A Tolkien of My Affection

I want to be a Hobbit. No, I don’t have hairy feet nor do I have the semi-pointy ears sported by Bilbo Baggins and his kin. What I do have is a tendency to be overlooked, an affinity for mushrooms, and an appreciation for a rollicking good story. And I seem to be growing shorter each year. I blame it all on J.R.R. Tolkien.
I discovered Middle Earth during Winter Finals Week my junior year in college. One of my floor-mates had read Tolkien for her English class and handed me The Hobbit. “Take a break”, she said. I did, read it straight through, and was hooked.
Over the years, I’ve read all four books more times than I can remember. It is still a pleasure to slip into Tolkien’s world and follow the Baggins Boys on their quests. And each time I read, I seem to discover something previously unnoticed. It wasn’t until four reads in that I realized Aragorn was the mysterious stranger who slipped over the walls of Bree after Frodo and his band arrived on that dark, rainy night. Being of a certain age, I could see certain parallels drawn to 20th century events. Intended or not, those parallels started many a thought process.
When Peter Jackson announced his plans to film The Lord of the Rings, I wondered if he would be able to make Middle Earth a reality for Tolkien fans. For me, he did. Of course there were omissions…Tom Bombadil never made an appearance, although the Hobbit-eating Willow showed up in the forest of the Ents. Saruman was left in his tower to molder away, not murdered on the road to Hobbiton…but the best remained. Just my humble movie-goer opinion of course. I went back and read the books again, this time with visions of characters, places, and events nicely fleshed out in my mind.
I was impatient to see The Hobbit. You see, I think Bilbo’s story was simpler but every bit as important in the grand scheme. He was after all the one who found (although some say ‘stole’) the One Ring and set the rest of the story on its way. It was one prequel that needed to be visualized. And again, I was not disappointed. Of course, we’re only 1/3 of the way through Bilbo’s Adventure as conceived by Peter Jackson, but I had a wondrous time meeting a more carefree (at first) Gandalf, Thorin Oakenshield and his crew, and seeing a bit more of the creatures of Middle Earth.
I thought about ‘why’ Jackson left The Hobbit for last and came up with enough reasons to fill a small pamphlet. In the end I decided the ‘why’ doesn’t matter as much as the fact that he gives us three more chances to journey along with Mr. Baggins and Gandalf. “In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit…” begins one of the greatest sagas I know.

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