Thursday, March 29, 2012

Return of the Mini

We’ve all done it. Had that miniature or part seemingly just disappear into thin air. I’ll probably never know what happened to that 1/144 Tornado canopy, which went MIA and caused me to never build the kit, which still languishes in a closet some 15 years later.

But this is the story of a mini that went missing longer ago than that – and came home. Bear with me.

It’s funny how some minis or kits really make an impression. That’s especially true in our younger days, when we are initially getting into the hobby. Every mini meant something then.

For example, I have explicit memories of where this one came from. It must have been about 1980 or so, maybe 81. I had just started dabbling in D&D, the classic old red box, with some friends in elementary school. And for my birthday, my parents got me the complete Lord of the Rings set of books. I think I had read the hobbit, or seen the cartoon or something by then, so of course the whole thing just enthralled me. Heady stuff for a kid maybe 12 years old.

This was also back in the day when there were actually real hobby shops in malls. It was a great place to go while mom did her shopping, and a few of us managed to get some Grenadier D&D minis. I remember I got a dwarf for my character (Thurin? I can’t remember the name at the moment, but I’m sure it was Tolkienesque) and a thief (Black Thorn – I do remember him).

The collection slowly expanded at school as we traded minis around like baseball cards.

Anyway, one day the family headed up to see my grandparents, and we stopped at a different mall. Well, this one had a hobby shop, too, with a rack of minis dedicated to the Lord of the Rings! This was impressive stuff indeed.

Sensing my excitement, I remember my parents, in time-honored tradition, telling me I could pick one. Oh, the decision! Should I get the heroic Bilbo and fellow hobbits? How about Gandalf? Oooh, elves. And men of Dale. And Smaug!? Finally, I settled on a set of six dwarves of the Iron Hills with spears. Two poses, three of each.

And that was all I ever got from that collection. In retrospect, they aren’t great minis. Pretty crude, even compared to the old Grenadier and Ral Partha of the day. I can’t even remember who made them. Minifigs maybe? But that set did duty as my “army” for a long time. Tortured with minimal Testors enamel paint, spears eventually all broken, they soldiered on. And all six didn’t make it.

I think most of them are still in the stash somewhere, but imagine my surprise at Christmas when my mother handed me a small bag of bits and pieces found when she was cleaning out a heating vent. (My parents still live in the same home I grew up in.) Lo and behold, there was this dwarf. Considering I left home in 1987, and probably hadn’t done much with these for a few years before that, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this little guy spent more than 25 years stuck in a heating vent.

I think I need to find a place of honor for him now, though I don’t know if I can bring myself to actually paint him. I think the current patina shall serve as his badge of honor.

Welcome back, dwarf of the Iron Hills. Well met.

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