December 7, 2006

When I was a child, one of my most treasured possessions was a 3-LP set of the soundtrack to the Rankin-Bass 1977 animated movie The Hobbit. (If you are too young ever to have seen an LP, please refrain from leaving a comment to that effect or I will kill myself.) I also had LP sets of Star Wars and I think something about the ancient Mayans, but it is The Hobbit that has remained in my heart in the countless very few years that have passed since my youth.


A few months after the last movie in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy left theaters, I rented the DVD of The Hobbit and sat down to watch. I enjoyed the movie a great deal, but somehow I felt that I hadn’t quite captured the heart of the long afternoons I spent in front of the record player, reading the 16-page illustrated booklet that accompanied the LPs, ignoring the world around me as I thrilled to what Bilbo and Gandalf and Smaug were up to in Middle Earth.


So I did what I always do when the sea of doubt in which I seem to be permanently adrift threatens to overwhelm me: I went shopping. Specifically, I bought the soundtrack to The Hobbit, for a song, on eBay.

I giggled for an entire day when my purchase arrived, but since I do not own a record player there was really nothing I could do with it but put it on a shelf and sigh wistfully in remembrance of better days, days in which my skin did not know how to wrinkle, days in which I didn’t know the meaning of the word “carbohydrate.”

But a few weeks ago I had a brilliant, brilliant idea: I sent the LPs to a friend of mine who works in the media services department of an institute of higher learning; she transferred them to CD and sent them back.

Which allowed me to listen once more to The Hobbit,this time on my iPod while I worked out at the gym.

My side crunches were accompanied by the mad gibbering of Gollum; I did my pullups in time to elvish singing; my lat pulldowns acquired a thitherto unwonted gravity when John Huston as Gandalf was declaiming in my ear:

The mountain smoked beneath the moon;
The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.
They fled their hall to dying fall
Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.


And then, in the middle of my chest presses, Glenn Yarbrough started singing the song he wrote for the movie, and I remembered every word and every note as if I had written it myself:

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead;
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.


For the next half hour, through incline dumbbells and unstable pushups and seated rows, I remembered what it had felt like to believe those words. And something in me remembers still, however dimly, and I will clutch that memory as tightly as I can for as long as I can before it evaporates.

I am weeping as I write this.

Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to When I was a child, one of my most treasured possessions

  1. Eric says:

    Oh, how I adore this film. I love the folky vocal stylings of Yarbrough. My brother and I used to sing “The Greatest Adventure” all the time like Glenn. πŸ™‚

    I own both it and “The Lord of the Rings” cartoon on VHS. I don’t even have a VCR these days but ah, the memories. I think I might even have the Rankin/Bass “Return of the King” which features the remarkable “Frodo of the Nine Fingers (and the Ring of Doom).”

  2. Signalite says:

    I’ve often thought that most true passion, whether it be a good or bad thing, is instilled from childhood memory and our inclinations as adults are simply mature versions of those. I’m glad you’ve rediscovered one that brings you there…

  3. XLibris says:

    Winter and nostalgia go hand in hand, don’t they? I get all wistful for boyhood memories this time of year, too. Here’s to the adventure that lies ahead!

  4. Jeffrey says:

    I feel the same way whenever I watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

  5. David says:

    I found reading that oddly arousing.

  6. Andy says:

    Awwww! Can you help me find the Sesame Street Singalong, the one where Bert is stuck in the bathtub?

  7. Alastair says:

    I had the very same book and LP set as a kid living in Malaysia. It was that and the kids edition of the Black Hole, in the same series. I have them both still in a box somewhere, and whenever I come across them, I find myself pining for a good old turntable so that I can relive the pleasure in all its scratchy, beautifully authentic glory πŸ™‚

  8. stevie says:

    not only did i have the same LP set as a kid, but after the LOTR trilogy left the theaters i too went searching for the LP. alas my search was not as fruitful as yours.

    after leaving the realm of ebay and the like i crawled into my parent’s attic and searched and searched to no avail.


    Oh the memories! thanks for this!! Is good to know Im not the only one who treasures The Hobbit/LPs/RankinBass

  10. Todd says:

    I remember renting this from the Cracker Barrell Restaurant while driving non-stop to Florida last year (wow there is soo much wrong with that sentence!) But it was great, I loved it!

  11. Michael says:

    Thanks for the lovely post. Recapturing that feeling and recognizing it won’t last must be the definition of bittersweet.

  12. henry says:

    I would have killed myself with some piece of equipment doing what you did. The only thing I can listen to at the gym is some mindless crap with a steady beat. Like Fox news.

  13. Samantha says:

    I had this as a kid! As soon as I opened your page and saw the pictures my stomach lurched. Heart skipped a beat. I played those records til they were see through! I also had the Peter and the Wolf record with corresponding book. Used to scare the hell outta me!

    Thanks for the memories. =)

  14. adam875 says:

    Is MAK secretly filling in for you?

  15. Chris says:

    Faustus giggles like a little school girl.

  16. Robin says:

    Welllll… as Glenn Yarbrough songs go, it’s no ‘Baby, The Rain Must Fall’, but it’ll do.

  17. Daniel says:

    John Huston was the most wonderful Gandalf, his voice engendering confidence and security by its very timbre. I think his cough would make me feel warm inside. And I still believe that wonderful Yarbrough song about “The greatest adventure is what lies ahead;” is true. The best is yet to come.


  18. miss wanton says:

    omg…what a sweet post. πŸ™‚

  19. Very nice post.

    Just for your information, if you would like to share the soundtrack with others, do direct them here:

    Also, if you’ve never heard the brilliant Nicol Williamson reading of The Hobbit, you should investigate immediately:

    Long days and pleasant nights.

  20. Pingback: The Hobbit LP | The Sheila Variations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *