Potential Hobbit Book and Film Spoilers. You have been warned.
This past weekend, a day after its first official release, I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. And it was important that I did.
I mean, yes, as a fanboy and someone who loves Middle-Earth I would not have been able to look at myself in the elven enchantress Galadriel’s mirror if I hadn’t gone to see it, but I’m talking about something else. It seems like I’m almost always talking about more than one thing these days when I look at, and share, what I love.
I honestly … didn’t know what to think when this movie finally became a reality. It reminded me of all the times back in the early 200os where, once a year on a cold winter’s night I would go with friends to Silver City in Richmond Hill and get to see these films unfold. There is a warm, epic feeling involved in watching something like these films in the heart of the season. I can’t even describe it, but the closest thing I can tell you is that it was like I was coming home.
Yes, that is the word and it is a very apt one. In 2001, I was nineteen years old. I had just entered University and it was overwhelming. After I’d graduated high school, my friends went to their separate Universities and jobs. Also at this time, I had been involved in an online roleplaying community that just … wasn’t meshing well with me. Or that I wasn’t meshing well with. Really, it was probably a bit of both. I couldn’t find an offline equivalent of this game with actual people–partially because I was shy and introverted–and there never seemed to be a game going on. And I always felt, at the time, that I could never say the right thing. The irony was that it was a game about magic.
In those days, I was pretty smart and I read what I could, but I was also in that age-range or with that personality type back then that either didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know something, or felt entitled to be educated, or by admitting ignorance somehow thinking that this excused it.
I was also not very happy with my life. So here I was at Lord of the Rings: specifically The Fellowship of the Ring. I had no idea what to make of it or what it would be like. And then … it happened.
I was transported into a whole other world that I had read to me as a child. The music was beautiful and terrifying and fun depending on the moments. The characters–as Hobbits–were very relatable. And the scene where Gandalf fell actually made tears come to my eyes. As I watched this movie, then, I thought about everything else in the back of my mind. I found it ironic that I was having so much difficulty and frustration with a game about magic and then it occurred to me that I was watching magic–real magic–right in front of me. I remembered what it was all about.
The only thing that really happened after seeing this incredible movie was that I dropped out of the game and tried to focus on the things that mattered: my work, my friends, my life and … my own stories again.
The long-winded point I’m trying to make is that the first Lord of the Rings movie clicked something back into place way back when. The other two never quite did it, though they were good, and as far as I am concerned Fellowship was the best film of the whole trilogy. It just had such symmetry, and life, and warmth in it. It was complete in itself. I was utterly in love with the magic of it.
So then The Hobbit comes out. It’s December 2012. I’m thirty years old and am in another transitional time. I have moved on from school. My friends tend to do their own thing now and my other friends and I have since drifted apart. I’ve graduated from Graduate School, but I’m still looking for work and money. I’ve been tired and frustrated. I have been dealing with depression and anxiety to the point where sometimes I barely go outside. In addition, I’d recently been delving into personal and creative matters that had left me in a really bad mood. Sometimes being a writer does that: you mine the material inside of you that starts to flame up like any Balrog, and you can delve a little too greedily, a little too deep into that black ore of you.
I used to go out a lot more and explore, but as time has gone on I have become more and more sedentary due to many of the above elements. I gave up on a lot of things, and ensconced myself in my hole almost as much as Bilbo Baggins himself.
A long time ago, my friend Lex forced me to navigate my way to her old place in Toronto on my own. It tells you something that I didn’t have the knowledge or the confidence to do so on my own. I was a very sheltered person and I pretty know that this trait has led me to some of the above difficulties: especially for a natural introvert.
One day, after I did indeed learn how to get to her place, I did something entirely spontaneous and went to a gathering of new and unknown people deep downtown on my own. I remember Lex actually saying that she was proud of me. That day I remembered Bilbo Baggins and something he said that I quoted as a heading on my old online journal. He said, “I think I am quite ready for another adventure.”
I look back on those words that I quoted and the years that I followed them. You know, people think that my role-models are wise figures and Dark Lords, and most of the time I would agree with them. But in that one moment, my role-model was a Hobbit: a particular Hobbit who after a lifetime of anxiety and adventure, very calmly and benignly realized it was time that he went on another one.
So now we have Peter Jackson’s movie opening the day before on Friday. And I pretty much gave up on seeing it anytime soon. I was going to wait maybe a few days or a week. I was in a really black mood: dwelling on things from the past and staying away from people. But somewhere I still hoped that Saturday that my parents and I could go see this film that I wasn’t sure I was waiting for. I was almost scared to see it for reasons that I wasn’t conscious of at the time. So my Dad came to the basement and I had every reason to not only say that there was no way we would be able to see that film the day after its first release, but that I really didn’t want to go out to a movie–or anywhere else–at all.
The truth is, I wanted to see this movie badly. So much that I had to convince myself that I didn’t. I know some people who got advanced screenings and I was a little jealous of this. My reasons for not going to see this movie were pretty sound: there would be a crowd, times would sold out, there would be no parking, I had to meet my friends the next day and so on and so forth.
I had every reason not to go except for one. And this one gnawed at me like a small ember coming a reluctant inferno. And the anger I was feeling towards a lot of things became something else. So I went to my Dad and said to him, “Well, we can try it. If not, well we had an outing and we can try it again some other time.”
So we eventually all left and went to Silver City. We were in luck. We had left early and the line wasn’t bad. My Dad got parking and we got the seats that we wanted. That ember was still burning in me and I didn’t want to fuel it too high, but just enough to get me through this. I was remembering the season of the first movies and how I role-played a custom made world with my friend Noah back when he lived closer by. How I felt then with that magic from that world and ambiance.
Then, in that line that was not as long as I thought it would be, I realized why I was hesitating throughout all of this. I realized I really needed to feel that magic again. I needed to feel it now. Right now. I delved into a necessary darkness, but now was the time to stop delving and writing and just experience something beautiful. And I was afraid–terrified–that The Hobbit wouldn’t provide that magic from 2001, and other times: that I would still be feeling the unhappiness–the sheer bitterness–in me and I just couldn’t bear it.
I’m no fool though. This was a movie: just a movie. It was–and isn’t–a cure-all for all woes. It isn’t a psychologist or medicine. It is a piece of entertainment. But that was exactly what I was looking for. Entertainment. And immersion into a whole other world: a familiar warm world in the cold of the winter night.
Experiencing The Hobbit at thirty was different than experiencing Fellowship at nineteen. Sometimes it felt like it dragged a bit. Other times the fighting got a little much. I over-thought some things and tried to remember the book it was based from. The singing … was strange in that my impulse would have usually been to wince, but I just couldn’t find the strength to.
I think the most poignant moment for me was when Bilbo woke up in his Hobbit hole–after Gandalf almost cheerfully “ruined his good morning” by inviting thirteen questing Dwarves that drank and messed up his place–and found the place spotless again.
And found himself alone.
I thought about that. I thought about Bilbo completely out of his element and Gandalf doing his damnedest to wreck his peaceful life out of very intrinsic good intentions. I thought of the laughter, mirth, the drunkenness, the storytelling, the sombre singing of the Dwarves that lost and wanted to reclaim their stolen home from an impossible monster, and I thought of Bilbo with his books and armchair encountering all of this and finding that spark growing inside him: making him uncomfortable in his comfort that was never really comfortable for who he was at all.
Then I thought of him finding himself alone in the peace and quiet again: with the adventurers’ contract that he never signed.
And I’ll be damned. I will be damned. I will be three-times damned if I had not felt the same way too many damn things (four times) in my own life.
So Bilbo ran like a crazy little man after the Company of boisterous Dwarves and a meddling old red-wine drinking Wizard. I sat there in a theatre seat and watched. I also watched as he entered and left Rivendell: first with wonder at its beauty, and then with longing for its peace. For me, that was the second poignant moment for me: because we all know that the next time Bilbo–now a young man–goes back there, he will be much, much older and with only one journey left to him then. After the film was over, I came home and went on my Facebook. I thought of writing this Blog entry: which in the end took much longer than I thought. Then I thought about how the next day I was going to be playing a favourite old game with Noah and the others.
It didn’t end up happening, but since I was out anyway I decided to explore a bit. I ran into an old friend on the subway, then I hunted unsuccessfully for a camera, and then came back home. That darkness I was feeling is still there. It will always be and I don’t pretend otherwise. But I’m feeling a levity. I’m not “cured” of myself. I have a lot of work to do and I know it will take one step at a time to balance out my life, but now I am remembering that I can actually adapt. I can work around the anxiety and the bad moods.
I might not have a meddling Wizard to carve a strange bit of graffiti into my door, but I guess I can fulfill dual roles for myself. I have to move at my own pace, a little faster than that of an Ent’s, but I will do it. I have plans. My journey isn’t over. The writing is just part of it and will benefit in the long run from the things I plan to do. Each day you live once and I want to do different things each day: even the small things.
So before I wrote this Blog post, I went on my Facebook and wrote the following as my status. And I quote:
“Matthew Kirshenblatt thinks The Hobbit was awesome. In fact, I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.”
So I did find the magic again. And it is home.