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Of LEGO and Hobbits – A Love Story

September 28, 2012

I love LEGO. Who doesn’t? But when I say I love it, I mean it in a literal sense. I have an attraction to it. Romantic feelings towards it. I want to have tiny mini-figure babies.

Don’t stop reading yet though, I can get weirder. I promise.

I also quite like fantasy things, in case you hadn’t noticed. I like Tolkien. I like The Lord of the Rings.

Lord of the Rings LEGO has been out for quite a while now, and I want to marry it.

And then, when the honeymoon is over, I want a divorce.

Yeah all right, all right, that’s enough of the weird lovin’ nonsense. Let me explain.

I’ve played with LEGO since I was a child, much like everyone else born in the last 40 years or so. I stopped playing around 15 or 16, and even then I was well aware that I was ‘too old’ to be playing with toys. Plus, around that age, I’d built my first computer and gotten heavily into the heady world of technology and gaming. So, like so many other childhood treasures, LEGO was consigned to the attic.

Recently I’ve been going through a bit of a cleanse; rummaging around that same attic and getting rid of old ‘stuff’ that I no longer want or need. One of the larger boxes of ‘things to go through’ was chock full of LEGO. Sets I’d played with as a child were remarkably well-kept. I used to build, play, demolish and pack them back up in their individual boxes. I never mixed bricks from sets and rarely lost pieces. But then, after a quick succession of Ebay sales, I found myself suddenly regretting sending my beloved old sets off to strangers. Sure, a few of the rarer sets that I owned fetched some good prices, but you can’t put a price on love, can you?

My pride and joy for many years. I even considered buying a bumper sticker that said ‘My Other Car’s a Deep Freeze Defender’.

Little brick-shaped holes were left in my heart each time I sold a part of my childhood. And so, as a reaction to this, I became fascinated with the world of LEGO once again. I dribbled over sets I knew I would never justify buying for myself. I pined for my long-lost pirate sets. I eventually signed up to brickset.com, and began logging my past sets to keep a record of all the fun times I’d had as a youth. I know, I know: clingy.

But, around this time, something amazing happened. A visit to Brickset one afternoon showed a glorious headline: Lord of the Rings LEGO slated for release. Or words to that effect. It was a hard thing not to leap from my chair and whoop with joy, but I somehow contained my excitement long enough to let it really sink in: Lord of the Rings LEGO. Man oh man.

The wait was agonizing. Brickset being the super sleuth that it is, meagre details were discovered long before release, so I knew roughly what was coming from quite early on. The names were, for the most part, enticing: ‘Gandalf Arrives’, ‘Attack on Weathertop’, and, for me, the most anticipated: ‘The Mines of Moria’. Moria! In LEGO!

Then, eventually it happened. The pictures were released. And oh dear oh dear… ‘Gandalf Arrives’ was not the delightful shire scene I had hoped for, but a small set with Gandalf and Frodo – the horse-drawn cart and fireworks were pretty nifty but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. A Technic-esque Shelob loomed over a dead-looking frodo in ‘Shelob Attacks’. ‘The Orc Forge’, although impressive looking at first glance, turned out to be an insubstantial looking thing on further inspection that was obviously intended for today’s ‘5-second’ minds. And then, the final torment: ‘The Mines of Moria’ was not the grand set I had hoped for, but nothing more than Balin’s tomb. Complete with collapsible walls and several detached pieces. Messy, small, ‘playset-y’.

There was no secret cache of gold and jewels, stop lying to me! Stop it!

I was crestfallen. I’d waited for these – I was never sure that I was going to buy them, but something inside me had been sparked. I thought I might be able to recapture a little of my childhood. I thought I’d be able to say ‘pooh’ to anyone that thought I was childish. But LEGO had ruined these dreams.

I’m not sure when it happened. I think it was around 2001/2002, around the time Bionicle and Harry Potter LEGO started getting serious. Not to mention the glut of Star Wars sets that probably went a great deal towards pushing them in this direction: LEGO began cutting corners even more than they had (most seem to argue that this started happening back in the mid-to-late-eighties).

Looking back over LEGO sets past, it’s easy to chart the transformation. Lego went from the charming, blocky sets that I loved to the current sleek, brick-for-everything sets that they are today. There was a point where it didn’t bother me, when I was throwing my Ice Planet mini-figs down duvet mountains, with their translucent orange chainsaws, or my pirates crested azure blanket seas in a boat that was practically pre-made before you took it from the box. But damn it all, now they’d gone too far!

But maybe I’m being over dramatic. There is still something inherently charming about plodding mini-figures across nubby landscapes. And out of all of the Lord of the Rings LEGO, ‘Attack on Weathertop’ still has me rubbing my hands in glee. But there’s still a definite ‘playset’ feeling to it that the old sets didn’t really have. Sure, you played with them, but you made your own fun, and your own scenarios. You didn’t battle Ringwraiths with the hidden missile defence systems of Weathertop (I’m not making this up). You would have made a pile of excess grey blocks and dumped them on their heads from height. Or thrown a monkey at them… (so many of my pirates fell to legions of airborne apes).

So there I am, feeling that LEGO have somehow betrayed me. I’m not sure how long it took me to get over this feeling, in fact I’m not sure I am over it. But there is a little glimmer of light. A tiny beacon of hope for the future. And that, readers, is Hobbit LEGO.

It’s with some trepidation that I look forward to the release, or at least the pictures, of Hobbit LEGO. I won’t lie, I’m definitely excited, but I’m not setting myself up for great things just yet.

The one image we have so far is for a set entitled ‘An Unexpected Gathering’. Already, this set is miles more appealing to me than any of the Lord of the Rings sets. There’s something about cosy homes and natural forms that LEGO lends itself to perfectly, in a sort of interjectory manner. I just like it, I guess.

No point in lying, I’ll probably buy this. Then feel terrible for betraying my youth.

Other released/datamined names go along the lines of ‘Gollums Cave’, ‘Spider’s of Mirkwood Forest’, ‘Attack of the Wargs’ (I can think of a staff writer who’s probably just done a little squee over that one), ‘Escape in the Barrels’ and ‘The Orc King’. All of which promise some interesting scenarios and a slew of different mini-figs. Whether or not they’ll capture the elegantly homely yet magical qualities of The Hobbit and the intrinsic charm of LEGO remains to be seen, but perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised this time. Rather than crushingly heartbroken.

Come on LEGO, make my day.

Image Links:

Header: http://thelordoftherings.us.lego.com/en-us/Products/Default.aspx

Ice Planet 2002: http://www.brickset.com/detail/?Set=6973-1

Moria: http://thelordoftherings.lego.com/en-us/Products/9473.aspx

An Unexpected Gathering: http://www.brickset.com/detail/?Set=79003-1

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