What was your favorite story when you were a child?
Mine was the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I had never even heard of it before my mother asked me if I had read it already. I got so curious I marched directly to our library in search of it.
The first part, the Fellowship of the Ring was on loan to someone, so I borrowed the second part and began reading the trilogy from the Two Towers.
I was hooked. I have such a vivid imagination the words brought the story alive in my mind. I could not wait to get home from school to continue reading.
When Frodo and Sam were at the Mount Doom, Orodruin, I held my breath. I was so immersed into the story I almost jumped out of my skins when my mother decided to tell me at that very moment that dinner was ready. I quickly waved her off (she knew I’d come soon) to read how the hobbits expected to die. And how they were rescued.
After that I searched Silmarillion, and all the other stories of Tolkien from the library. I illustrated the story with the skills I had, and painting those illustrations made the story all the closer to me.
I learned the story by heart, and used it to learn languages better. I bought the trilogy in French, German, Swedish… It was easy learning – I did not need a dictionary. If I did not know a word, I remembered what was meant.
I saw Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings film, I bought the comic books. And when I heard that the story was to be made to a film by Peter Jackson, using all the modern technology that would make great illusions possible, I was over the moon with joy.
It was hard to wait for the first film, but I shared the waiting with a coworker who also loved the story. And the movies were such a wonderful experience… Only problem was that I remembered the stories too well, and noticed every deviation from the original story, which I had learned to love.
I do love both versions of the story, but despite all the special effects of the film it can never create such a feeling of wonder as the printed word did to the mind of a child. Do I dare to say I almost prefer the printed version because of this?
When I remember how deeply I felt about the story, I understand how important it is to teach children to read books. They learn language, but also how to handle their emotions safely. They learn to see a story from the viewpoint of many characters. And they learn what a great escape books can be from the sometimes difficult everyday life.
That, if anything, is true magic.