Upon Returning to the Shire

New books bore me. It may be that I’ve ruined myself for casual light entertainment, or it might be that the books just aren’t that good. Either way, I’ve decided that I am going to re-read books that I know that I like. So I am back to The Lord of the Rings, this time with the Audible book read by Andy Serkis. It’s good so far.

But I can’t help thinking that this is the most ridiculous book I’ve ever read. It’s just garbage. “Concerning Hobbits.” No action, but a ponderous introduction about the habits of hobbits, whatever they are. Who are they and why should I care? The book leaves the second question unanswered. We learn about the hobbits’ gift-giving habits, the three divisions or races of hobbits, the meaning of the word mathom, the extents of the Shire, the discovery and smoking of “pipe weed”, the various classes of hobbits and the great families thereof. No elements of story yet!


Why does it work?

It works because the Shire and the hobbits in general are the protagonist of the story. It is for the Shire that Frodo takes the Ring to Mount Doom. It is so that they can continue their lovely little lives, talking of potatoes and cabbages at the Green Dragon. Incidentally, this is why “The Scouring of the Shire” is necessary at the end of the third book.

There’s also an element of tragedy in that Bilbo and Frodo are not really of the Shire. They are able to record its habits and write the history of its people, but they are not ordinary respectable hobbits. They can see the whole and judge that hobbit-folk are valuable and need to be protected from the slavery to Sauron, but because Bilbo and Frodo aren’t normal. Note that neither of them get married! How could they settle down and be ordinary? Especially after having seen the Elves.

“Concerning Hobbits” taken from the Red Book of Westmarch, written by Bilbo and augmented by Frodo, is a farewell to the home that they must eventually leave.

5 thoughts on “Upon Returning to the Shire”

  1. I also just picked up LOTR. Seems like fall is the perfect time to read it – days grow darker and colder, plus Frodo left in September.

    The fact they didn’t get married is hitting me harder from this post (especially with Tolkien as a Catholic).

    I think the other thing that hobbits & the Shire do is idealize a simple, peaceful, tied-to-the-earth life that humans identify with. It points to those good times with good friends and good food when things are good…then Gandalf shows up.

  2. Also, your novel recommendations have pretty much always worked out. Going through the Odd Thomas series (interrupted for LOTR). Loved Monster Hunters. Need to crack into Jane Austen.

  3. I’m also planning to re-read The Hobbit and LotR. If the Social Security Administration has correctly calculated my life expectancy, I have time to read maybe 150 more books before the Dirt Nap. So, I’m being selective and LotR is on the list.

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