Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
The Schmooze

Happy Hobbit Day, the Jewish Way

Every year, a great day dawns on Middle Earth. I’m speaking of course, of September 22 — Hobbit Day, for those who didn’t grow up on a steady diet of tales of rings, angry wizards, and small creatures with big feet.

According to “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings,” both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins are said to be born on September 22, though on different years (Bilbo in the year of 2890 and Frodo in the year 2968 in the Third Age —  yes, I looked it up. This is, sadly, not knowledge I carry in my brain at all times).

In addition to celebrating two of the Shire’s most adventurous citizens, Hobbit Day also launches Tolkien Week, celebrated every year since it was launched in 1978 by the American Tolkien Society.

Which brings us to the Jewish connexion. No, Frodo and Bilbo are not secret Jews (believe me, I tried to make that theory work). And as Seth Rogovoy pointed out in his review of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”: “Sometimes, a bearded, money-grubbing dwarf is just a bearded, money-grubbing dwarf and not an evil, anti-Semitic stand-in for Jews.”

But J.R.R. Tolkien, creator of Middle Earth, Elvish, Sauron and the One Ring, was something of a Judeophile. When asked to provide verification of his Aryan status for a German publisher that wanted to put out a German translation of his work, Tolkien refused:

“I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware noone (sic) of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.”

Describing the incident to a friend, he wrote:

“Do I suffer this impertinence because of the possession of a German name, or do their lunatic laws require a certificate of arisch origin from all persons of all countries?… Personally I should be inclined to refuse to give any Bestatigung [confirmation] (although it happens that I can), and let a German translation go hang. In any case I should object strongly to any such declaration appearing in print. I do not regard the (probable) absence of all Jewish blood as necessarily honourable; and I have many Jewish friends, and should regret giving any colour to the notion that I subscribed to the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine.”

And so, on this most auspicious of days, we here at the Forward wish Frodo and Bilbo Baggins a very happy birthday! (Pro-tip: If you want to celebrate in a quiet and non-life threatening way, maybe make sure Gandalf’s invite gets lost on the way)

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.