Walter Bitner

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A Snow Day on Tolkien’s Birthday

 

J.R.R.Tolkien

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

It has been about 46 years since I first read those initial ten words. Tolkien was still a figure of the “literary underground” in 1976 – none of my friends or classmates knew of him – and I was only ten years old.

Tolkien’s name is now a household word, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings now appear near the top of every all-time bestsellers list of books in English, and Peter Jackson’s film franchise based on the books is one of the highest-grossing in history.

The books are still the same today as they were when I first read them, but I am not.

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Dreaming of Middle Earth

this is what my first copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings looked like

my original boxed set fell apart decades ago, but this is what my first copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings looked like

OFFTOPIC2When I was a child growing up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, there was a boxed set of books on a shelf in my parents’ study. The cardboard box contained four paperbacks and was decorated with strange symbols and the word TOLKIEN on a field of gold. The entire package was shrink-wrapped and had never been opened, and it sat there there for a long time – weeks or months, I guess, maybe even a year or two – sitting on the shelf with the other books next to it, quietly minding its own business and waiting for me. Sometimes I would pass by it and notice it, read the titles and wonder what it was, what was TOLKIEN, and what was a hobbit, anyway?

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