The_Hobbit-_An_Unexpected_Journey_74“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

So it all began.

Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT is finally opening this weekend. Jackson is perhaps the only director who could bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale of Bilbo Baggins to life as well as Frodo’s tale was adapted in the LORD OF THE RINGS movies. Jackson’s return to Tolkien’s work is the main attraction for me. All the lessons he learned in bringing fantasy’s most beloved trilogy to life on the silver screen should make for an excellent adaptation of Tolkien’s first Middle-Earth novel.

My love affair with the works of  Tolkien began in 3rd grade when I read THE HOBBIT. I probably was drawn to the book after seeing the Rankin-Bass animated version of the book on television in 1977. But I remember it was the first book I ever obsessed over, and it lead me eventually to THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

This was also about the time of Ralph Bakshi’s animated LORD OF THE RINGS (1978), which only adapted HALF of the trilogy, but completely blew my mind as a young moviegoer. It transported me directly into Middle Earth and forever influenced my personal view of Tolkien’s world. In order to get the rest of the epic story I had no other choice but to read the books.The_Lord_of_the_Rings_1978_1978

There would eventually be an animated TV movie “Return of the King” telling the second half of the story—but I didn’t know that, and I wouldn’t have waited even if I had. I went straight to the books: big, black, gold-trimmed hardcovers that my mother checked out for me from the library of the school where she worked. They had huge, fold-out maps detailing Middle-Earth, and they were the most gorgeous books I’d ever seen—not to mention the greatest thing I had ever read. I didn’t realize how far above my grade level I was actually reading in those days. The story and characters and Middle-Earth itself captivated me, as it did again years later when I re-read the series as a teen, and then again when I read the trilogy for a third time in my twenties.

Reading THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS as a child did not sate my appetite for fantasy. No, it only kindled the flame inside me, and made it burn hotter than ever. I discovered the vast treasure trove of lore that is THE SILMARILLION when I was in the fifth or sixth grade.

I was far too young to read this dense and complex work, but still it enchanted my young mind. I failed to get very far the first two or three times I tried to read it.  I’ve heard that same thing from other Tolkien fans. But once you realize that THE SILMARILLION wasn’t a single work, but a combination of various stories, legends, and histories written over the decades of Tolkien’s life, then assembled posthumously by his son after J.R.R. passed away, you begin to realize why THE SILMARILLION is such a challenge. And such a treasure.

silmarillion_ballantine_1stTo this day my favorite of all Tolkien’s works is THE SILMARILLION, simply because it is the underpinning for all his other major works. The book is entirely unique: You don’t have to read it all in one pass. It’s perfect for reading in part, setting aside for awhile, then coming back to later. There are literally THOUSANDS of years of history and legend and adventure here to keep exploring. The entire history of Middle-Earth is here, as rich and colorful as any set of myth-histories to which you might compare it.

And that’s where my mind begins to boggle and the uber-fan in me begins to salivate: When I see what a solid job Jackson has done at bringing LOTR and THE HOBBIT into the medium of film, I start thinking about all those amazing stories inside THE SILMARILLION, just waiting for the same treatment. There are several decades’ worth of possible movies in the book. (Especially since movies tend to take so long to make.)

Just a few tales from THE SILMARILLION that would make great movies:

The Creation of ArdaGlaurung
The Chaining of Melkor
The Tragedy of Feanor
The Tale of Finrod Felagund
Beren and Lúthien
Túrin vs. Glaurung
The Children of Hurin
The Fall of Gondolin
The Voyage of Eärendil
The War of Wrath

And there are so many more!

Of course, no movie will ever live up to the sheer pleasure of reading these tales in their original form. The Book Is Always Better Than The Movie. But if there are movies based on Tolkien’s works—and there are bound to be more after THE HOBBIT—then I truly hope the producers, directors, and writers of those movies draw upon the deep store of wonder that is THE SILMARILLION. Meanwhile, there will be three HOBBIT movies to enjoy first. I plan to see the first one this weekend, along with a few million other Tolkien fans and curious moviegoers.

Bring on Bilbo and the Dwarves! Bring on Mirkwood! Bring on Smaug and the Battle of the Five Armies!

Middle-Earth, here we come again…