Sunday marked the beginning of Tolkien Week, an internationally observed period dedicated to honoring the works of world renowned fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien.
Inaugurated in 1978 by the American Tolkien Society, the festive period takes place every year during the calendar week of September 22, which is recognized as Hobbit Day, and the birthdays of Tolkien protagonists Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
Though observance is informal and therefore ritualistic practices are not uniformly observed, there are some practices widely shared by fans. Most common among them is, naturally, film marathons, whether just the Lord of the Rings trilogy or even all of The Hobbit films as well, and many take advantage of this practice to share the works of Tolkien with new readers or viewers.
However, many others hold celebratory feasts to emulate the hobbits' parties from the books. For example, the first book in the series The Fellowship of the Ring, began with a celebration of Bilbo's birthday, with food, drinks and general celebration. Often, these celebrations include tongue-in-cheek insider references, featuring "Eye of Sauron Cake" or, simply, cake resembling the book The Hobbit.It is suspected that the motif of eating and drinking – which are very important to the Hobbits – are one of the reasons the books are so widely loved by teenagers, who are often hungry as they are reaching adulthood.
Of course, for the more financially able and upscale fan base, there are popular tours of the filming locations in New Zealand.
Israeli fans of Tolkien have held the author close to their hearts for decades. Israeli readers were introduced to Tolkien through the now famous and iconic Pilot's Translation of The Hobbit, translated by a group of IAF pilots while they were held captive in Egypt in the 1970s. A theatrical production on the making of that translation, There and Back Again, compared the hardships of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit with the struggles of the Israelis facing torture and humiliation at the hands of the Egyptians.
However, the works of Tolkien have long had an association with Jews. The race of Dwarves in Middle Earth have often been explicitly said to represent Jews.
While this is likely true, Tolkien was far from antisemitic, and is reputed to be somewhat of a Judeophile. In one famous instance, while in the process of having The Hobbit published in Nazi Germany, the author penned a now-famous letter angrily rebuking the German publisher who asked if he was Aryan. In his response, after correcting the German publisher on their improper usage of the term Aryan (Tolkien was also a noted historian and linguist), he then stated: “If I am to understand that you are inquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.”
However, while Tolkien may not have been Jewish, his great-grandson, Nicholas Tolkien, is a religious Jew, as well as a writer and director.