Three days ago, on March 14, the day Samwise saved Frodo from the tower at Cirith Ungol, The Wisdom of Hobbits: Unearthing Our Humanity at 3 Bagshot Row was published. Which means, yes, I am officially a major Tolkien nerd.
In this book, I attempt to make the case that by living more like Hobbits, we humans will discover more happiness, joy, and bliss. And though I don’t have an idealized version of this diminutive race — I say as much all throughout the book — I do believe that at their best, they are perfect models for us “big folk.”
In an attempt to sway you, I’d like to share the preface with you. Enjoy!
For my entire adult life, I have been enamored with all the goings on in Middle-earth. From the sheer scope and size of The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, to the way in which J.R.R. Tolkien uses prose to describe the world he so painstakingly but lovingly created, everything about Middle-earth fascinates me. Though I have a love and appreciation for Elves, Dwarves, and Men, nothing piques my interest or tugs at my heartstrings more than Hobbits. A quick glance at me and you’d have to conclude that I could never be counted among them; I am quite tall, slender yet fairly muscular, and don’t have hairy feet (though they sometimes end up on the table). I do not particularly like social gatherings, am not enamored with gift-giving (though according to Michael am quite adept at it), nor do I look forward to my own birthday party. However, where I miss the mark in terms of stature and social prowess, I more than make up for in my ability to smoke from a pipe and tend to a garden. Like Tolkien, it is in these qualities where I am a Hobbit in all but size.
I am also a writer, though not to the same degree as Tolkien. I have yet to create a world of fiction, and will never create my own mythologies or languages. However, where I lack in world building, I make up for in interpretation—in taking the works of others and teasing out the philosophical, ethical, and psychological truths contained therein.
That is where this project comes in.
Hobbits have so much wisdom to offer us, and my goal here is to elucidate for you just what those qualities are. If, at the end of reading this book, you desire to start living more like a Hobbit, then I will have done my job. If, in turn, living more like a Hobbit brings more peace, happiness, and contentment to your life (to your own personal Shire), that would make me more joyous than a Baggins stumbling upon a shortcut to mushrooms.
Of course, not everyone is as obsessed with Tolkien’s world as I am. Others, like the many scholars and other aficionados to whom I read and listened to in preparation for this book, are perhaps even more so. The folks who deserve the most praise include Dr. Tom Shippey, Dr. Verlyn Flieger, Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, Dr. Corey Olsen, Alan Sisto, and Shawn E. Marchese. With their scholarship in mind, as well as the many Tolkien books I have digested over the years, I will be tasked with the following: to strike a balance between inundating my readers with random facts, dates, Tolkien quotes, and footnotes, and glossing over the finer details of what it means to be a Hobbit. In other words, I want to refrain from scaring off casual Tolkien fans but also avoid embarrassing myself in front of any potential Tolkien scholars who may happen upon this book. All in all, there will no doubt be random facts about Hobbits, as well as a good deal of footnotes. But please don’t think of this book as a detailed history of Middle-earth or even Hobbit lore. That is not the point here. The point will be twofold: To show you exactly why the wisdom of Hobbits is so meaningful, thereby inspiring you to apply what you’ve learned to your own life. The finer details of Hobbit tradition will just be there to bring color to the pages and strengthen the arguments I am attempting to make.
So, why write this book and why now?
It’s simple, really. It’s my heartfelt contention, based on forty years of existence, that Western culture has, by and large, fallen out of love with the simple life. We’ve taken for granted what makes us most grounded. We pass by people in the streets, never considering where they have come from or where they are going. We pass by produce in the stores and fail in many of the same ways. We think that we will find the most happiness on social media, doom-scrolling through our feeds without so much of an idea as to what, exactly, we are looking for. In short, we go through life on autopilot, never smelling the nasturtians, or noticing the singing thrushes, or feeling the cool autumn breeze on our faces.
In applying the wisdom of Hobbits, however, we will start recognizing these things more frequently. We’ll recognize our need to connect with the earth, our need to go on an adventure, our need to have a comfortable bed to come home to when our bodies get weary, and perhaps most importantly, our need for fine fellowship among fellow Hobbits. With the help of Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, the Gaffer, Elanor, Farmers Maggot and Cotton, and others, we will begin to slow down, to appreciate the sights, sounds, tastes, feelings, and smells of everything around us. As we reflect on the stories of Hobbits both great and small, we will start to acknowledge that perhaps we’ve been too hasty throughout our lives. As we put into practice the things we discover, we will no doubt find ourselves living a more peaceful life, connected to the earth, full of awareness and presence, and replete with an appreciation for even the seemingly mundane aspects of it.
That is my hope, anyway. It is my hope that the wisdom of Hobbits can be applied in a universal way, and that by doing so, we will start to become more connected to the earth and each other. But if not, then the words of Gandalf, wise as they are, give me great comfort, and take away some of the pressure I have put on myself to do more than my part in altering our course. I leave them with you now, in hopes they can bring you comfort as well:
It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.
Also, if you’ve been digging my work on here, and want to see me be able to continue writing as close to full-time as humanly possible, please take a look at my Patreon page at www.patreon.com/mjdistefano. Even $1 a month helps bigly!