Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hobbit = Hobhouse + Hitler?

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien never knew where he got the word hobbit from.

In a hole in a ground, there lived a hobbit.

My first Dutch reading included the Dutch translation of this sentence. My first reading of Tolkien overall included the Swedish translation of it.

Was there something prophetic about it?

You are in a snug home, someone is in that camp - are you Hobhouse or Hitler*? Or shall we say hob-hit** if you stick your head in a hole in the ground and can't decide? Maybe your comforts are the hole in the sand you stick your head in, after all ...

I think Bilbo Baggins clearly came on the Hobhouse side of the equation. Both by the mercy on Gollum and by the bashfulness over stealing from the Elfking and by the pity on the homeless men in laketown.

Or shall we say that Bard was a way of telling Hitler who he could have been, perhaps could yet be if he wanted? A bit like what Charlie Chaplin did in the end scene of The Dictator, though Tolkien was closer to the real concerns, if not the unreal solutions of the dictator: building homes and security and bypassing selfish parlamentarian oligarchs of Laketown ... still, if he ever dreamed a moment of giving him such a nudge, the events deceived him. Hitler was not a Hobhouse for camp prisoners, not entirely so, no. Except in some moments of mixed revenge and professional solidarity, the Jewish artists of Theresienstadt.

Nevertheless, he made it clear his human intention was not to write an allegory. He preferred applicability, I hope one day in paradise to know, though I cannot ask him here, to know what he thinks of mine. I might ask his kin what they think of it, but by now the Tolkien Estate have so many letters from me, they nearly deserve to get a pen (or pc) in gift from Bilbo.

That, and that alone, stops me from sending them this one.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Marguérite Audoux Library
Paris III
Sts Marinus and Asterius

* Obviously Boer War and WW-II being two different wars historically is no obstacle to comparing comparables from them. In Spain one can ask which side of 36 - 39 was really closer to Valerià Weyler i Nicolau in the Cuban war, even if those two are different too.

** If I am correct that Hiedler was never pronounced like in Hannover, but imposed partly as a joke on orthography, like "Bapst" instead of "Pabst", marking indifference of D/T distinction and of long/short vowel distinction, it might be a form of what in more standard German would be Hütt(e)ler - and "hit" would be = "hütte" = "hut". So, since hut = house, Hob-hit would be closer to Hobhouse than to Hütteler, since incorporating two notions instead of one. But my Bavarian is pretty close to nil, except for accent while speaking High German and for Austrian food items. Don't ask for "Tomaten" in Vienna, they are called "Paradeiser"!

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