There and back again: 75 years of ‘The Hobbit’

MARTIN FREEMAN as Bilbo Baggins in New Line Cinema’s and MGM's fantasy adventure “THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

MARTIN FREEMAN as Bilbo Baggins in New Line Cinema’s and MGM’s fantasy adventure “THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

A legacy begins:

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

These were the words that introduced the world to the story of Bilbo Baggins and his journey to Lonely Mountain and back home to Bag End. For years this novel and its sequel have brought life to the imaginations of readers around the world, and together they have set the standard for today’s fantasy novels. This week, known as Tolkien Week, holds some exciting news for the Tolkien fan community.

Friday marks the 75th anniversary of “The Hobbit,” J.R.R. Tolkien’s second bestselling novel.  Since its publication in 1937, the novel has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, just 50 million under its sequel, “The Lord of the Rings.”

Hobbit Day is also this week and is celebrated worldwide on Saturday. It marks the birthday of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins as revealed in “The Lord of the Rings”. This year, fans will celebrate in anticipation of Peter Jackson’s upcoming movie rendition of the book, titled “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

Kaylee Gentry, a senior biology major at USM, has been an avid Tolkien fan since she read “The Hobbit” in elementary school.

“‘The Hobbit’ is the lead in to ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ which is basically my bible,” Gentry said. “It’s my book of morals and heroes that I look to when I feel like life is impossible.”

Tolkien is considered by many, including Gentry, to be the father of modern high fantasy.

“Tolkien has created a world all its own, with a mythos and heroes set that rivals the ‘Iliad,’” Gentry said. “You feel with the characters. You know them, you’ve journeyed with them and their families and friends. You’ve felt their loss and their pain, and to finally see it on the big screen is going to kill me. I’m both elated and terrified to see it.”

 

An unexpected party:

Taylor Meyers, an English education major, has been reading Tolkien’s works since she was twelve years old.  This year, she decided to celebrate the anniversary of the release of “The Hobbit” by hosting a “Second Breakfast” party.

“The event itself will be a small, private event,” Meyers said. “Unfortunately, because of classes and work, those invited weren’t entirely able to celebrate during the traditional time of 11 a.m. So instead we decided to have ‘Second Breakfast for Dinner,’ and we moved the celebration to 7 p.m.”

Among the list of foods that will be served are “Sam’s Coney and Tater Roast” (pot roast with garden veggies) as the main course, “A Shortcut to (Stuffed) Mushrooms” (stuffed mushrooms) as the second dish, and “Bilbo’s Pumpkin Tea-cakes” (pumpkin dark chocolate chip cookies) as dessert. Other items will include lembas bread and Hobbiton’s Finest Tea.

“Other people are planning on bringing various dishes and sides such as cookies, tarts, pies, spreads, breads, cheeses, beer, wine and tea,” Meyers said. “During the meal, we will watch ‘The Lord of the Rings’ movie series and probably just talk about our favorite characters.”

When asked about opening her doors to more Tolkien fans, Meyers looked crestfallen.

“My apartment is very hobbit hole-like: small, cozy, and perhaps a little cramped, but ultimately, the best place to celebrate with a small group of friends,” Meyers said. “If I could have more of Hattiesburg’s hobbits I would, but unfortunately I can’t.”

 

The film:

Peter Jackson, the director of the “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy, joined in this year’s celebration of Tolkien Week with a personal video and the release of stills from the upcoming movie.

“Our contribution to these celebrations is going to be to debut our new trailer for ‘The Hobbit,’ Jackson said in the video. “We’re also going to share some special content with you, the fans, so check back with us.”

Jackson announced this July that the anticipated movie would be split into three films: An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again.

“It has been an unexpected journey indeed, and in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, ‘a tale that grew in the telling,’” Jackson said.

“The Hobbit” will feature actor Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and will include many of the actors in “The Lord of the Rings”, such as Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Andy Serkis (Gollum) and Hugo Weaving (Elrond). To justify three movies for the novel, Jackson plans to elaborate on the roles of minor characters, casting Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown, a character who was only briefly mentioned in “The Hobbit.”

“We recognized that the richness of the story of ‘The Hobbit,’ as well as some of the related material in the appendices of ’The Lord of the Rings,’ gave rise to a simple question,” Jackson said. “Do we tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as filmmakers and fans was an unreserved ‘yes.’”

Happy birthday, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, and to all hobbit-kind out there, remember – even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” arrives in theaters Dec. 14.

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