complete with axe and chase an astonished neighbour down the road. Later in life he delighted to offer inattentive shopkeepers his false teeth among a handful of change. ‘I have’, he once wrote, a very simple sense of humour, which even my appreciative critics find tiresome.’

I am definitely among Tolkien’s ‘appreciative critics’, and my own sense of humor must be rather simple too, for I never tire for example of the very solemn scene of LoTR when in the wonderful Elvish stronghold of Rivendell Frodo and his three young Hobbit friends Sam, Merry and Pippin are invited to the feast given at the House of Lord Elrond himself. The Hobbits, because of their small size, are each seated on top of a pile of cushions.  Now this is what followed:

‘Next to Frodo on his right  sat a dwarf of important appearance, richly dressed. His beard, very long and forked, was white, nearly as white as the snow-white cloth of his garments. He wore a silver belt, and round his neck hung a chain of silver and diamonds. Frodo stopped eating to look at him.

‘Welcome and well met’, said the dwarf, turning towards him. Then he actually rose from his seat and  bowed. ‘Gloin at your service’, he said, and bowed still lower.

‘Frodo Baggins at your service and your family’s’, said Frodo correctly, rising in surprise and scattering his cushions. ‘Am I right in guessing that you are the Gloin, one of the twelve companions of the great Thorin Oakenshield?’

‘Quite right’, answered the dwarf, gathering up the cushions and courteously assisting Frodo back into his seat. ‘And I do not ask, for I have already been told that you are the kinsman and adopted heir of our friend Bilbo the renowned. Allow me to congratulate you on your recovery.’

‘Thank you very much’, said Frodo.”

One only needs to read carefully Tolkien’s text here, and one will not miss the outrageously funny contrast between the utter solemnity of the occasion, of the salutes and of the words exchanged, and the sudden fall of the cushions, a totally ridiculous accident that would have ruined it all for normal people, who couldn’t have helped laughing, but that for a dwarf and a hobbit, the two Middle-earth cultures the most bent on correct behavior always, was simply something to be ignored, the two persons going on with their high salutations while at the same time picking up the cushions and putting them – and Frodo – back into place, just as if nothing funny was happening at all…!

All the while, we can hear from behind Tolkien’s own laughter, the amused author enjoying thoroughly the very serious, and yet unexpectedly also very comical scene he is no doubt vividly seeing in his mind as he is describing it!

I find all this just delightful, and so true to real life too: I am glad JRRT, for all his love of grand epic mythologies and stories to be told, always kept an eye for the funny details that would invariably be there too; he wouldn’t miss a chance to laugh and make us laugh... In that trait, the love of fun, we find one more of the characteristics that made of him, as he himself said, mostly a Hobbit:

‘I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated). (…) I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field).’

So, when celebrating – belatedly, alas, this Hobbit Day, September 22, we are celebrating not only Bilbo and Frodo, the Hobbits born on that day, but also the Hobbit who gave birth to them, and to all Hobbits: Tolkien himself…

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