Lawyer/Editor of Law and the Multiverse Takes on Bilbo’s Contract from The Hobbit

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In the wave of The Hobbit excitement overwhelming Comic-Con fanboys and cosplayers everywhere, James Daily, one half of the team over at Law and the Multiverse (a blog that shows that lawyering can be fun), conducted a deep reading of Bilbo’s contract from J.R.R. Tolkien’s book of the same name. Leave it to a lawyer who gets his jollies by considering Clark Kent’s tax liabilities to make the greatest fantasy franchise even better. Take this excerpt from his 6-part analysis:

There are some other details to notice in these clauses. One is the use of defined terms (e.g. “referred to hereinafter as Burglar”). The parties to a contract may define terms however they wish, even in ways that contradict the definition used in statutes or regulations.

This is important in this case because of the use of the defined term “Burglar.”  Contracts to do something illegal are ordinarily unenforceable (e.g. collecting on an illegal gambling debt). But here what matters is not that the parties used the word ‘burglar’ but rather what sort of meaning they assigned to that defined term. As we shall see, the contract doesn’t require Bilbo to do anything illegal (or at least not obviously illegal), and so the contract will probably not fail for use of a questionable term.

Read the whole piece over at Wired.

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