Sept. 22 is the shared birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, the hobbits whose big birthday party kicks off The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic tale, The Lord of the Rings.
At his lavish 111th birthday party, Bilbo Baggins gives his guests wonderful gifts, spectacular entertainments, and a colossal amount of food. Bilbo also gives his cousin and heir, Frodo, most of his possessions on that day, including the powerful and malevolent ring that precipitates the quest — to destroy it — that the trilogy relates.
I am just now reading The Fellowship of the Ring, for a Coursera course I am taking called “Online Games: Literature, New Media and Narrative.” With our instructor, Jay Clayton of Vanderbilt University’s English department, we’re considering LOTR and other stories as they migrate from book to film to video game. LOTR was written as a single book, but published as a trilogy in 1954 and 1955, to capitalize on the success of Tolkien’s 1937 book, The Hobbit. So we are coming up on the 50th anniversary of this influential, widely loved fantasy tale.
The Tolkien Society founded Hobbit Day in 1978. Fans of the book are presumably having parties this weekend, including the Society’s own “Oxonmoot” gathering at Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford College in Oxford, England. If you can’t celebrate this weekend, do remember to toast Tolkien at 9 p.m. your time on Jan. 3, his birthday.