"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit," so begins the hobbit's tale that has enchanted readers for more than 70 years.
When J.R.R. Tolkien scratched these words down while grading papers, he opened the door to the world of Middle-earth and the characters that lived there, including two hobbits, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. These two have become so beloved by readers that their fictional shared birthday, Sept. 22, has been celebrated as Hobbit Day for nearly 25 years.
In honor of that day, the week around it has become known as Tolkien Week, when the literary world celebrates the work of one of the past century's most influential authors. Whether you are a newcomer to the series or a long-time fan, the library has a plethora of materials to help you celebrate next week.
Beginners will want to start with "The Hobbit," where they will follow Bilbo Baggins on the quest that brings him to the discovery of a mysterious ring. The story of the ring continues in "The Lord of the Rings" saga, when Frodo inherits it and is caught up in an epic struggle of good against evil.
While these two titles are the best known by the author, they came out of an elaborate mythology created by Tolkien, which is further depicted in other entries in the Middle-earth cycle, including "The Silmarillion," "Unfinished Tales" and "The Book of Lost Tales," well worth exploring for those who haven't already.
An excellent companion to the series can be found in "The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion" by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull. These noted scholars examine the work chapter by chapter, providing annotations and commentary on the meanings of words, names and phrases, and the various influences on the development of the book. This fascinating and intricate examination has plenty to offer both newcomers and seasoned readers.
Learn more about the man behind the masterpiece with Humphrey Carpenter's "J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography." Carpenter used Tolkien's personal papers and interviews with his friends and family to create a vibrant portrait of the author's life from his childhood spent in near poverty through his years of service in World War I and on to his academic career at Oxford. Carpenter is also the editor of "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien," a wonderful collection ranging from personal correspondence with his wife and close friends to responses to eccentric and amusing fan letters.
In recent years, Tolkien's son Christopher has edited and released his father's previously unpublished work, "The Children of Hurin." This book presents the complete, standalone tale of the title characters whose stories had been only briefly touched upon in "The Silmarillion" and "The Book of Lost Tales." Set in the land beyond the Grey Havens in the time of the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, Turin and his sister Nienor face Morgoth's wrath for their father Hurin's defiance. Their tragic story is faithfully presented in Tolkien's original language and accompanied by beautiful full-color illustrations by Alan Lee.
In addition to these books, the library also owns Peter Jackson's film trilogy, "The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King." These renditions faithfully transmit the Lord of the Rings saga to the silver screen. The moving musical sound tracks composed and conducted by Howard Shore for each film are also available.
J.R.R. Tolkien likely had little idea how beloved his work would become when he penned the first words of his hobbit's tale. Whether you journey by book or film, take a trip to Middle-earth next week in honor of him.
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Kendall Ann Koladish is the public services librarian at Leach Library, 276 Mammoth Road in Londonderry. For more information, call 432-1132 or visit londonderrynh.org/library/library.htm.
Children's Room Fall Programs: The Children's Room will be offering the following programs during Fall Session 1: After School Stories (Grades 1-5), Story Time (Children ages 4 to 6), and Toddler Time (Children ages 2 to 3). Fall Session 1 will run from this week through Oct. 7. Advance registration is required. To register, stop by or call 432-1127.
Adult Program, "Haunted Lighthouses of New England," Thursday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. Lighthouse historian Jeremy D'Entremont recounts mysterious tales of eerie activities at several New England lighthouses, including Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle. This illustrated talk will feature historic and new photographs of the lighthouses discussed. The event is free and open to the public, and will be held in the library's lower-level meeting room. Light refreshments will be served.
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