21 September 2016 marks seventy nine years since The Hobbit was published changing the lives of many children and adults alike forever. Depending on your view, 22 September is Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday. Strictly speaking, there is some debate about when Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday should be celebrated due to the differences between Shire Reckoning and today’s conventional calendar system. For the sake of simplicity, and the convenient anniversary of The Hobbit, let’s stick to 21 and 22 September. To paraphrase Gandalf, some other time would be more fitting for the history of calendars. If encouraged with undue patience, I’ll sit on the edge of ruin and drone on endlessly, so without further ado, here are 11 and 1 things to do to honour Bilbo and Frodo.
1. Have a long expected/unexpected party
The Hobbit opens with “An Unexpected Party” and The Lord of the Rings opens with “A Long Expected Party” so you can take your pick.
Perhaps you have been looking forward to this for weeks, or maybe time has been slipping between your fingers. At any rate, have a party to celebrate!
2. Reread your favourite passages
I know it is hard to choose your favourite passages, but select a few of your most cherished extracts to indulge in the rich and textured language of the master storyteller.
3. Dress up as your favourite character
Walk around barefoot
Dress in bright colours, “chiefly green and yellow”
(The Hobbit, An Expected Party)
4. Signal the start of your meal with fireworks
“The fireworks were by Gandalf: they were not only brought by him, but designed and made by him; and the special effects, set pieces, and flights of rockets were let off by him. But there was also a generous distribution of squibs, crackers, backarappers, sparklers, torches, dwarf-candles, elffountains, goblin-barkers and thunder-claps. They were all superb. The art of Gandalf improved with age.
There were rockets like a flight of scintillating birds singing with sweet voices. There were green trees with trunks of dark smoke: their leaves opened like a whole spring unfolding in a moment, and their shining branches dropped glowing flowers down upon the astonished hobbits, disappearing with a sweet scent just before they touched their upturned faces. There were fountains of butterflies that flew glittering into the trees; there were pillars of coloured fires that rose and turned into eagles, or sailing ships, or a phalanx of flying swans; there was a red thunderstorm and a shower of yellow rain; there was a forest of silver spears that sprang suddenly into the air with a yell like an embattled army, and came down again into the Water with a hiss like a hundred hot snakes. And there was also one last surprise, in honour of Bilbo, and it startled the hobbits exceedingly, as Gandalf intended. The lights went out. A great smoke went up. It shaped itself like a mountain seen in the distance, and began to glow at the summit. It spouted green and scarlet flames. Out flew a red-golden dragon – not life-size, but terribly life-like: fire came from his jaws, his eyes glared down; there was a roar, and he whizzed three times over the heads of the crowd. They all ducked, and many fell flat on their faces. The dragon passed like an express train, turned a somersault, and burst over Bywater with a deafening explosion.
‘That is the signal for supper!’”
(The Fellowship of the Ring, The Long Expected Party)
5. Have two dinners
Hobbits love food, and have dinner “twice a day when they can get it”
(The Hobbit, An Unexpected Party)
6. Fill your meals with mushrooms
“Hobbits have a passion for mushrooms, surpassing even the greediest likings of Big People. A fact which partly explains young Frodo’s long expeditions to the renowned fields of the Marish, and the wrath of the injured Maggot.”
(The Fellowship of the Ring, A Conspiracy Unmasked)
7. Conclude your meal with lembas or honey cakes
It’s tough to decide between lembas or the honey cakes of the Beornings. So why not both? It is the Hobbit way.
“The food was mostly in the form of very thin cakes, made of a meal that was baked a light brown on the outside, and inside was the colour of cream.”
(The Fellowship of the Ring, Farewell to Lórien)
8. Laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner)
(The Hobbit, An Expected Party)
9. Practice the art of smoking
“There is another astonishing thing about Hobbits of old that must be mentioned, an astonishing habit: they imbibed or inhaled, through pipes of clay or wood, the smoke of the burning leaves of a herb, which they called pipe-weed or leaf, a variety probably of Nicotiana. A great deal of mystery surrounds the origin of this peculiar custom, or ‘art’ as the Hobbits preferred to call it”
(The Lord of the Rings, Prologue)
10. Challenge everyone to the riddle-game
No party is complete without games. Just be careful not to cheat: “the riddle-game was sacred and of immense antiquity, and even wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they played at it.”
(The Hobbit, Riddles in the Dark)
11. Play darts (or some other aiming game)
Bilbo “used to practise throwing stones at things, until rabbits and squirrels, and even birds, got out of his way as quick as lightning if they saw him stoop; and even grownup he had still spent a deal of his time at quoits, dart-throwing, shooting at the wand, bowls, ninepins and other quiet games of the aiming and throwing sort”
(The Hobbit, Flies and Spiders)
And 1. Go on an unexpected adventure
Like Bilbo, you might claim that you have “no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”
But deep down inside, you know you are thirsting for adventure. The familiar paths are well-worn, and your feet call you to a new road.
Upon the hearth the fire is red,
Beneath the roof there is a bed;
But not yet weary are our feet,
Still round the corner we may meet
A sudden tree or standing stone
That none have seen but we alone.
Tree and flower and leaf and grass,
Let them pass! Let them pass!
Hill and water under sky,
Pass them by! Pass them by!
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.
Apple, thorn, and nut and sloe,
Let them go! Let them go!
Sand and stone and pool and dell,
Fare you well! Fare you well!
Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We’ll wander back to home and bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
Fire and lamp, and meat and bread,
And then to bed! And then to bed!
(The Fellowship of the Ring, Three is Company)
How do you plan to celebrate Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday?
Tolkien, J.R.R. (1937). The Hobbit. George Allen and Unwin.
Tolkien, J.R.R. (1954). The Lore of the Rings. George Allen and Unwin.