“A dark power has found its way back into the world”, says Radagast, the brown wizard. He has seen spiders crawling through the underbrush. Innocent animals fall victim to their hideous poison. A necromancer is reviving ghosts with an evil past. An ancient evil is reawakening.
Beyond the mountain ranges, on the far side of deep valleys carpeted with thick forests, across the rolling, rocky, highland plains there is a close knit community of uncomplicated folk, who work, raise families and prosper in simple ways. This is the Shire. And “In the Shire there lived a hobbit.”
So begins Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first installment Peter Jackson’s new trilogy adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Hobbit.
At the outset, dear reader, let me say that this is a very enjoyable film, especially for men. All men at one time were boys, and each of us in those days was a Bilbo Baggins - a good hearted soul, at times petulant, stubborn, irritating, nevertheless caring, compassionate, innocent and adventurous. It happens in boys somewhere in between the ages of five and nine. For me it was age eight. I was a second grader.
One Sunday afternoon, my parents held one of their late Sunday afternoon entertainments. That meant a lot of adults. There weren’t going to be any other kids, although one of the couples did bring along their black standard poodle, whose name I cannot remember. but whose company I enjoyed. She and I had one of those eight-year-old-boy—and-a dog relationships which kept is entertained for a while until she decided to work the party and get some treats.
We lived directly across the street from Patterson Park. Our building was the tallest in the neighborhood and towered three stories above all the other houses. I, therefore, had a commanding view of the world, and saw two of my friends, Johnny Krysiak and Andy Ridzewski on the sand lot in the park. The party was in full swing, the dog was licking hands, and I wanted to be with Johnny and Andy. I have to interrupt the story momentarily and explain to you, dear reader, that I had very protective parents. I was the youngest, the only boy, and unexperienced in the of the dangers of the world as they were. With the proper amount of respectful charm and logic I finagled permission to join my friends. After all, if they to keep an eye on me, all they had to do was to look out our window into the park across the street. Minutes later, I was in the park with a half-hour to forty-five minute park pass, which I knew I could push into an hour with a stern look from my father as a fine Johnny and Andy, however, were at the end of their allotted play period and where already headed home when I reached them. I was disappointed. Then, along came Tommy Wodka.
Tommy was a kid, my height, but half my width, who always sported a head of neatly trimmed blonde hair. He was my note buddy in school. A note buddy is someone to whom you pass notes during in class. These notes are predominantly editorial comments on either the current lesson or another classmate. They are never appreciated by the teacher. Tommy and I were always getting busted for passing notes. I think it was the conspiratorial tittering that gave us away. And now, here he was – Tommy Wodka. I had an hour (with a stern look from my father as a fine when I got home) to fill, and he was just out on a walkabout. So, he became my Gandalf. I became his Bilbo. And, we were off.
About a half-hour later, my father realized I had not returned. (The rest of this tale was very harshly related to me later that evening) He glanced out the window to the park. I wasn’t there. He grew concerned. Obviously, the leave time granted in his mind was much shorter than in mine. He searched the apartment, looked out on the back porch, and looked down into the neighbor’s yards. I was gone. Concern became worry. Phone calls were placed -Johnny’s house, Andy’s house – they had both seen me but earlier. Worry evolved into a controlled panic. The guests were alerted. Search parties of two were formed and dispatched into the neighborhood. The convent at the school was called to check whether I was in the play yard. The local beat cop was given my description. Even, the standard poodle was pressed into sniffing me out in Patterson Park. Most of East Baltimore lit up.
In the meantime, Gandalf and Bilbo were off exploring the southeastern side of Patterson Park, after which they trekked over to Tommy’s house on Fleet Street, near the harbor, and because Tommy’s parents had left a note that they were at the neighbors’, the adventurers helped themselves to some lemonade, then went back out into the street along the harbor as couple of junior G-men on the trail of smugglers, after which they checked out the all window displays of every closed toy store along Broadway. The hour with the stern look as a fine stretched itself beyond the unmeasurable. When I finally arrived at my home it was near dusk. I rang the doorbell and braced myself for the stern look.
Now, usually when I rang the bell either my mother or father looked out the window and dropped the front door key down to me. This time my mother looked out the window. There was no key drop, but the front door suddenly and swiftly opened. It was my father. There was no stern look. Instead, it was a look of relief reinforced with rage. He pointed toward the staircase and said “Upstairs!” When I reached the top of the third floor, Killy, our black cat sat on the landing looking at me as if to say” Oh, kid! Are you in for it!” I walked into the apartment. My father came in after me and shut the door. Then, all the fury of heaven and hell rained down on my seven year old soul. There is a happy note however. After a storm of well-deserved perdition, it all subsided over a bowl of warm thick soup, a slice of buttered black bread and a cup of raspberry juice. Bilbo had returned to the Shire.
The story is true. It happened many, many years before I knew anything about hobbits.
Lately, the times have been unbearably harsh. It seems like there’s a heartbreak waiting around almost every corner. I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected journey only two days after one of those tragic moments that we seem to encounter all too frequently now more than ever. I sorely needed to get away for a while. This is a good film for such a moment. Martin Freeman does a wonderful job in creating a Bilbo who is caring, compassionate and courageous. He is as Gandalf describes him - “one of the small things, the everyday kindnesses that seem to keep Evil at bay.” Peter Jackson again applies his skill in reviving a visually captivating world that is both heroic and hopeful. It is a well spent 2 hour and 40 minutes. It definitely provided up a medicine I needed. It conjured up my personal Bilbo, that unafraid, adventurous eight-year old that one Sunday afternoon wandered off onto his own Middle-Earth on an adventure - despite the consequences.
Of course, as always, dear reader, this is only my opinion. See the film. Invite your own Bilbo Baggins, find your Gandalf, and judge for yourself.
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