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Eric Wilson
Eric Wilson
5 years ago

I’ve read the Hobbit to my older boys (11 and 9). I’m not sure when they are ready for LOTR, with its heavier themes. Any thoughts on the right age?

I’m sure some will say: “My 8 year old read the whole trilogy in a summer, and he loved it.” That’s fine, but what did he love about it? Was he simply captivated by a fantasy world, or was he being inspired to live better in this one?

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
5 years ago
Reply to  Eric Wilson

I frankly didn’t have the heart to make mine wait, though I do believe it’s better, older. I’d say 12 or 13 and up. Same with Jane Austen — if I’d had my way, none of my girls would have read her before age 20. Yeah, right. I don’t regret letting them read her works earlier, but I’ve definitely encouraged them to reread them carefully once they’re a few years into adulthood. I guess there’s nothing wrong with them being captivated only by the fantasy world, as long as they revisit it later when they’ll grasp the deeper themes better.… Read more »

Valerie (Kyriosity)
5 years ago
Reply to  Jane Dunsworth

When do you let them read the Bible? And do you worry that it’ll ruin things if they don’t get everything they’re supposed to get out of it right off the bat? I’m still finding things in Narnia (first read at age 10), in Middle Earth (~14), in Austen (30! “Wheeere have you beeen?”), and only think I’d be farther up and farther in if I’d started even earlier. #paedotolkien ;^)

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
5 years ago

Yebbut, the Bible has the advantage of the Holy Spirit revealing stuff to our kids as He deems appropriate at various stages. The word of Tolkien is not “living and active,” and it’s entirely possible for a kid to get obsessed with the trappings at too early an age and never develop an interest in exploring it on deeper levels because they never get beyond the “Star Wars fanfic” level of appreciation. And you know as well as I do about the phenomenon of adult Austen fangirls who think it’s all about getting swept off your feet by the handsome… Read more »

Valerie (Kyriosity)
5 years ago
Reply to  Jane Dunsworth

The Spirit didn’t inspire those other books, but He’s still capable of providing guidance to Christian kids who read them. I didn’t “get” Narnia when I was 10 because I was smart, but because I knew Jesus and could recognize Him there. The adult Austen fangirls don’t get Jane largely because they don’t have the Spirit, and they will never age out of that.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
5 years ago

It’s possible to “get” Narnia to the point of seeing Jesus there, and miss the deeper complexities of how Jesus is there, because of simple lack of intellectual, spiritual, and emotional maturity, not to mention the life experiences that make the light bulbs go on. The danger is in someone relegating it all their lives to “kidlit” even if they recognize it’s really good, Christian kidlit. Not everyone is the literature lovers that you and I are, interested in going back and ever more deeply mining stuff. Some genuine Christians, for good or for ill, just aren’t going to be… Read more »

Rebecca Marian Lewis Mallay
Rebecca Marian Lewis Mallay
5 years ago
Reply to  Jane Dunsworth

I think that, for me, the fact that my parents read the Narnia books aloud to me, and I saw how they reacted to them (that they, as intelligent, well-educated adults, were astounded and had to think about and discuss some of the things they were reading), helped me realize that there was more to the story than what I, as a young child, could understand. That is what caused me to want to read them again as a teenager and adult, and I was not disappointed. I think reading deep books aloud to your young children could actually encourage… Read more »

Eric Wilson
Eric Wilson
5 years ago

Funny. I reject the notion that good literature cannot be introduced too soon.

Rebecca Marian Lewis Mallay
Rebecca Marian Lewis Mallay
5 years ago
Reply to  Eric Wilson

All I can say is that I’ve never seen any evidence that introducing children to good literature “too soon” makes them appreciate it less in the long-run. In fact, I have found the opposite to be true in my own life. My father read LOTR aloud to my sisters and me when we were very young. I was ten. My youngest sister was five. Did we really understand it? No. But we loved it. I loved it so much that I read it again every year after that through my teen years, and I re-read it to my sisters when… Read more »

katie
katie
5 years ago
Reply to  Eric Wilson

I first read LOTR to my boys when they were 6 and 4, and then again when they were 8 and 6 – and by that point the eldest couldn’t stand to wait for the next reading so he picked it up on his own, finished the whole thing, and still listened along as I continued to read aloud. Even the first time around, and so much more the second time, there was something in this story, and in the language (such beautiful language!), that captivated them. I can talk with them about themes that are meaningful to me not… Read more »

Eric Wilson
Eric Wilson
5 years ago
Reply to  katie

For me, I can point to many books, including the Hobbit, that I thought were boring because I read them too soon. I was not captivated by the language, I was searching for _the point_ and it was beyond me.

So I really believe strongly that our best literature experiences have to do with timing. I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m OK with that.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
5 years ago
Reply to  Eric Wilson

That’s a good point — the “boring” factor. I frequently run across book reviews by adults that trash a book while giving evidence that they didn’t like it mostly because they didn’t begin to see what was going on. You might want to chalk that up to folly in adults, but in kids it can be simple immaturity. Some kids will respond well, others really will have the book “ruined” by exposure at the wrong time. It’s not about numbers, but about knowing your kids, I guess. In fact, that’s kind of my experience with “The Hobbit.” I picked it… Read more »

katie
katie
5 years ago
Reply to  Eric Wilson

Maybe it helps having them read aloud to you, instead of reading them yourself? I remember feeling like I was slogging through descriptions of the Old Forest when I first read the Fellowship, and I was 20. Just a hunch. I hope your boys end up loving it eventually! I introduced the Princess Bride too soon and my children are convinced they dislike it. Parenting fail.

timothy
timothy
5 years ago

Theodin King stands alone.
Not alone. Rohirrim! For the King!

Brings tears to my eyes every single time.

John Callaghan
John Callaghan
5 years ago

Following up on my previous observation that Nicholas Ridley was likely Tolkien’s inspiration for Saruman:

https://dougwils.com/the-church/men-of-the-cloth.html#comment-1987191561

I’ll note that the account that John Foxe gives of Ridley’s meeting with the Princess Mary in 1552:

http://www.johnfoxe.org/index.php?realm=text&edition=1583&pageid=1420

has a clear parallel to “The Voice of Saruman” chapter in “The Two Towers”.

There are the repeated attempts to persuade the royal listener to hear his persuasive voice. Then, after these all were rebuffed and his scheme has failed, the sudden flash of anger.