In this episode, I explore the first book I enjoyed and the first fantasy book I read. I describe how books can change you and a bit of serendipity.

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Script for those who like to read or for the hearing impaired.

G'day and welcome back. This is the start of a series of looking back at fantasy books and how they’ve impacted my life. Where better to start than the beginning.
My origin story with fantasy is powerful for me. Fantasy found me. My childhood and teenage years were crazy. This meant I grew up with a lot to process and no skills to do it with. My friends around me were, what seemed like, gliding through life. Which, for me, created an extra layer of confusion on top of everything else. This led to a never-ending-ness of thinking and processing and then a hyper-vigilance that made for an incredible quick-witted sense of humour that was hard to rival. But ultimately, I couldn’t switch off which created numerous problems for me. I’m ok now, but it took years and I had to learn a lot of different skills to navigate the different seasons of life. I’m grateful for the challenges I went through, because it’s now part of my DNA and helps to evaluate life through multiple perspectives.

So to jump into the story of how my first fantasy novel, I was a teenager in high school and I had just had dinner. I couldn’t go out for some freedom and exercise because the lights had been turned off at the skatepark, my friends were all at home and couldn’t come out, so trashtalk and fun weren’t an option and I didn’t have a gaming console, boooooo. I was out of ideas and nowhere to go.

In Perth located in Australia, at the time we had like 5 TV channels which had fixed show programming. If all the stars aligned, this sometimes meant nothing was worth watching on the TV, and this was one of those auspicious nights. So I just sat there bored, watching crap shows after crap getting more annoyed that I didn’t have some useful distraction. Most of the time I could just wait it out until I was too tired and then went to beg, but for some reason this time it was different. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin and needed something to direct my energy onto. I soon had enough that I stood up off the couch and started looking around the house for something to do, while knowing that there was nothing to do because I had checked so many times before.

I was seeking something, I was on the hunt for some form of respite. I had to do this before I got too frustrated and then had to actually change something in my life.

Looking back, I now know the pressure I felt was my unconscious mind trying to help me to solve my problems but I didn’t recognise it or know that at the time. I can now see when I look back, if I had let myself get frustrated enough to actually realise there’s other ways of perceiving life, I may have missed this book, so its a bit of serendipity, and maybe my unconscious mind new I wasn’t ready yet, but as I said my life was nuts and I had issues with giving myself permission to change. Looking back is sometimes awkward and I try to remember that I’ve grown and the reason I feel uncomfortable with it is I’ve grown and can see the difference now.


To move the story along, my dad was an English teacher. One of the walls in our house was dedicated to holding the books he used for teaching or sport style books that covered the cricket or football (aussie rules), which he loved. The books caught my eye and so I wandered over uncertain if there was anything I could put my energy into. I found myself in front of the bookcase looking for something to potentially read.

Up until this moment, I had never had a reason to read just for the love of it, if fact I avoided it due to being forced to read books in school. But here I was, seeking something. The books in dads bookshelf, had large and bold important titles from European sounding names like Dostoevsky or Homer. They were all the size of house bricks and looked to me like a heavy read, which was at the time, a bridge too far.

While I checked each section, I found this comparatively small looking book tucked away in the middle of all these other towering books. It stood out to me due to its small stature. I quickly wondered if I had found my solace here, I didn’t want to believe it could help, but I suppose It would be something to do as long as it wasn’t boring and it wasn’t words that were written about other words.

The spine was an odd colour and the name was weird to me, to say the least. It was an aged book with pastel colours and a weird picture of a hill with a door. None of this made sense. What the hell is this I thought. I had never heard of anything like it. But it was just interesting enough that I needed to open it and find out.

To quote from the book: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

The Hobbit magically, started off interrupting my constant grind of thoughts. The descriptions of the good life Bilbo lead and that the way the life was lead was self evidently good, it reminded me of what an authentic good is and not some convoluted archetype of the of it that I should be living. The description from the start and then the eventual world building of his lifestyle at Bagend reminded me that life is meant to be enjoyed and not everything had to be a fight. Look, I know that he changes and he finds the Tookish part of himself after the Dwarfs song about riches and dragons.. But I was already too Tookish and needed to be more Bagginses.

To quote: “It is a fact that Bilbo’s reputation went up a very great deal with the dwarves after this. If they had still doubted that he was really a first-class burglar, in spite of Gandalf’s words, they doubted no longer. Balin was the most puzzled of all; but everyone said it was a very clever bit of work. Indeed Bilbo was so pleased with their praise that he just chuckled inside and said nothing whatever about the ring”. End Quote

As I read through the book and I was enthralled by songs that reminded me of old western cowboy musicals, to trolls being turned to stone, Glamdring and Orcrist. Elrond and his singing and dancing magical elves who new who they were before they had arrived, a giant mountain with giants made of stone that flinged stones at each other, the goblins and Smeagol and the ring and the weird riddles, first they champ then they stamp?. Giant Eagles and then a bloke who could turn into a bear, an enchanted forrest with spiders where sting got its name. The forrest also had different elves, except these ones were a bit angrier. Their escape from the angry elves and finding their way to Laketown and eventually finding there way to the Lonely Mountain. Smaug conversations with Bilbo and the disaster that happened to Laketown and then Smaug’s death. Then the battle of the 5 armies!

I spent the entire time from supper till breakfast reading the Hobbit.

To Quote: “I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led. And through the air, I am he that walks unseen.

I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number.

I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive again from the water. I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me.

_I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ringwinner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider.”_End Quote

I remember looking up from that book and instead of darkness, which is what I expected, I saw the sun starting to rise. I then felt this gap in my life which I couldn’t remember feeling for such a long time. It was the pleasure of enjoying something and being in the moment for long enough that I felt that life was good. Which I sorely needed. For the first time in a long time I felt like I had some space, that my soul had taken a break from life. I was able to just exist. I realised I now had the capacity to escape and then come back ready for the world again.

A quote “Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” End Quote. In my case the opposite happened, I stayed home and sort out the couch to read my books on. I had turned into my own version of the ringwinner, luckwearer and the barrel rider with a bit of serendipity and a good book.

After reading The Hobbit, I didn’t really have a choice but to dive into the next book after the next, seeking my solace and learning inside the words and worlds of different authors. To go back to the seeking. I have often thought about this seeking throughout my life and that I’m grateful Fantasy found me before something else did.

Importantly, The Hobbit re-framed my general thinking to seek out adventure instead of adrenalin inducing events. It taught me to enjoy the journey as a whole and not just the one tiny event. It taught me that mistakes are ok to make and also character flaws can be overcome. It was also a small step towards figuring out how I would give myself permission to deal with the past as I now had a better understanding of myself and what motivated me. I identified with the characters and thought if they could do a thing, so could I. Reading has served me well. It gave me a small light to follow in the dark. The Hobbit is so dear to me to my heart. It helped me change my life.

Thank you for listening to my first experience with fantasy and The Hobbit. Whether you like it or not, it’s impact in Fantasy and now in cinema is huge. I’m grateful it was made by Tolkien and then expanded out into the huge beast it now is. There’s always more to learn about the universe.

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