When I first read The Hobbit, some ten years ago now, I never imagined that I would be witnessing the Hobbitmania that has hit us in the run up to Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the LOTR (Lord of the Rings) prequel. I’m no exception to this ‘mania’, I’ve even put aside a Hobbit branded notebook for myself to buy on payday.
Growing up my brother and I watched Knightmare, Reboot and Pokémon; we played Warhammer and invented fantasylands in our garden in which I would battle against various villains (all played by my brother). Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure some girls played with dolls and ponies. If you’re reading this and you have no idea what ‘Knightmare’ or ‘Warhammer’ are, perhaps you’ve heard of World of Warcraft? Referred to among the community as WoW, World of Warcraft is an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) that consumed my life for nearly two years. I played Horde (that’s a fraction), an Undead (race) Mage (spell caster), to be exact. If that means very little to you likelihood is you’ve never attended EXPO either? EXPO is held twice yearly at the Excel Centre in London, these weekends consist of hordes of comic book and gaming fans congregating to, well, geek out; the point of these stories? I really don’t like to generalise, especially when it puts me in the minority, but competitors in Knightmare: mainly male, players of World of Warcraft: very much male, attendees at EXPO: you got it yet? Growing up, the ‘geekier’ the activity became, the more male it also becomes.
Some time in the last ten years, something has shifted and suddenly, being a ‘geek’ has become…cool. The Geek Chic is flooding fashion stores and even wearing glasses has become edgy (FYI: as someone who actually needs glasses, it really gets on my nerves.) People are wearing cardigans and braces, their pulling socks up above their ankles and tote backpacks that I’m so sure I would have been laughed at for having on my shoulder at school. Part of me likes to see this, and part of me feels cheated: why wasn’t this cool when I was at school?
So how about Middle-earth? The Hobbit? Lord of the Rings? Bilbo Baggins? J R R Tolkien? Chances are you’ve heard of them. Hobbitmania seems to be the new in-thing, with both male and female, geeks and non-geeks, queuing up to be the first to see the new adaptation and rushing to read or re-read the original before it hits screens. This, along with the growing volume of female sci-fi/ fantasy readers has gotten me excited about the future of female geekdom. Obviously I’m not setting my sights too high just yet. For example, the other day I walked into a Games Workshop and the customers and staff all stared at me. Ladies! It is my dream that one-day women will be able to walk into Games Workshop without being completely outnumbered!
What I’ve been wondering is if Hobbitmania is different: is it about the story, the book, and the film? Is it about Middle-earth or is it just another phase? I’d like to think that the hype around the Hobbit has built up because of the great work by Tolkien: the beauty, accessibility and fantasy of Bilbo’s story. Why is Middle-earth so different to EXPO or World of Warcraft? Is it cool, or just more assessable? Is it a better story than all the other sci-fi and fantasy stories out there or just been hyped by Hollywood? Is this just another ‘chic’? Will Hobbitmania die out as fast as pogs or fold up scooters?
G K Chesterson once said of fairy tales:
fairy tales do not tell children dragons exist. Children already know dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.
If Hollywood’s adaptations of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings bring Middle-earth to children younger and en masse, I don’t se that as a bad thing. Fantasy and Sci-Fi teach us about things that realist fiction doesn’t, it’s a wonderful thing: fantasy. Hobbitmania isn’t just a fad, it’s just the beginning.
Katy Neate Maydon currently working in a bookshop, her dream is to be a published novelist, the other side of the book world. Along with writing her novel and a film script she keeps a blog (novicetoknowitall.wordpress.com), which documents her day to day musings on books, movies and life in general.