Friday, October 15, 2010

The Hobbit 1937

Sometimes I think that if blogs in the OSR sphere were like rock bands GROGNARDIA would undoubtedly be the Led Zeppelin. It has staying power, and harkens back to older roots but presents them in a new way that is really approachable, and still rock and roll. If this is true then Jeff's Gameblog is the Jimi Hendrix of OSR blogs. This blog does things that other blogs would find difficult to pull off. Jeff plays with his tongue, pulls in weird riffs and techniques and influences no one thought of before, and then proceeds to light his gamebooks on fire. Other blogs take these ideas and run with them in a little tamer way, building out the lesser known band equivalents of blogdom. Perhaps I am the Whitesnake or Motorhead of OSR blogs, who knows.

Whats important is how I am ripping off Jeff today. Recently Jeff has been talking about the what if of Star Wars never having a sequel. What does the movie tell us about the star war world before it really got developed with contradictions and exposition in later movies. I want to ask a similar question of a just as influencial property: J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit.

As an intellectual property goes Middle Earth has a lot of similarities with Star Wars. The initial product was ground breaking and really changed the game. Both have estates that are very defensive of their IP. And both have creators that retconed their work stating that it was all part of the original vision.

The Hobbit had a major revision that did not get published until 1951, almost fourteen years after it was originally published that changed the "Riddles in the Dark" chapter to better align the story with the oncomming Lord of the Rings. So... set the Wayback Machine for late 1937. The Hobbit or There and Back Again is the only Middle Earth story. That's our primary source for today's exercise. There arn't any secondary sources. Given this material, what do we know about Middle Earth back then that no longer holds true under present concepts of Middle Earth canon? What is as-yet (for '37) undefined? What can we extrapolate? Here are a few initial thoughts:
  • Gandalf is just a wizard. Not an angel in disguise. Just a wizard. He has an enemy called the Necromancer who is also just a wizard. Anyone can be a wizard with enough practice. What about that Necromancer? He made the Greenwood into Mirkwood. That means that there is evil wizardry about.
  • Gollum is an honorable creature, and not obsessed with loosing his ring in a game of riddles. He is not obsessed with a ring that can turn him invisible. Man, thats character. Guyges and I certainly don't have character like that.
  • Elves are not always really nice. No Legolas means that the wood elves can be mean bastards. Elves make magic weapons.
  • Orcs don't exist. Never heard of em. All we got here are goblins.

This awesome panorama comes from David T. Wenzel at