Riding in Carts with Hobbits - Michael Martinez' J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth
Here is an excerpt from Michael's September 30th Suite101 article:
There will probably never be a "Half-days of Thunder" movie, celebrating the wild cart-races between Hobbiton and Bywater. Hobbits by nature are a stay-at-home folk whose wildest risks tend to be along the lines of stealing mushrooms and getting in and out of boats. Sure, the occasional Took goes off to Sea, but until Gandalf enticed Bilbo and Frodo Baggins into wandering around Middle-earth, Hobbits had probably not spent much time outside their own lands for more than a thousand years.
There was a certain propriety which accompanied the literary Hobbit, a sense of "all was well right up until this point". And that was a false sense of propriety. The hobbits, like the Elves, had their own regrets and concerns. The Shire-folk had forgotten (or liked to pretend they had forgotten) that they once lived in Bree. Bree was now a foreign land. And before Bree they once lived in the lands east of the Weather Hills, or south of the Gwathlo river.
Hobbit stories don't become interesting until someone shakes up their lives. Every day, for many years, Hobbits will live quietly in their hills and gardens, and then one day someone comes along and takes away their innocence. It might be a Necromancer who turns Greenwood the Great into Mirkwood. Or it might be a Witch-king who unleashes a devastating series of wars. Or it could be a wandering wizard who decides he needs to set right a few wrongs, and realizes that Hobbits might just escape close scrutiny long enough to accomplish a few things.
Whatever the cause, there comes a day in many a Hobbit's life when he packs up the family in one or more carts and heads off into the countryside. Such migrations, or flights, have to be hard on anyone. The leaders of the ancient Helvetii, a group of Celtic tribes who lives in the Alps, east of Gaul (France), forced their people to burn their homes and villages. The Helvetii and their allies entered Gaul with nothing but their carts and such animals as they could keep with them. There was to be no turning back for them.
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