Henk Brassien, aka The Hobbit Hunter, collects books by and on Tolkien, but he specializes in copies of “The Hobbit.”
It all started when he was eleven years old, and his schoolmaster started reading “The Hobbit” at the end of every Friday. “It struck me like lightning,” he says, and he just had to have the book for himself. He saved his pocket change for five weeks, but when he went to the local bookshop, the owner told him that he didn’t sell “The Hobbit” to children (can you believe it??). It wasn’t until fifteen years later that he got his first Tolkien book. As Henk puts it, “I wanted revenge, I started to collect.”
Since then, he has collected over 1,500 Tolkien-related items in 60 languages. In fact, in 2007, he had to move so that he could house all of his books.
You know what? I’ll let Henk tell you the rest; he was kind enough to let me interview him:
You own copies of “The Hobbit” in 59 languages. How many of those languages can you read?
59? No, the Bengali “Hobbit” (chapter one) makes # 60. Most of the languages are completely unknown to me. My Chinese is zero point zero, just like my Russian, Thai, Esperanto, Braille, Slovak, etc. Of course, I can read the Dutch version (I am Dutch, am I not?). Then there is the Frisian “Hobbit” (a local Dutch language, somewhere in between Dutch and English). I can also read “The Hobbit” in English, French, German, and a bit of Spanish and Swedish.
How often do you read “The Hobbit” (and which language do you usually read it in)?
I read “The Hobbit” at least once a year. The last two “Hobbits” were the English and the Dutch “Hobbit.”
As of this moment, how many copies of “The Hobbit” do you own?
At this moment, I have some 400 different “Hobbits.” Amongst them, there are all the 75 Dutch prints since 1960 (yes, it’s an illness, but I don’t have to be treated for this illness). And 29 German “Hobbits,” 112 English “Hobbits” (including USA-versions, etc.), 23 French “Hobbits,” 17 Italian “Hobbits,” 10 Polish “Hobbits,” 38 Russian “Hobbits,” 16 Spanish, and so on. You can see all my “Hobbits” on my website http://www.hobbithunter.nl.
I now have a webshop, where I will sell my (more than 1,000) double books by and on Tolkien.
Who is your favorite hobbit?
I can’t help it: Bilbo. He shows how a small person can become a hero. And – at last – he becomes very relaxed.
What are you most looking forward to seeing in the film version of “The Hobbit?”
The escape of Bilbo and the Dwarfs in barrels. And the death of Smaug. And I keep asking myself – how to make two films from a small story like “The Hobbit?” …
I noticed on your website that you said you would like to be a hobbit. If you could spend one day as a hobbit in The Shire, what would you do?
I would wake up at about nine o’ clock, get the Hobbiton Newspaper, have a tasteful breakfast, smoke a pipe, drink a nice cup of coffee, and then take a little walk, meet some other hobbits and have a nice lunch. And then? Lay down for a while, go to the local pub, have a beer (or two, or …) and then go home again, time to eat with some guests. From time to time, I will take a long walk through the Shire.
To see his fantastic collection of “The Hobbit,” visit his Hobbit Hunter website. He has information on Tolkien and hobbits, and if you’re like me, you could spend hours looking at the covers of all of the copies of “The Hobbit” that he owns. And if you are catching a little of Henk’s “illness” and are thinking of collecting, his bookshop is a great place to start!