Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bilbo-Catcher: A Missed Opportunity

When I was writing The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, I needed to come up with a toy from the 18th century that could have survived as a family heirloom into the 20th century.

I remembered that Jane Austen (my favorite author) was an expert at playing with a wooden cup and ball. She is reputed to have been able to get the ball into the cup 100 times in succession.  (Anyone who has tried to do this even one time knows how hard this is!) Jane Austen was born just before the American Revolution began, and doubtless learned to excel with this toy as a child. Therefore it seemed to me that the cup and ball would work as the 18th century toy I needed.

It was only well after Riddle was published that I found out that the cup and ball was also called a "bilbo-catcher". Evoking as it did the whole Lord of the Rings saga, I would have loved to have used it in Riddle. 

Too late.  : (

Here is one reference I made to this toy in Riddle:

    Father’s expression softened. He looked at me and smiled. “Poor Geordie. Seems only yesterday you were playing with gewgaws. Remember the toy soldier from England that I bought in Philadelphia when you were still in leading strings?”
   I nodded. Next to the cup and ball that Will had carved of apple wood from our trees, that lead
soldier had been my favorite toy. How Mother had protested when Father had given the small grenadier to me! With her Quaker beliefs, she didn’t think it fit for child’s play.    

-The Riddle of Penncroft Farm © 1989 by Dorothea Jensen

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