Why is it that the plucky Hobbit Bilbo Baggins triumph again and again over the likes of Gollum, the goblins, spiders, and Smaug? A cheeky medical paper suggests that good characters have an advantage over evil ones in Tolkien's world because good characters spend more time in the sun and absorb more Vitamin D.
The paper, written by Joseph A Hopkinson and Nicholas S Hopkinson in the Medical Journal of Australia, is titled, "The hobbit — an unexpected deficiency," and briefly examines the ways in which a nocturnal and underground lifestyle—in addition to poor—could contribute to Vitamin D deficiency and thus "reduced martial prowess."
Here's the methodology:
We performed a pilot study using textual analysis to extract data relating to diurnal habits, dwelling, light exposure and diet from The hobbit by J R R Tolkien. Results are reported in an approximately consecutive narrative fashion. In addition, protagonists were identified as good or evil and victorious or defeated on binary scales by consensus. Sun exposure was scored from 3 (lots) to 0 (none at all) and diet was scored as 1 or 0 depending on whether any vitamin D-containing item was mentioned. These were summed to give a vitamin D score (range, 0–4), and this score was related to victoriousness by unpaired t tests.
However, the researchers note that this is an imperfect system, especially where diet is concerned:
Unfortunately, the principal purpose of the author of The hobbit was not to provide a systematic dietary history, so reporting bias is a possibility. In particular, there is an emphasis in the text on meat items similar to Homer's Odyssey, where feasting is a recurrent motif but where few references to salad are made.
The hobbit — an unexpected deficiency [The Medical Journal of Australia—Hat tip to Anemone!]