Another Hobbit Feast Under Wraps

The Inklings Roundtable of Houston held its monthly dinner party at the Hobbit Cafe on Richmond last night. We switched back from the Black Labrador in part because of sentimental reasons (I guess) and in part because we felt like the Black Lab was no longer treating us nicely.

The Hobbit Cafe enclosed one of its porches while we were patronizing the competition and I have to admit that small though the room be, it was fairly quiet. The Hobbit Cafe is one of the noisiest eating places I’ve ever been to (perhaps because it’s always packed?) so a quiet side room is a major plus.

The dinner topic was “Hobbits” and we only digressed into Balrogs for a couple of short whiles. I have no idea of why, but several people became fascinated with calculating how far Gandalf and the Balrog must have fallen in the movie (failing to take into consideration that they had no idea what the Balrog was made of). They concluded the distance fallen must have been about 5.6 miles (approximately 29,000 feet, or about the height of Mount Everest).

One of the Hobbit-related topics that came up was where the little guys came from, always one of my favorite mysteries. We know that they first hit the legends and history books in the Vales of Anduin, but they didn’t always live there and one of my speculations through the years has been that they migrated to the northern Vales of Anduin from lands east of Mirkwood early in the Third Age. I would guess maybe around the end of the 5th century (when the first Easterling invasion of the Third Age occurred).

Cedar of Lebanon treeWe also delved deep into just exactly how Bag End was conditioned. Apparently (according to The Hobbit) it had tiled floors and paneled walls. What sort of wood-paneling would a Hobbit hole have? We didn’t look through the books to find out, but some rooms were devoted mostly to clothes. I asked what Bilbo would have done about moths and several people suggested he would have used cedar paneling. Do they have cedar trees in England? (Not that the Shire is to be equated with England, but rather, did Tolkien even think of cedar trees)?

According to The Royal Forestry Society Cedar Trees Are Not Native to the British Isles. Cedars are, in fact, relative newcomers. There are several species of trees called “cedar”, but some are actually from the Juniper family. Cedars are native to dry, rocky regions and are found in high altitudes like the Atlas Mountains, the Himalayas, and such. Tolkien only uses the word “cedar” twice in The Lord of the Rings. Once when describing groves of trees near Rivendell and in “Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit”, where Sam adds a fallen cedar branch to his campfire.

Nonetheless, cedar trees are mentioned often in fan fiction and Michael J. Brisbois talks about them in “Tolkien’s Imaginary Nature: An Analysis of the Structure of Middle-earth” (Tolkien Studies 2.1, West Virginia University Press, 2005). People must just like the way cedar trees (or juniper trees) smell, and they make an everlasting impression. Of course, every girl wants a cedar chest for her hope chest, right? Or maybe cherry wood. But I digress.

Next month, we’ll be singing and/or reciting songs from The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings, and any other Tolkien book or source we can think of. And after we have gotten tired of that, I guess the topic will be “The Wars of Middle-earth” (for no particular reason, although this summer marks the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, which many people feel had a strong influence on Tolkien’s writing).