Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Chasing Hobbits


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I don't remember where I read it, but someone once said that fantasy writers keep writing and telling the same stories over and over again trying to recapture the magic they felt when they first experienced The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  I believe this wholeheartedly, and I don't believe it just applies to fantasy writers, nor specifically to the works of Tolkien.

We all have that story from our youth that captured our imagination and drew us into a mythical world.  For myself and those in the generation before me, it probably was The Hobbit (I remember the first time I read it, a brightly-coloured, illustrated version I borrowed from my friend). For newer generations it will probably be Harry Potter.  When it ended and Frodo and Bilbo moved onto the next world (or when Harry grew up), the magic ended and we moved onto the next book, and the next and the next, trying to find more magic and mystery and wonder.  We may have found better books and stories that even touched us more, but like that fumbling awkwardness in the backseat of your parents' car, you never forget your first.

Perhaps you are not fantasy fan, but if you love stories there is probably some theme or plot or element that you seek out to re-experience that sense of thrill and wonder from your first time.  Mystery fans look for that shocking twist, romance readers look for that powerful, heart-wrenching passion, horror fans seek the visceral thrill of grotesque awe.  Even non-fiction readers presumably love that moment of discovering something new, of learning a new fact, or unraveling a puzzle.

Readers are content to continue bouncing from book to book, from world to world, trying again and again to find that wonder that made your childhood imagination sparkle.  It's enough to visit that Other-World for a few hours or days while you read the book, but writers need to experience that feeling on a whole other level.  Writers look for something more.  They need to catch the hobbit not just to experience it momentarily, but to hold it for a long time and put its story down in words so that others can experience it as well.  It's a great burden, and a great responsibility, but it's also as fun as all get out.

Writers write because they want to, and because they need to.  They hope to make something that other people will read and enjoy.

And maybe, just maybe, in doing so they will catch the hobbit and hold it long enough to ignite the spark in someone else.
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