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Timeless Tales and Other Worlds

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I read on AP Wire that nearly 10 million people watched the August 21 premiere of “House of the Dragon,” the prequel to HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones,” making it the most-watched premiere in its history. I was one of 10 million, although I never started watching the original series, but I probably will in the future.

But interest in the genre of epic high fantasy certainly rules out “Game of Thrones” – think “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games.” But it was JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books that first captured my youthful imagination. I have been avidly reading Tolkien’s beloved trilogy and prequel “The Hobbit”.

I remember one summer, lugging Tolkien books everywhere on my 10-speed Roger Revere bicycle, once finding myself sitting on the low wall of the fountain in front of the church where I had attended the parochial school. I happily settled into my home next to a statue of Jesus on busy Livingston Avenue, engrossed in my book.

Shortly after graduating from college, I started working at B. Dalton Bookseller, the former national chain. Later, I ran a small B. Dalton in a small town in Ohio for several years. It was the era of the box set bookstore. At Christmas, the store shipped boxes and boxes of caskets – “The Lord of the Rings”, “Dune”, collections of Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, Danielle Steel, Louis L’amour, “Anne of Green Gables,” “Little House on the Prairie,” etc. Bookstore staff would build towers at least 5 feet tall on the tables—a fun way to get creative with displays.

We were receiving orders placed by the company on a daily basis, supplemented by our own store-generated weekly replenishment orders and customer special orders, which were still booming. All B. Dalton stores had oak ladders with wheels that rolled on tracks along the walls. Employees climbed up to lockers to store excess inventory or create other displays. I like books. I loved my job. I rarely sat down. I was able to climb ladders, build displays, unbox hundreds of boxes of books, and help all kinds of people find the ones they would like or buy for. When I left my job to move to remote Montana, my staff threw 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” had come out and our daughter had read the entire series (her hardcover set is still on the shelf in her old bedroom). Later she encouraged (challenged) me to read the whole series, so I did and enjoyed them very much.

When the first ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie came out in 2001, I was excited to take the kids to see it. Each film was always released at Christmas time and it became our family tradition to see them, often on Christmas Day after opening the presents, while the ham and au gratin potatoes were cooking in the oven.

Several years ago my daughter and I flew to New Zealand and stayed with my cousin. Talia had visited Hobbiton – the 1,250-acre sheep farm where the movies were filmed and where the film set, complete with hobbit holes, is always there for a tour – on her must-see list. My cousin generously offered to drive us for the five hour round trip (she had never been there and always wanted to go). We arrived on a beautiful day in September – spring in New Zealand – and sheep were lambing in droves through the scenic, pastoral landscape.

Last Friday, Amazon Prime’s new ‘The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power’ series launched, taking fans back thousands of years before the era of the original trilogy. For my part, I can’t wait to dive deep again into another place and another time… and return to Middle-earth.

Community Editor Carol Marino can be reached at 406-758-4440 or [email protected]