The post on using a British GIS to learn things about hobbits attracted so much positive attention (42 inbound links!) that I’ve decided to turn it into a serious paper.  I’m stunned – given the obscure topic, my expectations for the whole blog were more like “42 page views”.

One drawback is that I don’t yet know what the paper will be about. But Idiosophers are nothing if not data-driven, so I shall start collecting correlations, and we shall go where the numbers take us.

Things I’ll keep my eye on, in case one turns into the topic:

  • From the definition of “subcreation” [1], Middle-Earth is dependent on the real Earth.  Therefore, studies of the created world can cast light on the subcreated world.
  • A teenager picking up LotR today bears the same chronological relationship to it that I bore to Sherlock Holmes.  In 15 years, it’ll be like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Some things that were obvious to JRRT’s intended readership are going to need footnotes, before long.
  • Did hobbit names convey meaning?  Some of them are obvious short-jokes, and others are bragging about living in holes.  What are the rest?  Names are definitely important to JRRT.  Can we tease out the implications this way?

To-do list:

  1. Figure out how to assess the importance of a character to the story.
  2. Separate the good guys from the bad guys.  Or, rather, come up with a sensible categorization.
  3. Define a relationship between the Shire and Britain.
  4. Pick out from the data particular stories to tell.

Once that is done, we can identify the topic.  Statistical methods will not be required, since I’m going to use every hobbit I can find.  As statisticians say, “n=all”.

[1] Ordinarily I would include a link here, but none is available.  Sub-sacroiliac pain from copyright law is Tolkien’s wyrd, even beyond the grave. [back]