Monday, February 06, 2023

Timeless tales and other worlds

| September 4, 2022 12:00 AM

I read on the AP Wire that nearly 10 million people watched the Aug. 21 premier of “House of the Dragon,” the prequel to HBO’s wildly successful “Game of Thrones” series, making it the network’s most watched premiere in its history. I was one of the 10 million, even though I never started watching the original series, but probably will sometime in the future.

But interest in the genre of epic high fantasy certainly precludes “Game of Thrones” — think “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games.” But it was J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” books that first captured my youthful imagination. I fervently read the trilogy and Tolkien’s beloved prequel “The Hobbit.”

I remember one summer toting Tolkien’s books around on my Roger Revere 10-speed bike everywhere, once ending up sitting on the low wall of the fountain in front of the church where I’d attended parochial school. I happily made myself at home there beside a statue of Jesus, on busy Livingston Avenue, engrossed in my book.

Shortly after college graduation, I started a job at B. Dalton Bookseller, the former national chain. I later managed a small B. Dalton in a small town in Ohio for several years. It was the bookselling era of the boxed set. At Christmas time, the store would be shipped boxes and boxes of boxed sets — “The Lord of the Rings,” “Dune,” collections by Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, Danielle Steel, Louis L’amour, “Anne of Green Gables,” “Little House on the Prairie” and on and on. The bookstore staff would build towers at least 5 feet high on the tables — a fun way to get creative with displays.

We’d receive orders daily placed by the company, supplemented by our own store-generated weekly restocking orders and customer special order business, which was always booming. All B. Dalton stores had oak ladders with wheels that rode on rails along the walls. Employees climbed up to the cubbies to either stash overstock or create more displays. I love books. I loved my job. I rarely sat down. I got to climb ladders, build displays, unpack hundreds of boxes of books, and help all kinds of people find ones they’d like or someone they were buying for would like. When I left my job to move to far-flung Montana, my staff gave me a going away party, sending me off with, among other things, a Rand McNally Road Atlas and a flashlight.

By the time our kids were in school, “Harry Potter” was out and our daughter read the entire series (Her hardcover set is still on the bookshelf in her old bedroom). She later encouraged (challenged) me to read the entire series, so I did and greatly enjoyed them.

When the first “Lord of the Rings” movie was released in 2001, I was excited to take the kids to see them. Each movie always came out at Christmas time and it became our family tradition to see them, often on Christmas Day after opening gifts, while the ham and scalloped potatoes were baking in the oven.

Several years ago my daughter and I flew to New Zealand and stayed with my cousin. Talia had visiting Hobbiton — the 1,250-acre sheep farm where the movies were filmed and where the movie set, complete with hobbit holes, is still there to tour — on her must-see list. My cousin generously offered to drive us the five-hour round trip (She’d never been there and had always wanted to go). We arrived on a beautiful day in September — spring in New Zealand — and the sheep were lambing in great numbers across the picturesque, pastoral landscape.

Just last Friday Amazon Prime’s new “The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power” series launched, taking fans thousands of years back before the era of the original trilogy. I, for one, am looking forward to once again diving deep into another place and time … and returning to Middle-earth.

Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 406-758-4440 or

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