Our eight-year-old reads perfectly well; mostly childish trash, of course, which is perfectly appropriate. But he still likes his bedtime story, so we’ve been tackling larger works. We spent the last few months working through The Lord of the Rings, and finished it this evening. I’ve certainly enjoyed it, although sometimes the endless descriptions of pastoral beauty can drag a bit in spoken-word format. Herewith a nifty Middle-Earth resource and a quotation from the book that touched me.
The Map · I wanted to print out a map so the boy could follow the action along; Tolkien’s own are really inadequate. Fortunately, there’s the “MearthMap” Map of Middle Earth, and it’s astounding. It’s in vector format (a 1.2M PDF), which means effectively infinite scaling, which it turns out you really need if you want to be able to locate Dimrill Dale or Durthang. I extracted just the part of the map where the action occurs and printed it out on a huge glossy sheet of paper and it was a fine companion to the story.
From the Foreword · This long paragraph pleased me for a bunch of reasons, and I thought it might touch some others too.
The Lord of the Rings has been read by many people since it finally appeared in print; and I should like to say something here with reference to the many opinions or guesses that I have received or have read concerning the motives and meaning of the tale. The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them. As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is appealing or moving, and for many the guide was inevitably often at fault. Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer. But even from the points of view of many who have enjoyed my story there is much that fails to please. It is perhaps not possible in a long tale to please everybody at all points, nor to displease everybody at the same points; for I find from the letters that I have received that the passages or chapters that are to some a blemish are all by others specially approved. The most critical reader of all, myself, now finds many defects, minor and major, but being fortunately under no obligation either to review the book or to write it again, he will pass over these in silence, except one that has been noted by others: the book is too short.