Tuesday, 19 October 2004

A Trio of Anniversaries

This month has seen or will see the celebratoin of the anniversaries of three things that have played a significant role in my life. The first was the 30th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons, also known as D&D. Over the weekend around 25,000 fans of the game gathered at gaming shops around the United States to celebrate the anniversary. It was in January of 1974 that Tactical Studies Rules first published Dungeons & Dragons in a three rulebook set. The original game was much simpler than the game with which most players are now familiar. There were only three character classes (fighters, magic users, and clerics) and four different races (humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings). Regardless, the game was a hit. It sold over 1000 copies in ten months. With the publication of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons in 1977, the game reached the proportions of a fad. This spurred the creation of yet other role playing games amd a broader role playing fad.

Role playing occupied a good portion of my youth and D&D was the first role playing game I ever played. My brother introduced it to me when he was home from college in 1981. While I would move onto other role playing games from Dungeons and Dragons, I still have fond memories of the hours I spent playing the game. Indeed, it can be argued that much of the current popularity of fantasy fiction can be traced back to that first publication of D&D back in 1974.

Arguably, Dungeons and Dragons would not exist if it were not for the second anniverary of something significant to me being celebrated this month. On October 21, 1954, the Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston published the first edition of Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, here in the United States. The anniversary is being celebrated on October 21 at bookstores across the United States. In addition, Houghton Mifflin is publishing a new, one volume, collector's edition of The Lord of the Rings, complete with two, large, foldout maps.

Lord of the Rings was not an immediate success. It would not be until Ace Books published unauthorised paperback editions of the volumes of the novel in the Sixties that Lord of the Rings would see success in the United States. Long in coming though that success may have been, it was a huge success. It became a bit of fad on college campuses, where students eagerly read the books over and over. Eventually Lord of the Rings would become a part of Anglo-American pop culture, inspiring tons of merchandise and a large number of imitators. To this day Lord of the Rings tops many polls as the greatest novel of the 20th century. Given its success, it is hard to argue that it isn't. Lord of the Rings has produced an inordinate amount of merchandise, two animated feature films, and three major motion pictures. It also brought fantasy fiction to the forefront, giving newfound popularity to the genre and newfound respectability. And, of course, it was a principle inspiration behind Dungeons and Dragons, leading to the whole pheonmenon of role playing games.

I first encountered Lord of the Rings in fifth or sixth grade. The novel spurred my interest in fantasy fiction and was probably a factor in becoming a role player. Indeed, a large part of my interest in philogy, mythology, and folklore may be due to Lord of the Rings. I then owe Tolkien an enormous debt, as his book made me at least part of what I am.

The third thing to have an impact on my life which has an anniversary this month is the series now known as The Wonderful World of Disney. It debuted on ABC on October 27, 1954. It underwent various name changes over the years, changes in time slots, and even changes in networks, but ultimately The Wonderful World of Disney has aired in some form or another for well over four decades. Indeed, in its original network run, it ran uninterrupted for over 25 years.

The Wonderful World of Disney ran for the entire length of my childhood. I remember that my brother and I would watch it every Sunday night. Through the years they would show segments made especially for the series (Davy Crockett, The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh) as well as feature films (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), usually shown in two parts. As a child it was one of my favourite series on television. I have many fond memories of the show.

I don't know if Disney and ABC are planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Wonderful World of Disney, although I would be surprised if they don't. I would rather expect there will be some sort of 50th anniversary special during one of the sweeps months. At any rate, it is a signicant annivesary for television. Beyond the success The Wonderful World of Disney has had over its run, it was also perhaps the first TV show created by a major American movie studio. Given that and the fact that it has aired in some shape or form for literally years, I would think that ABC and Disney would have much reason to celebrate.

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