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'Hobbit' villains suffer vitamin D deficiency, researcher says

The evil creatures in Middle-earth may be paying for their dark ways with a vitamin D deficiency.

Legolas demonstrates a healthy lifestyle with lots of sun and vegetables.
Warner Brothers

"The Hobbit" dragon Smaug may be suffering from more than a bad attitude as he sulks around in his subterranean cave dwelling. He may have a vitamin D deficiency that's turning his toothy grin into a frown. Nicholas Hopkinson, a lecturer at Imperial College London, culled through "The Hobbit" for clues to the lifestyle and diets of the Middle-earth denizens.

Hopkinson, in conjunction with his 15-year-old son Joseph, published his findings under the title "The hobbit--an unexpected deficiency" in the December issue of the Medical Journal of Australia.

The paper kicks off with this tongue-in-cheek statement in the abstract: "We investigate the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency, caused by both aversion to sunlight and unwholesome diet, could also be a significant contributor to the triumph of good over evil in fantasy literature."

The study involved squeezing out information on what the various creatures eat and how much exposure they have to sunlight. Bilbo Baggins, for example, has a varied diet including red wine, tea, seed cakes, salad, pickles, and chicken. He also is known to sit in the sun. He's like a vitamin D magnet.

Hopkinson notes how the evil characters demonstrate sun-avoidance behaviors. Smaug, for example, ventures out at night to snack on meat-based creatures, but seems to lack any sort of greenery in his diet. Humans absorb vitamin D through exposure to sunlight and from certain foods, notably cheese and egg yolks. Smaug has to get his secondhand from eating people, which earns him a big fat zero for his vitamin D score.

The study admits to its own limitations, including a lack of a full dietary history for each type of character. Stephenson does conclude that good creatures have a higher vitamin D intake than evil ones.

"More research would be needed to establish whether the results of the current pilot investigation are representative of the wider Tolkien corpus and indeed of fantastic literature in general," the study says. If you want to stay on the side of good, then you should consider smuggling some high-in-D sardines into the theater to snack on while watching "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."