Thursday, May 2, 2019

Love at first Hobbit

At the Highfield Primary School library, they put the new books up on a special shelf, but sometimes you had to wait a couple of weeks before you could actually check them out, so all the other kids could see what was going to be available.

Waiting for The Hobbit to be moved from the red section to the green when I was 7 years old was the longest two weeks of my life.

There had been books beforehand, including a huge infatuation with the Hardy Boys and an obsession with Terrence Dicks' Doctor Who stories that never, ever died. But this thick and chunky novel, with a golden dragon on the cover, was the sexiest thing I'd ever seen in my short life, and I was desperate to get my grubby hands on it.

It didn't disappoint either, and I ripped through it in three days, even though it was the longest thing I'd ever attempted. I pity the poor teachers who were suddenly inundated with Hobbit fan fiction or art whenever we had to create something in class. I had no idea what Gollum looked like, and drew him as a lizard man with a tail, before subsequent re-reads gave me a better idea of how he appeared.

And I did read it over and over again, and loved it every time. I'd move onto a new obsession with Stephen King's The Stand in just a few years, but for a while there, the Hobbit was the greatest story I'd ever read.

I didn't get to the Lord of the Rings for another decade, weirdly put off by the humongous appendices at the end. The Hobbit was this perfect book, a weird and rambling story that didn't need a next-level sequel. It was all I wanted in my fiction, and worth that eternal two-week wait.

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