History, Pop Culture

National Hobbit Day: Celebrating the Life and Works of J.R.R. Tolkien

September 22 has been proclaimed and celebrated by Tolkien fans as National Hobbit Day since 1978. The date marks the mutual birthdays of hobbits Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, the protagonists of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings respectively. The Lord of the Rings begins on this date as preparations are being made for Bilbo’s “eleventy-first” (111th) birthday and is used by fans as a day of celebrating the author, his works, and his characters.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was a writer, poet, philologist and academic. J.R.R. Tolkien is often considered the father of modern fantasy literature due to the influence his work has had on successive creators in that genre. Much of his own work was inspired by philology, mythology, religion, and his personal experiences serving during World War I. He first published The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (commonly shortened to The Hobbit) on September 21, 1937 as a children’s fantasy novel to much critical acclaim. Tolkien states he was inspired to write the story while marking papers as a professor in Oxford with the first famous line of the story: “In a hole in a ground there lived a hobbit.”

He followed this success up with his magnum opus of epic high fantasy The Lord of the Rings. Intended to be one work, The Lord of the Rings was split into three volumes due to economic factors of printing. Each volume is also seperated into two separate books with appendices at the end of the third volume. The first volume is titled The Fellowship of the Ring, the second volume is titled The Two Towers, and the third and final volume is titled The Return of the King. These works were relased successively between July 29, 1954 and October 20, 1955.

Following Tolkien’s death in 1973, his son Christopher took the reins of the estate and began editing and publishing writings and notes his father left behind up until his own death just this past year. Tolkien’s legendarium, defined as what encompasses all of his works related to his world of Middle-earth, has been adapted into numerous mediums and continues to be adapted from radio drama and animated movies to live-action plays, movies, and television. The most renowned and critically acclaimed being the cinematic trilogy of The Lord of the Rings by Peter Jackson breaking and still holding award records. The accolades associated with Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings have him as an author and the book itself ranked as one of the most popular in history. Tolkien made his mark in the world of literature with his imagination and pop culture has never been the same.

On a personal note, J.R.R. Tolkien is my favorite author, The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book, or books, depending on your perspective, and the Peter Jackson films are my favorite movies. I will take every opportunity to introduce them to people who aren’t familiar with the world of Middle-earth.

Take National Hobbit Day as an excuse to start reading some Tolkien or to appreciate the world he created for us in the fantastical and wondrous characters like Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, or even the villain of the story the Dark Lord Sauron, the titular Lord of the Rings. Whether you choose to peruse a website about Tolkien and his works, sit down for an hour reading one of his books, or party like its a hobbit’s birthday, the idea is to have fun with his creations.

Check out these popular works by J.R.R. Tolkien from his legendarium:
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The Silmarillion

And these works about the author:
J.R.R. Tolkien: His Life and Works by Stanley P. Baldwin
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Leslie Jones
The World of Tolkien: Mythological Sources of the Lord of the Rings by David Day
J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth by Daniel Grotta

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