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the blonde

Tolkien is very English: The comforts of home and hearth are important.


And JRRT, like the young men of his generation, was shaped by the Great War, perhaps the single most catastrophic collision of "ambition" the West had even experienced. To someone who had survived the Western Front the notion of sitting quietly in his garden puffing some pipeweed must have seemed idyllic, indeed.


I'm listening currently to the BBC's adaptation of *The Lord of the Rings.* Thanks for enhancing my pleasure in it with your commentary.

After I read *The Hobbit,* I turned to *The Fellowship of the Ring* and found that I couldn't read it. I didn't succeed until three years later, when I read the trilogy properly, and I always see it as the difference between hobbits.

With Bilbo Baggins, we have the delight in a chap with a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself. He finds he's up to the task of being the burglar for the dwarves and is, as the elf-king notes, a deal worthier to wear the mithril coat than others upon whom it would be more comely. Afterwards, he gets to be his Shire-self again for sixty years.

With Frodo Baggins, we have someone who has to display a lot more than anyone should have to display, and who is, sadly, not up to the task, requiring Gollum and Sam on Mount Doom to succeed in his quest. He returns to the Shire and helps save it, but it is not saved for him. Within two years, he leaves Middle-earth for Valinor.

They're both heroes, but it's easier to travel with Bilbo than with Frodo.


The English have always had a less favorable view of ambition than we Americans. A lot of this is that they have a class based system and feel that people should know their place. English writers, especially, tend to be hardest on the middle class. The rising store owner or "spiralist" corporate executive tends to get the full force of their satire.

At least the British are not braggarts. If nothing else, their battle poetry is usually about disasters and full of understatement. If you take 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' as representative, you might wonder how England established a global military empire.

Tolkien wrote about his hobbits in the 1930s when Germany, Japan and Italy were rattling their sabers, and poor little England just wanted to sit at home peacefully running its empire in all 24 time zones. There was always a certain hypocrisy about the empire, partly because the empire involved surprisingly few people, a lot like our "war on terror".

Going for a promotion, getting an education or starting a business does not mean giving up friends and family. I've known many people who have founded and sold businesses, won major awards in that hell hole of the entertainment business, turned small laboratories into research powerhouses, and still had happy family lives and kept up with their friends.

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