Wednesday, 29 January 2014

My very first exposure to Tolkien

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...was aged about ten or eleven, when a friend played me a few minutes on a cassette tape from what he called 'a fairy tale for grown-ups' called The Hobbit.

It was from the (apparently?) long-lost 1961 BBC Radio adaptation read by David Davis - who was one of the best and favourite performers on children's radio during my childhood

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Davis_(broadcaster)

Here is a snippet of his voice - although when I knew him it had matured to be a little deeper and more 'gravelly' than here:

http://www.radioacademy.org/hall-of-fame-member/david-davis/

I was intrigued - but did not get around to reading The Hobbit for myself until I was 13, under the influence of another friend who perhaps lent me a copy.

I loved it so much that I did not want to read The Lord of the Rings because I knew that it did not have very much more about Bilbo - I just wanted another book all about Bilbo.

Still, eventually (i.e. after a few weeks resistance) I read LotR; and the rest is history...

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18 comments:

david stanley said...

I read the LOTR first at 16 but then regretted not having read the Hobbit first. At the time I couldn't cope with the Silmarillion so moved onto Lewis and the interplanetary trilogy. I never read much else by Tolkien and never enjoyed fantasy or sci-fi much. I am glad neither author was poisoned by being set at school. My english teacher did rec ommend "screwtape" however.

By the way in case you didn't know you are casually maligned in a Takimag article on the DE/ neo reactionary thing by Nicholas James Pell

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - Yes I saw that - "painfully shallow understanding"!

- Lord Have Mercy upon me! - it's like being savaged by a dead sheep...

JP said...

I think I read the Hobbit and LOTR in 3rd or 4th grade.

I remember the copy of LOTR in the school library had "not to be read by anyone under the age of 10" stamped on the cover, and I got a naughty thrill from reading it at a younger age.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - I think 13 was about the right age for me to read Lord of the Rings - for other people it would be older.

Indeed, the book seems to have a bigger impact when read as an adult - or near adult - yet early enough in life to have a lasting and shaping beneficial effect.

Wm Jas said...

I first read Tolkien at the age of 8 or 9. He's one of those writers I absolutely loved as a child but haven't reread since my early teens -- mostly because I'm afraid of being disappointed, of the books not living up to my memories of them. (Well, I've reread some of his minor works recently but still can't get up the nerve to crack open the Hobbit or LotR.)

The appendices on Tolkien's invented languages were my first exposure to linguistic terminology, initiating me into what has so far turned out to be a lifelong interest.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - Might I suggest reading through the LotR section of The History of Middle Earth (vols 6,7,8, and some of 9) as a way back-in.

It is truly fascinating at so many levels.

JP said...

@WmJas

Last year I read LOTR to my son (age 6). That was perhaps the first time I'd read them since the early 2000s. I was not disappointed; the books retained their value.

Samson J. said...

haven't reread since my early teens -- mostly because I'm afraid of being disappointed, of the books not living up to my memories of them

Won't happen; have no fear! I don't like it in precisely the same way as I did when I was a kid, but I like it just as much. There's so much wisdom and insight in there that's intriguing to an adult mind... It's pretty telling, I think, that I've "grown out of" fantasy in general, but not out of Tolkien's universe.

It does seem to me that the only people who don't like Tolkien as adults are people who didn't read him as children. What kind of books these people *were* reading (people who were otherwise intelligent, well-read children), I have no idea.

Deogolwulf said...

I started reading The Fellowship of the Ring when I was eleven, having found it in a bookcase in a classroom in the high-school to which I had been condemned. (The teachers were on strike; hence it was a “reading-lesson”, i.e., we were ushered into a classroom and told to choose a book from the small bookcase therein.) I had been made dimly aware of its existence by the headmaster of my primary school who had read The Hobbit to us – a magical experience. (When the headmaster — a splendid man — afterwards read to us Puck of Pook’s Hill, he had to suppress a mutiny. We were all agreed that it was simply not good enough.) My mother bought me the one-volume edition of The Lord of the Rings for my twelfth birthday — the best birthday-present I ever had.

"[P]ainfully shallow understanding" amused me.

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - I feel his pain at my shallowness. Poor dear.

Jables said...

So far nobody in this discussion has mentioned what I've found to be a common experience: trying to read the Lord of the Rings and grinding to a halt partway through the Two Towers.

I first read the Hobbit in my early teens, and enjoyed it very much. I always remembered its plot and characters clearly, which is a sign of its impact.

But I tried reading the Lord of the Rings when I was perhaps sixteen, and quit during the Two Towers. I think the precise point was when Merry and Pippin met Treebeard.

This is worth mentioning because I've heard other people say the same thing: they tried, and got bogged down during the Two Towers, usually at the Ents. In fact for awhile I took this to be the normal experience of readers of LOTR (I've since found it's not the case).

Thankfully I gave LOTR another try, and at the perfect time: having just become a Christian, the imaginative and moral life awakening all around me... and it instantly became my favourite novel of all time.

Hence I think Dr. Charlton has a point about reading the book as an adult.

Bruce Charlton said...

@J - My impression is that some adults get bogged down and give-up in the early hobbity chapters, or at Tom Bombadil.

These are among my personal favourite bits, but I can understand people not liking them much.

I often read chunks of LotR out of sequence, and find that I mainly look at the Fellowship volume - and least often at Frodo and Sam in Mordor - too sad and tormented for pleasurable reading.

Jables said...

That’s interesting: I too read chunks of LotR out of sequence—I lately re-read the entire book that way, reading chapters out of sequence—but I mainly look at the Return of the King volume, and least at the early Hobbit chapters. The chapters with the least draw for me are those between A Shadow of the Past and The Inn of the Prancing Pony.

The chapters which draw me most strongly are The Siege of Gondor, The Ride of the Rohirrim, and The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. More generally, everything that follows Aragorn and Rohan.

My wife loves Tom Bombadil. Can’t say I’ve ever gotten Bombadil...

Bruce Charlton said...

@J Whereas *my* wife has an aversion to Tom B which almost amounts to a psychopathology...

Deogolwulf said...

My favourite are the first nine chapters, from A Long-Expected Party to At the Sign of the Prancing Pony, the hobbity bits in particular, the fellowship, the warmth, and the adventure. I wished for more of it. I'm afraid to say I used to study the map of the Shire and imagine wanderings through it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@D " I used to study the map of the Shire and imagine wanderings through it."

I, on the other hand, own two.. no make that *three*, books of Tolkien maps...

Deogolwulf said...

I used to have Barbara Strachey's book of maps (Journeys of Frodo).

SFG said...

"It does seem to me that the only people who don't like Tolkien as adults are people who didn't read him as children. What kind of books these people *were* reading (people who were otherwise intelligent, well-read children), I have no idea."

Probably Judy Blume and S.E. Hinton. The whole young-adult-dysfunction set, I think.