Meditations on Middle-earth: Robin Hobb
[ Extract from "Raising the Bar" by Robin Hobb, to be published in Meditations on Middle-earth, edited by Karen Haber (St. Martins Press, ISBN 0-312-27536-6, $24.95, November 2001). All rights reserved. Used by permission of Karen Haber. Watch for more previews from this fascinating book! ]
I suspect it is difficult for readers who have grown up in a time where The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are acknowledged as classics to understand the breath-taking impact they had. I simply had never read anything like it. I was an omnivorous reader, steeped in fairy tale books, the classics, mythology, mysteries, and adventure. In those days before I discovered Tolkien, I was devouring science fiction and pulp at the junkie rate of at least a paperback a day. It wasn't that there was no good stuff out there. There was. I'd found Heinlein and Bradbury and Simak and Sturgeon and Leiber. All those encounters marked me. But Tolkien claimed me as no other stories had before.
I had three distinct sensations at the end of The Lord of the Rings. One was the simple, unbelievable void of "It's over. There's no more of it to read." The second was, "And I've never encountered anything like this. I'll never find anything this good again." The third was perhaps the most alarming: "In all my life I will never write anything as good as this. He's done it; he's achieved it. Is there any point in my trying?"
Even in those days, I knew I was going to be a writer. I had been writing since I was in first grade, creating short stories almost as soon as I mastered sentences. By the time I finished junior high, I burned with the fixed ambition that I was going to write amazing books, someday. To discover that someone had already written the most amazing books that could possibly exist raised the bar to an almost impossible height for me.
It was the most wonderful thing that anyone could have done for an ambitious young writer.