I don’t have anything intelligent to say about The Hobbit, because my attachment to it is purely emotional. My father being a Tolkien fan, I’m sure I was placed in front of the TV for the original broadcast, and I can’t remember not being familiar with and loving the movie. (I know I was taken to the 1978 Bakshi Lord of the Rings, and we had to leave because I was terrified of the Ring Wraiths, but I was familiar with that part of the story too and it became a part of my fantasy life.) I’ve often thought that if I had been a child when the Harry Potter thing happened that I would have latched onto it in the same way, but I wasn’t, and so I didn’t, but The Hobbit is my Harry Potter.
It’s the first pop culture phenomenon that felt like it belonged to me, and the feeling I have about it can only be described with a cliche that actually is very useful: it captures my imagination. I had the storyteller read-along LP record and later the Commodore 64 game. Also, whenever the other girls would want to play pretend house or restaurant or dance class or school, I would often say that I wanted to play The Hobbit instead, and I was still young enough to be surprised that they rejected that idea, and unselfconscious enough that I would sometimes go off by myself and have a rousing game of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings by myself, imagining all the other characters! Some of my greatest memories of elementary school were the yearly viewings of The Hobbit, which the school must have owned a print of because they would show it on a projector. My dad read me the book, and it was later one of the first classics I read on my own.
Sometimes when I’m stressed I still imagine climbing to the top of a cartoon tree and looking out over all the other trees and the butterflies, like Bilbo did when he wondered if he’d ever see his home again and whether he cared. And I have to say that I was a bit disturbed during the first live action Lord of the Rings movie when Ian Holm as Bilbo CGI’d out and got a bit Gollumy, because it hurt to see an old friend look so spooky. I also found it jarring the first time I watched Chinatown and watched John Huston play that evil sonofabitch Noah Cross, because it was Gandalf’s voice coming out of his mouth!
But although the Ring Wraiths scared me in ’78, I can’t ever remember being afraid of the animated spiders, the goblins, Smaug, the trolls, the wood elves, or motherfucking Gollum; however, it occurs to me after watching it tonight that my horror obsession as well as this site is one obvious result of the horrors of the Rankin/Bass Hobbit. This movie is dark! The dwarves are kind of cowardly and assholish. And it’s decidedly anti-war and anti-greed, some other values that have stuck with me. I like to imagine all the 60s hippies sitting down to watch this in their 1977 upwardly-mobile homes. Imagine all the fantastic smoke rings that must have been blown on that night!
Upon this night, on my umpty-umpth viewing, I’m happy to say that I still feel the same way as I ever did, I still get chills when I hear “The Greatest Adventure,” and I don’t really notice anything different other than my awareness of the aforementioned themes and one other thing: does Old Gregg remind anyone else of Gollum?
I am thrilled about the upcoming Peter Jackson trilogy because I think it will simply be a new look at an old story; it’s not as if The Hobbit appeared with the cartoon adaptation so it’s not really a remake. I look forward to taking my kid to see it, of course.
One last thing. If The Hobbit is high fantasy, meaning it takes place in a world not our own as opposed to low fantasy, which happens in our world but with magical elements, what are some horror movies that fall under high fantasy? I know high fantasy can mean that it starts in our world and then the characters travel to another world, which would include the likes of Hellraiser 2 and Paperhouse, just to name a couple off the top of my head, but which horror movies can you think of which take place completely in another world?