My little hobbits

For Father’s Day, my daughters got me “The History of the Hobbit,” though neither of them probably knew that until after I opened the gift.

I had never read any Tolkien prior to the release of the Fellowship of the Ring film in 2001, but most of my friends had. A bunch of us planned to go see it together for our annual Christmastime movie night. The tradition for those movie nights is that we would watch something together and then discuss it afterwards. Since I was totally unfamiliar with the story, I decided to watch it (several times) before our get-together. I think I ended up seeing it 5 times in the theater, all told.

Of course I was hooked. I went out and bought all the Lord of the Rings paperbacks as well as the The Hobbit and read them all in short order. I thoroughly enjoyed them, especially the climax of The Two Towers, where Frodo has been captured by the Orcs and taken to the tower of Cirith Ungol (In the movies, this takes place in Return of the King). It was a great cliffhanger.

Over the years I have re-read the novels numerous times, and read lots of related material. Let’s just say that I have become very well-versed in Tolkien.

After Yoli and I got married, I read her The Hobbit aloud. It took a while (weeks, I think) to get through. I wasn’t sure it would work — after all, English is her second language. The Hobbit is written more like a children’s tale than the Lord of the Rings, but it still has its share of old, unfamiliar words. But Yoli followed the story pretty well, and since it is such a fun story, she seemed to enjoy it.

Since we had our girls, reading has been a big thing for us. Jadzia (so far) seems to have the bigger appetite for books, and in this way she is a lot like me. My mom taught me to read at a young age and over the years I have consumed books with a passion.

Reading modern childrens books is fun. But I think ahead to the days when Jadzia might be old enough to hear a story like The Hobbit. She’ll have to have a good memory to remember details of the story from one session to the next. And she’ll have to use her imagination since there are only a few illustrations. But it’s hard to wait — I want to read it to her now.

To my surprise, after I opened my Father’s Day gift, Jadzia immediately wanted to see the illustrations inside. The gift is a box set that includes the two-volume “History of the Hobbit” as well as The Hobbit itself. This hardcover version of The Hobbit is beautiful. It has the original cover design, a striking view of the Lonely Mountain, the Lake, and Mirkwood Forest painted by Tolkien. Inside the book are color reproductions of all Tolkien’s illustrations.

So I went through and showed her one-by-one the illustrations in each of the three volumes, describing what was going on in each. So she is now familiar with “Bilbo,” “Gandalf,” the dwarves, and the dragon.

She was so excited, she even had me read a page or two out of the book. But that was about her limit.

A couple weeks later while we were playing in her room, I came across a set of plastic keys. This prompted me to do a little storytelling about Bilbo’s rescue of the dwarves (using barrels) from the prison of the Elf king.

Apparently she liked my version. When she came across the keys again a few days later, she asked me to tell the story again.