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.


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From: Etienne Posthumus (Mar 12 2008, at 03:11)

"the book is too short"

Amen to that.

My thoughts exactly when I tore through it for the first time in high school, during the mid-eighties Mordor that was South Africa.


From: Mark Szpakowski (Mar 12 2008, at 07:12)

My wife and I read The Lord of the Rings to our children before they went to school. A couple of years later my son started reading it himself, and has read the tetralogy (including The Hobbit) several times now, as well as a number of other series. He is now 15. I noticed some code on his screen the other day - turns out he's programming interfaces for Vendetta Online in Lua! So now he's contributing to a multi-player, multi-world interactive social adventure, complete with merchants, fighters, and makers. Immersion in rich language fields is the best prep for... <i>anything</i>.


From: Sam (Mar 12 2008, at 09:03)

My mom read The Hobbit to me. I loved it so much I read the entire LOTR trilogy. It started my love affair with reading :-)


From: Andrew (Mar 12 2008, at 10:57)

As my daughter gets older (she's just over 2 years old now) I am always pleased at how much more *story* there is in the stories that I'm reading her. I'm really looking forward to sharing some of my favourite stories with her, and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings certainly top that list.


From: Michael Norrish (Mar 12 2008, at 16:18)

I'm not sure why you say that Tolkien's maps are inadequate given that I believe the PDF map you link to is originally his. Indeed, the (hard-back) edition of LotR (published in the 70s or earlier) that I first read had nice fold-out versions of just that map inside the back cover.

Actually, maybe all of the maps inside LotR editions are the responsibility of the respective publishers. In which case, laying the blame for them at Tolkien's feet is a bit unfair.

The Mearth site is a bit coy about the source for their map; I suspect they're violating someone's copyright, but it is a fantastic resource.


From: DJ (Mar 12 2008, at 23:18)

Great post, Tim. Tolkien's works are among my favorites.

Though you can't hang this on a wall, I would highly recommend the Atlas of Middle Earth: http://www.amazon.com/Atlas-Middle-Earth-Revised-Karen-Fonstad/dp/0618126996

It has a lot of great maps covering just about all of Tolkien's published works, so if your son moves on to his other books (Silmarillion, Hobbit, etc...) the atlas will serve as a good companion.



From: Mark Alexander (Mar 14 2008, at 09:13)

We read LOTR to our kids when they were 7 and 10, and it was great experience for all of us. Both kids went on to read the books themselves multiple times (as I have -- lost count around eight).


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