By Katy Guest
In its essence, The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien is a story about a quiet homebody who is compelled to go on an adventure and learns about his own capacity for courage on the journey. I wonder what the well-travelled Tolkien would have made of the past 18 months, when all the world’s adventurers have had to stay at home and learn how to be brave in different ways.
In a lockdown, those of us blessed with a hobbity disposition have a distinct advantage. A hobbit-hole “means comfort”, and we have made our homes cosy and inviting, our gardens stocked with scented flowers and green vegetables, and our larders full of “raspberry jam and apple-tart” . . . “and mince-pies and cheese” . . . and “cold chicken and pickles” and wine by the barrel, in preparation for visits by any number of hungry dwarfs.
But solitude has been hard for us hobbits. Like Bilbo Baggins, I am very “fond of visitors”, and there have been too few of those.
In The Hobbit, Baggins’ home, Bag End, is a long, single-storey dwelling set into a hillside; its round, green door opens on to a long tunnel with “lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats” and its best rooms have deep-set round windows “looking over his garden and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river”.
As a lover of languages who specialised in Old Norse, I wonder if Tolkien ever heard the word “hygge”. He seems to have described Bag End with that concept in mind — a safe, warm place to return to after the horrors of Mordor, which is thought to have been based on his experiences in the trenches during the first world war.
For Baggins’ home, Tolkien was partly inspired by his aunt’s 16th-century farmhouse in Dormston, Worcestershire, also called Bag End. This five-bedroom house in the Worcestershire village of Powick may be beyond a Baggins’ budget at £700,000, but it has everything a hobbit could desire including cosy fireplaces, a garden and the River Teme nearby.
But after all this time stuck at home, this hobbit’s hairy feet are itchy for travel and Arizona would be a perfect spot for a holiday. Built in the same sandy tone as the surrounding landscape, this three-bedroom home has bare internal walls and stone features that make it feel part of the rocky landscape viewed through the windows. Everyone knows that hobbits do not swim, but the $2m home’s pool is bound to attract visitors to fill up any coat pegs.
The hobbits’ next adventure, in The Lord of the Rings, begins “Inside Bag End, Bilbo and Gandalf were sitting at the open window of a small room looking out west on to the garden. The late afternoon was bright and peaceful. The flowers glowed red and golden: snap-dragons and sun-flowers, and nasturtiums trailing all over the turf walls and peeping in at the round windows. ‘How bright your garden looks!’ said Gandalf. ‘Yes,’ said Bilbo. ‘I am very fond indeed of it, and of all the dear old Shire; but I think I need a holiday.’”
This summer, I have been so grateful for my bright garden, good food and my cosy home. But I know how he feels.
Photography: Alamy; Fine & Country; Christie’s International Real Estate