Oh, dear.... Here's the thing. When most people think of Tolkien, it is generally the epic stories he writes, full of heroism, and lost causes and self-sacrifice. Or they remember his elegant, old-fashioned use of English - I've heard people call it "Old English" and the pendant in me has to bite her tongue to avoid pointing out that Old English is actual the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons, and the basis of the Rohirric in the books. Humour is not something people generally associate with him. However, I actually find a lot of Tolkien's writing to be rather funny - not funny as in slapping your knees, or rolling around the floor laughing like an inebriated seal funny. Just simple, dry, tongue-in-cheek funny that makes me laugh.
There is, for example, the bit in The Hobbit, in which the Trolls, upon whom Bilbo is attempting a bit of burglary, "call each other various true and applicable names". Or, in The Lord of the Rings, when the hobbits are about to set off from Hobbiton, and Sam "had put on his head a tall, shapeless felt bag, which he called a hat." It gives such a vivid picture of the monstrosity that Sam was parading around in. Or there is that exchange in Rivendell:
"Hurray!’ cried Pippin, springing up. `Here is our noble cousin! Make way for Frodo, Lord of the Ring!"
"Hush!’ said Gandalf from the shadows at the back of the porch. `Evil things do not come into this valley; but all the same we should not name them. The Lord of the Ring is not Frodo, but the master of the Dark Tower of Mordor, whose power is again stretching out over the world! We are sitting in a fortress. Outside it is getting dark."
"Gandalf has been saying many cheerful things like that," said Pippin
Which is just typical of Pippin, even in the book. It took that poor, foolish young hobbit forever to appreciate just how much danger they were in. All of which is an extremely circumspect way of saying that I can't really think of a funniest quote. So, I am going to do a favourite funny passage from each of the books in Lord of the Rings. The quote with Gandalf and Pippin counts for The Fellowship. Here is one from The Two Towers:
Gollum returned, carrying the pans carefully and grumbling to himself. He set the pans down, and then suddenly saw what Sam was doing. He gave a thin hissing shriek, and seemed to be both frightened and angry. "Ach! Sss - no!" he cried. "No! Silly hobbits, foolish, yes foolish! They mustn't do it!"
"Mustn't do what?" asked Sam in surprise.
"Not make the nassty red tongues," hissed Gollum. "Fire, fire! It's dangerous, yes it is. It burns, it kills. And it will bring enemies, yes it will."
"I don't think so," said Sam. "Don't see why it should, if you don't put wet stuff on it and make a smother. But if it does, it does. I'm going to risk it, anyhow. I'm going to stew these coneys."
"Stew the rabbits!" squealed Gollum in dismay. "Spoil beautiful meat Sméagol saved for you, poor hungry Sméagol! What for? What for, silly hobbit? They are young, they are tender, they are nice. Eat them, eat them!" He clawed at the nearest rabbit, already skinned and lying by the fire.
"Now, now!" said Sam. "Each to his own fashion. Our bread chokes you, and raw coney chokes me. If you give me a coney, the coney's mine, see, to cook, if I have a mind. And I have. You needn't watch me. Go and catch another and eat it as you fancy - somewhere private and out o' my sight. Then you won't see the fire, and I shan't see you, and we'll both be the happier."
And from the Return of the King, when Merry finally wakes from the near-mortal hurt he took when he helped Eowyn fight the Witch King. (I am sometimes afraid that I come off sounding rather like the herb-master at times.)
“Master Meriadoc,’ said Aragorn, ‘if you think that I have passed through the mountains and the realm of Gondor with fire and sword to bring herbs to a careless soldier who throws away his gear, you are mistaken, If your pack has not been found, then you must send for the herb-master of this House, And he will tell you that he did not know the herb you desire had any virtues, but that it is called westmansweed by the vulgar, and galenas by the noble, and other names in other tongues more learned, and after adding a few half-forgotten rhymes that he does not understand, he will regretfully inform you that there is none in the House, and he will leave you to reflect on the history of tongues.”
If you are interested in finding out more about the Middle Earth Challenge, click here.