I’ve just finished The Lord of The Rings. Finishing my MA in Children’s Literature has dazzled me. I have so much free time now. It’s a little mindblowing. One of the first things I did was treat myself to a long lovely wallow in a book which has defined a lot of my life. And that book is The Lord of The Rings (I know, I know, it’s a surprise huh what with the title of this post and everything…).
Before the actual review, I feel I need to briefly justify the presence of this book on a blog which overtly deals with children’s literature as I’m aware that LOTR might not be classified thus. Also, just to let you know, I’m going to abbreviate the title as it’s already doing my nut in. Please don’t hate on me abbreviation haterz mkay? I cut my abbreviating teeth early what with my ST:TOS / TNG / DS9 / VOY / BtVS obsessions so I’ve done this before. You’re in safe hands. Though not real hands, merely a metaphorical pair of hands. As long as you’re fine with that, we’ll move on.
Okay. So is LOTR children’s literature?
Moving on? Alright, I’ll broaden out my answer a little. Children’s Literature is, for me, a somewhat fluid and malleable body of literature which is defined primarily through the whim of the person making the definition. And I’m going to prove my theory right now.
Story is story, regardless of the age of the reader it is addressed at. Rosie’s Walk, a near wordless picture book classic, tells a story equally potent to the child and the adult. It is funny. Humour crosses boundaries of age.
And the same goes for deeds of derring do. Sure, you may not know what they are as a kid but as a rule you do know when somebody does something *good* or *bad* or *nice* or *mean*. You know when somebody’s done a brave thing even if that thing is just letting you go first, or sharing their food, or picking the bullied kid up off the floor. Our moral compass is one of the first things to develop and, in some sense, we all have some sense, however developed or actualised, of what is wrong and what is right.
We respond to emotion in books; allowing language (or in the pre-literate stages – imagery) to pick us up and take us to another world. Like with television, we respond to what we *see*. And the exciting thing is that we’ve already seen these plots before. Whilst I’m aware that this theory is open to discussion (and I’ll save that for another post if I may), there’s a very intriguing theory that there are only seven basic plots.
So, in a way, we’ve already read LOTR. We know how it *should* go. And yes, the language is quite hard and complex so I’m not loath to suggest that somebody who is new to them should approach the stories via the films first. I don’t care how somebody gets to a book, I just care that they get there. We also have a gorgeous graphic novel version of The Hobbit which I’d also reccomend as an introduction to the world.
What I would suggest is that if you’re not such a confident reader, or your kids are allergic to anything that resembles a school book, read it in the presence of An Other. Exposing children to the classics at a young age does work (even though I still can’t come to terms with anything too Tess of the D’Urbevillesy). I remember being snuggled up on my father’s lap and, whilst rain and winter rubbishness raged outside, he brought the heat of a Balrog into the front room. You might not understand all the words and I certainly didn’t but the *sense* of magic being able to be conjured from a book has stayed with me ever since.
Keep LOTR close. Keep it safe (sorry). Keep it on the shelf. Even read it once in a while. Because it’s good to realise that the Race of Man can achieve brilliant amazing things despite our failings (what, I’m totally one of the Rohirrim). Introduce your kids to the wonders of Faramir (AAAAAAAAAAAAAH FAAAAAAAAAAARAMIR!!!!) and the hotness of Aragon (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA). and tell them that sometimes it’s the little people that make all of the difference.
And then, if they look at you funny, just mutter something along the lines of “MORRRRDOOOOOOOOOR” cackle madly to yourself, and run off into the kitchen.
*I have never done this.
**But I have run along the side of a random river in New Zealand, giggled madly, and then filmed myself going “If you want him, come and claim him.”
***I’m so sorry.