J.R.R. Tolkien may be commonly acknowledged as a genius of prose and languages, but he also mastered the art of songwriting, scattering his oeuvre with various ballads—a trait which Peter Jackson may have adapted too faithfully in his new film The Hobbit. Ever since the release of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, fans have sustained Middle Earth’s strong musical heritage, from melodies urging Frodo not to wear the ring to musical summaries of the films’ cumulative 683-minute running time.
But long before the release Jackson’s films, there was one musical tribute to rule them all: “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” as performed by Leonard Nimoy on the variety series Malibu U in 1967. In the music video, Nimoy frolics around a beach (presumably located on Spock’s home planet, Vulcan) in full Spock garb, singing lyrics like “Bilbo Baggins / He’s only three feet tall… The bravest little hobbit of them all.”
Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the video is the presence of female back-up dancers wearing bright sweatshirts, pins bearing the message “Hobbits Unite!” and pointy stick-on ears. Are the dancers supposed to be Vulcan or Hobbit? Both sport pointed lobes. Their dance number does not clear up the matter—while the apparently rabbit-inspired moves might ring of the extraterrestrial, we all know how much hobbits love to dance.
Though “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” was yet another number Nimoy performed at the request of a producer for his Star Trek promotional discography—the song appeared on only one of his many albums, Highly Illogical—he appears to be a sincere fan of The Hobbit. In an interview with Trekweb, Nimoy recalled of the song, “I thought it was very charming and I was very interested in the Hobbits stories.”
Nimoy’s enthusiasm for Tolkien does not clear up why Spock summarized The Hobbit’s plot in song on national television, however. Martin Freeman, the Bilbo in Jackson’s film, agrees: Freeman told iO9 he had seen the segment a long time ago and is “still baffled by it.”