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A Look Back at Important Hobbit Dates

December 6, 2012 at 9:30 pm by celedor  - 

These two have said it all:

“This thing all things devours: Birds, beasts, trees, flowers.” – Gollum

“The times they are a-changin.” – Bob Dylan

Whether you’re male, female or a mountain, time stands still for no one, and we are only here for a brief moment enjoying our small fraction of eternity. December 14, 2012 will be a special day, and I can’t help but feel blessed to be here for it. As I wait here, ticket in hand for a midnight showing of The Hobbit, I can’t help but think back to December 19, 2001; it seems like yesterday! That was a Wednesday, and the day The Fellowship of the Ring movie finally came out. I’ll never forget the experience.

When you think about it, of course, much has changed since then. If you’d have said twitter or Barack Obama to me in 2001, I’d have thought you were talking about a bird and someone from the Middle East. And that’s just going back 11 years! There are some fans out there, such as my friend and TORN colleague Quickbeam, who will never forget November 27, 1977. That was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and it was the day the animated adaptation of The Hobbit first aired on NBC. Just imagine trying to explain to someone from that time how much the world would change in the next 30 years! (They probably would have been blown away by the idea of an ipod.)

And what about September 21, 1937? That was a Tuesday, and there are faithful readers here at TORN who were around back then – the day The Hobbit was published. Talk about a different time – there were still people around then who remembered when the American Civil War was happening and when Abraham Lincoln was alive.

Today I thought it would be fun to take a nostalgic look back, and see how the world has a’changed – even in the last eleven years. So hop in the DeLorean with me and let’s take a look together at what the world was like way back when – and what’s it like now, which as I’m writing this is December 6, 2012.

World Population:

1937: 2.2 billion
1977: 4.3 billion
2001 6.2 billion
Today: 7.1 billion

These are, of course, estimates. And it was especially ridiculous to talk about the “sixth billionth” or “seventh billionth” baby, since the number of people in the world, due to deaths and births, is a fluid number always bouncing around. But it is said that somewhere in the world, a woman is giving birth every second. (Personally, I think we should find this woman and stop her.)

U.S. Population:

1937: 129 million
1977: 220 million
2001: 285 million
Today: 312 million

As Ben Franklin wrote, “tis the Duty of the first and great Command of Nature, and of Nature’s God, Increase and multiply.”

The Pope:

1937: Pius XI
1977: Paul VI
2001: John Paul II
Today: Benedict XVI

Interestingly, John Paul II became the pope in 1978 just before the animated Lord of the Rings movie was released and died in 2005 just after the extended edition of The Return of the King came out. So he’s our LOTR movie pope, I guess. (It’s also curious that Hobbit movies were made just before and just after his time as pope. Maybe there’s some spiritual significance to it all.)

Ages of Christopher Tolkien, Christopher Lee, and Dina Manfredini:

September 21, 1937: 12, 15, and 40 years old
November 27, 1977: 53, 55, and 80 years old
December 19, 2001: 77, 79, and 104 years old
Today: 88, 90, and 115 years old

Christopher Tolkien, as you probably know, is the youngest son of author J.R.R. Tolkien. Christopher Lee, of course, plays “Saruman”. Dina Manfredini is just an Italian woman from Iowa. The interesting thing about Dina is that she was born in the same decade as Professor Tolkien. To put it in perspective, she was 66 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and was 66 when the Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show – older than both Kennedy and Sullivan. Dina, who was old enough to be a grandmother when The Hobbit was originally published, is still with us, which makes me think she is very determined to see a live action Hobbit movie. Here’s hoping she gets to see all three.

World Leaders:

1937: FDR, Hitler, Chamberlain, Stalin
1977: Carter, Callaghan, Brezhnev, Trudeau
2001: Bush, Blair, Chrétien, Putin
Today: Obama, Harper, Putin, Cameron

I voted twice for one of these people. (No, it wasn’t Hitler.)

Those whacky Europeans

1937: The Nazis rule Germany out of Berlin, and the Russians have renamed Saint Petersburg “Leningrad” to avoid a lawsuit with Florida.
1977: The Nazis no longer rule Germany. Berlin is now two cities in two separate countries, thanks to the Russians and Leningrad.
2001: Berlin is back to being one city in one country, and Leningrad is back to being Saint Petersburg. (Am I the only one with “Istanbul Not Constantinople” in my head?)
Today: Thankfully everything is the same as 2001, which hopefully means we’re not going in circles.

The average cost of a movie ticket in the United States:

September 21, 1937: 23 cents
November 27, 1977: $2.23
December 19, 2001: $5.65
Today: $8.00

We won’t even talk about the popcorn.

The cost of a U.S. postage stamp:

September 21, 1937: 3 cents
November 27, 1977: 13 cents
December 19, 2001: 34 cents
Today: 45 cents

It’s going to be 46 cents by February. But it won’t be long anyway before teenagers ask their parents, “What’s a stamp?”

Dow Jones Industrial Average:

September 21, 1937: 157
November 27, 1977: 844
December 19, 2001: 10,070
Today: 13,074

The Dow Jones is a stock market index. Created in 1896, it spent its first eight decades creeping up to 1000 before things got a bit crazy in the 1980s and 1990s (when it went from about 1000 to 11,000.) In 2008 it crashed, and while we’ve since repaired most of the damage, we’re now stuck in a holding pattern.

Average price of a gallon of gas in the U.S:

September 21, 1937: 20 cents
November 27, 1977: 62 cents
December 19, 2001: $1.15
Today: $3.38

It’s not enough that it costs more for a movie ticket, it also costs more just to get to the theater! I just wish my salary had tripled in the last eleven years as well.

U.S. National Debt:

September 21, 1937: $37 billion
November 27, 1977: $718 billion
December 19, 2001: $5.7 trillion
Today: $16.3 trillion

It’s amazing what tax cuts, increased spending, and job losses will do. Interestingly, I hear that Minas Tirith had a surplus under King Elessar’s rule. But then that was a monarchy and he didn’t have to deal with Congress.

Films that just opened:

September 21, 1937: One Hundred Men and a Girl
November 27, 1977: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
December 19, 2001: Vanilla Sky
Today: Silent Night

One Hundred Men and a Girl was a musical comedy starring Deanna Durbin, who is still around actually. And Close Encounters is one of my favorite films.

Popular formats for buying music:

1937: 78 rpm records
1977: 33 and 45 rpm records
2001: Compact discs
Today: Digital downloads

I bought all the Lord of the Rings soundtracks on compact disc, but I’ve since transferred them to my ipod and I’ll just download the Hobbit soundtracks.

Hit Songs:

September 21, 1937: “One O’Clock Jump” (Count Basie)
November 27, 1977 “You Light Up My Life” (Debbie Boone)
December 19, 2001: “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” (Alan Jackson)
Today: “Diamonds” (Rihanna)

The thing about music is, the people who spend the most money on it are the young. So that’s who the industry targets. As such, the older you get, the worse you think the music is getting. (Unless you’re weird, you weirdo.)

TV Show Debuts:

Fall 1937: “The Disorderly Room” (UK)
Fall 1977: “The Love Boat”
Fall 2001: “24”
Fall 2012: “Guys With Kids”

The American television industry had not yet taken off in the 1930s, but when The Hobbit was published, Professor Tolkien could have watched several English shows, including “The Disorderly Room” (if he had had a television.) I’m not too sure he would have enjoyed “Guys With Kids” though.


September, 1937: The Chinese Revolutionary Army defeats the Japanese in the The Battle of Pingxingguan
November, 1977: British Airways begins London to New York service aboard the supersonic Concorde
December, 2001: China is granted normal trade status with the United States
December 2012: The UN General Assembly approves a motion granting Palestine non-member observer state status

Popular Baby Names:

1937: William, Donald, Mary, Betty
1977: Steven, Jeffrey, Amanda, Jennifer
2001: Tyler, Jacob, Madison, Hannah
Today: Liam, Mason, Olivia, Ava

I’ve always found the change in the popularity of names to be an interesting area of study. If I were to say the names “Elmer” and “Mildred”, you’d think of a couple of grandparents; yet there was a time when these were new and hip baby names. It’s fascinating to look at how names come in and out of style, and what names become dated while others become timeless.


October 17, 1937: J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of Titanic and survivor of the sinking
December 18, 1977: Cyril Richard, voice of Elrond in the animated adaptation of The Hobbit
December 29, 2001: Brian Bansgrove, chief lighting technician for The Lord of the Rings films
Today: Alice Harden, Mississippi Senator

And with that, it’s time to return to the present and prepare to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It won’t be too long before we look back at 2012 and marvel at how much has changed. Enjoy the moment, and enjoy the film!

– J.W. Braun, December 6, 2012

Posted in The Hobbit on December 6, 2012 by