Tolkien’s fan service (J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings)

I read Tolkien’s “Canon”, that is, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, every year about Christmas. So also this year.

When I read through the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring again, I stumbled over all those small things that remind about The Hobbit. Going through them more systematically, it is clear that Tolkien started out wanting to create a sequal, and he uses a lot of small details to bind the first chapters of the new book closely to the previous one.

Starting with the title, A long expected party, of course closely mimicking the Hobbit’s first chapter An unexpected party. During Bilbo’s feast, Gandalf shows off his firework display, as he did on the Old Tooks parties a long time ago, according to The Hobbit. The firework elements themselves reminiscing parts of the story of the Hobbit. The trees of Greenwood the Great (or Mirkwood if you like), complete with butterflies. Then there are the eagles, a thunderstorm, an embattled army of elves with silver spears, and of course, the mountain and the dragon as the Grand Finale. Then Bilbo holds his speech, reminding the bored guests about his coming to Esgaroth on his 50th birthday, before he makes his special exit.

After Bilbo has disappeared in a flash and a bang, and left 144 flabbergasted guests back in the pavillion, we follow him and Gandalf back into Bag End. Here we see him pulling out his old treasures from The Hobbit; His sword Sting, the green cloak and hood that he borrowed from Dwalin (rather too large for him), and of course, his journey’s diary, the actual Hobbit book itself, nicely written into the story, and, as he tells Gandalf, he has written an end for it: “And he lived happily ever after, to the end of his days”, like the book actually ends. Gandalf reminds Bilbo about the will – the contract with Frodo if you like, that should be put on the same place as Bilbo found his own contract 77 years earlier, by the clock on the mantlepiece. He then sets out with dwarves, again.

At Crickhollow, the evening before the hobbits set out together, Merry and Pippin has made a song mimicking the song the Dwarves sang before Thorin and company set out. Out on the road, Frodo and his merry followers visit a tavern, like Thorin’s travelling party is said to have done too. They enter the wilder region, and Frodo and company sees the hills with old ruins on them, just like Bilbo did. After crossing the same stone bridge, they even discover the trolls that Gandalf tricked to stay out until the dawn made them to stone. Finally, the second book of the Fellowship starts with a rest in Elrond’s house, as did Bilbo.

Tolkien’s eye for details gives the fans of The Hobbit great value for their money, and a world full of small well-known nuggets to get comfortable before the quest takes off into the parts of Middle-Earth where they have not travelled before.

Are there more hints of the Hobbit in The Fellowship of the Ring than those listed here? I probably missed a lot of them.

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