“For Mackenzie, Christmas 1996,
May you always be as brave as Aragorn, as wise as Gandalf, as compassionate as Frodo, and as loyal as Sam.
Love, The Fruguglieties
God Bless you!”
I don’t remember the first time I read The Hobbit, but I do know that I read it from an ancient, yellowing copy given to me by my father, and several pages had fallen out and been hastily stuffed (approximately) back into place by the time I had finished, to be lost and regained upon each subsequent reading. I remember many of those later readings, but alas! The first was too early, and has been replaced by memories of (doubtlessly) lesser importance. But I do remember the first time I read The Lord of the Rings. I read it from a red leather-bound book given to me as a Christmas present by my Auntie Anne (a fellow Tolkien fanatic) when I was eight years old. I read it (I believe) in 14 days, and I remember because my parents had told me that I would receive a certain sum of money upon completion, a portion of which would be taken away for each day the book remained unfinished (it wasn’t a bribe: I think it was more of an experiment to see how fast I could finish it).
In any case, it was utterly unnecessary. I don’t remember how much money I eventually earned. But oh, do I remember the reading…
I remember sleepily marking my place not just with a bookmark but with a hastily-pencilled-in star to mark the precise paragraph at which to resume reading, and then turning off the light and lying down for bed… only to finally re-don my glasses just a few minutes later, turning the light back on and continuing far into the night. I remember anxiously awaiting further news of Merry and Pippin, and being confused at reading of the same event from different perspectives (Wait, but the Uruk-hai were just destroyed… did Merry and Pippin get captured by another maurauding Orc band?). I remember walking into my dad’s office, massive tome in hand, begging him to tell me if Frodo was really dead.
I was eight years old, and I remember much of it like it was yesterday. The book, of course, has not made it through this journey unscathed. Looking over it now, many of the pencil-stars remain. The pages are stained not with blood or tears, but with the food and drink which were not nearly important enough to warrant putting the book down to consume. Certain pages are marked with not one, but two or even three distinct dog-eared creases from multiple readings. The spine hangs off of it, completely detached from the front cover. Yet the golden inscription on the front, the inscription of the doors of Moria, remains as brilliant as the day I unwrapped it… as do my memories.
And I remember the silly Hobbit animated movie, in which the elves of Mirkwood are strange, blue creatures and death is symbolized by the spinning, spiraling spectacles of someone discovering the “rotate” function for the first time. I remember the somewhat more serious Fellowship animated movie, which extended into The Two Towers, complete with a preview of The Return of the King which was never to be fulfilled (to my knowledge).
And then, exiting the theater for a movie I don’t even remember, I saw a face and a hand holding a golden ring. Running up to the poster, uttering frantic disbelieving half-sentences, then reading the text below and exclaiming that Yes, it is, it’s happening in December Mom we HAVE to see it we HAVE to tell Dad. And we did tell Dad, and we saw it together. I don’t remember who else saw it with us (logic would dictate we were accompanied by my younger brother Oliver), but I remember seeing it with my dad, that first time and then again and again in theaters and at home, as (mostly) everything we had imagined impossibly came to life in front of us. And then anxiously awaiting The Two Towers and The Return of the King, and buying the movies at least twice because in a house with eight children, movies just don’t last very long.
And now it’s happening again. Sweet folksy metaphor, it’s happening again. A month ago, when my dad came to visit me and Anna, I showed him the trailer for The Hobbit on YouTube, and he was as excited as I was. In another month, we will see it together; my dad, my wife and I (and whoever else wants in). The memories will continue.