Whether you’re man, beast or a mountain, time stands still for no one, and we are only here for a brief moment enjoying our small fraction of eternity. Yesterday marked the official release of the second Hobbit movie, and it stands as one of several important dates in Hobbit history. It’s reminiscent of December 14, 2012, the date An Unexpected Journey finally opened for most of the world. (That was a Friday also.) And what of November 27, 1977? That was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and it was the first day people could finally see a movie based on one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books: an animated adaptation of The Hobbit. January 3, 1951 is a lesser recognized date, but it was then that the second edition of The Hobbit became available – the one with the updated “Riddles in the Dark” chapter that brings the book in line with The Lord of the Rings. And finally, there’s September 21, 1937, a Tuesday. That’s when The Hobbit was first published and this whole adventure began. I thought it would be fun to look back through the years through the eyes of these dates, and so here now is my little time capsule:

World Population:

September 1937: 2.2 billion
January 1951: 2.6 billion
November 1977: 4.3 billion
December 2012: 7 billion
December 2013: 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.)

Population of India

September 1937: 303 million
January 1951: 363 million
November 1977: 645 million
December 2012: 1.3 billion
December 2013: 1.4 billion

To put this in perspective, there are less than six million people in my home state of Wisconsin.

The Pope:

September 21, 1937: Pius XI
January 3, 1951: Pius XII
November 27, 1977: Paul VI
December 14, 2012: Benedict XVI
December 13, 2013: Francis

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. (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 Maury Laws, Christopher Lee, and Misao Okawa:

September 21, 1937: 13, 15 and 39 years old
January 3, 1951: 28, 29, and 52 years old
November 27, 1977: 53, 55, and 79 years old
December 14, 2012: 89, 90, and 114 years old
December 13, 2013: 90, 91, and 115 years old

Maury Laws was the music composer for the aforementioned animated Hobbit movie. (Laws did the music for most of the Rankin/Bass specials, including Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer and the animated Return of the King.) Interestingly, he lives here in Wisconsin not far away from me, and I was able to catch up with him last month.

“I usually had about a month to score the background music for a film. The songs were written first. That was before the film was made. The action was animated to the music. First there was a script which I read. In a film the songs are part of the story and have to relate to the plot. I then worked with the lyricist to write the songs. I would go through the script with the director to decide where background music should be used. Animation has a lot of background music. An hour show would most likely have forty five minutes of music, including the songs. All the music had to be orchestrated and recorded to exactly the times it was written to. Making a film is very complicated and has several elements that have to work together. There is picture, dialogue, sound effects and music all mixed together in the last process of the production. Many people are involved.”

I mentioned to him that my favorite song of his was “Leave Tomorrow Till it Comes” from The Return of the King and he remembered it well. “I always thought it was a pretty good song,” he said. I shared with him this updated version and he enjoyed it, seeming genuinely touched to see how his music lives on. “When the shows first came out I used to always watch them. Now I don’t always watch. It’s fun sometimes to watch them again.”

As for Misao Okawa, she’s a Japanese woman who lives in Osaka. The interesting thing about Okawa is that she was born in the same decade as Professor Tolkien. To put it in perspective, she was 65 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and almost 66 when the Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show – older than both Kennedy and Sullivan. Not to say she’s been around for a while, but in a few years she’ll be referring Elrond as a young whippersnapper.

World Leaders:

1937: FDR, Hitler, Chamberlain, Stalin
1951: Truman, Stalin, Attlee, St. Laurent
1977: Carter, Callaghan, Brezhnev, Trudeau
2012 & 2013: Obama, Harper, Putin, Cameron

Apparently when a landmark Hobbit day happens, we have to have a Democrat as President of the U.S.

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

September 21, 1937: 23 cents
January 3, 1951: 47 cents
November 27, 1977: $2.23
December 14, 2012: $7.96
December 13, 2013: $8.30

The cost of a U.S. postage stamp:

September 21, 1937: 3 cents
January 3, 1951: 3 cents
November 27, 1977: 13 cents
December 14, 2012: 45 cents
December 13, 2013: 46 cents

Dow Jones Industrial Average:

September 21, 1937: 157
January 3, 1951: 239
November 27, 1977: 844
December 14, 2012: 13,135
December 13, 2013: 15,755

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

September 21, 1937: 20 cents
January 3, 1951: 27 cents
November 27, 1977: 62 cents
December 14, 2012: $3.38
December 13, 2013: $3.24

Believe it or not, a gallon of gas cost only about $1.15 in the U.S. on December 19, 2001 when The Fellowship of the Ring came out!

U.S. National Debt:

September 21, 1937: $37 billion
January 3, 1951: $255 billion
November 27, 1977: $718 billion
December 14, 2012: $16.3 trillion
December 13, 2013: $17.2 trillion

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
January 3, 1951: King Solomon’s Mines
November 27, 1977: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
December 14, 2012: Hitchcock
November 22, 2013: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Films that will open next year: 

April 4, 2014: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
May 16, 2014: Godzilla
November 7, 2014: Interstellar
November 21, 2014: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
December 17, 2014: The Hobbit: There and Back Again

Popular formats for buying music:

1937: 78 rpm records
1951: 78 rpm records
1977: 45 & 33 rpm records
2012 & 2013: Digital downloads

Hit Songs:

September 21, 1937: “One O’Clock Jump” (Count Basie)
January 3, 1951: “The Tennessee Waltz” (Patti Page)
November 27, 1977: “You Light Up My Life” (Debbie Boone)
December 14, 2012: “Diamonds” (Rihanna)
December 13, 2013: “Wrecking Ball” (Miley Cyrus)

TV Show Debuts:

Late 1937: “The Disorderly Room” (UK)
Early 1951: “What’s My Line”
Late 1977: “The Love Boat”
Late 2012: “Guys With Kids”
Late 2013: “Almost Human”

The American television industry had not yet taken off in the 1930s, but when The Hobbit was first 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
January, 1951: Nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site begins
November, 1977: British Airways begins London to New York service aboard the supersonic Concorde
December 2012: A shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, United States, leaves 28 people dead, including 20 children.
December 2013: The China National Space Administration achieves Earth to Lunar transorbital insertion of their Chang’e 3 probe.

The Elementary School shooting happened the same day The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out in the United States.

Popular Baby Names:

1937: William, Donald, Mary, Betty
1951: Patrick, Russell, Sue, Linda
1977: Steven, Jeffrey, Amanda, Jennifer
2012 & 2013: 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. (I think “Michael” is fairly safe.)


October 17, 1937: J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of Titanic and survivor of the sinking
November 2, 1950: George Bernard Shaw, Irish writer
December 18, 1977: Cyril Richard, voice of Elrond in the animated adaptation of The Hobbit
December 11, 2012: Ravi Shankar, Indian musician and friend of the Beatles
December 5, 2013: Nelson Mandela, South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist

Hope you enjoyed!

Celedor, December 14, 2013