Fans Toast Tolkien's 'Eleventy-First'

01/06/2003 at 07:29 AM EST

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, creator of "The Lord of the Rings," didn't celebrate just any old birthday last Friday. It was his 111th.

No, he wasn't there. (He died in 1973, at age 81.)

But, as was noted worldwide, the natal anniversary was special because the author would have been the same age as his famous character, Frodo's uncle Bilbo Baggins, whose 111th -- pronounced "eleventy-first" -- birthday party opens both the book and film versions of the Tolkien trilogy.

To celebrate, Britain's Tolkien Society asked fans all over Earth and Middle Earth to submit video footage of their own festivities, to be compiled by Los Angeles-based producer Josh Rubinstein for "J.R.R. Tolkien's 111th Birthday DVD Project."

No release date for the DVD has been announced.

But Rubinstein, speaking to Variety, admitted to being a Tolkien enthusiast for the past 10 years and believes that the fan base "hit warp speed since the movies came out."

Down Under, Jarrod Coburn, secretary of New Zealand's Tolkien Society, tells his country's Sunday Star Times that Tolkien's legion of fans should know of the writer's many struggles because, "If they do, it will make the story as portrayed in the film so much richer."

As an Oxford university professor, Tolkien and his wife Edith struggled to bring up four children on a meager salary, which he supplemented by marking school examination papers.

Tolkien's three-volume saga was first published in 1954-55.

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