I was chatting to a group of boys today about the forthcoming film of the Hobbit (they were on the opinionated side regarding the film adaptation, despite not having actually seen it yet), and we progressed to The Lord of the Rings. All but one of them had read it, and they were very keen that the lone abstainer should, but he admitted that he was a little put off by the smallness and denseness of the text, as well as the length of the whole thing. He was gob-smacked when Ross admitted that he had first read it when he was ten, and had indeed read it several times since. But then we got into the nitty-gritty, and some techniques for coping with Tolkien emerged.
So, here is the advice given by a lovely group of readers, aged between twelve and seventeen*, on how to tackle all three volumes of The Lord of the Rings…
- Skip the description – as soon as the word verdant is mentioned scan down the page to find the next bit with action in (Alex).
- Skip all the songs and poems and legends, but put post-it notes in the pages so that you can go back and check if it’s talked about later on (Chris).
- Skip anything with elves singing in forests – totally unnecessary (Paul).
- Skip the battles because no-one needs to know how many orcs were in the third rank (Ross) but Alex thought the battle scenes were one of the best bits, so perhaps not!
- Don’t try and work out how to pronounce things, just make up something that sounds OK and use that all the way through in your head. This works until you try and discuss the books with your friends (Fred).
and my absolute favourite
- Skip the whole section with the Ents in because the ring is somewhere else at that point (Morris)!
Then the discussion moved on (through Ents, who no-one seemed to care about very much), to how Helms Deep in the film hadn’t been what any of us had pictured from the book… I confessed that I had actually loved the songs (that none of them had read) when I was their age and had learnt some by heart whilst walking home from school, because they’ve got that tumpty-tumpty-tumpty-tum rhythm which works well as a pace.
There was a stunned silence as they worked out that not only was I old enough to pre-date ipods, there weren’t even walkmen when I was at school.
*No real names** have been used – well obviously all of these are real names, but they don’t apply to these kids.
**Apart from Helms Deep and Ents, which are utterly real.