Writer Joanna Robinson sure has been busy. Over on The Ringer (not actually a Tolkien site, believe it or not), she writes cogently on the commonalities and differences between the “Harfoots” we’ll see in Amazon’s The Rings of Power series, and the Hobbits we know rather better from The Lords of the Rings and The Hobbit.
She muses on how hobbits function as a crucial mediating influence into Tolkien’s milieu — and how that probably serves double for wider audiences outside core Tolkien fandom, a wider audience whose emotional attachment is mostly via Peter Jackson’s films.
And she explores the applicability of Hobbits to the WWI and WWII experiences of J.R.R. and Christopher Tolkien, and of the British folk in general.
Hobbits can be seen as the proxies for Tolkien’s children, but as with all things with the author, there’s also something much darker at play here. Tolkien abhorred any attempts to turn his Middle Earth books into simple allegories for the two world wars he lived and wrote through. Still it’s very hard not to see his hobbits as the “everyman” analogues for the pastoral Brits who were drawn into the horrors of the First World War and then the even greater terrors of WWII, as Tolkien and his sons were, respectively. In that way, Bilbo of The Hobbit—who is press-ganged into leaving his cozy hobbit hole by a wizard and a pack of dwarves—reminds us of the young J.R.R. Tolkien, who was so reluctant to go off to war at the tender age of 22 he used an academic deferral to delay enlisting.
In a 1941 letter to his son Michael, Tolkien recalled: “In those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly. It was a nasty cleft to be in for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage.” A few years later Tolkien did, reluctantly, go to war. He wrote: “Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute. Parting from my wife then … it was like a death.”
It’s a thought-provoking read. Go check it out.
DON’T FORGET! Joanna Robinson will be joining TORn Tuesday tomorrow from 5pm PT, 8pm ET to discuss her Rings of Power experience with Staffers Quickbeam and Justin. Join us then, and be sure to bring your own burning questions!