I first read The Hobbit in fourth grade. That book, along with The Lord of the Rings always represented something sacred to me, even before I read them, because the copies that were in my house as I grew up were 1) clearly older than I was, 2) on a bookshelf and alongside other books that appeared - even to my young eyes - iconic and special, and 3) "my mom's books." Now, my mother has never denied me anything wonderful, so consequently, that sacred boxed set of four novels now belongs to me. :) Here they are on my Tolkien shelf. Oh yeah, I have a Tolkien shelf.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Ballantine Books 1983 Ed. with introduction by Peter S. Beagle, and Darrell K. Sweet cover art
The Tolkien shelf (Okay, okay, there is an intruder on the far right - my signed copy of The Name of the Wind)
I never really thought about it until recently, but I think The Hobbit may be largely responsible for my being a geek. I can't really trace my geekiness back much farther than that. I mean, I know I loved drawing princess dresses, and I had an intense love for the Rankin Bass "The Last Unicorn" and "My Neighbor Totoro," but in fourth grade I read The Hobbit, and then I wanted to write.
There was a writing contest in my class that year in which we all wrote little stories, and the covers were laminated for us, and the little lined pages were bound for us. And when it came time for the class to vote for the first, second, and third place winners, all three of the stories I had written won. Of course, this was not allowed - the class had to pick different students' work for second and third place, but I distinctly remember that my heart felt five times larger that day. It wasn't even pride, it was joy. To write with emotion and to have my peers approve and - more importantly - enjoy, was pure rapture. It was and always has been from that point, rapture.
But what if I had not read The Hobbit when I was in fourth grade? I know there are many, many people out there who read Tolkien's work as adults and are just as entranced by it as any child could be (take Christopher Lee, who reads The Lord of the Rings every year) but children are so much more absorbent than adults. I think the older we get, the more we disbelieve things. We are bigger skeptics, and have to work harder to free our imaginations.
When you're a child, you like what you like. It isn't dumb or embarrassing, and you are totally un-selfconscious about obsessing. When you're a kid, your whole world can be Star Wars, and no one thinks less of you for it.
I recently saw this video of a happy couple dancing to Skyrim's Dragonborn song at their wedding:
When I first watched this, a little part of me freaked out. I thought, "Oh, no, guys! The whole world is going to know how nerdy you are!" And that is the little part of me that started to be made fun of as I grew older, entered high school (shiver...), and then (less often, but it still wasn't safe to let everyone see my inner geek) went to college.
The key, of course, is surrounding yourself with friends and a community that shares and values your interests, but it's a big world out there with plenty of people ready to sink their claws into you for not being mainstream and vanilla. They forgot what it's like to be a child, when we're all geeks of a sort, with a love for Sesame Street or Legos or My Little Ponies (omg, I still love them...), and make-believe is not only accepted, but a required daily pursuit. I think a lot of adult geeks are children who grew up and refused to let go of what they love.
So, here's to the happy couple. You make me braver. :) And here's to this guy:
You made me a better writer.