I wrote this letter as an assignment for a writing group I participate in. I thought I’d share it here since it speaks to my love of reading.
Dear J.R.R. Tolkien,
I remember the first time I read The Fellowship of the Ring.
The delight of Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday party. The first encounter with Strider, and the beauty of Rivendel. The sorrow of losing Gandalf. But mostly I remember the intense struggle of reading that weighty volume at just eleven years old.
We were visiting family in Ohio. During the visit, I watched the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring with my older cousins, and it felt significant—and a little bit thrilling—as this was the first violent PG-13 film I had been allowed to watch.
I can still feel the chill that came over me when those first haunting words, “The world is changing,” pierced through the darkness of the basement where I sat with my cousins, transfixed. The movie captured my imagination, and I was almost giddy with anticipation to read the book.
The next day, we rode bicycles through historic downtown to the public library—a requirement of each visit. The Gothic building was, and still is, castle-like and mysterious. It was one of my favorite childhood places to roam, explore, and discover unsupervised. And so it seems fitting, somehow, that in this place that held so much possibility, I checked out my first copy of The Fellowship of the Ring.
Now please forgive me as I digress for a moment. As an adult, it’s easy to forget the many summers of your childhood. But now as I think back, I realize just how much time I spent reading with my cousins. Countless summer afternoons and frigid December evenings were wiled away reading a giant stack of books I brought from home or checked out from their library. The best part—all of us loved to read. I’m convinced there no joy quite like to joy of reading with other children your own age. Even when I couldn’t play piano as skillfully or wasn’t as athletic as my cousins, we could all talk about our favorite characters and their struggles, motivations, and flaws. We spent so many hours talking about The Lord of the Rings, and to this day we all still share our love of Middle Earth.
But back to The Fellowship of the Ring. That first night I flew through the prologue and the first chapters of the book, A Long-Expected Party, The Shadow of the Past, and Three is a Company. Soon, I was the only one left awake. The entire house was quiet and dark. The only light came from the reading lamp above my head. So I snuggled deeper into my favorite reading chair and under my cozy blanket, reading late into the night as the Nazgul chased Frodo across the Shire.
I have read The Lord of the Rings many times since, but that transporting first experience has stayed with me through the years. I soon found the book to be a more complicated book than I was accustomed to reading, and it was certainly not as action-heavy as the movie. But I persevered. And something about the magic of the story made me determined to finish, no matter what.
Even before I watched The Fellowship of the Ring, I loved reading. My earliest memories involve reading books. But it wasn’t until I experienced the epic adventure of Frodo and the fellowship that I understood that stories can be life and hope, teachers and companions, wisdom and laughter, and a place to call home.
Over the course of my short years, I can say with certainty that reading has been one of the great joys of my life.
But I would argue, Mr. Tolkien, that before cracking open The Fellowship of the Ring, I didn’t know how beautiful that joy could be.
I’m so thankful I never outgrew Middle Earth.
As Bilbo said to Frodo, “Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.”
I carry your stories with me to this day.