I recently had the chance to re-read John Buchan's masterful horror story "Fullcircle." The tale is about an urban couple who gradually give up their hectic ways as they're seduced--perhaps possessed--by the quiet house they've bought in the country. Their fast-paced lifestyle gives way to living according to the pagan cycle of rural England as they become uncanny, changed doubles of the people they once were.
As I thought more about the story, I began to think about how Tolkien represents hobbits. The stereotypical hobbit is much like the altered couple in Buchan’s story: simple creatures of the countryside who enjoy nothing more than putting their feet up while smoking a pipe and gazing with pleasure upon the green hills.
Of course, we can take this for a darker turn.
Now, return to Tolkien's well-known novel and imagine that hobbits--diminutive personifications of England's largely-forgotten rural life--have the same sort of power as the haunted house in Buchan's "Fullcircle."
The uninvited dwarfs show up, as does a wizard, to tempt our hobbit into adventure. He resists, but cannot manage to eject his visitors. In the morning, before they set out, the hobbit plies them with an enormous breakfast that stretches on and on; the wizard and dwarfs know that they must set out soon, but the food is so pleasing and the company so enjoyable.
There’s always more drink to be had, more laughs to be shared, and more pipes to be lit. Soon enough, a luncheon is served. The hobbit host talks of how perfect the weather is for a little lazy fishing in a slow-moving stream by a secluded meadow.
The dwarfs and the wizard begin to forget their quest, and instead daydream about hunting for stag, walking the hills to observe the various trees of the Shire, of trading their axes for gardening spades...
Before they realize it, the dwarfs and the wizard find that years have passed; their new lives of quiet appreciation of country life allow no thoughts of adventure, so any inkling of once more taking up their adventure quickly flits away from their thoughts. After all, the fish might be biting down by the brook, the dwarfs say. The wizard sighs, and decides to read a book of idle poetry in a wicker chair and listen to the birds’ songs. Leave the Dark Lord’s rise to others; fully seduced by a hobbit’s life in the shire, he’d rather watch the sun set.