May 25th is the annual celebration of Towel Day. Fans of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy proudly carry a towel in memory of author Douglas Adams.

Don’t Panic! Movies.ie knows where our towel is!

The first Towel Day was held 10 years ago, two weeks after Adams’s death on May 11th, 2001.

The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction comedy series created by Douglas Adams. Originally conceived as a radio show in 1978, the story of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect and the destruction of Earth for a hyperspace bypass has gone through many incarnations; from radio to book to TV to film.

The title of the series comes from the electronic travel guide that Ford Prefect writes for. The guide intersperses the narrative of the books with helpful information that is not only sarcastic, slightly eccentric and wonderfully funny, it helps the reader understand the context of the story more fully.

The story follows Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect as they travel around the galaxy. At first, they are trying to understand the destruction of Earth, then prevent it, then save the universe from the evil robots of Krikkit before finally making sandwiches on a far flung planet, and trying – once again – to save Earth.

Many of the characters are beloved by fans of the series including the slightly mad, two headed Zaphod Beeblebrox – President of the Galaxy and semi-cousin of Ford Prefect – Marvin the depressed robot, and Trillian who Arthur met at a party in Islington once, and is the only other survivor of Earth’s obliteration.

The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was made into a film in 2005, starring Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent, Mos Def as Ford Prefect – an alien who took a liking to Earth and forgot to go home – Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox and the voice of Alan Rickman as Marvin, the paranoid android.

The importance of towels is referenced in Chapter 3 of the first book of the five part trilogy:

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)”

So today, on the 10th anniversary of Towel Day, Movies.ie salutes author Douglas Adams and asks… Do you know where your towel is?

Words – Brogen Hayes