Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, Bilbo and Frodo?

I've been celebrating Bilbo and Frodo's birthday (an event that has come to be known as Hobbit Day in the wider world) more of less since I saw my first Tolkien calendar in 1977. For quite a few years, every September 14th I'd try to scrounge up some sort of feast for friends and family, even if it was only some root beer and Little Debbie Cakes.

Wait a minute, you might say. The Birthday was on September 22nd. It says so in the book. It's canon, dammit. What's this 14th biz?

Well, so it does. The story goes Tolkien chose September 22nd as Bilbo's birth date, because that was the day he misremembered as the publication date of The Hobbit (it was actually the 21st). But he also clearly states in the Appendices that there is a difference between the Shire Reckoning and the Gregorian Calendar. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about that:

"Due to the discrepancies between the Shire calendar and the Gregorian calendar there is some debate about when to celebrate Hobbit Day, since the actual birthday would be between September 12 and 14 the Gregorian calendar, as explained in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings." [The movable spread over those dates is due to optional days in the Shire Reckoning.]

The people who put together those early calendars were loyal nerds of the most devoted stripe, and had to set down the "actual" date. The fandom is a little looser, more casual these days, and it is a lot easier just to say "Happy Birthday" on the day it says right there in Chapter One, without worrying about those fusty old calculations in the back.

So, that's when I celebrate now, too. It is close to the publication of the book that started the whole business (for the public anyway), and most of the geek-world (especially the movie fandom) does it, so it's convenient. But I can't help but feel a little contrarian, and a little bit guilty, even though it's simply wishing two imaginary characters well on their made-up birthday.

No comments: