My mother gave me a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring when I was eleven, and there was never a more timely gift in my life. It was the last gasp before I would leave childhood to become a teenager, when I was supposed to cast aside all the childish and pointless playing and make believe and begin the next stage of life, when I was supposed to grow up. Suddenly I had between myself and that impending reality an epic journey of a young man, well hobbit, through a fantastical land of mountains, gleaming towers, fallen races, elves and dwarves and heroism. All this was a far cry from the dull, grey terraced houses of northern England were I grew up.
I was never a gifted reader at school, but the desire to see what fate would throw at Frodo and his companions next forced me into learning new words. For Christmas that year I shocked my parents when I asked for a dictionary when my father got sick of me asking the meaning of this and that. Thinking back, it took months for me to work my way through (reaching page 100 was a milestone I think I will always remember…I’m certain I didn’t know that only represented around 5% of the story), but at the time the words seemed to flow past me like a stream until I got to the end of book one, went looking for my mum and asked ‘and then what happened?’
That was over twenty years ago, and since I’ve re-read all three books nearly yearly, and each time it’s a mark of Tolkien’s story-telling skill that I walk away with something new; how a character felt at a given impasse, how much of a threat to middle Earth Old man Oak was, had Tom Bombadil not found the Hobbits. I’ve been holding off for the past few years, though. I have become a father myself, and I want The Lord of the Rings to be a book my son and I enjoy together.
The Australian Literature Review