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Saving the Precious - or hands off our Bilbo! - Save The Hobbit in Southampton
It’s as British as fish and chips and Robin Hood.
The Hobbit has been part of our folklore for several generations.
So quite why an American movie mogul thinks he can demand that a pub in Southampton change its name is beyond me.
Because if Saul Zaentz thinks the good people of this Shire – Hampshire – are going to give in to this particular Dark Lord then he doesn’t know the folk of Middle Earth very well.
Mr Zaentz, multi-millionnaire of the parish of Hollywood – from now on to be known as Mordor (stay with me, but it helps if you know the Lord of the Rings saga) – has bought the rights to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. It allows him to create films and other merchandise connected to the characters and fantasy stories of one of Britain’s greatest authors. The deal is certain to make him a pretty penny to add to his pile of gold which he no doubt keeps deep in some cavern beneath Mount Doom guarded by a dragon answering to the name of Smorg. But I digress.
But as with all Dark Lords he won’t rest until all of his enemies are vanquished, enemies that include anyone daring to use the name of any of the characters from the books. That includes, his lawyers say, The Hobbit pub in Southampton’s Bevois Valley Road.
The fact The Hobbit has gone by that name for the past 20-years, far longer than Mr Z has owned the rights to the books and certainly longer than Hollywood’s interest in the whole Hobbit saga means nothing to the American mogul.
But for us Brits it means a great deal. It is confirmation that The Hobbit – be he Bilbo Baggins, Frodo, Sam, Pippin or Merry (oh yes, I know my Tolkien) – is as part of our folklore now as Robin Hood, King Arthur and Widow Twanky. As such his name should be free to grace whatever pub sign we wish it to.
But there’s more to this. Although Tolkien himself believed he had made up the name Hobbit, in fact recent research seems to indicate that the term was already in existence. Sources say the term appears in the Denham Tracts, edited by James Hardy, (London: Folklore Society, 1895), which contains a long list of sprites and bogies, based on an older list, the Discovery of Witchcraft, dated 1584. These references include: boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies and dunnies. Some experts believe that It seems likely that Tolkien, with his interest in folklore, read this and subconsciously registered the name, reviving it many years later in his most famous character.
As such, The Hobbit is surely as free to use as the bogeyman.
After this paper broke the news of The Hobbit pub’s plight several big hitters waded in, including local MP Alan Whitehead.
But we should aim even higher for political support. The PM is at present in the US meeting with President Obama. Surely he could have a quiet word and set the record straight.
“Barak,” he could say, as they settle into the State Banquet at the Whitehouse, “I need to talk to you about a group of oppressed British citizens your countrymen are harassing.”
“Are they a vote-winning cause?” The President will enquire.
To which Mr Cameron could respond: “They’re cute, quite hairy and have enormous feet, but have more followers that the Kardashians.”
It’s worth a shot - my Precious.