Tolkien baddies lacked vitamins to win

If only they had tucked into the occasional quiche and salad or a touch of smoked salmon, or had a few sessions on a sunbed. How much kinder literary history would have been to them.

So suggests an offbeat study released in the Christmas edition of the MJA, which concludes that the evil characters in JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit lost their battle against men, elves and dwarves because they suffered from vitamin deficiency.

Shunning sunlight, surviving on a sketchy or unbalanced diet based on rotten meat or (in Gollum's case) the occasional blind fish, they lacked vitamin D, a key component for healthy bones and muscle strength.

The idea is proposed by Nicholas Hopkinson, a doctor at Imperial College London and his son Joseph, who scoured The Hobbit for references to characters' living conditions, habits and diet.

They used these clues to rate each character for levels of vitamin D,