The Greatest Adventure

J.R.R.Tolkien’s initials in a Runic Monogram.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R.Tolkien is probably my favourite book. I say  “probably” because there are other close contenders, and if you ask me again next week, I may say something different. But if I had to fill a backpack with books for ten years on a desert island, it would be certainly be one of my first picks. And if I ever got a tattoo… heaven forbid… it would be either an interrobang or Tolkien’s elegant monogram.

The Hobbit was published Sept 21, 1937, seventy-five years ago tomorrow, two years before the beginning of WWII, when my parents were still teenagers. Every time I come back to it, the familiar old story feels as fresh as tomorrow, and not only do I rediscover forgotten delights but there are new ones to explore also.

Bilbo’s adventures were always  part of my grade six English classes when I was teaching gifted students.

First we read it of course, always aloud and taking turns. It needs to be spoken. The characters acquired recognizable voices and accents, and the novel turned into a radio drama with songs and special effects.

We carved apple heads and made dolls to create our own dwarves and then sat in a circle to introduce their names and personalities to the class. The next step was to write a new adventure for Bilbo, using our own apple head dwarf and at least two others, by permission of their creators, from the class set and some from the book. The students could not kill or hurt another pupil’s dwarf or make it do anything evil without negotiating permission.

We celebrated Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday on Sept.22 if we were ready by then, or Durin’s Day (the dwarves’ new year) if it was later in the year.  Only natural foods could be served… no pizza or pop or cupcakes… apples and pears, nuts, bannock or plain soda crackers, cheese, eggs, raisins. Popcorn was permitted! Costumes were encouraged and Hobbit games were devised.

One year a very bright and challenging boy handed in his beautifully illustrated story written in Tolkien’s runic alphabet. Ha ha! Big joke on Mrs.C., who fortunately had two sons about the same age who also could read the runes. They translated it for me, and my enthusiastic evaluation was returned, also written in runes! Much amazement… and I never told them how I had done it… but they stopped passing notes in class written in runes!

Thank you, Mr. Tolkien, for so much classroom excitement and all the happy memories!

Arthur Rackham, Rip van Winkle, 1905

Remember the 1977 cartoon version, with Orson Bean as narrator, and a wonderful musical score?

The outstanding cast  of voice characters and more information is here.

Thank goodness Disney did not do it… the Disney drawings are always so generic and stereotypical. The film was made by Japanese animators… some of the characters, the trolls especially, look like Sendak creations, but the overall colour palette and landscape details remind me of the wonderful illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

Take an hour “time out”, get a glass of  milk and some cookies, and give your “inner child” a treat!

When did you first encounter The Hobbit? Do you remember the circumstances and your reaction?

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2 Responses to The Greatest Adventure

  1. Sufiya says:

    I actually didn’t read it for the longest time because I saw it as “trendeee”. if there is one thing I HATE, it’s ‘trendeee”! But I did get on the ball in the early eighties (once it was no longer “trendeee”) and I still think ‘The Hobbit” is the BEST of the series. Bilbo was much MORE of a hero than Frodo..let’s face it; the TRUE “hero” of The lord of the Rings is GOLLUM; it was he, after all, that wanted the ring only for itself…HE didn’t have the ‘support group” that Frodo had, yet he STILL made it to the cavern and it was because of HIM that the ring was ultimately destroyed, albeit , inadvertently! Just think: if Gollum hadn’t been there, then Frodo would have run rampant with that ring and all would have been for naught!

    Love that story about the clever boots who turned in his paper written in runes-and YOU returning your evaluation also in runes! Wish I had had a teacher like you; maybe I wouldn’t have HATED school as much as I did!

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