Monday, March 24, 2008

it's never too late to fall in love

That is the biggest lesson I've learned in the past year.

I'm not speaking of falling in love with a person, though I'm sure the sentiment is every bit as true.

Here I am, pretty much firmly entrenched now in my mid-40s, and I have found myself falling in love over and over again. With fantasy. With fairy tales. With young adult literature. It's such a liberating experience.

But now I have to admit to a small amount of sadness that has popped up in the midst of all this newfound delight. As much as I know that it is a waste of time, I can't help but wish I had made these discoveries long ago.

Specifically, I'm speaking of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I finished reading The Fellowship of the Ring this past weekend. (Because I'm using it as one of my selections for the Chunkster Challenge, I should be writing a review. However, it seems silly to me to write a review as all but a handful of people have read it, and those who haven't have surely seen the movies. So instead of an actual review, I'm just going to throw out a few thoughts on my reading experience.)

O.K., back to this whole regret thing. It's a horrible thing to say, but I'm envious of my daughter. Oh how I wish I'd read these books as a child like she did, so I had carried them with me my whole life. But as I said, that's a waste of's much better to focus on the gift of discovering them now. And they really are a gift that I'm giving myself. I started reading The Fellowship of the Ring back in January, so I'm sure it seems odd that I've just now finished it.

But, as I know I've said before, the bulk of my reading time comes in snippets of 5 minutes here, 2 minutes there, with an occasional 10 or 15 minute spree thrown in now and then. It's not the ideal way to read--I know that--but you take what you can get, right? I tend to get up pretty early in the morning. It's the only time I get any quantity of uninterrupted time to work on school planning. And I used to spend this couple of hours doing just that seven days of the week. Then I began reading The Fellowship of the Ring. And it took little time to realize what a special experience these books were going to be. Here's where the gift to myself part comes in...I decided that I deserved to "steal" some of that uninterrupted time for myself. So somewhere back in January, I decided to devote those early morning hours on the weekends to reading for "me" as opposed to reading and planning for school. So for the past two months, I have spent the early hours of Saturday and Sunday with Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin and Gandalf and Legolas and Gimli and Boromir and Aragorn. And I plan to spend those hours in the months to come in the same manner as I read the rest of the trilogy.

But why did it take me so long to discover their magic? I honestly can't say. It's obviously not like I'd never heard of them before, or even that I didn't know how well-loved they were. But for whatever reason, I always found myself intimidated by them. So it takes a 9/10-year-old girl to break that long-held misconception. Live and learn, huh? Now, instead of dreading the idea of reading these books, I cherish my time spent with them. In fact, cherish isn't even a strong enough word. This is one of those rare adventures that you yearn with everything you've got that you could just somehow enter the pages yourself and be a real, living part of it.

So there you have it...this old dog has learned a new trick.


Nymeth said...

It really is never too late. I understand the regret too, though...I would have had a happier and richer childhood and early adolescence if I had been surrounded by these stories then. Annie really is incredibly lucky!

Before reading LOTR, I was intimidated by the sheer size of it. Also, some people had told me that Tolkien's style was very dry, and that discouraged me too. But when I finally picked them up, I quickly realized how wrong they were. I fell in love with Tolkien's writing and with the world he'd created. This really is a story that sweeps you off your feet, and I am thrilled to know you are having such a wonderful experience with it :)

kreed said...

I never have read the triology and I really know I should. And I understand the regret on having missed out on some of the "classics" as a youngster, but I think there is almost something even more magical about reading them as an adult. Every book I have reread when I have been older has been totally different from reading them as a kid - there is just a completely different kind of comprehension and appreciation. You can almost pull them more deeply into your psyche once you have some life experience to throw behind them. Kind of like love, actually (to stick to your topic)...Young love is awesome and intense, but grown up love is something completely different and even more wonderful.

Debi said...

I couldn't agree more about his's just wonderful, isn't it? Not something that I have to "force myself through" at all, like I had been expecting.

Oh, I love your analogy! And I think life is so much richer for having both experiences!

Chris said...

I'm going to say the same thing as Nymeth here :p It really is never too late! You just have tons of extra good books to catch up on now, look at it that way :) The great thing about fantasy is that there's so much of it and so many different genres within genres that you can always find something for your mood. Glad you've taken a liking to it Debi :) And I'm especially glad that you enjoyed Fellowship. I love Tolkien. His writing was just amazing and I fell in love with his worlds right away!

gail@more than a song said...

I really should read these too! Didn't read them as a child either but I think most of my kids have. The stories are just fabulous and I think everyone that reads them loves them.

Eva said...

Yay Debi for taking time for yourself! :) This whole post made me smile.

Melody said...

I agree with the others that it's never too late to start anything! It's better than doing nothing at all, right? And I regret to say I'm one of those fews that haven't read the books but I enjoyed the movies so much so that I don't mind watching them over and over again.

Thanks for this wonderful post, Debi! :)

cj said...

I agree. It's never too late and LOTR is an amazing journey. I'm glad you made it.


Kailana said...

I read these books years ago. Not as young as Annie, but I was young. Sometimes I wish I could go back and discover them again, but at the same time, I now have years to read all the other great Tolkien stuff. Instead I try to get my friends to read the books for the first time. I am really nostaglic this year. I keep wanting to reread books instead of reading all the pretty new books I have. Maybe I should just give in to the urge because I would love to reread TLoTR too...

Kim L said...

Oh I'm so glad to hear you took the time to read this book! It is one that holds a lot of sentimental value for me, so I love when other people read it and love it. Honestly before the movies came out, it wasn't that common to know the series very well unless you were a hard-core fantasy fan. So believe me, you aren't the only one discovering this series. Gosh I remember seeing online somewhere that the movie was coming out, but not for 2 years. So I looked forward to that movie for 2 whole years!

I'm listening to FOTR on audiobook right now, and one of the coolest things is listening to the songs instead of reading them. Much more enjoyable that way! The universe that Tolkien created was so detailed, you feel like it might really be there somewhere, on the very edges of the map.

Anyhow, I'm glad you took the "me time" to read it:-)

Carl V. said...

What a great post! I certainly understand that feeling of regret. I've felt that many a time myself in regards to reading, etc. But in the end it really is something to just get past.

I didn't discover the LOTR books until after I had watched the movies...multiple times. I am actually kind of glad I hadn't because instead of comparing the books to the films, I was allowed to let the books fill in all the gaps and as such I have a love for them that is really hard to quantify. For me the original trilogy, the films, and all the wonderful nonfiction Tolkien books (plus The Silmarillion) are all one big concoction that put these books in a completely new category. Are they my favorites? Probably, but like the Star Wars films, Neil Gaiman's books, Stoker and Poe I have to classify them as outside of the realm of favorites because they mean so very much to me.

Each year, in spring and fall, I get a rekindled desire to revisit Middle-earth is some form or fashion. Tolkien's work and all that he put into creating it combined with Peter Jackson's marvelous films have inspired me in so many ways. I look at mythology and history and literature in new ways because of them.

If I had read these as a child I probably would have experienced a sense of wonder with them. I am not sure, however, that I would have approached them from the same intellectual place that I do now as an adult and all the extraneous reading and thinking about this adds a sense of awe to my feeling about Tolkien's work that I am not sure I would have gotten as a child. It really is never too late.

I love your idea about taking time to read for yourself. I never buy the argument that people don't have time to read. I generally feel that it is all a matter of prioritizing and possibly giving up a few moments somewhere else in order to get lost in a good story.