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Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things.

Late for dinner, and regretting it only the littlest bit

By Hannah MoorePublished 10 months ago 4 min read
My daughter, and the vanquished dragon

There are books in my library, such that it is, which have held within them excitement, knowledge, curiosity and anguish. There are books between whose covers I have found yearning, disgust, loyalty and contempt. There are many which have brought pleasure, a few with the strange gift of boredom, and some, just a handful, which have changed my life. Not in the way that all things do, each new experience making minor adjustments, but in the way that shows, decades later, in the makeup of my world. The first of these are lost to me. I am told I was besotted with a particular ABC, and the illustrations of Shirley Hughes continued throughout my own children’s early years, to resemble my idealised family life to a suspicious degree. The Maggie B, by Irene Haas may well underscore my concept of cosy, and I dare say the smallfolk I nearly glimpse beneath the trees in dappled sunlight have been seen first on a page, from the haven of my mother’s lap. One, likely some, of these early books has changed my life, turning me into a reader and lover of stories before I can remember otherwise. But I want to talk here about the first clear memory, the lucid revelation, of the world I build my life in.

Reading my childhood copy of The Maggie B with my 2 year old daughter while we waiting for a storm to pass

Now, before I go on, I want to make it clear, that this is an overstatement. I go to work, I raise my kids, I talk to my partner about supermarket shopping and fuel costs. I rarely wear impractical clothing, my hair floofs in the rain and bothers my face, and I worry about privacy to pee on a long day hike. I am anchored in reality, please rest assured. And yet…. Around the edges, those smallfolk skitter, I see wisdom in the faces of trees, and magic fizzes in the breeze. After all, there is nothing like looking, if you want to find something.

I win no prizes for originality here, but perhaps that’s part of the seduction. Perhaps it is in the reinvention of the wheel that each new generation finds value in it, and keeps it turning, feeling the hand of their forefathers beneath their own as they do. And it is the hand of my own father who turned the pages as we lay, one night in my brother’s bed, the next in my own, back and forth, the three of us nestled in familial safety, sharing a story to build a bridge from the day, into dreaming.

I was seven, or eight, when my Dad first read us The Hobbit. Already, as I say, a lover of stories. But this one! This one, I stepped with Bilbo, out from the safety of home, the certainty of three meals a day, of dry beds and gentle pastures, and into an adventure! My own little company – my dad, my brother and I – we stayed warm and dry, snuggled against one another in polyester pyjamas, and at the same time, we passed through mountains. And like Bilbo, I emerged the same, and forever changed.

Nearly four decades on, and there remain tell-tale signs in the makeup of my world. I have been fortunate to travel, a lot and often, moving to another continent when I was 11, and back, a few years later, living on the road for three months, six months, a year at a time at various stages of my life. My travels now are shorter. Three weeks, one week, one day. But I step out of my front door looking for adventure, and I find it. I have grown good at this. Yes, I thirst for the grand adventures, to see mountains and oceans and temples and cities I have not seen before, to feel small and valid all at once before a world thick with cultural, geological, magical stories. But now, there is adventure in the alley I never spotted before and in the path that changes as the Hawthorn flowers. There is adventure in a new project or challenge. And there is adventure right here, right now, writing this.

I was lucky to re-visit my book through one long summer of beautiful landscapes, nights under canvas and days outdoors, where magic is rife.

Perhaps this was mine anyway. Perhaps another story would have brought me here. But this is the one I remember. The plot details are hazy, even now, but the feeling persists. The Hobbit was a sonnet to the story. A work of passion for stories past, present and future. Even at 8 that love, that commitment to storying shone through. A story full of stories – stories told to remember, to warn, to make sense, to connect and to divide. Powered only by words, symbols for things and ideas, strung together to convey a thing that happened inside one mind, to the inside of another mind. Many years on, and this still matters, not just in the tingle of excitement I feel when I meet a story steeped in story telling passion, but in the way I build my life here. What we tell of our own lives, and how we tell it, shapes both our own world and the larger one we share. Stories are transformative, and we tell them to ourselves all the time.

The Hobbit is a ripping yarn, but, for me, (and lets hold in mind I was born three decades after war loomed large in the British psyche) it was more. In The Hobbit, I found resonance. The small, ordinary character, with his need for two breakfasts and his love of home, taking on a monumental adventure and finding himself, with his friends about him, equal to the task. All told in a story laced with an understanding of its own magic. About three decades on from my first reading, I placed that story in the hands of my own children’s Daddy, and in the warm glow of home, while the smallfolk nestled in the shadowed corners of the room, we stepped again into a hole in the ground, in which there lived a Hobbit…

My children's daddy, starting to read. This moment was significant enough for me that I took a photograph
My babies, the first summer we shared this book (there has been another since), building worlds of their own

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Hannah Moore

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

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Comments (8)

  • Rachel Deeming10 months ago

    I love the comment under the picture of your husband. So dry. The books that shape us, eh? Not a great Tolkien fan (LOTR was like panning for gold - some nuggets but a lot of superfluous detritus) but I've never read The Hobbit. Been a long time so could be time to revisit JRR.

  • Michael Wheat10 months ago

    This a great read Hannah. It struck a chord with me...loud and clear. And great photos of your family. They made it real.

  • Dean F. Hardy10 months ago

    I thoroughly enjoyed this. As a first time reader of your work, I'm hoping there is more non-fiction scattered through your profile, because you're good at it. Very intimate telling of a book you hold dear. One I somehow have still not read.

  • Novel Allen10 months ago

    JRR has nothing on you. You gave J a run for the money here. This was so wonderfully done. Nostalgic, warm and comforting. Great family moments.

  • ema10 months ago

    I really like your attitude. It is said that books are used to escape, but the best books are the ones that enter our lives and become real, teaching us real things, as long as we learn to "see" what's in the stories. You give your beautiful children a great teaching ❤

  • I really enjoyed the journey you took us on with this. I still remember watching the Hobbit on film strip in School.

  • Sian N. Clutton10 months ago

    I love the way you write, you have a certain flare! For a minute there, I felt as though I was snuggled up with you and your brother and dad! I try to do this with my little boy but he doesn't have the attention span, yet. 😅 🤣

  • Jay Kantor10 months ago

    Dear Hannah; aka Mom of Three - From Gen-to-Gen I see Oodles of "Anchors in Originality" - Different times, just Different recipes. - My Respect - Jay Jay Kantor, Chatsworth, California 'Senior' Vocal Author - Vocal Author Community -

Hannah MooreWritten by Hannah Moore

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