On this episode we look at the prologue to The Lord Of The Rings and pay particular attention to the section titled Concerning Hobbits. What can we learn about Hobbits from this primer? What can we learn about ourselves? All that and much more on this episode of The Secret Fire Podcast.
Prologue As A Primer
A prologue serves as a means by which pertinent information is provided for the purpose of assisting the reader or audience to better understand the story that follows. It provides context and background information. Often these details are taken from earlier tales and serves as a vehicle to relate the old and new. The fancy seven-dollar word for this is intertextuality, and J.R.R. Tolkien is a master of this craft – as we see here.
The bulk of the prologue to The Lord Of The Rings is – to borrow from the text – concerning Hobbits. Readers loved The Hobbit. Tolkien’s publishers, Allen and Unwin, practically begged him to write a sequel. In fact Stanley Unwin wrote to the Professor in October, 1937 that a large public would be “clamoring next year to hear more from you about Hobbits!” Here was his response:
“I cannot think of anything more to say about hobbits. Mr Baggins seems to have exhibited so fully both the Took and the Baggins side of their nature.” – Letter 17
Thankfully, J.R.R. Tolkien’s muse came to him bearing bountiful gifts! What wonderful glimpses we get into the history of Hobbits in this prologue. And what a primer it is for the tale that follows it. We explore some of them on this episode of The Secret Fire Podcast in order to lean more concerning Hobbits.
One characteristic not only concerning Hobbits, but is concerning about them, is that they are – for lack of better word – isolationists. The ease and comforts enjoyed within the Shire dulled their concern about anything outside of it. In fact, as Tolkien wrote, “there in that pleasant corner of the world … they heeded less and less the world outside where dark things moved, until they came to think that peace and plenty were the rule in Middle-earth and the right of all sensible folk.”
In essence, the Hobbits of the Shire were hiding their lights under a basket. Their salt had lost its flavor. They were being no Middle-eartly good.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
– Matthew 5:14-16 NRSV
But something is about to change. And that is the grand adventure we want you to have with us!
Sent To Burn At The Heart Of The World
On The Secret Fire Podcast we travel chapter-by-chapter and book-by-book through J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth viewing it through Christian lenses. We invite you to join us each week as we continue the adventure on the Arkenstone server in Lord Of The Rings Online. We meet at the Three Farthing Stone in the Shire.
You may listen to the podcast by using the audio player at the top of this post, or use the links below for other convenient ways to subscribe and listen.
Theme song: Hobbit’s Dance by Brobdingnagian Bards