Friday, June 15, 2007

Pastiche? This ain’t no stinking pastiche…

You will unfortunately have to apply the faux-Mexican bandito intonation to the title yourself...

There is a folk etymology of the word ‘Hobbit’, appearing in several essays in that book of essays 'Tolkien and the Critics' I was reading a while back, which suggests it might be derived from ‘Hobb’ and ‘rabbit’: hence, echoes of Robin Goodfellow and Flopsy and Mopsy et al.

However, I am sure that I read somewhere that Tolkien himself said once that it may have been inspired by ‘hole’ and ‘Babbitt’. This suggests to me that Tolkien was not at first perhaps so fond of hobbits as he later became.

Here is Exhibit A, the first appearance of Babbitt in the book of the same name, for you to compare with Bilbo’s first appearance:

There was nothing of the giant in the aspect of the man who was beginning to awaken on the sleeping-porch of a Dutch Colonial Houses in that residential district of Zenith known as floral heights.
His name was George F. Babbitt. He was forty-six years old now, in April, 1920, and he made nothing in particular, neither butter nor shoes nor poetry, but he was nimble in the calling of selling houses for more than people could afford to pay.
His large head was pink, his brown hair thin and dry. His face was babyish in slumber, despite his wrinkles and the red spectacle-dents on the slopes of his nose. He was not fat but he was exceedingly well fed; his cheeks were pads, and the unroughened hand which lay helpless upon the khaki-colored blanket was slightly puffy. He seemed prosperous, extremely married and unromantic; and altogether unromantic appeared this sleeping-porch, which looked on one sizable elm, two respectable grass-plots, a cement driveway, and a corrugated iron garage. Yet Babitt was again dreaming of the fairy child, a dream more romantic than scarlet pagodas by a silver sea.


Marco said...

A is for Adams, Douglas. R is for Robinson, Kim Stanley. S is for Silverberg, Robert. Those are pretty much my only votes.

Dr. Clam said...

Hiya Marco- I could see your N'Orleans post at home, but not at work- have you removed it in a fit of pique?
You will have to wait and see what I come up with for R and S, but please tell us your thoughts on Douglas Adams, do! I guess I have a similar worry with Douglas Adams as I did with Jared Diamond- Diamond seems alright, but he is friends with Paul Ehrlich; and Adams seems alright, but he was friends with Richard Dawkins (who admittedly is several orders of magnitude less obnoxious).

Marco said...

I guess I don't have any literary context for Adams, but I know I was hooked after the very first episode of H2G2 aired on TV. I don't really know anything about Diamond or Elrich for context either. I must admit I read some of Asimov's short stories etc. when I was younger, but overall, Adams had the stories I could re-read and keep on my shelf in perpetuity.