Thursday, 25 March 2021

Tolkien Reading Day

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, an event begun in 2003 by the Tolkien Society, to celebrate and promote the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien by reading favourite passages from his books.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have had an immeasurable impact on fantasy literature and roleplaying games, particularly in the 1970s and '80s, providing many with the template for fantasy races - humans, elves, dwarfs and orcs - as well as monsters, such as dragons and giant spiders, and all powerful wizards.

However, among Tolkien's most popular, well-known and enduring creations were the Hobbits.

As fans of Fighting Fantasy will know, Hobbits make an appearance in Steve Jackson's seminal Creature of Havoc - the 'hero' having a penchant for snacking on the diminutive beings - but did you know that Hobbits could have featured even more heavily, but for one particular moment in FF history?

Roll the clock back 41 years to early 1980. The synopsis for the book that would eventually become The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was finished and sent off to commissioning editor Geraldine Cooke at Penguin Books, with a detailed encounter from the adventure that demonstrated the gamebook style attached, for her to consider. The up and coming editor suspected she had something special on her hands but she found it hard to convince anyone else at Penguin that this was the case.

“The idea was thrown out on its ear at the Penguin editorial meeting,” explains Cooke. “Senior Penguin management roared with laughter at the idea... I managed to keep the idea on the agenda for months and kept on batting away at it.”

Incredibly, Penguin sat on the proposal for over six months before making a formal offer, and publishing it through their children's imprint Puffin Books.

During this time, understandably Livingstone and Jackson’s frustrations grew. At one point, Jackson went so far as to send the synopsis to Allen & Unwin, publishers of The Lord of the Rings, but they politely declined to take the project on. 

Just think how different things might have been had they said yes...

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