Hobbit hangover

My daughter has caught the Middle Earth bug

It's nice when your child shows interest in the things you love, but you might want to be careful what you wish for.

My wife and I were both enthusiastic Tolkien fans as kids. I grew up on the Seacoast and she lived about 30 minutes away, but our individual journeys through Middle Earth were unknowingly and remarkably similar. I'd get in trouble in class for sitting in the back and tearing through the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy instead of paying attention to what the teacher was saying, and my better half read it 11 times by the time she graduated high school.

So when our daughter, an avid reader, showed some interest in checking out “The Hobbit,” and maybe watching some of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy on DVD, we were quick to jump on board. She launched into the book on her own – an illustrated edition that I first read when I was a kid. She'd curl up with the oversized book on one corner of the couch for hours at a time, giving in to the same pull her parents succumbed to many years before. Wizards, dwarves, elves and dragons took up residence in her imagination as she journeyed There and Back Again each night.

Phase two of the Tolkien indoctrination involved setting aside plenty of time to watch the extended-edition DVDs of the three Peter Jackson films based on the books. The setting was perfect – a snowy weekend with nothing planned but some serious couch time and occasional mugs of cocoa. The disc went in, Isildur chopped Sauron's ring finger off, temptation proved too strong for man to destroy the One Ring and we were on our way.

About 87 hours later, we finished off “The Fellowship of the Ring.” When they said “extended edition,” they really meant it.

“Let's watch 'The Two Towers' right now,” my daughter said, clearly catching the fantasy bug and eager to continue her journey into Middle Earth.

Yet for the first time in my life, I was starting to experience Hobbit fatigue. We opted to put off the second of the three films until the next day. But as Sunday dawned, she was there in the living room ready to launch once again into the dense, fully realized world. It wasn't even time for second breakfast and she already wanted to know what was going to happen next.

The same thing: the disc went in, Sam, Frodo and Gollum made for Mordor, and the day disappeared. About 73 hours later, we reached the end of the first part. This version was extended to the point where it wouldn't even fit on one disc.

“Let's start the second disc,” my still-enthused daughter said.

One look at her mom and I showed her that we were done for the night. Sure, we still love “Lord of the Rings” but literally spending six hours at each sitting had taken its toll. It wasn't physically demanding, obviously, it was just a long time to sit still.

We eventually made it through the second film – the battle of Helm's Deep and all. And yet there's still a third film to get through. “The Return of the King” is extended as well, and there's an impatient youngster who is waiting to see how the epic ends. There are plenty of other things she needs to do – homework, hockey practice, violin lessons – but my daughter is single-mindedly focused on the tale. Ninth-grade me would understand completely.

Bill Burke is a human writer who lives in the southern reaches of the Shire of New Hamp with his wife and Hobbit-sized child.

Categories: Dad on Board