The Hobbit’s 75th anniversary

Tolkien's illustration of Bilbo riding a barrel toward Lake Town

Tolkien’s illustration of Bilbo floating on a barrel after escaping from the Wood Elves’ dungeons.

The Hobbit was published on Sept. 21, 1937 — 75 years ago today. Among all the penetrating and insightful tributes that have been written about this masterpiece, what can I add?

Well, I am going to address the neglected question of “Do hobbits wear shoes?”

They don’t. Our authoritative source says flatly: they “wear no shoes” (Hobbit, p. 10). But — and I make an important distinction here — do they wear boots?

Yes, they do. At least, one hobbit did when going on a quest and crossing hundreds of leagues of Wilderland and dragon desolation. The documentary evidence is clear:

Detail of Bilbo floating on a barrel

Closeup of Bilbo floating on the barrel.

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