Happy Birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 – 1973)

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2021/01/03/happy-birthday-j-r-r-tolkien-1892-1973.html


The first memory I have of anything Tolkien was when I was in school.

We occasionally watched movies on 16mm film projectors, and the two that stick in my memory were The Fiddler on the Roof, and The Hobbit cartoon movie.

The story and songs were galvanizing to my young imagination, and made me seek out the book of the Hobbit, and then the Rings Trilogy.


I read and loved The Hobbit in high school, not for any assignment, but it wasn’t until college that I picked up Lord of the Rings. At first, it read exactly like I’d have expected a sequel to read, but then it turned into something far broader and deeper. Funny thing is, I’ve never seen the movies, and I’m not sure I want to.


the LOTR movies are, in a word, great. yes, there are things changed and things different, but it’s an adaptation from written word to visual medium, and omg the vast list of things done right makes it all very much worth your time. the hobbit movies, well… i maintain there’s some good stuff there, but overall maybe it’s best if you just avoided those.

A toast: To the Professor!


I love the original cover art for that book. I’ve read that book I don’t know how many times. Maybe it’s time to read it again. One of the only pleasant memories of my Aunt is her reading this to me and my brother.


but the Hobbit movies are trash.

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As a coincidence, I just started a re-read of The Hobbit as my bedtime book a couple of days ago.

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you’re wrong, but ok.

Ok. I thought the hobbit movies were garbage. I’m sure people might enjoy them but I was endlessly disappointed and thought the special effects used were off putting. I enjoyed the LOTR movies.

I’d say watch the LOTR movies don’t watch the Hobbit movies.

Mild spoiler that may be relevant to your decision: the movies left Tom Bombadil on the cutting room floor, thank goodness. Man, that guy annoyed me.


yeah, i mean, i get it as far as the hobbit movies go. but i do feel like there’s some good stuff there, even after leaving aside all the completely ridiculous padding. considering how the entire process played out, i’m kind of surprised the hobbit movies happened at all. in the end, i feel like they took a book written for children and made a movie that kids could enjoy, so i’m willing to just let them be, even though i’m frustrated and sad because i know they could’ve been so much better. i’m super happy with the LOTR movies, so i can just soak in them for my Tolkien joy.


This was mine:


A comb-bound (bizarre, in retrospect) paperback copy of the novel enhanced with illustrations, storyboards, and stills from the RB animation, which I wouldn’t see until later.

For whatever reason, it was knocking around my parent’s house, and I picked it up, looked over the illustrations, and then just started reading it. I must have been eight or nine. For whatever reason, this became my preferred version of the book.

The Lord of the Rings came later, by a couple of years at least (12, I want to say)— the Ballantine paperbacks with the covers by Tolkien; by then I’d already seen the Bakshi animation.


I only found him mildly annoying, but I know what you mean. I think he was brilliantly parodied in Bored of the Rings.


I think Tom Bombadil is also a relic, a leftover from early ideas of what Tolkein expected LOTR to be, a return to the episodic style of The Hobbit. And an expression of the idea that there are immortal forces out there that aren’t all that interested in the big war outside their neighbourhood. But really, I think it’s a reflection of the intended audience growing up as the novel progressed. And like the mythologies the good professor himself loved, it adds to the feeling that the tale of our heroes comes from different traditions.


I love the Rankin & Bass version of The Hobbit (and The Return of the King, for that matter). The music by Glenn Yarbrough is just fantastic. I read The Hobbit in the summer between fifth and sixth grades, and it’s my absolutely favorite book of all time.


I like Tom Bombadil in the book, and I completely agree that it was the right decision to leave him out of the movie. Some things that work in one medium won’t work in another; if nothing else, he would have messed up the pacing of what was already a very long movie.

Anyway, I got introduced into Tolkien when I was… seven, I think? Reading my mother’s copy of the Fellowship of the Ring, in Finnish of course. That was the only one we had; she’d been unwilling to wait for the Two Towers and Return of the King to get translated, so instead she got the Swedish versions for those. I of course couldn’t read Swedish as a kid, so it was a long wait until I got TT as a Christmas gift. (I have no idea why I didn’t seek them out at the library, given that we visited it nearly every time we went to the town.)


[Somber Howard Shore musical score plays]

Frodo: I feel the ring taking me, Sam. I fear Sauron’s evil will soon envelop all of Middle Earth.

Sam (through tears): You must be strong, Mister Frodo! Think of the Shire… and remember that there is good in this world worth fighting fo—


Sam: For the last time, we’re in the middle of something important and we don’t care what color your fucking boots are!


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