Thursday, December 30, 2010

Robin Hood: Books and Movies and Miniatures, Oh My!

Illustration by Howard Pyle

Over the past few weeks I've been on a bit of a Robin Hood kick. I reread some of Howard Pyle's stories from The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, checked a few history and folklore books on the legends of Robin Hood out from the library, read the graphic novel Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood, and saw The Adventures of Robin Hood, the 1938 film staring Errol Flynn, which (in a fantastic coincidence of timing) was screened at the Paramount Theater here in Charlottesville earlier this month. I highly recommend the film, it's a great swashbuckling adventure with one of the best sword fights in film, between Errol Flynn's Robin Hood and Basil Rathbone's Sir Guy of Gisbourne.

Along with all of these things, I managed to finally finish painting a miniature I started way back in the fall of 2009, but never got around to finishing. It's an old Games Workshop miniature I picked up in a clearance bin a few years ago. In the Warhammer world he's known as Bertrand the Brigand, but it doesn't matter what Games Workshop calls him, it's obvious that this is supposed to be Robin Hood.

The base was entirely made from scratch, the figure just didn't look right on a flat base. I found an appropriately sized stick of wood in the yard, cut and painted a small piece of it to look like a log, and added some other basing material. The lighting in the pictures is not very good, there are some bad shadows and the colors aren't showing up very well. The skin tone looks far more orange here than it is on the actual figure. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The post-Christmas post

We had a wonderful Christmas this year, it was especially nice to have almost the whole family in one place. It was my son's first Christmas, and he definitely won the Most Loot prize. It'll be a while before he can take full advantage of most of what he got, though, as he's still in the "grab it and stick in mouth" stage. Not quite big enough to use the building blocks or toy truck just yet. It certainly was fun watching him tear paper, examine things, laugh, and occasionally try to eat the wrapping paper.

I made out pretty well myself: a new iPod Touch, a Le Creuset dutch oven (I've been wanting one for several years but never expected to actually get one), some socksEpic Mickey, and a few books I was not expecting (but really wanted)-The Lego Book, The Secret History of Star Wars, The Making of Star Wars, and Prince Valiant, Volume 1: 1937-1938. I actually gave a copy of the Prince Valiant book to a friend this year, and was planning on getting it for myself at some point soon. What goes around, comes around!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lord of the Rings? Not in this class!

My well loved boxed set of The Lord of the Rings

Over at Professor Pope, the good Professor is facilitating a reading and discussion of The Hobbit, a few chapters at a time. Rereading the book and thinking about both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings has me thinking of my first encounters with J.R.R. Tolkien's world.

In 1978 I was 6 years old. The film version of The Lord of the Rings by director Ralph Bakshi was released. A few of my aunts and uncles were Tolkien fanatics, and they organized a big party to go see the film (on what I suspect was opening weekend). I found myself with several of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and their friends, in a packed movie theater, watching an animated film that didn't make much sense to me but I loved it anyway. There were cool monsters, elves, dwarves, some little people called hobbits, and lots of sword fighting. For a long time afterwords, my cousin and I spent many days playing in the woods behind our houses, pretending we were Strider and Legolas, out hunting orcs and Ringwraiths.

At some point in the next year or so, I came across a boxed set of the novels at the house of some of my parents friends. This was a revelation, as I didn't realize that there were books that the movie was based upon. Now I could find out what happened to Frodo and Sam! Somewhere in all of this, I saw the animated version of The Hobbit, which I seem to remember watching on TV every year around Thanksgiving, just before the Christmas cartoon specials began airing. For my 8th birthday I was given the very same set of books I had found (apparently, I talked about it quite a bit to the owners of the books, and read a few pages of them whenever I was at their house), a well read set that I still own, in a great gold foil covered box. I immediately read The Hobbit that summer, and to this day it remains my favorite of Tolkien's works. While I love the fantastic and complex story of The Lord of the Rings, the intimacy of The Hobbit has always appealed to me more.

But the rest of this post isn't about The Hobbit. It's about the next one in that set of 4 books, and a particular event that can recall with clarity 30 years later...

So here I was, an 8 year old kid who was reading anything and everything he could get his hands on. I had just been given the 4 books that were the source of the movie that had captivated me a few years earlier (the only other movie to captivate me to this degree was Star Wars).  School started in the fall, 3rd grade. I used to get dropped off in the morning by my dad and I would sit outside the classroom and read until the teacher arrived. At some point I started reading The Fellowship of the Ring. Quite a massive book for a 3rd grader, right? It was slow going but I was making my way through it, trading it off with other, more typical, reading for a kid my age whenever I got bogged down with it and wanted to read something else.

One morning I was sitting in the hallway reading The Fellowship when the teacher arrived, about 30 minutes before the school day started. I recall this very clearly, as what happened next was at that point the biggest shock of my life. My teacher, Ms. Kohlman (a tall, wiry, gray hair in a bun lady who didn't seem to like kids very much), asked what I was reading. I proudly held the book up, smiling, expecting to be complemented for reading a book that was above my reading level. She looked at it, scowled, and took the book out of my hand, telling me "You aren't old enough to be reading that." She disappeared into the classroom with my book, leaving me standing in the hall, stunned with disbelief at what just happened. I went into the classroom, almost in tears, and asked when I could have my book back. Her response? "You won't. You aren't old enough." This was supposed to encourage me to read? A teacher punishing a kid for wanting to read something difficult, something that he obviously loved?

That night I told my parents, and I remember them being mad. Mad because she had taken it away and told me I wasn't getting it back, and even madder that she told me I couldn't read the book. My parents were always encouraging me to read, and the more challenging the book, the better. My mom, an elementary school teacher, was quite upset, as this was not just some random teacher telling a kid he couldn't read a book, but her kid's teacher telling him he couldn't read a book. I don't remember exactly what happened the next day, but I do know my mom went in and had a long talk with my teacher, and I got my book back that night. I was allowed to keep reading the book at school, and never heard another word from the teacher about what I was reading. Eventually, after quite a few weeks, I finished The Fellowship of the Ring. And even if I didn't understand some of it, or thought parts of it were boring, I loved it.