My kids aren’t old enough for the Lord of the Rings films yet, but once they have read through Harry Potter I have it in mind to start them on Tolkien’s books. The problem is that these are quite a tall order for any beginners in today’s media world, which all too often cossets the new or the casual reader, watcher or player.
I must admit, to my slight shame, that I didn’t manage to read through the full trilogy before the first Jackson film gave me the inspiration I needed. In fact, it is the fan-fiction nature of these films that is my favorite thing about them. They are much more a homage to the experience of reading the books than a replacement for them. Jackson himself, when asked in one of the expansive DVD extras, said (roughly) that “you will always have the books, but the films are simply the passionate response of one set of fans to the books.”
For children this is a most precious thing — to find them a bridge from the experiences they think they want to those that will stretch, engage and inspire them ways they haven’t encountered before.
Without wanting to put yet more pressure on the shoulders of Jackson and his ensemble cast, it’s what I’m hoping to find in the upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit. This feels like the perfect introductory vehicle to reading Tolkien, not least because of its status as a children’s classic.
My excitement about the films recently rose to boiling point when I realized it was to be a two-part release with a similar three-year filming schedule as the Lord of the Rings films. This had somehow passed me by until I recently caught up with the first and second video-blogs that bookend the first block of filming.
I know that many will deride this need to nanny our youngsters into the fictional worlds we want them to inhabit, but we must make do when there is so much glamor and glitz in front of their eyes every day.
My hope is that the experience of reading the source material behind the films they love will create an understanding and connection to something much more substantial than the transitory popular renderings of these stories.
I want them to have the skills to be able to approach a difficult series like The Wire, or books like The Road (when they are old enough) and not falter at the first hurdle because they didn’t “get it” straight away or found it too “hard going”.
I know it may be a fool’s hope, but it’s one I’ve not given up on just yet.
[Previously published on Wired.co.uk]