Hobbit Club: January 2019

This is part of the Hobbit Club series

This month we opened our book club with what we understand was J.R.R. Tolkien’s favorite prayer: The Litany of Mother Mary. We Catholics love our litanies. They are so soothing while also inviting contemplation. Our Lord despises vain repetitions, but He did not object to repetition. In fact, Christ prayed perfectly as a Jew and that meant a lot of meaningful repetition. Litanies let us pray like Christ did while we contemplate something He loves – in this case His mother. This video was a nice touch. We airplayed it to the t.v. and we let the video do the leading, which gave us more of an opportunity to let the rhythm wash over us as we prayed.

In previous clubs, we have noted the musicality of Tolkien’s poetry. We have talked about how his long narrative descriptions can feel like a background soundtrack to the action and story development. When I stumbled upon this interesting video about how the Howard Shore soundtrack elevates the story in the movies, I knew that it was a great tie-in with what we have talked about. We watched this video together and talked about it for a while. There are quite a few serious musicians among our number, so this was a particularly fruitful conversation.

Note: this video is brilliant and many others on this channel are equally compelling. That said, parents may wish to preview anything from Nerdwriter1 – some interesting content sneaks into some of the otherwise great videos.

This month we had a very short reading assignment – just “The White Rider” through “The Palantir.” Those chapters, however, are rich with discussion material. We spent most of our time after the music conversation on two topics: Merry and Pippin’s greeting of the Fellowship at Isengard, and the kingly roles of Theoden and Aragorn.

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Thanks in part to a growing body of Catholic men who love Chesterton, Lewis, Tolkien, et al, pipe smoking is making a comeback. Despite Generation X and older Millennials being raised with firm admonitions to avoid tobacco of all kinds, Catholic men of a certain age are following Sam Guzman’s (The Catholic Gentleman) lead and are investing in good pipes and good tobacco. Nearly all of the guys in our Hobbit Club have dabbled in this hobbit-approved pastime. Now that we are all talking about it with each other, we are quite certain that there will be pipes at our warm weather meetings where the guys can smoke outside. Becoming more and more hobbit-like is our objective!

We served our second Middle Earth home-brew from our Unexpected Brewery – Second Breakfast Oatmeal Stout. It was appreciated by all of the hobbits present. 

Merry and Pippin prove themselves to be complex and fascinating. Their greeting of the Fellowship at Isengard reveals both a perpetual innocence and a deepening maturity that we found fascinating. We talked at length about the nuances of their meeting – the focus on food, the need to smoke together, etc. In spite of the war that is raging around them, they always remind the group to practice good fellowship. Their innocence is life-giving and lifts the spirits of the war-weary elf, dwarf, and King, but we also note that they are maturing and getting more serious too.

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The relationship between Theoden and Aragorn is fascinating to us. Aragorn, the high king, the most valuable man in Middle Earth, is eminently noble and virtuous. Honorable always, he treats Theoden with reverence while seeking to protect the venerable old king. Here, we think that the movie gets it all wrong. Theoden is portrayed as being weak and Aragorn as a bully. The book so clearly shows us that Theoden is noble and courageous, but being restrained by younger men (Aragorn included) who seek to protect him. It was a beautiful portrayal of a father-son-like relationship.

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Finally, one more of those rare scenes where the movie changes the book but does in a way that is absolutely wonderful. In this scene from Helm’s Deep, we think that the spiritual interplay is perfect. Aragorn suiting up for battle looks like the Christian soldier who is putting on the armor of God. As he does so, the horns of the elves are heard and his spirit is renewed. We think we know why Tolkien did not include the elves in Helm’s Deep, but we love to see them there anyway. Seeing elves in that dark place reminds us that angels do battle around us all day long. This scene is fantastic for a visual of spiritual warfare. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51BE_zrpyoU

For February, one of our members dared us to make rabbit stew since we will be reading “Herbs and Stewed Rabbit.” I will report back on how that turns out! We bought some brewed rabbit beer just in case the stewed rabbit isn’t a hit.

Fellow Hobbit Club members thought that my family needed this tremendous Lord of the Rings 4D puzzle. I thought that I would share here for those who might be looking for an awesome gift idea. We have been working on it as a family for a month!