Sharing Middle Earth

The most memorable moments in your life aren’t always the ones you think they’ll be.

Sometime in 2000, I took my children to see a movie. We were sitting through umpteen trailers when an image of a mountain pass appeared and crossing it, single file, there they were: characters I knew so well but had never expected to see on film: The Fellowship of the Ring. I practically leapt out of my seat (actually, I may have). I gasped (actually, it may have been more of a squeal) and shouted something along the lines of: “Oh, my God. It’s the Lord of the Rings. Laura! Zach! Look — it’s the Lord of the Rings. There are the hobbits and Aragorn and … Oh my God, they’re making a movie of the Lord of the Rings …”

You wouldn’t believe how excited I was. I couldn’t believe how excited I was. My children couldn’t believe how excited I was.

I still remember this moment as clearly as if it happened this morning (though I have completely forgotten what movie we saw that day).

I had loved Middle Earth since the day my sixth grade teacher read aloud these words: “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” And now it was coming to life on the big screen.

Back home, I pulled my original, sixth-grade, Scholastic Book Club editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings off the bookshelf and shared them with my children. I explained how Tolkien had invented an entire world with different races and fantastical creatures and had created languages and a history for his characters so you could go back to the beginning of Middle Earth and understand how the events in his stories came to be. I started rereading The Hobbit.

Happily, my enthusiasm was infectious, and my children developed a fondness for Tolkien’s stories, my son more so than my daughter. We watched the movies together, discussed the books, listened to Howard Shore’s soundtrack, played Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit and Lord of the Rings Stratego. We own Lord of the Rings Lego sets. And, of course, the deluxe extended edition of the movie trilogy.

We own several copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as well as various books about Middle Earth.

We’ve seen The Fellowship of the Ring at Radio City Music Hall with live music: an orchestra and a choir performed while the movie played.

When he was in fifth grade, my son created the most amazing diorama of Smaug sitting atop a mountain of jewels. He used iridescent green paint and gave the dragon a long tail and individual scales and glued jewels of all shapes and colors on the dragon’s breast (I MAY have helped a little with this complicated project).

And later that same year, for a pottery project, he made me a statue of Frodo. The hobbit is dressed in blue and brown with his elven cloak flying away from his body as if a stiff breeze is blowing. It’s one of my treasures.

I love that a world created by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1937 inspired a teacher to share it with her class decades later and decades after that inspired me to share it with my children. I love that it inspired Peter Jackson to create his movies and in turn create new Tolkien fans who pick up his books to discover Middle Earth. It’s a wonderful thing.

Such is the power of art.


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