Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Hobbit, 75 years on...

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

Hobbit-holes seem like they'd be nice places to live. Tolkien himself illustrated the quintessential hobbit-hole, Bag End. His vision of hobbit digs was surprisingly spacious to my eye, when I first saw his pictures of Bilbo's home.
More than enough headspace even for someone tall, like Gandalf. Still, it has a cozy feel to it, doesn't it? Before I got a glimpse of Tolkien's own artwork, my impression of Bag End was shaped by the work of the Brothers Hildebrandt.
Much less headspace, but that adds to the coziness. I was always taken by the fact that hobbits had clocks, as shown in this painting, but also as mentioned by Tolkien himself in the narrative of The Hobbit. It made me wonder what else they might have - manual lawnmowers, perhaps? I know Tolkien later said that clockwork mechanisms didn't really exist in Middle-earth, and that his mention of a clock in The Hobbit was just a bit of a mistake. But I like to think they did have clocks, and some simple labor-saving devices, because it fits the nature of hobbits. One of my favorite depictions of Bag End and Bilbo is By the Fireside, by Canadian artist Kim Benson. I was so taken by it that I bought a print of it.

Another clock, which adds to the cozy feel here; a quarter after ten seems like a nice, comfortable time to be settled down and drifting off into the night. Oh, it's not as great as after Midnight, of course, but I'm sure Bilbo will still be there into the wee hours.

These depictions of Bag End are what The Hobbit means to me - warmth and coziness, tales and reflections of life and adventures, recounted from a comfortable armchair, the danger now at arm's length, the spiders and trolls and the dragon, yes, even the dragon, slightly silly and a tad comical in retrospect. A tale well-told, the evening drawing down, good triumphant and home snug and warm.

1 comment:

  1. I have always wanted to live in a hobbit hole. I think it and the Swiss Family Robinson's tree-palace have always been my fantasy-homes.

    Or maybe one of those Bond villains' underwater lairs.

    Good point re: clocks/ mowers// tales-told.