September 21, 2013

Birthday Hobbits

        Tomorrow is a special day in Middle-earth: the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.  This is an important day because it was on Bilbo's 111th birthday that he disappeared at the climax of his gala party, left the Shire, and left the One Ring to his cousin Frodo.  It was also Frodo's 33rd birthday, and his coming of age.  Tolkien must have had a special affection for birthdays (or maybe it's just that Hobbits do) because the One Ring came to another Hobbit on his birthday, too: Sméagol, who was to become Gollum.  Sméagol murdered his friend who refused to give him the Ring for a birthday gift, and ever after Sméagol/Gollum referred to the Ring as his "birthday present."  (As far as I know, Sméagol's birthday is not recorded, and Bilbo found the One Ring near Gollum's lair in July, so not all Ring transfers take place on birthdays.)
        Of course, nothing involving calendars is ever simple, and Tolkien explains discrepancies between the Shire calendar and the Gregorian calendar in his voluminous appendices.  Therefore the actual birthday would be between September 12 and 14.  But that's not important.  The important thing is to have an excuse to celebrate, and tomorrow is the day on which we take advantage of this excuse.
        Some birthdays become holidays, such as Martin Luther King, Jr's, and in Middle-earth September 22 is declared a festival in honor of Frodo and Bilbo.  In our earth some people apparently go barefoot to celebrate Hobbit Day, but I think a much more fitting way to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of the hobbits would
be to perform a noble act of heroism.  Now I just need to figure out what noble act of heroism I can manage tomorrow.  You try to think of one, too!

[Pictures: Bilbo and Gollum, illustration by Tove Jansson for a Swedish edition of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1962;
Bilbo, Gandalf, and Beorn, woodcut by Maret Kernumees for Estonian edition of The Hobbit, 1977;
Bilbo, illustration by Jan Mlodozeniec for Polish edition of The Hobbit, 1960.
(All images from Babel Hobbits.)]

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