Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tolkien and Me

The first novel I remember being read as a bedtime story was The Hobbit.

The first novel I remember reading was The Hobbit. I finished it, then turned back to "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." I still have that edition. It's well-worn.

The Lord of the Rings was also a bedtime story. I can still remember the tune Dad sang for Tom Bombadil's song, though I think the elvish songs were read as poetry. I'm not sure I understand everything in the book, but I certainly enjoyed it.

I have an unused Tolkien diary from 1995 illustrated and signed by John Howe. That isn't as impressive as it sounds. Howe went to high school with my dad.

Dad had a bunch of Tolkien art that used to be calendars back in the 1970s. Some of the images were as I pictured the scenes. Many weren't. I'm not a fan of the Hildebrandts. I'm only somewhat a fan of Nasmith.

I have seen the Bass-Rankin Hobbit twice.

One summer—I think I was twelve—my family roadtripped across the Prairies to rendezvous with family in Winnipeg. As one does when one is a writer, Dad scheduled readings in bookstores in most of the cities en route. In the McNally-Robinson in Saskatoon, I found a fairly cheap boxed set of The Lord of the Rings, and begged money off my mom to buy it. Guess what I read for the rest of the trip?

In grade ten, I spent a glorious lunch period clustered around a table in the library, debating with the other kids who ate lunch in the library which hobbit in that promotional photo was Frodo. I'm pretty sure I was arguing for Dominic Monaghan. Several subsequent lunch hours were spent talking Tolkien.

In December 2001, my whole family drove into town to see Fellowship of the Ring in the big, fancy, first-run theatre. (I say big and fancy because it had carpet and five screens, and because we'd recently moved from a different town, which had a single-screen, second-run theatre. Ah, city living!) Even Mom and my sister enjoyed it, though neither of them were big fans of the book and Mom kept asking who the people were. We repeated this ceremony for the next two films.

The first half of my first year of university coincided with the hyping up of Return of the King. I spent much more time online looking at production diaries and movie rumors than I probably should've, and also managed to discover internet fandom at the same time, though I didn't realize it was a Big Thing until several years later. To prepare for Return of the King, I also rewatched the other two films and reread the novels, on top of my assigned reading list. It's entirely possible my roommate thought I was insane.

I own the theatrical editions. I own the extended editions. I have watched each at least twice, including all the extras. I'm slightly ashamed to say I've only listened to the actor commentaries, and not the post-production and art design ones. The extended editions are by far the best, and I agree with many fans that what Peter Jackson changed in The Two Towers was upsetting, disappointing, and unnecessary. I have seen at least three documentaries on Tolkien and his works, and one documentary on John Howe.

To date, I have made three abortive attempts to read The Silmarillion.

I need to reread The Hobbit before the movie comes out. I should probably also reread LOTR because it's been a few years.

And none of that, not as a kind of weird little girl and not as a bigger teenage fan, not as an adult who's been tracking The Hobbit's progress via the internet, has excited me as much as this photo:

(Entertainment Weekly)

We have a Bilbo! Yay! This movie cannot get here fast enough.


Amanda J. said...

I'm super excited. I can't wait until it comes out and I can have a marathon that begins with The Hobbit and includes all the extended editions of the LOTR DVDs. :D I now feel the need to reread them as well lol.

Elena said...

And, it looks "right".

Anassa said...

Amanda: That would be awesome! I will have to do that marathon too, I think.

Elena: Yes, yes, it does indeed. :)

KD Sarge said...

I first read the Hobbit in 8th grade. I turned around and read it five more times. I've probably read just the chapter "Spiders and Flies" thirty times.


Hannah said...

It looks awesome!

I've seen each of the LOTR movies, um, at least six times, and I know I'm past eight on FOTR and ROTK (both of which I saw four times in the theatres, and three consecutive years we had all-three-extended-edition-back-to-back-New-Years-Day marathons.) Amusingly enough, I think I've only read the books twice each, and only once for Two Towers and Hobbit (this makes me look like a slacker, I know).

There's an excellent lit crit book about Tolkien, J.R.R. TOLKIEN: AUTHOR OF THE CENTURY by Tom Shippey, which I highly, highly recommend.

Skip most of the Silmarillion: read Beren and Luthien and Turin Turambar, and Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin. That's all the good stuff.

Elena said...

Don't forget Shippey's other book, The Road To Middle Earth, which I've heard a ton of good things about - not to mention having read it.

That's one I definitely have to recommend.