Friday, September 4, 2015

The Employment Contract Between Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves

In The Hobbit, the dwarves hire Bilbo Baggins to help recover their treasure at Lonely Mountain. Here is their contract, as it appears in J.R.R. Tolkien’s book:

[F]or your offer of professional assistance

our grateful acceptance. Terms: cash on

delivery, up to and not exceeding one

fourteenth of total profits (if any); all travelling

expenses guaranteed in any event;

funeral expenses to be defrayed by us or

our representatives, if occasion arises and

the matter is not otherwise arranged for.

Not bad—perfectly understandable. However, in the movie, the document causes Bilbo to faint.  It includes over 3,400 words and takes up 5 feet of parchment.  Why? Writer Daniel Reeve tells us that director Peter Jackson wanted a visual gag, hence, a 5 foot, incomprehensible “Conditions of Engagement.”

 Where did Reeve find the content? Some provisions he invented. Others he took from existing legal documents, including his own employment contract.

You can read more, including a brief interview with Reeve here at the August 2015 Michigan Bar Journal.


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