In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
Every fandom on the internet has its own niche holidays. For fans of the film Mean Girls, it’s October 3rd (a seemingly random date, but the day that Cady remembers her crush asking her what day it was). For Star Wars fans the world over, it’s May 4th as it reminds people of an iconic phrase from the franchise (“May the Force be with you.”)
And while I acknowledge some of those days, the one that will perhaps be the most iconic to me is September 22nd. See, September 22 is a day that fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth have dubbed “Hobbit Day” as it’s the day that both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, the protagonists of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy respectively, share as their birthday.
Fans of these stories celebrate in different ways. Some might consume food the way a hobbit might. Others may reread the books or marathon the films.
As for myself, I always tend to get a bit contemplative on September 22nd the way I imagine the Bagginses may have as they sat down to write the books about their adventures. I reflect on my own family and how I found the books in the first place.
And for that, I can really only blame my uncle.
Years ago when I was a child on a visit to my grandparents’ apartment over the holidays, I remember climbing up into my uncle’s loft bedroom, his sanctuary from the rest of his family, and spying a golden cardboard box amongst his books. This box turned out to be a boxed set of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Curious, and handling the books as carefully as I might have something particularly breakable, I drew them out of their protective box and stared at the pictures on the covers.
Sadly, this happened so long ago that I don’t recall what editions of the trilogy these were anymore. I haven’t seen his copies in a very long time, and I no longer recall what any of those pictures looked like. However, I do remember being fascinated by the cover art. I was already an avid fantasy fan (stories about dragons were my absolute favorite, even as a tiny child), and the fact that the pictures on these covers spoke of places that clearly didn’t exist delighted me.
I remember turning back to my uncle and asking him if I could read these books because I was so enamored with the covers. Sadly, my uncle’s answer was no, but only because they were too advanced for my reading level at the time. But little me didn’t want to be denied a good story, and I begged him to tell me what the books were about. This, at least, he was willing to do for me, and I snuggled up next to him as he pointed out the characters on the covers of the books and told me about Bilbo’s adventures to the Lonely Mountain, and then Frodo’s adventures with the Fellowship and their quest to destroy the One Ring.
I was hooked from that point on.
Eventually, the day came when my uncle finally allowed me to bring his boxed set home with me after one holiday, and I remember carefully wrapping them up in my luggage because to my mind, these books were valuable and I didn’t want anything to happen to them while they were in my care. The first time I cracked open his copy of The Hobbit, I did so as carefully as possible as they were old and I was terrified of ruining what I perceived to be my uncle’s favorite books. But I devoured them over the course of that year, savoring them and the adventure they were bringing me on. Every holiday after that, my uncle made sure to leave that boxed set somewhere where I could get to them so I could read them while we were visiting.
My uncle would eventually gift me my own boxed set of the series one Christmas, and many other Tolkien and Middle-earth books followed after that. He and I would see every single Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film in theatres when they came out. He’d gift me copies of the extended editions of the films that my family and I would occasionally watch on New Years’ Eve as we waited for midnight. The extended editions turned out to be a bit too long for the rest of my family, but I didn’t really care because I was able to share with them something that meant the world to me.
To my mind, that’s what Hobbit Day should be about and that’s how the stories of Middle-earth should be shared: passed on from one generation to the next because it’s something you love. After all, that’s how The Hobbit came to be. The Hobbit was a bedtime story Tolkien wrote for his children, and in my opinion, that means love was built into the world from the beginning.
So, happy birthday, Bilbo and Frodo, and thank you for being part of my life for as long as you have. Maybe one day, I can share your stories with the next generation as my uncle did for me.