I did not read any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy until I was in my forties. As a young father, I took it on as a challenge offered up by my precocious son who wanted me to read it to him at bedtime. It was an onerous slog. The Fellowship of the Ring is a burdensome tome of more than four hundred pages filled with make believe words that cause young ears to perk up and ask, "did you say that right?" Sure, it's an epic tale of sorcery and adventure in mystical lands, but it's a capital C Chore to read aloud.
And it probably didn't help that I had some history with the books already.
I knew the story already, without having to read every page. I sat in the back seat of a station wagon, packed between two Tolkien fanatics who, on family road trips, would discuss plot points and character traits in glorious detail. Shelob this. Orcs that. Gandalf the Gray versus Gandalf the White. Hobbits, elves, and trolls, oh my! I became familiar with all Middle Earth had to offer traveling across the country with my brothers for Cliffs Notes. I knew how to kill Smaug before Peter Jackson ever exposed frame one of his film version. It was an education.
For Christmas in my seventh grade year, my parents gave me a deluxe hardback edition of The Hobbit. I waded through that one quickly, with all my prior background, it was easy enough to digest. It also helped me connect to my nerd peer group, who had taken to writing secret notes to one another using elvish runes. The contents of these notes consisted primarily of just how clever we were for gathering this knowledge and how little we knew about girls.
Now, decades later, I find myself on the outside of another tale of sword and sorcery. For the past couple years, friends of ours have looked at my wife and I aghast when we have confessed that we had not watched an episode of Game of Thrones. "Oh, you'd love it," we were assured. Over and over. Which had the effect of tweaking that muscle that had been dormant for all those years after leaving the back seat of the family station wagon. Resistance. That held until late this summer when my son joined the parade, encouraging us to take a chance on this saga. We sat down and watched the first episode, reminded that "it starts slow, but it's totally worth it." I watched the second episode with my wife and allowed for how it could become a habit.
It did for my wife. Not for me. Now my wife and son are totally immersed in season two of GoT and I am going to sleep an hour earlier. I don't miss a lot, since the recaps I get from the two of them fill in all the blanks I might have. I confess, however, that I am not looking forward to our next family road trip.