Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

One of the most celebrated children books of all time has finally made the silver screen. What you may not know is just how much the Hobbit reveals to us about the secret life of the legendary writer, linguist, and grifter, J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Ring
Tolkien won his prized gold ring at a pub over a game of riddles, by stumping the then riddle-master, C.S. Lewis. Tolkien asked his now immortalized riddle: "What have I got in my pockets?" The answer, of course, being the gold ring he had previous lifted from Lewis's own pocket only a half hour before.

Tolkien was nearly killed that night by Lewis's wrath, and a broken pool cue. But the daring writer escaped from a bathroom window, and was never seen at the likes of the Goblin Hole again.

Neither of them spoke a word of it anyone after that night. But as an ultimate gloat, Tolkien replicated his triumph in the riddle game of the Hobbit, and then had it published.


While writing the Hobbit, Mr. Tolkien would spend weeks at time locked away in his room. Sometime his body and clothes alike would become incredibly foul. What should have been a simple task of delivery his clothes to the local Chinese laundromat proved difficult due to Tolkien's inexplicable and deep mistrust of laundromats.

Tolkien's personal breakthrough comes at the same time as writing about Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the company, overcoming his strong mistrust of elves, and giving his family's treasured treasure map to be examined by Elrond. So does Tolkien finally overcome his own prejudices against laundromats, and finally gives Mr. Chang his smelly, smelly clothes.

Gandalf, by far one of Tolkien's most bearded characters, is Tolkien's take on one peculiar postman Mr. Gunderman, who would stop by Tolkien's family's house, and periodically attempt to recruit a young Tolkien on various quests whenever his parents were out of the house. Later arrested (but never convicted) Mr. Gunderman would always be a source of inspiration for the writer.