This fantastic blog post from Michelle Nijhus and her five year old insisting Bilbo Baggins is a girl on The Last Word on Nothing is making its way around the Internets. And its an intriguing thought. Nijhus found, after switching somewhat reluctantly all of the “he’s” to “she’s” that Bilbo’s gender doesn’t have much impact on the story. And she continues with statistics about gender in children’s literature.
I was fascinated by this concept. And equally afraid to read the comments. But, lo and behold, they were really receptive to the idea that it doesn’t actually matter if Bilbo is the Master or Mistress of Bag End.
One commenter brought up the AU fanfic (Alternate Universe fan-written fiction) where Bilbo is a woman: femBilbo. Be warned: not all fanfic is Safe for Work or what you’d call kid-friendly. But there is already an audience that feels Bilbo’s character is not hurt, but rather enhanced by just changing around a few pronouns.
And why not? I went back to my own analysis of Bilbo’s strengths in The Hobbit and certainly there is nothing in Bilbo’s character that requires Bilbo to be male. And upon further inspection, the strengths Bilbo is credited with: love of home, compassion, solving confrontations with riddles and intelligence rather than with strength, are traditionally associated with female characters.
So what does this all mean?
There will be fans that want Bilbo to be male. There will be fans that want Bilbo to be gay. There will be fans that want Bilbo to be secretly working with Sauroman to destroy his rival Sauron. It means that Tolkien’s genius has layers that not every one sees and inspires people who love the work to run off in their own worlds of imagination. And that means it is a truly great work of literature that will go ever on.