I've read 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of The Rings.' I have to admit to being something of a J.R.R. Fan. I had heard of 'The Hobbit' when I was at school, but never read it until I was a good deal older because I had considered it to be a children's novel. But I read it and loved it. It's got so much going for it. As if you didn't know, it's a sort of prequel to 'The Lord of The Rings.' A teacher was reading that when I was at school, so I knew about it. Being an avid reader for most of my life, I would read anything and everything I could lay my hands on. I think I have always had something or other to read for most of my life, a habit I began at school, where we were expected to have a book to read or to at least get something out of the library and have it to read if we had nothing else to do. I'm so glad to have had that habit. I originally had the paperback of 'The Hobbit' and later got the illustrated edition which was done by Alan Lee. He was the concept artist for the Peter Jackson adaptation of 'The Lord of The Rings.' His illustrations fit quite well with how I imagined the characters and the locations of Middle Earth might look like.
In about 1971 I went to work at the Liverpool Playhouse as an A.S.M. I took with me the complete paperback edition of the 'Lord of The Rings.' I bought it when I had gone to London with my brother Robert. I can't say I remember what we were doing in London at the time. I think he may have gone with me to an interview for a job. I would have been around 19-20 at the time I suppose. I read the book when I had a spare moment at the theatre, in the Green Room. It certainly made an impression on me. Like 'The Hobbit,' it has a journey (or two, or three, perhaps more.) at the heart of it. A quest. I think I got to really love the central characters, particularly Frodo (the nephew of Bilbo, who is the central character in 'The Hobbit.') He is flawed, like most of us. He gets scared on the way to dispose of The Ring (I won't spoil it for those who have yet to read and enjoy this magical tale.) He is reacquainted with Gollum, whom he first meets in 'The Hobbit.' A more devious and calculating character you won't find in any other book, but he's interesting and it's difficult to not feel a certain amount of sympathy for the little blighter. I have read the whole trilogy at least four more times. I think perhaps every decade (so I think a re-read is about due soon.) I had the three separate books, 'The Fellowship of The Ring,' 'The Two Towers' and 'The Return of The King.' I bought it through one of those book clubs you used to see advertised in magazines such as 'The Sunday Times' and 'The Telegraph.' You had to buy around 6 books for £5 or something, and then buy a further so many within your first year. I don't know what happened to those books. I've moved house so many times, no doubt they got left somewhere or other. Then, a good deal later, I bought the complete trilogy which came out with the Alan Lee illustrations. Again, from one of those book clubs. I think it was called The Softback Preview or something. You can see that I'm a bit of a book freak, so these book clubs were so tempting to me. Unfortunately the copy I had had a fault in it. Part-way through reading it, I discovered that there was a large part missing, one of the 'sets' of pages was missing. It was an expensive edition, selling full-price for around £50. I returned it and got a replacement. Again, another book that has been lost. More like mislaid, unfortunately. I will have to buy it again to read all over again.
Then in the 1980's the BBC did the remarkable Radio Four adaptation. I listened and loved it. It was later bought out on cassette. I was a member of the record library at Bedford Central Library and had the cassettes out to listen to. Then, much more recently, the whole set was published on the far more sophisticated CD system, along with 'The Hobbit.' I saw it for sale in 'The Works' in Milton Keynes and being sold for a ridiculously low price, something like £20. I'm not sure what it full price would have been. Probably around £100 I would imagine. I had it as a Christmas present for Christmas 2015. It has been sitting on our bookshelf ever since and hadn't been played until last night.
There had been a movie version of 'The Lord of The Rings' made in the late 1970's. It was animated and wasn't very good. They attempted to cram two of the books into one movie. Not exactly memorable. I believe that 'The Hobbit' was done a similar way but I have never seen it. Then in around 1999 it was announced that a new trilogy was to be produced, by Peter Jackson, and using the latest computer technology and to be filmed in New Zealand. I was wary of this, as it's a beloved sequence of novels and it was likely to spoil the whole Middle Earth concept. But I saw it and wasn't disappointed. It was as near as perfect as you could make an adaptation of a novel. I'm talking of the first book, 'The Fellowship of The Ring.' I think it came out in 2001. The next year saw the second film, 'The Two Towers' and the following year 'The Return of The King.' Ian McKellen played Gandalf and was, to my way of thinking, almost born to play the part. He gave the character a certain gravitas and his voice a real power and authority the character required. Also, the C.G.I. animated Gollum almost equally perfect. When the character was on screen it was captivating. It was difficult to imagine him being created any other way.
After the success of the Lord of The Rings movies, it was inevitable that a movie version of 'The Hobbit' would be made. Apparently it wasn't so easy to acquire the rights to the book, but soon it was set up and made, with Ian McKellen reprising his role as Gandalf. The only problem I have with the whole idea of this project was when they decided to make three films out of the book. As it is no more than 250 pages long, I could not see how on earth you could possibly get three movies out of it. It only needed to be done as a single movie. No doubt, with the success of the 'Rings' trilogy, the accountants got hold of the thing and realised they could make more money out of three movies instead of just one. Leaving the audience 'wanting more' after parts one and two was too obvious. At the time of writing I have not seen these movies and I'm not sure I want to. Why on earth spin out the plot over around six hours of screen-time when it obviously only required around a third of the time?