"The Wisdom Of Hobbits: Unearthing Our Humanity At 3 Bagshot Row"
Biblio File column
"What is needed in life is balance," writes Chico author Matthew Distefano, "between an adventure and a home, between a quest to The Lonely Mountain or even Mordor, and a cozy hole in the ground at the end of Bagshot Row; a home where we can tend to our flower and vegetable gardens, smoke our pipe-weed, tell our tales over pints of ale, and enjoy the company of the very fine and extraordinary Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, Men, and wizards we have in our own lives."
While Distefano doesn't supply pipe-weed or pints of ale, he does provide "The Wisdom Of Hobbits: Unearthing Our Humanity At 3 Bagshot Row" ($19.99 in paperback from Chico publisher Quoir, quoir.com; also for Amazon Kindle). It's a deep dive into J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium with an emphasis on the halflings--who prove to be far more nuanced than portrayed in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.
The book fleshes out life in the Shire (and other Hobbit habitats) and the nurturing of Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam who find themselves unlikely heroes. (Helpful footnotes orient readers; appendices display the author's sketches of the Shire, maps, a listing of three dozen plants grown or farmed in the Shire, and historical Hobbits.)
"Western culture," Distefano notes, "has, by and large, fallen out of love with the simple life." The foreword, from best friend and writing collaborator Michael Machuga, puts it this way: "It seems more correct to say we work in order to make our relaxation rewarding, than to say we relax to be more productive at work."
Hobbits are tillers of the soil and spinners of tales and though they are not perfect (they are wary of strangers and even of other Hobbits), they can teach Big Folk much about the value of friendship—especially when an "adventure" awaits and, with trembling resolve, they embark on the Road. Distefano opens to readers philosophical/theological questions about free will and providence, sacrifice and loss, and living in the now.
The book is a fitting homage to Tolkien, "the greatest mythologist," and, like a Hobbit, a friendly companion for the daily messiness of life.
Copyright Chico Enterprise-Record; used by permission