I’ve gone through many iterations of where I thought I started in fantasy and each time I end up looking further back into my childhood, so no doubt soon enough I’ll remember humming along to the Willow soundtrack in the womb.
I used to think I read my first fantasy book when I picked up The Hobbit round about about ten years old. And that would have been a fine place to start. I love The Hobbit so much, even now, and honestly it’s still not a bad place to start for newcomers to the genre. Sure it’s old and fantasy has moved on, but it’s not an epic tome like The Lord of the Rings, it’s just a short, simple book about a quiet hobbit from The Shire who goes on a reluctant adventure to rob a dragon with a bunch of dwarves. The great thing about it is you can just leave it at that and enjoy it for the simple tale it is. Or, if you want to delve deeper there are so many hidden layers to the world contained in this little book, that will go on to become so important in the later Lord of the Rings saga. Either way, how can you not just fall in love with that wonderful opening line: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”. ❤
When I finally realised that fantasy didn’t necessarily just mean elves and goblins and dwarves, I also realised that Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy fell firmly within the fantasy genre. There might not have been a dark overlord threatening to cover the world in shadow, or the only hope of stopping him lying in a plucky group of adventurers wielding swords and bows and spells, but Northern Lights, the first book in that series, is deeply rooted in the fantastical. From talking animal companions, hopping through the multiverse and yes, even Pullman’s own take on witches and magic, Northern Lights was fantasy through and through. I found a copy in my school library when I was nine years old and I never looked back.
But even before that, I was playing Fighting Fantasy game books. I still remember the old battered copy of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. By the way, if you were ever into Fighting Fantasy you should definitely check out Roll To Save’s fascinating post on the history of the books and their development over the years. I loved this read, it brought back so many memories of little seven-year-old me, sitting on my bedroom floor rolling dice and fighting dastardly hobgoblins and evil mages with pen and paper.
I mean honestly, when I think about it, I’ve been hooked on fantasy for as long as I can remember. Even if it was just Disney’s Robin Hood, or Steven Spielberg’s movie Hook with Robin Williams playing Peter Pan, I’ve always loved the fantastical. While strictly speaking probably falling into the realm of science fiction, I was a massive fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before I could even read and, because we didn’t have much money when I was a kid, I’d just ask my mam to read me the one TMNT story we owned every single night. And I never got bored of it.
I don’t do a whole lot of personal stuff here for the most part, and I guess the point of today’s prompt was probably more along the lines of where would I recommend newcomers to the genre start, so I hope you can forgive me my little nostalgic indulgence. But hopefully you enjoyed it and hey, maybe it even brought back a few memories of your own.
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