I love getting side-tracked. I’ve been keeping up with my Tolkien reading this month, but after discovering my friend Travis hadn’t read His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman after he asked me if I had seen the Golden Compass movie, I’ve re-read the whole trilogy again. He’s finished book two but I cheated (couldn’t help myself) and finished book three a couple of days ago. I’ve got the short stories Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North to read, which I haven’t read before. But is there anything better than seeing someone else discover books that you love for the first time? It’s only the third time I have read them, and each time I read them they amaze me.
“I am in fact, a hobbit in all but size” J.R.R Tolkien
I have been enjoying a rather Hobbity holiday. This is usually the time of the year I start reading Lord of the Rings, and watching the movies (my new Blu Ray boxed set this year) but I don’t always read The Hobbit before I start LOTR, in fact I will usually read it later. Having read it directly before I started Fellowship of the Ring I was able to enjoy it more as a prequel, more than usual in any case. I sometimes forget the references to Dale and the Mountain during Bilbo’s birthday party, the last chapter in The Lord of the Rings in which we are still allowed to be children.
The Dead Marshes
On Sunday I picked up a book called Realms of Tolkien – Images of Middle Earth which features twenty artists who have illustrated Lord of the Rings books. There’s the artists I’m familiar with of course, Lee, Howe and Nasmith but the work of Cor Blok, whose paintings appeared on the covers of the Dutch Editions of LOTR really caught my eye.
I had no particular plans for my book collection this year other than attempting to finish my American collection of Brian Jacques first editions and a reading set of the History of Middle Earth. But lately it seems a few Hobbits have been making their way to my bookcase. I recently read a wonderful article by Neil Gaiman where he discussed C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien and his much-loved and battered copies of books he’d had since childhood. I have no such creased and read-to-death copy of the Hobbit from my childhood. I actually can’t remember the first copy I read. But on exploring the contents of my bookcase and ever-growing collection of Tolkien I could easily remember where I bought or was given each copy. So this is my collection of Hobbits in the order I acquired them.
Year of the Dragon indeed. City of Dragons the latest instalment in the Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb, is the book I am most looking forward to in 2012. I think all of her fans were longing for a return to Bingtown and the Rain Wilds (well actually we’re also all longing for a return to the Six Duchies but I’m sure it’s not going to happen) and what a return it was. They were nothing short of brilliant. Something akin to when you get to the end of an epic fantasy series and everything happens exactly as you want it to happen and fills you with all sorts of rampant glee. Only these were just the first two. It could be because they were originally intended to be just a two volume series (the thought fills me with horror) and the pace is a lot faster than her usual sort. With the world building long established the books plunge straight in, with a disparate host of new characters and a group of Dragons who you fall desperately in love with and almost forget about the humans.