The Hobbit, what makes Middle Earth so compelling?

the hobbit, familiar stories, the lord of the ringsThis time of year always reminds me of our love for the familiar. It’s not about tradition, or not all the time, it’s about the same songs, the same stories and why it feels good to re-experience the emotions.

The movie, the book, the Hobbit

I am looking forward to seeing Peter Jackson’s take on The Hobbit – although I do not understand his concept of a three film series.  I’m willing to trust him based on his history. He has a knack of bringing the world to life in a way that allows us to enjoy the vision without having to translate from his mind to ours.

Taking a familiar story and delivering it to an audience is a long tradition in the movies. So many popular films are remakes or re-imagings of older films. So many books are based on other books. What makes us keep coming back? Why do people watch so many Titanic stories? – spoiler, the ship sinks. Why are World War II stories like The Great Escape considered classics? – news flash, the Nazi’s lose.

I think the answer lies in the characters. People watch Titanic, not for the suspense, but because of the love story. People watch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly not to find out if the bad guys get killed, but because Clint Eastwood gives such an enigmatic performance.

Christmas, the pinnacle of the repeat

No matter how old you are, there are some Christmas stories that have been around every year of your life. The list of movies starts with A Christmas Carol (black and white version) to How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Jim Carrey version). Here’s a list in case you haven’t seen all 50 best Christmas movies.

The songs only seem to change by who is singing them, so few new Christmas songs get written. You hear them in the mall, on the radio, in restaurants, and yet somehow no one has stopped the onslaught.

Let’s be clear, no network, radio station or restaurant would be doing this if it didn’t help make money. And I’m not against Christmas – it’s a great time for family, turkey and gifts (of course the fact that it runs from mid-October to mid- January is a bit annoying).

What brings you back? Rudolf always leads the sleigh, the snowman always melts. I think it’s about nostalgia. Christmas crosses generations and each of us attaches memories to the rituals. Reading The Night Before Christmas, can bring memories of snuggling up in front of the fire imagining Santa on his way to your chimney.

The characters or the memories bring you back

The familiar can bring comfort and tweaking the familiar can bring interest. As long as the same stories bring us to the cash register (or PayPal or the shopping cart), the same stories will be told and the same songs will be sung.

That’s not a bad thing. As long as there is enough new to balance out the nostalgia, we evolve.