Wednesday, March 15, 2017

There was NO Mrs Bilbo Baggins.

Tolkien even mentioned this in the trilogy itself.  "Bilbo and Frodo as bachelors were very exceptional."  I'm reading an Op-Ed in the Wall St Journal, a book review of "Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve" by Ben Blatt.  It's about what can be done with computers to count up every word an author uses, and the patience to wade thru the resulting mountains of histograms.  Apparently they were able to resolve who wrote which of the Federalist Papers by looking at the frequency of the word "whilst" versus that of "while".  Hamilton always wrote "while" where Madison always wrote "whilst.  Good interesting stuff but I would never have the patience to sort all this out.
   Then the reviewer mentions that Tolkien used "he" 1900 times and the word "she" just once when he refers to Mrs. Bilbo Baggins.  The first part I can believe, Tolkien's protagonists were all guys, no chicks in the fellowship of the ring.  But Mrs Bilbo Baggins?  No way, Bilbo never married,  Frodo was NOT Bilbo's son, he was a nephew. 
   Talk about blowing your credibility in one short sentence. 

1 comment:

Dstarr said...

Today's Wall St Journal offers a correction, Bilbo's wife should have been Bilbo's mother.
"A review of 'Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve' ('Algorithms Meet Adverbs', March 15) drawing on inaccurate information in the book, incorrectly stated that it referred to his wife."
I think the preceding bit of Journal gobble-de-gook is saying that Nabokov's book said the one use of "she" in Tolkien referred to Bilbo's wife where it it should have referred to Bilbo's mother. I think the Journal is trying to blame Nabokov for the error, rather than their own reviewer for the error.
I am still surprised that any educated person doesn't know Tolkien at least as well as I do. I've know that there was never a Mrs. Bilbo Baggins for 60 years or more.
And, although Tolkien's protagonists were mostly guys, there was still Galadriel, Eowyn, Arwen, Rosie Cotton, and the monster Shelob, all female. And Tolkien never used the "she" pronoun to refer to any of them? Somehow I have trouble believing that. I'd have to re read Tolkien to make sure, but I'm suspicious of Nabokov's statement that Tolkien only used "she" once in all three volumes of the Lord of the Rings.