Friday, 1 February 2008

The valleys of the past: Tim and the Hidden People

We were all drawn into fantasy in different ways. For some, reading fantasy novels was a natural progression from role-playing games. Others may have simply picked up a fantasy book on a whim and just got sucked in. I thought therefore I'd write a little about my own initial brush with fantasy.

My mother is a teacher and while she cleaned up her classroom at the end of each day, I would sit and read the curriculum reading books on her shelves. I was about 5 or 6, and there was one series that grabbed my attention: a series called Tim and the Hidden People. I wasn't to know it at the time, but these books would have a lasting effect on me. Even at such a young age, they gripped my imagination and for a while at least wouldn't let go. After I read the ones in my mother's classroom, I searched the other teachers' classrooms to see if they had any of the series that I hadn't yet read. I recall that I was a bit scared of the school caretaker at the time, but vividly remember sitting in a classroom, engrossed in one of these books, almost oblivious to his presence. The books took me to a different world.

The story was simple enough; a young boy called Tim finds a magic key, which enables him to see the Hidden People. Soon he is drawn into their struggle as the friendly Hidden People try to reclaim their home, Hollow Hill, from another faction. Before long I found myself engrossed in the stories of witches, magic and adventure. One of my favourites was the final book in the second series, called On the Night of the Full Moon, in which Tim uses magical thread to trap the evil hidden people and force them into the pool by the whispering trees. These may just have been intended as childrens' books, but there is some serious imagination at work here.

But if the stories were good, the illustrations were even better. I've never seen illustrations that fit the accompanying work so perfectly; moody and often bleak, they simply ooze atmosphere and create the perfect foil for the imagination. Here's an example:


After I exhausted all of the Tim and the Hidden People books I could find, I eventually left the series alone. Little did I know however, that the magic had touched me. It would lie dormant for several years, but would resurface later on...but the second part of how I came to embrace fantasy will have to wait for another day.

As far as Tim and the Hidden People goes, it's close to my heart to this very day. I made a futile attempt to purchase some of the books, but they went out of print a long time ago. Occasionally one will crop up on ebay where they tend to sell for around £50 ($100) a book. Obviously I'm not the only one that remembers them with fondness. I made a fortunate discovery one day however, as I came across one member who had scanned every single book from all four series onto CD. Even more fortunately I managed to snap up one of the (illegal) CDs before ebay removed them. Best £10 I ever spent. I now have the entire collection - artwork and all - at the click of a mouse button.

I've read the first two series again, but not the second two. They represent uncharted territory, and I want to make the magic last a little longer.

EDIT - 15/04/2009: Please do not email me requesting a copy of the CD, as I will not respond. The CD itself is illegal and if I make copies I will be breaking the law and putting myself at risk of legal action. Sorry, but you'll have to just keep checking ebay!

22 comments:

-S said...

It is so wonderful to find your thoughtful and insightful post on Tim and the Hidden People. I too discovered the series when I was about 4 or 5, and used to sneak into the junior section of the school when I got bored with reading all the books in the infants section. Every so often, my teacher would search for me for hours, only to find me sitting under a table in an empty classroom, completely immersed in the adventures of Tim & Tobias - riding the completely fascinating and solemnly bleak imagination in the magical world that surround Tim and the Hidden People in his world.

Like you, those stories (and especially the quite striking illustration of Tobias the cat and all his pointy features and intelligent green eyes)lay dormant inside my psyche for many years after that, and were my unwitting introduction to the world of fantasy, until, in my first year at university, I happened to stumble across Katherine Kerr's Deverry series... and so it began again...(grin).

Many years after that, I was very lucky to stumble across the whole series of books across a few months on eBay, back when they were only going for about £5 each, and managed to complete my whole collection (including the new reprint series done by Sheila K McCullough's great nephew). And today, while thinking up spooky tails to create for the Sims 2, my mind lighted on Tim once again.

Thank-you for adding to a much cherished journey.

J.G. Thomas said...

You're very welcome indeed, it's great to hear from a fellow fan! I can completely relate to your younger experiences, as they sound very similar to my own.

New reprint series? I knew nothing about that...

As for your collection, I can only confess how jealous I am! Like I said I have the complete series, but having it on CD ain't quite the same as the real thing.

M1ke said...

I found this article on Google and its nice to see other people who enjoyed those books as kids. I think I was in Year 3 at the time, and the earlier two series were for our year, and the latter two for the year above. Whilst other people only read what was required of them by the teacher I'd try and stay in at break time to keep reading, and went through all four series very quickly. Having read about it again I'm tempted to go back to my primary school and see if they still have the books!

Amanda said...

I was also deliciously addicted to Tim and Tobias and got terrible nostalgic pangs for them a few years ago. After trying to remember the names, I found references to them on eBay listings, other blogs, but again, I got there after the prices had rocketed so thought I would never see them. Then my sister who was working for a primary school as a teaching assistant brought some books they were going to chuck out home for my toddler daughter to look at, as she loves cats, and most of the series was there! I have to fill in the gaps myself....

My main memory of reading the series was that, as a speedy reader, my teacher Mrs Bracey decided I should move on to "proper" books before I moved up to the Junior school classes, and so I wasn't allowed to read the end of the series in reading lessons. I was so upset, and often managed to sneak in to the classroom at lunchtimes so I could sit and read a bit on my own. Stupid woman didn't relaise there are actually reasons for reading *other* than getting through the scheme and ticking boxes.

Alex said...

That CD sounds absolutely awesome well done! Could you PLEASE drop me an email mate @ alex.penn.hotmail.com - Cheers!

timandtobias said...

Glad im not the only one who loved these books. Could you also drop me an email at alison_x@hotmail.co.uk
It has become an obsession of mine to find these books so I can read them to my children Thanks

James said...

Guys, I'm afraid I'm not willing to make copies of the CD for reasons that I won't go into. Sorry to disappoint, as I know how much you'd probably like to get hold of them, but I can't help you in this case.

BlackRaven said...

You can get reprints of books 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8 from Waterstones for a fiver each. £4 each if you use a £5 off voucher for spending over £20.

Would love a copy of the CD :(

James said...

I remember these books. I was in the third and fourth years at primary school and loved them. We had to pick books from a tiny library at the end of the class and there was a single copy of many different books. The great pity was there never seemed to be the whole set of the Tim and the Hidden People books there, and I read them in the wrong order.

David said...

I went to forces schools in Germany in the seventies and adored Tim and the hidden people. I used to take the whole series home with me and curl up on my bed to be whisked away to Mandrakes castle!
It was a superb reading experience,the pictures were moody,brilliantly drawn, and suited the series perfectly.
I am now a proud dad to my son of six months and would dearly love him to be able to experience the series when he is older.
I have looked everywhere,but only the odd book surfaces,i really would like the whole series. Memories of a more innocent age and a desire to let my son enjoy his childhood that little bit longer!!
If anyone hears of any sales i would love to hear from you.
Kind regards,
David.

deb said...

I'm a teacher and we recently cleared out some old books. I'm pretty sure we have the full set of Tim and the Hidden People in excellent condition (a little dusty). The school would expect money for school fund but would love these books to go to a good home!

Ciara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ciara said...

wowee zowee... i have been plauged by memories of a series of books i read when i was about 7 and i have a feeling it is tim and the hidden people... does he wear an amulet and in one of the books does he ride a night mare (horse) please please let me know... i'm kinda losing my mind trying to remember more details...

whispering trees said...

you are right Ciara, he did ride the nightmare.I read these books as a kid and i "borrowed" the whole set from school, i lost them over the years,but can still remember them vividly,like riding the ghost bus and waking up on a motorway?(or was it hospital)
i believe there was a couple of novels for older readers and i never had the chance to read them, would like to if i can find them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Deb. You haven't said how to get in contact with you. I'd be very interested in buying those from the school.
If they are still available could you email me @:
wes...@...nramr...com
(I've added the dots to try to fool the spam bots, just remove them to get my email addy).
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have many of these books, between 40 and 50 (I think the whole set)if anyone would like to buy them from me?

Please email jenzibob@hotmail.com

Bob said...

I discovered these books at the age of ten. They were in the book section of my classroom in junior school. The whole series was in a little grey plastic box and I found them engrossing as a child and even got my brother into them. It took me a couple of weeks to finish of the whole series as I couldn't take them home and had to wait for reading time to do so.

carlmilton36 said...

Amazing! Had no idea how many people remembered theses books and how they touched their hearts. I'm 32 now and the memories of Tobias, the yard, the witches, etc have always been there. Often I have recalled these books but didn't remember the title and no one ever knew what what I was talking about. It as only yesterday that I was having a conversation with my sister and we were trying to recall the books. So after all these years I decided to google it to find out what the series was called. Amazing! It all started coming back to me, the artwork, the format, and the story. Just reading all the comments here has given me the most amazing goosebumbs/shivers and really made me smile.
It's just very sad to here that they are difficult to find, I would so love to read them again. :)

Anonymous said...

I have these books (somewhere) but some are missing. They're not all in good condition but I plan on reading them again soon. I wouldn't sell them for £1000

Anonymous said...

wow! had no idea that Tim & the Hidden People inspired so many children in the 70s like me. I adored this series and memories of the front covers, the artwork inside and the amazing stories have stayed with me ever since. I can even remember the smell of my classrom when i think about these books. Have just bid successfully on my first one on ebay - On the Night of the Full Moon - and am now torn between keeping it until i get the entire series so i can read it in order or ripping it out of the postie's hands and devouring it as soon as it turns up. From some of the earlier posts, it sounds as though finding these books is a bit like looking for the Holy Grail. I think I might have just started a new, rather obsessive, hobby!

Stephen said...

Wow

Looking at this post and the other one it's amazing that these books are loved by so many people.

I remember being absolutely OBSESSED by them and yet not being able to remember anything about them except very vaguely.

After doing a search and seeing some hints of the stories the plot is coming back to me and now I really really want to read them again.

Did a search to see if there were any (even near) decently priced ones out there or if I could find if the digital version had been put online somewhere. No joy.

Ah well.
Since that original post above was made we've moved along a heck of a lot. Digital books are the next big thing so here's hoping whoever has the rights to old books like these that we all love can digitize them so we can read them on our Kindle/Ipad/Whatever. Seems logical as once it's done all they have to do is watch the money come in unlike distributing real books.

Heck I'd even volunteer to do it myself - I owe it to the 10 year old I was.

Edward said...

Ah - what a great set of books these were. I never really enjoyed reading except for these books; I must have put the last one down at about age 8 at the most ... and I don't think I enjoyed reading another book until about 10 years later. Loved the series. Desperately trying to get hold of them again.