“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
This is the opening line to the Hobbit. According to Wikipedia, it came to Tolkien while he was grading papers. Not only should this bring hope to teachers and grad students everywhere, it’s the first step on an epic journey that many of us have since taken, culminating in billions of dollars of motion pictures starring John Watson, Sherlock Holmes, Magneto, and Agent Smith, with Queen Elizabeth as Galadriel.
It’s the lines that follow that determine the course of the journey:
Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats – the hobbit was fond of visitors.
By paragraph three, we are introduced to the hobbit who is so fond of visitors, and by the fifth, to a particularly meddling, wizardly visitor.
All of that from “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” But think of the other places you could go with this. Where would China Mieville have run with that opening sentence? Octavia Butler? Neil Gaiman? Karen Joy Fowler?
So, I have a challenge to you all: Come up with 3-5 sentences to follow “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”, that take the story in a completely different direction, and post them in the comments below. There’s a prize in it for you–I’m going to ask my fellow inkpunks to help judge, and the winner will receive a kindle version of Fungi, not only because mushrooms also live in holes in the ground, but because our very own Andy Romine has a story in it!
You have until 9pm Pacific Time on Sunday, December 16th to submit your entry. I’ll post the winning entry before the end of the world, or at least the end of the Mayan calendar. Good luck!
“Well, I’m back.”