Tuesday, December 11, 2012

To the Hobbits and Back Again

For briefly a second or so, the breaking news of the day was that a judge had ruled "Age of the Hobbits" too similar in its use of Hobbits to the current movie rights holders…Warner Brothers, New Line Cinema, Saul Zaentz, the Tolkien estate and whoever else.

For those familiar with the fantasy genre, the move should probably come as no surprise. While the network of rights regarding the Lord of the Rings intellectual property has been divided many, many times (check out the list of licensed board games), it is certainly without a doubt that the term "Hobbit" belonged within the Tolkien umbrella, and was pretty aggressively defended from the very beginning. In 1976, 2 years before I was born and back when Tolkien still walked this Earth, Gary Gygax knew he had a pretty good deal going with AD&D. But the original Monster Manual, while it may reference elves, dragons and orcs; lists only the term "halfling" as the name of the beardless, curly-headed furry-footed creature shorter than a man who's favorite meal is second breakfast.

And this is pretty consistent. I know in the "Wizardry" game franchise one of the races is "Hobbit" but I'm pretty sure Sir-Tech really just got extremely lucky on that one. I've done a couple web searches and the term has now been effectively scrubbed from just about all of their sources. If you find one, let me know.

I'm currently reading The Hobbit to my 7-year-old son. We've made it out of the Shire, and are currently wondering what Bilbo is going to do about the Trolls. His choices, offered up by Tolkien, are:

1) run back and tell the rest of the party
2) stab the trolls to death and take their mutton
3) pickpocket their money bags while they are distracted

I do remember what choice Bilbo eventually picks, and the very unexpected way his choice is interrupted. But the fact that these are the choices Bilbo selects for himself illustrates just how different the young Bilbo was versus his later nephew Frodo. In particular the role of "burglar" places The Hobbit firmly within the trope of the traditional dungeon crawler.

To my son, these are all strange new things…in fact I had to explain to him what exactly a dwarf was when Bilbo's house started to get invaded. Which is why I pulled out the 'ol Monster Manual, of course. I'm sure this will continue as the story goes on, until the foundation of his fantasy knowledge is finally established and we can move on to other things. And then he can watch Snow White.

Really looking forward to reading the book again, as I'm sure there will be plenty I do not remember whatsoever. The fact that Gandalf found the Secret Map inside the lair of a necromancer was news to me, and I'm excited to see if this will show up in the movie. I imagine it must, since they are probably using every second of book to stretch the story out over the THREE movies.

Anyway, if you have little kids around, make sure you read to them. Because they aren't going to learn about this stuff until someone teaches them. You don't want anyone walking around, thinking Blizzard invented Dark Elves or something. What are the other kids going to think in school?

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