Thursday, 21 September 2017

Happy Birthday Bilbo!

Bilbo Baggins is eighty years old!* Or rather, the book The Hobbit was first published on September 21, 1937. You could argue that this is day zero for all the fantasy stuff we read, we watch on TV and the cinema, we play games over. Without The Hobbit there would have been no Lord of the Rings, which is widely regarded as the grandfather of the fantasy genre, from Dungeons and Dragons to Warhammer Fantasy gaming.

Legend has it that Tolkien, an Oxford professor, was marking exam papers and was so bored that he doodled in the margin, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit", the first line of the book, thus beginning his epic tale.

*As any self-respecting Tolknerd (that should be a word) will tell you, Bilbo's birthday is actually tomorrow, September 22nd. As is Frodo's for that matter. 

I am a self-confessed Tolkien nerd. And to prove it, here's a photo of my nerdy bookshelf. There is a lot of Tolkien material there, either written by him, about him, or art based on his works. Look closely and you will see that I have five versions of The Hobbit, from a pop-up book designed for young readers, to an annotated version for the full-on geek.


The pop-up book was recently rescued from a trip up into the loft (attic), I presume it was bought for my two young boys years ago - I really cannot remember! It's very sweet and the illustrations are actually very well done. 


Another unusual format is this graphic novel - a step up from the pop-up but still plenty of pictures for the word shy readers. Again, there are some lovely art spreads in this version.




Moving on to the more typical versions, I have an illustrated version and a facsimile of the classic standard version, with a few illustrations by Tolkien himself, which I find to be very charming.


And finally there's the wordiest, nerdiest version - The Annotated Hobbit. This book describes in detail possible sources of inspiration that Tolkien used, from experiences in the trenches of World War 1 to landmarks of his home environments, and plenty of references to academic and mythical influences. If you are the kind of person that would be fascinated to learn that nearly all the dwarf names come from the old Norse poem "Voluspa", that Rivendell was probably inspired by a walking holiday in Switzerland, or the origin of the name Baggins, then this is the book for you. 


So let's raise a glass to the old boy, without whom none of us would be here now, blogging or gaming or watching the movies. Cheers!


4 comments:

Michał Kucharski said...

oh, happy Birthday one of my favourite character :)

Matt Crump said...

Nice didn't know you had such a collection of hobbit books.😀

Steven Williams said...

I read the Hobbit when I was 11 and it turned my world upside down. I distinctly remember walking out of school on a Friday afternoon, reading the book as I went, not wanting to put it down. Still haven't watched the movie though.

Old Fogey said...

The movie does not really convey the simple wonder of the book. They tried to make it epic like Lord of the Rings, but for me it falls flat. It's a child's book and all the better for it. One to read on a cold autumn night, with the fire crackling at your toes, a pie and a pipe nearby.

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