We’re celebrating our 50th episode with a very special trip to Middle-earth! Grace and Madeleine (and visiting pal Jordan!) revisit their very first fantasy novel, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. We indulge in our own creative Gollum interpretations, pick our favorite songs, and generally have a great time adventuring to the Lonely Mountain as retconned female characters. Join our unexpected party! Thank you so much for listening!!
Our childhood copy’s cover:
The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, sung by Leonard Nimoy:
The 1977 Rankin/Bass film adaptation feat. scary Gollum
Peter S. Beagle’s introduction to our edition (Beagle fans should check out our Last Unicorn episode!) -
It’s been fifteen years at this writing since I first came across THE LORD OF THE RINGS in the stacks at Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh. I’d been looking for the book for four years, ever since reading W.H. Auden’s review in the New York Times. I think of that time now - and the years after, when the trilogy continued to be hard to find and hard to explain to most friends - with an undeniable nostalgia. It was a barren era for fantasy, among other things, but a good time for cherishing slighted treasures and mysterious passwords. Long before “Frodo Lives!” began to appear in the New York subways, J.R.R. Tolkien was the magus of my secret knowledge.
I’ve never thought it was an accident that Tolkien’s works waited more than ten years to explode into popularity almost overnight. The Sixties were no fouler a decade than the Fifties - they merely reaped the Fifties’ foul harvest - but they were the years when millions of people grew aware that the industrial society had become paradoxically unlivable, incalculably immoral, and ultimately deadly. In terms of passwords, the Sixties were the time when the word “progress” lost its ancient holiness, and “escape” stopped being comically obscene. The impulse is being called reactionary now, but lovers of Middle-earth want to go there. I would myself, like a shot.
For in the end it is Middle-earth and its dwellers that we love, not Tolkien’s considerable gifts in showing it to us. I said once that the world he charts was there long before him, and I still believe it. He is a great enough magician to tap our most common nightmares, daydreams and twilight fancies, but he never invented them either: he found them a place to live, a green alternative to each day’s madness here in a poisoned world. We are raised to honor all the wrong explorers and discoverers - thieves planting flags, murderers carrying crosses. Let us at last praise the colonizers of dreams.
- Peter S. Beagle
14 July 1973