Concerning Hobbits

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"Concerning Hobbits" is an acclaimed piece by composer Howard Shore for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack. It is a concert suite of the music of the Hobbits, arranged from the music heard in the film during the early Shire scenes, and features the various themes and leitmotifs composed for the Shire and Hobbits and is intended to evoke feelings of peace.[1] It is also the title of one of the sections of the prologue to The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Excerpts of the piece can be heard during an extended scene in the 2012 film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, where it was tracked intentionally. The piece has become synonymous with the Shire and Hobbiton themes.

Orchestration[edit]

The piece uses a large symphony orchestra (originally, The London Philharmonic Orchestra), including an on-stage band consisting of various Celtic instruments, namely whistles.

Although the tin whistle and fiddle both have solos and have the main melodies throughout the piece, it is also noted for Shore's distinctive use of the bodhrán to create a heartbeat-like sound.[1] Other accompaniment instruments include a celtic harp, hammered dulcimer, musette-type accordion, drones, classical guitars, mandolin, low whistle and recorders.[2] Live performances may feature an accordion and/or a concertina.

Themes[edit]

One of the chief tracks of the entire trilogy, it is also one of the happiest tracks, with others invoking feelings of heroism or foreboding. It show-cases the Shire theme or Hobbits' theme, in its main, "pensive" orchestral setting: A stepwise melody played by strings, a solo fiddle or a tin whistle in the key of D major.[1] The B-section of the theme is often played by strings tutti to a very expansive effect, arguably forming a separate theme altogether.[3]

Also in the piece is a "rural" or "folk" setting or variation, labeled by musicologist Doug Adams as a separate theme for Hobbiton, played by solo fiddle and various celtic instruments in accompaniment. The chords of the third main shire theme, the "hymn" variant (which later serves mostly as Frodo's theme), also play briefly under the melody.[1][3]

The melody is accompanied by several motifs:[1]

  • Hobbit Outline Figure: This simple figure, often heard in the cellos and double basses, is used as an expectation of things to come. It is heard quite a bit in the early Shire scenes, portraying the hobbits' playful sides.
  • Hobbit Two Step Figure: This short figure appears frequently during the introduction of the Shire, and it often concludes with the End Cap figure.
  • Hobbit Skip Beat: This ostinato figure is heard throughout the Shire material, usually as an accompaniment, but sometimes more prominently.
  • Hobbit End Cap: A graceful rim-shot that plays to the good-humored hobbit lifestyle.
  • The Heartbeat of the Shire: played on Bodhrán.

Also in the piece (about a minute into the track) is a coda that closes a statement of the Hobbiton theme, which coincides with Bilbo's "Happy Birthday" sign being erected.[1] This motif was also used in "Old Friends" in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, turning it after-the-fact into a theme for Bilbo's birthday party Preparations.[4]

The music[edit]

The piece begins with the Hobbit outline figure motif in the strings before moving into a light statement of the main Shire theme on solo tin whistle as the outline figure continues to play in accompaniment. as the solo concludes, the outline sounds twice before moving into a solo fiddle performance of the Hobbiton theme, played over the two-step figure (transitioning into the skip-beat accompaniment and back repeatitively) in pizzicato strings, dulcimer and guitars. As the fiddle pauses, a musette adds "short sustained chord drones"[5] and continues under the fiddle as it rounds up the phrase. Strings tutti than perform a lush variation of the B-phrase of the main shire theme over the skip-beat accompaniment; the fiddle than returns with the Hobbiton theme over the two-step accompaniment, and concludes it with the "fiddle fanfare"[5] that accompanies the "Happy Birthday" sign.[1]

A slow variation of the Skip-beat plays in the strings over slow chords and the orchestra quiets down. Guitars return with the skip beat, the strings enter with the two-step figure over the guitar before a celesta joins the latter, the bodhran heartbeat pattern which underlines the whole sequece is very noticeable here. Now, the low whistle plays the B-phrase of the Hobbiton theme before strings tuti play the lush B-phrase of the Shire theme again, ending with the end-cap figure. The fiddle than returns with the Rural Hobbit theme (over the two-step motif in the guitars) and concludes with the end-cap leitmotif. The Hobbit two-step continues in strings, moves into the skip-beat before the orchestra quiets down and the tin whistle returns, book-ending the suite with the Shire theme.[1]

Alternate versions[edit]

The piece has alternates in the Complete Recording tracks "The Shire" and "Bag End" (which are the Extended Edition recording), in the Fan-Credits of the Fellowship of the Ring (where the fiddler is allowed to improvise more around the Hobbiton theme) and in the Lord of the Rings Symphony, which features the whole suite.

Use in the rest of the score[edit]

Besides the Shire scenes and the concert presentation, elements of the piece, namely the main, pensive theme, permeate the Middle Earth Scores. Shore constructs new variants of this theme, including a slow variation played over "hymn" chords that serve as a theme for Frodo Baggins; A playful variation for Merry and Pippin (as well as a Lullaby variation that appears later); and eventually a heroic variation for Sam.

In the Lord of the Rings Trilogy[edit]

The main, pensive variant plays again after Frodo has made ready to leave Bag End, intoning Gandalf's appreciation of Hobbits. It plays in a Lullaby setting when Frodo and Sam, having already taken to the road, set for a night's rest. It returns when Frodo awakes in Rivendell, here often played by the Clarinet to specifically represent Bilbo, with whom Frodo reunites. It returns to the flute when Sam ask to join the quest, and again in Clarinet when he shows concern for Frodo during the cruise of the Anduin. It goes on to close the film with a statement on the tin whistle. In the Two Towers, the theme is used for Sam and Merry's first on-screen appearances, and again in the end of the film when Sam contemplates their story being told. In Return of the King, the clarinet is used when Sam reminds Frodo of Bilbo going "There and Back Again." The more grand B-section only returns when Sam is married to Rosie. The Rural variation doesn't recur until the Hobbits have returned to Hobbiton, where it plays as Sam goes up to Rosie.

The accompaniment figures make appearances further into the story, often isolated from each other or from the main Shire themes. The Outline figure, for instance, appears in a "warped" variation that accompanies Smeagol's attempts at pleasing Frodo by bringing him dead rabbits. The Two-step figure is used as the basis for Gandalf's Fireworks motif, and the Hobbit Skip-Beat scores Merry and Pippin's playful moment with Boromir and again, in a twisted variation, when Boromir attempts to take the ring from Frodo. The End-Cap also accompanies Merry and Pippin, and by the time of their stay in Fangorn is looped into an ostinato that becomes the Hobbit Antics motif.

In The Hobbit Trilogy[edit]

In The Hobbit, the Pensive theme on clarinet (representing Bilbo) is used as the main theme, playing over the titles of the first two films, but giving way on the third film to the Dragon Sickness theme, to create a sense of absence in the audience. Part of the passage from The Shire scenes in Fellowship of the Ring is tracked in full into an Extended Scene in the Bywater Market. The Pensive theme goes to score a lot of Bilbo's scenes and actions, sometime (especially in the finished film) instead of his more specific thematic material: It was used for instance when Gandalf refers to Bilbo in the presence of Galadriel, but was replaced in the finished film with the Hymn variant. The expansive B-phrase of the Shire theme is used over a panning shot of Hobbiton. Bilbo's running out of his door, scored with a playful variation of the Shire material, ends with a quick quote of the main Shire theme. Even one of Bilbo's dedicated Concert Suites, A Very Respectable Hobbit, quotes the theme.

The folk variation is used for shots of Hobbiton, including the "fiddle fanfare" motif for Bilbo's Birthday Preparations, used here to underscore the replies to the party invitations. The instrumentation here is further augmented with a Concertina and Recorders, and there are more pronounced roles for solo guitar and mandolin.

The Hobbit Skip Beat and Two-Step accompany the early music in the Shire, and playful variations of the Shire material along with prominent appearances of the End-Cap and Antics motifs, underscore Bilbo's bafflement at the Dwarves arrival at his house. Here, the music is played in a style more evocative of the classical period, which puts the music outside of the scores' romantic grammar and informs Bilbo's feelings of being out of element among the Dwarves.

In the Desolation of Smaug, a variation of the Skip-Beat appears as a recurring motif for Bree, where the story begins (in flashback). The shire theme returns in flutes as Balin marvels at "The Courage of Hobbits." The whistle returns in Battle of the Five Armies as Bilbo reveals the acorn to Thorin, and later when Bilbo returns to the Shire. The latter even contains a short reference to Bilbo's Song, the leitmotif that closes the series and offers the final development of the Shire material.

References[edit]