Being a long time Tolkien fan, I noted that the fan-site “The One Ring Net” had a note saying that the Professor’s birthday was January 3rd, and they suggested:

Tonite at 9 pm, raise a glass of your favorite Beer to celebrate the birthday of JRR Tolkien.

How appropriate. I usually don’t drink, but I suspect that the Philippine Tolkien society will toast him with the local brew “SanMig“…

After all, Hobbits, like Pinoys, are short, like to eat huge meals at parties, enjoy a beer now and then, love to sing and dance, enjoy fireworks and firecrackers, and tend to be cheerful all the time; yet like Hobbits, Filipinos, are able to cope with terrible adversity, and are brave when they are in a pinch.

On the other hand, all is not well in the original Shire: it sounds like Saruman like bureaucrats are making a nanny state in the UK: for, if you go to the UK website of The Tolkien Society, you will first read the following instructions on how to toast the Professor:

For those unfamiliar with British toast-drinking ceremonies:

To make the Birthday Toast, you stand, raise a glass of your choice of drink (not necessarily alcoholic), and say the words ‘The Professor’ before taking a sip (or swig, if that’s more appropriate for your drink). Sit and enjoy the rest of your drink.

Disclaimer:

The organisers do not condone drinking alcohol if it endangers the health or safety of the drinker or others, or contravenes the law.

Huh?

Who made them put up a warning, as if those intelligent enough to read the Lord of the Rings  were children.

Did their lawyers insist on adding that disclaimer, for fear of being sued by someone who imbibed too much brew? It is almost if those who write on the Tolkien society’s website were unaware that much of the Lord of the Rings was read to the other Inklings at their luncheon meeting at a tavern.

Presumably if you are pregnant, allergic to alcohol or hops, or live in Saudi Arabia, you will know better than to drink regular beer to toast the-Professor.

And if you are LDS, or Baptist, or Muslim, well, after all, there is no reason you can’t toast with ginger ale or alcohol free beer  (although check first if it is Halal).

Yet for the rest of us, the “disclaimer” is unneeded, and has some troubling implications about freedom in the modern world.

You see, in the books, the temptation of the Ring to those who are good is that it gives them the power to do good: but the paradox is that this power is the power of tyranny: of forcing people to do “good” things. The result of coercing goodness is not a perfect society, but a land without freedom or joy…or true goodness: a lesson that needs to be learned over and over again, not only by the theocratic regimes of the Middle East but by the nanny state Bureaucrats in Europe and the US.

One of the themes at the end of the Ring saga is the “scouring of the Shire”, where the Hobbits rise up and fight the busybodies (including Saruman) who think they can “fix” the Shire to run more efficiently.

In contrast, the heroes of the books are ordinary folk, the Hobbits.

And so, this week, forget the “oughts” of the world, that stresses 80 hour work week, a full bank account, keeping busy all the time, eating a perfect diet, and in all ways striving for human perfection, and instead raise a glass to fellowship and cheer to the Professor, who claimed that, like Bilbo he liked a colourful waistcoat, a good meal, singing, hiking, and beer.

We could use more such reminders in today’s world, for, as the dying Thorin laments:

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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