I remember very clearly the first time I was introduced to Tolkien.
I was eight; Dad was gone ’till late so Mom allowed us to stay up a little late, too. Big brother and I were going to do something, I don’t know what, but I remember being very excited about it. Mom looked up from her book and warned “Brush your teeth before you start!”
I was already ahead of him there, so he went to brush his teeth.
I waited. I sat up beside Mom.
“What’s that book about?” I asked.
“A hobbit.” She replied.
“A hobbit?” I was a pretty well informed little kid, and I’d never heard of those before.
Instead of explaining it to me she just started to read out loud right where she was. It was faster, and just as effective in hushing me up.
Bilbo and Gollum were playing the riddle game. Talk about a hook!
I was, completely, absorbed.
After a bit Brother came back and wanted to go play.
“No, wait.” I told him. “Listen to this.”
She had stopped reading aloud.
“Mom, go on!” I begged.
She started up again where we’d left off. In a minute he was hooked, too, but had a LOT more questions. “Who’s Bilbo? What’s a Gollum?” He’s always been that kind of person… had to know the nitty-gritty details on everything.
Mom sighed, looked at both of us. “You like this book?”
“Yes.” we nodded. I know my eyes were wide, if his weren’t.
She flipped to the front of the book and began. “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit….”
When Dad got back none of us were asleep.
We read that book for nights afterward, Mom and Dad taking turns. When we were done a neighbor heard what we’d been doing and lent us the Fellowship of the Ring. It was like the ocean after growing up on a river.
It’s been nearly twenty years.
The other night my youngest sister picked up The Hobbit and started reading it aloud, while Brother lay on the couch listening. It was like that night again, when the dark was magical and I felt like Mom sat beside me, and I was a well informed little kid again.
I think that must be why I love fantasy.