20+ hours (counting stops) in the car yesterday starting at 4am, but Darwins are now safely in Ohio and even more or less awake. (As of 1pm.)
As usual on long car trips, we brought a bunch of books on tape to keep the troops from getting too restless. The small fry rejected Mary Poppins after a few chapters, but we got through about 1/3 of The Hobbit with their approval -- leaving the dwarves off at a rather sticky place in Mirkwood when they fell asleep.
One of the things that was striking me on this run through of The Hobbit was that for all the hints of a 'dark age' world of migrations and shifting populations that come up in the background and off-hand bits of history. I'd been reading In Search of the Trojan War right before leaving, which deals a lot with the 'dark age' at the end of the Minoan/Mycenean bronze age, and also a bit about the collapse of Roman Britain and the mass migrations of those 'dark ages'.
The brief mentions of the distant king, whom many peoples have not even heard of (is that the steward in Gondor, I suppose -- or perhaps an unrevised anachronism from before Tolkein had fully integrated The Hobbit into the history of Middle Earth?) and of various peoples migrating (such as the woodmen whom the goblins and wargs want to raid against the night that they come upon the dwarves in their meeting glade) while much older and strange people remain as well (such as Beorn).
In LotR you meet even earlier peoples such as Gan Buri Gan and his people. There must be a good 4-5 distinct layers of migrations you could easily lay out. It does give very much the feel of a dark age type world stretched out over an even longer period of time.
Dorothy L. Sayers, The Man Born to Be King
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