Quests are Hard to Start! Tolkien Thursday Part 1


 Fellowship of the Ring: The Birthday

Remember those times when you were reading a really great book, and your mother or father called you and you just knew that they needed you to do some job for them? So you, eyes glued to the page, raised your voice and shouted, “Just lemme read the rest of this chapter!”

 With Tolkien, the rest of the chapter could take quite some time.

 The audacity of starting a serious fantasy epic with a birthday party is something that I have to both admire and giggle at. Most ‘serious’ fantasy writers can’t wait to get into the gore, the revealed prophecy, the destruction of innocent lives that shatters the heroes previous peaceful lives. Tolkien goes for the slow reveal, giving small hints here and there that not everything about Bilbo Baggins and his ring are entirely ordinary.

 As I was contemplating the story, I also tried to pick something to knit along with the book that would fit some aspect, character or something that seemed more Tolkienesque than the usual knit. My mind kept going back to the Marr Haven merino that I had stashed away, but I couldn’t settle on what to knit. My personal quest is starting a bit bumpily, I grumbled.

 To my own surprise, I found that my favorite character was beginning to be Bilbo. His eccentrities, his difference among all the faceless hordes of hobbits. Finally, I did settle on the Marr Haven—because it is gently processed wool, with some lanolin in it—it felt as though it still had some sheepy soul left in it, and I’m sure that hobbits also knitted!

 First, before I tell you what I’m knitting, I have to share one of my favorite passages from among the chapters that I’ve read, because I think it embodies the delicate, final time balanced between the previous peace and the coming war.

  • Inside Bag End, Bilbo and Gandalf were sitting at the open window of a small room looking out west on to the garden. The late afternoon was bright and peaceful. The flowers glowed red and golden: snap-dragons and sunflowers and nastriums trailing all over the turf walls and peeping in at the round window.

        “How bright your garden looks!” said Gandalf.

        “Yes,” said Bilbo,” I’m very fond indeed of it, and of all the dear old Shire; but I think I need a holiday.”

        “You mean to go on with your plan then?”

        “I do. I made up my mind months ago, and I haven’t changed it.”

        “Very well. It is no good saying anymore. Stick to your plan-your whole plan, mind-and I hope it will turn out for the best, for you, and for all of us.”

 I enjoyed just typing that out. And I have decided to knit a simple pair of socks—no special pattern or anything, just a simple pair of worsted weight socks from the merino, tightly knit on size 5 needles. (They stand up on their own!) They will be comfortable—it’s merino, for heaven’s sake!—but also practically warm and woolly.

 I’m dedicating these socks to Tolkien–I envision them as his house socks—and to all writers who enjoy the comfort of a favorite pair of socks when they write.



April 9, 2008. Tolkien Thursdays, works-in-progress.


  1. Jen replied:

    Socks. I love it. I’m thinking some sort of fantastic shawl, airy and lacy, something dramatic, something fitting a grand adventure…but then, I was partial to the elves.

    Socks. Very hobbitish. Not that they wore socks–or needed them, for that matter–but I think they would approve.

  2. Molly/nerdclub2000 replied:

    You have been tagged, I have tagged you, etc.
    See <<there for more information.


  3. jenfromri replied:

    Oh, definitely hobbits knitted. And I bet they wore some woolly house socks on those giant hairy feet from time to time.

    I love Tolkien’s books – I’m one of those geeks that rereads the whole series every year or so. They never get old. Is this your first time through?

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