Reading The Hobbit to My Children

Reading The Hobbit to My Children

The Hobbit
The original copy of The Hobbit I read nearly four decades ago
[lead dropcap="yes"]I first read The Hobbit when I was a wee lad of just 10 or 11 years old. I’d found it on my mother’s bedside table and when I asked her if I could read, she said sure. That was a lifechanging decision. (That's the actual book in the photo there.)[/lead]

As I’ve chronicled before, I’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings more times than I can count. I do know I read LOTR at least 16 times in high school.[1] That pace has slowed in my adult years, but I’m still crazy about Professor Tolkien’s[2] works, making my way through The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and the The History of Middle Earth, the last being a 12-volume series containing the Professor’s complete writings on the topic.

I’ve always known that I would one day read the stories to my own children and I have eagerly awaited the chance. Perhaps too eagerly at times as I tried to read The Hobbit to Isabella when she was 3 or 4. Too soon. Melanie introduced them to The Chronicles of Narnia, which Bella particularly has taken to in a big way, listening to them over and over again as audiobooks after Melanie refused to read them aloud a third time. But Tolkien is mine to give them.

Over this Christmas vacation break, after having steeped myself in Peter Jackson’s movies of The Hobbit, I decided now was the right time for them and for me. Since most chapter book reading in our house occurs in the afternoons, it’s usually Melanie who reads to them[3] so having me read a chapter book was a novelty.

It’s been fun so far, watching them get caught up in it. They all gather around and while the boys flit in and out of the room, Isabella and Sophia stay right near me the whole time. They were fascinated by the introduction of the dwarves in Bag End, not to mention the “Blunt the knives” song which delighted them. They were apprehensive about the trolls, although the funny Cockney accent I gave them, defused some of the tension. Rivendell and the Elves had their predictable charms (including the silly songs they sang, so unlike Jackson’s stiff depiction of the Elves), while Goblin-town and the Riddles in the Dark brought back the tension in spades, as they kept asking me if Bilbo was going to make it out of the mountain and whether he would ever see the dwarves again.

Reading the Hobbit
Reading the Hobbit on my Kindle to Bella and Anthony

Oh yes, they’re hooked. And I’m having fun too. It’s been so long since I’ve read The Hobbit, I’d forgotten what a quick read it is and how unlike LOTR, not to mention the movies.[4] Frankly, I’m not sure the movies would have been improved by staying closer to their source material. They’d be so different from the LOTR movies that casual fans would have been put off I think.

In a related matter, I’ve been wondering if I should show them glimpses of certain scenes from the movies, like the “Blunt the Knives” song, but I’ve decided against it. I want them to experience the books as books first and then once they’ve assimilated them in that form, some day show them the films. That will be a long time from now, though, as I’m sure Bella wouldn’t be able to handle the visuals and not anytime soon.

Anyway, now that I’m going back to work after my vacation, we’ll have to find regular time to finish our book. After that, well, I think LOTR is still a few years in our future. That’s a darker, more intense book that I think will be suited for pre-teen Isabella and Sophia.

  1. It wasn’t the only thing I read. I was a voracious reader and was known to devour 4 or 5 books per week.  ↩
  2. Oh, and happy birthday to the Professor, born on this day in 1892.  ↩
  3. Of course, we also do reading at bedtime, but of necessity those are shorter stories and books or we’d be up all night.  ↩
  4. I’m also intrigued by how Tolkien breaks all the rules of English, combining strings of adverbs, misusing words, using double negatives. As they say, you have to become a Master before you’re allowed to break the rules, because you must break them in a deliberate way for a specific end, not just because you’re lazy or ignorant about them.  ↩

Image Credit

  • ReadingtheHobbit: Own photo
  • IMG_0268: Own photo