By Ashley Will | Sept. 24, 2018
This past Saturday was Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday — the central characters of J. R. R. Tolkien’s iconic works “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” According to the American Tolkien Society, Sept. 22 is designated as Hobbit Day, and it has been celebrated as such since 1978.
The first page of the first chapter of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the description of Bilbo Baggins states …
“… he had no close friends, until some of his younger cousins began to grow up. The eldest of these, and Bilbo’s favourite, was young Frodo Baggins. When Bilbo was ninety-nine he adopted Frodo as his heir, and brought him to live at Bag End … Bilbo and Frodo happened to have the same birthday, September 22nd. ‘You had better come and live here, Frodo my lad,’ said Bilbo one day; ‘and then we can celebrate our birthday-parties comfortably together.’ At that time Frodo was still in his tweens, as the hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three.”
Just as Bilbo and Frodo celebrated their birthdays together, fans of the books like to celebrate their love of J. R. R. Tolkien and his works of literature on this day by wearing costumes, eating festive food, lighting off fireworks, playing games and more.
Library users can celebrate by checking out the author’s books. Although J. R. R. Tolkien died on Sept. 2, 1973, his son Christopher Tolkien has edited his father’s extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts. Therefore new material has been continued to be released past J. R. R. Tolkien’s death.
“The Lord of The Rings” is a series of books that you can vote on for your favorite book as part of PBS’ Great American Read. “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit,” most recognizable of J. R. R. Tolkien’s works thanks to the film adaptations, are available at Salina Public Library to check out.
But perhaps during this month of Hobbit Day 2018, dare to try something new and check out a work by J. R. R. Tolkien that was published after his death and or one that you haven’t read before. Personally, I haven’t read much of his posthumous work and, with several released in the past couple of years, I would like to change that trend. The newest book, “Fall of Gondolin,” was only published last month. According to The Tolkien Society, in the preface, Christopher Tolkien states that “The Fall of Gondolin” is “indubitably” his last book as editor of his father’s writings, making this newest publication extra special.
“Beren and Lúthien,” published in 2017, emphasizes the love of the mortal Beren and the royal elf-maiden Lúthien. The characters of Beren and Lúthien were quite special to Tolkien, and he thought of himself as Beren and his wife as Lúthien. Their grave marker even includes those names next to their own.
“Children of Húrin,” published in 2007, is a work of careful editing by Christopher Tolkien that pieces together his father’s written materials about this family in Middle-earth. The backstory of these characters and many more characters can be found in “The Silmarillion,” which I have personally nicknamed “The Middle-earth Bible” because it begins with a creation story of the world.
Although J. R. R. Tolkien did not finish “The Silmarillion” before he died in 1973, his son completed it and published it in 1977. It is admittedly a dense read, and although I have started this work of literature, I have not finished it. It is definitely worth it to read some, or all, of it for background information on “The Lord of the Rings.” It’s been a while since I dived in, but I remember the creation story being fascinating. You can read more about the history of Middle-earth in “Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth,” edited by J. R. R. Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien. Various books on the history of Middle-earth have been published as well including “Morgoth’s Ring,” “War of the Jewels,” “The Shaping of Middle Earth,” “Book of Lost Tales” and “The Lays of Beleriand.”
In addition to tales of Middle-earth, other published work by J. R. R. Tolkien include “The Story of Kullervo,” published in 2016. It recounts the story of the Karelian and Finnish epic poem “Kalevala.” I am definitely intrigued by the summary as stated in our library catalog:
“Brought up in the homestead of the dark magician Untamo, who killed his father, kidnapped his mother, and tried three times to kill him when he was still a boy, Kullervo is alone save for the love of his twin sister, Wanona, and the magical powers of the black dog Musti, who guards him. When Kullervo is sold into slavery he swears revenge on the magician, but he will learn that even at the point of vengeance there is no escape from the cruelest of fates.”
This is the one that I am going to challenge myself to read as I belatedly celebrate Hobbit Day.
J.R.R. Tolkien also has written a retelling of multiple Norse legends that has been published as “The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún,” and Christopher Tolkien published his father’s unfinished poem about King Arthur titled “The Fall of Arthur.”
For something completely different, go downstairs to Youth Services to check out a children’s book written and illustrated by J. R. R. Tolkien. Although not published during J. R. R. Tolkien’s lifetime, “Mr. Bliss” is now available for you and or your children to enjoy, just as J.R.R.’s children likely did. Mr. Bliss, distinctive in a tall hat, goes on an adventure in a new car.
Another children’s book that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote for his children and that was published after his death is “Roverandom.” I own this book and recommend it for the cute story and lovely illustrations. It is about a dog who has been turned into a toy and is now on a quest to return to normal. On the way, he encounters wizards, spiders, a dragon and much more.
Celebrate the beloved J. R. R. Tolkien by reading his work and don’t forget to enjoy Second Breakfast like a Hobbit would!