In the third grade I embarked on an adventure from Hobbiton straight through the Misty Mountains, Rivendell, the House of Beorn, through Mirkwood, to the Lonely Mountain. I rode barrels, told riddles in the dark, and fought in the Battle of Five Armies. Months later I went to an eleventy-first birthday party, fought deadly Shelob, and eventually experienced the destruction of the One rRing.
My dad was (is) a big Tolkien fan and I was an advanced reader for my age. those two things combined with a nerdy streak set me off on my adventure. My reading teacher encouraged me, even if her true stories were about now she faked reading The Hobbit for a class. Soon, I was making cloaks out of blankets and rings out of bottle caps.
In 1999 or 2000, at the movies with my long-time beau, I saw a preview for the first Lord of the Rings movie. It was more than a year out, but we bustled with excitement after the feature ended, about how we couldn’t wait to see the movie together. We had a lot of things in common, and a lot of individual geekery, but Middle Earth was our only geek common ground. I vowed that I would read each of the books again so that I could imagine each character and place one more time, from my mind, rather than recall what was fed to me in the movie. Although the idea of seeing the movie brought me joy, the idea of being robbed of my own mental creations saddened me.
Just a couple days before the movie came out, longtime beau and I split up. It was a really rough time for me. We saw the movie together anyway, and I remember a weird, sad, and nerdy moment involving a tear that just wouldn’t fall. It was a moment we both caught and a moment I tried to assign more meaning to, when we came together in its long, wavering, eternity on my lower lashes in front of the bright screen. It was a tear for the relationship, sure. But it was a tear for the fact that, while we could make promises all we wanted, we knew in our hearts that we wouldn’t nerd out to The Two Towers, Return of the King, or The Hobbit. Not together, anyway. It was the last nerdy road for us.
Life went on, and I went on many adventures-some solo, and some with accomplices, although never with burglars or dwarves, and with the exception of a few bad dates and some not so great friends, there were almost never trolls, goblins, or orcs. There may have been some mountains, and maybe even a charming dragon with a jewel-crusted belly. I can recall conversations with men that certainly felt like riddles in the dark. There were indeed times in my life where I wanted to put a ring on my finger and disappear, and thankfully plenty of more times where I metaphorically pulled the ring off of my finger and emerged, standing out there for the world to see.
Like a Baggins in his hole, I love the life I have built around me. Like a Took, sometimes I get excited by adventure.
But I am not a hobbit. My life, as pleasant as it is, is busy with obligations and jobs and the occasional adventure, and one of the things that has sadly slipped to low priority is reading. I spend my days with a librarian these days; the irony is not lost on my there. reading 900 pages on the beach was not unusual for me as a teen, reading 300 pages in months as an adult, is. So when the thought crossed my mind to read The Hobbit before the film came out, I knew it would be one of those things that I never crossed off my list.
Tonight, however, after less than a week, I finished rereading The Hobbit after almost 27 years since the last time. It was better than I remember. When I close my eyes tonight I will see Smaug, as I imagine him, with big marble eyes, Thorin’s beard, as yellow and stained as I want it to be, and the eagles, as big as an airplane. Bilbo himself will be cute and pleasant looking, only vaguely human, and elves will all be pasty and pretty, and Gollum will be kind of a walking booger and not made of cgi. And then over the weekend I will see the movie (unless I can’t wait and Download it tomorrow!) and all of those images in my head will likely be replaced by those in the film, forever.