10th December 2012 - Isobel Moore
A child's first encounter with The Hobbit is a magical moment of discovery. Isobel Moore, from our Royal Festival Hall branch, recalls her father's nightly readings of Bilbo Baggins' adventures and how stories of Middle-earth helped her through tough times.
See our J R R Tolkien page, featuring all editions of The Hobbit, books about the films, all of Tolkien's other works and books about the world of Middle-earth.
When I was six years old, my dad decided to read The Hobbit to me and my younger brother. Bit by bit, chapter by chapter, he slowly worked his way through the story each and every night before bed, naturally doing all of the voices. My brother and I spent every night on the edge of our seats, enthralled by the biggest adventure either of us had ever heard. As it turned out, the adventure was ultimately somewhat grander, as at my mum's insistence, my dad had edited out all of the scariest parts of the story! When I read it for myself the first time two years later I was astounded by the close of the book. This wasn't just one little hobbit going on a trip, this was an epic journey, with greater risk and loss then I had ever before read.
It was another two years before my mum finally caved and handed over a battered copy of The Lord of the Rings. Two long years of nagging and pleading and begging and promising that I would only look at the family trees in the back of the book of she would just let me hold it. Convinced that the Nazgûl would give me nightmares, she held off, and threatened my dad with various punishments if he tried to sneak me a copy, but eventually, at the age of ten, The Lord of the Rings was mine to read! And it was phenomenal. The return to Middle-earth was well worth the wait and J R R had once again captured my imagination.
I suppose I reread the books a few times over the next few years, but no particular occasion stand out. Until... the movies. The Fellowship of the Ring was released in December 2001, three weeks before I emigrated to Australia. I loved the movie and pulled out my dad's old copy of The Lord of the Rings to reread in my last three weeks in England. My last three weeks surrounded by the green hills so similar to the shire. Three weeks of snow and rain and mud and I didn't manage to finish it. Busy with bidding my hundreds of relatives goodbye and the all encompassing affair that Christmas can be, I got about half way through. And, naturally, I didn't want to stop.
But... The Lord of the Rings is a heavy book. It is a thick, heavy brick of a book and my carry on was already pretty full. So I ended up leaving that copy at my aunt's house (where it still sits upon the shelf and I think about stealing it back every time I visit) having been promised by my dad that instantly upon arriving in Australia he would immediately purchase for me a new copy. He promised.
Which didn't quite happen, naturally my parents were busy with all that emigration jazz and I had two weeks of a hotel room and nothing but my annoying younger brother to keep me entertained. I didn't know the city, didn't understand anything that people were saying, and they certainly didn't understand my strong Hull accent. And it was hot - it was January - and it was so hot and dry and brown which was very weird and very, very sweaty. And after about two weeks I kicked up a stink and demanded to be taken to a bookshop or I would just try to find one myself and it would be my parents fault if I got lost and ended up in the outback, got bitten by a spider and died.
So bookshop it was. And I had my brand new copy of The Lord of the Rings, which to be honest, I think sort of saved me a little bit. It felt like home, it felt like going home and wrapping myself in a warm blanket of safe familiar words and characters, and mattered just that little bit less that I didn't have any friends and that I was taking three showers a day just to escape the heat because J R R was there, and he always had been, and he always would be.
And by the end of my first week at school, I'd made no less than three new friends, based on conversations started by my shiny new Tolkien themed folder. Thank you J R R, wherever you are.
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J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien