Thursday, January 3, 2013

The classics

My boy started reading The Lord of the Rings two days ago! He announced his intention to start them the other night after dinner and I almost said, "Are you sure? They're really long and the pace of the action can be glacially slow sometimes", but luckily my brain kicked in and stopped me before the words got to my mouth. And even more luckily, Robert said, "Cool. Sound good, bud". And that was that. Zion started reading the next day.

Now Zion is not new to Tolkien's universe. When he was 3 1/2 years old we read him The Hobbit for the first time. I don't know how much of it he took in, but he sat still through the whole book and seemed to enjoy it. In the intervening 5 years we've read him The Hobbit at least a dozen times, and he completely adores it, as do Robert and I.

(Liel is a different matter, however. She does not like The Hobbit, and her objection is rooted in the rather unfortunate fact that there are no female characters in the entire book. It's a deplorable situation, but, I have to say, not one that's ever stopped me from loving the story, or from feeling myself to be a part of it somehow. I'll probably write another post on this at some point, but for now I mostly just want to note Liel's well-founded (though certainly not new!) criticism.)

At any rate, Zion's love for Tolkien's work always brings my paternal grandmother (and other members of my dad's family, like my aunt and uncle) to mind. Kay loved words. She loved books, she loved stories, and she loved Tolkien. My dad recalls her first reading The Hobbit to him when he was 5 years old, shortly after it was published. Tolkien's works are classics on that side of the family; but more than that they are a shared language: narratives and images that we all use and relate to.

My mother's family, though they are voracious readers, does not give a shit about Tolkien as far as I know. I don't believe I've ever heard any of them even so much as mention his books. It's funny how the shared vocabulary of my dad's clan doesn't even exist in my mom's.

However, my mom did read Tolkien to my brother and me, first The Hobbit, and then the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have a lot of fond memories of sitting on the couch in the evenings listening to her read them. A lot of memories because it takes a long-ass time to get through them all! See: glacial pacing. Ahem.

But I feel really pleased with Zion's decision to start the trilogy. It can be slow yes, and boring at times, and though it does have a few female characters they're still not exactly thick on the ground. But I still love the story, and even more than that I love that Zion is now the fourth generation of his family to find a home in Tolkien's words. And they mean something to him! I know I shouldn't be surprised- he's a bright kid- but I was thrilled when he told me today that as the Ring's power over Bilbo grew, he felt like butter spread over too much bread. "Mama", he said, making a circle with his index finger and his thumb, "if you have this much butter, that's enough for one piece of bread. But if you try to spread it over 8 pieces, then the butter is very thin on all of them. And that's how Bilbo felt, because the Ring was starting to turn him into a shadowy wraith thing".

1 comment:

Kristofer Young said...

My Mom, Kay, would love this post, and her affect on our lives!

I had trouble sitting through the Hobbit and the LoTR as a child; and I never went back. I find that if I just keep my mouth shut about it, the family accepts me.

Go Zion!
Go Liel!

Kris Dad Grampa