How old was your child when the read the Lord of the Rings?
April 10, 2012 5:50 PM   Subscribe

How old was your child when they first read (or were read) "Lord of the Rings?"

I've been reading "The Lord of the Rings" aloud to my wife and our eight-month old son (well, mostly to her, actually) and we've been having a debate about how old he'll have to be before he can read it (or have it read to him) and not be scarred for life by Black Riders in the Shire, Balrogs on the bridge, etc.

Realizing that every child is different, I'm really just looking for data points on this question. How old was your son or daughter when they first read LOTR? How about the Hobbit?
posted by hwickline to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I believe I was 13 or 14 when I first read LOTR, but I read a psychedelic Russian translation of the Hobbit around 8 or 9. I feel pretty un-scarred.
posted by prefpara at 5:55 PM on April 10, 2012

6th grade. So, I had just turned 11 that September. We read The Hobbit in g&t language arts and them I read the rest of the books.

I had already read Steven King's It in 3rd grade, so, uh. Grain of salt on my not having been freaked out?
posted by bilabial at 5:57 PM on April 10, 2012

I was 11.

I read it straight after reading The Hobbit. I was not scared or scarred. Except by how goddamn long the Helm's Deep section took.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:57 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read The Hobbit at 9, and the Lord of the Rings a couple years later - 11?

My younger brother had read the Lord of the Rings before the movies came out, which would make him about 8 for the first book, not sure if he'd finished all of it by then. He read them all a couple of times by the time he was 11 or so, and had it basically memorized. He did have a hard time finding anyone to discuss the finer details, such as which of the Uruk-hai in the group that carried Pippin and Merry across Rohan were the worst and why (a specific conversation I remember). I think he found the movies more scary than the books.
posted by jacalata at 5:57 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

My mother read the hobbit to me in grade school, not scarred.
posted by ibakecake at 5:57 PM on April 10, 2012

My daughter is ten and reading The Hobbit, and I have read the first book and a half of LotR to her. Lord of the Rings is a little draggy for her, so we read it in smaller chunks, but we zoomed through The Hobbit when she was nine and she's re-reading it now (we maybe could have read the Hobbit earlier, I just didn't think of it until she was nine). I was ten or eleven when I read all four books.
posted by upatree at 5:58 PM on April 10, 2012

It was read to me when I was five or six, and I read it through myself for the first time when I was seven.

...and I had Cabbage Patch dolls named Aragorn and Galadriel. I don't think I was scarred.
posted by pemberkins at 5:59 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think I was 11 when I first read LOTR, and in the seventh grade my teacher read us all The Hobbit out loud over the course of the year and that was pretty well-received. I'd say pre-teen is about when most of my friends were introduced to it as well.
posted by hepta at 5:59 PM on April 10, 2012

Hobbit age 9, LotR around 10 or 11. LotR was a bit of a slog, though.

Only book that scarred me as a kid was a children's illustrated adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe stories (WHO DOES THAT) I read around age 8.
posted by Wossname at 6:00 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't have kids, but I was 8 when I first read The Hobbit and 9 when I read LOTR. I absolutely fell in love and found it neither draggy/slow nor frightening/scarring.
posted by sunset in snow country at 6:02 PM on April 10, 2012

I read The Hobbit in elementary school - 4th or 5th grade - and quite liked it, but found Fellowship too dry for me. I picked it up again a couple of years later and adored it (sometime in junior high,) but found the Silmarillion too dry for me. Repeat ad infinitum. (I have a half-read shelf of Tolkien ephemera, some of which I have read and quite like, some of which I am sure I will eventually get through.)
posted by restless_nomad at 6:02 PM on April 10, 2012

I read The Hobbit in 6th grade. I started LOTR about 3 times in the next year but could never get past the Elrond's Council Chapter. Finally my mom told me to just skip it. I finished the trilogy by the end of 7th grade. I was not scarred or scared at all.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:06 PM on April 10, 2012

I can't remember any time pre-Hobbit, and my dad read LOTR to me when I was 5 or 6, maybe abridging the longer battle scenes. I read The Hobbit on my own at 9 or 10 and LOTR at 13. Not scarred.
posted by zeptoweasel at 6:06 PM on April 10, 2012

I read the Hobbit and LOTR around 5th or 6th Grade as well. The Ringwraiths definitely freaked me out, but in the good kind of way that a 5th or 6th Grader should be freaked out every so often. Builds character.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:11 PM on April 10, 2012

My parents read me the Hobbit and then a good part's version of LOTR when I was in 2nd grade. Baths were awesome!
posted by ChuraChura at 6:19 PM on April 10, 2012

I read The Hobbit to my son when he was 5. He read LOTR himself somewhere around 10 I think.
posted by COD at 6:21 PM on April 10, 2012

I have a friend who read it to his daughter when she was 6, and another friend whose 9-year-old son found it too scary.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:22 PM on April 10, 2012

My daughter read the whole thing at 8 (23 years ago).
posted by beagle at 6:26 PM on April 10, 2012

I didn't read it until I was in my twenties, and I regret waiting to this day. But that wasn't your question.

I have no kids myself, but when I get a tween or preteen boy at the library - the bored-looking kid who has outgrown Goosebumps but feels overwhelmed by the YA or Adult section - I will first ask if they like fantasy novels. Then I ask if they've read the Hobbit. If they have, I suggest Lord of the Rings. If they haven't, I give them the Hobbit. Of course, there's all sorts of other fantasy that a bored-looking tween/preteen boy can get into (especially now in this amazing age of YA fantasy lit!). I'd say, depending on their reading abilities, somewhere between 9-13 is a pretty good time to get into Tolkien. It can really help to bridge the gap between chapter books and Adult fic - a time in which so many boys just stop reading.
posted by Elly Vortex at 6:32 PM on April 10, 2012

I read (slash my parents read it to me) The Hobbit when I was five. Loved it, wouldn't let go of that hardback green copy. I kept it with my blankie and wouldn't let them have it back.

Then it turned out the whole reason my father had even bothered procreating was so he could give his progeny the BBC radio drama version of The Lord of the Rings and hope that they enjoyed it as much as he did when he heard it on NPR in the early 80's during his long stint of working nights as an electrician. He held his breath until I, his last child, the daughter that seemed most inclined to books out of all his spawn, was 'old enough.' He deemed six an appropriate age to cuddle up with Dad in the dark before bedtime and listen to LOTR together. I loved it but it definitely scared me a little-- in the good way that six year-olds can handle, though, and Dad was always right there if I needed a hug. (The Black Breath, for instance, is only truly creepy if you're actually hearing it.) I read it a year later, on a 3 month-long family vacation car-camping trip around the country, and it's forever tangled up with those memories of my family.

There have been some long-term effects: mainly, I'm still obsessed with LOTR and it's still my comfort book, but I also, when preoccupied or upset 18 years later, have trouble falling asleep without someone speaking to me-- an audiobook, a podcast, whatever. Oh, and I wrote about Tolkien for the essay portion of the SATs when I was a senior in high school, and got a perfect score-- which in turn landed me a full-ride to undergrad. Thanks, Dad. It makes me sad to think about his eventual (and maybe, considering the pre-cancerous state they found his prostate in, not all that distant) passing, but somewhere Dad and I will always be two people lying on a children's bed together in the dark, geeking out about Lord of the Rings.

This turned out a lot longer and more personal than I really meant it to, but I guess the short version would be: your kid is ready whenever they show an interest, and if your child grows up hearing Tolkien and spelling the word wagon as "waggon" (I had to Google it), well, there are a lot of worse parenting decisions to make.

Now, as for when they're old enough to lie in the dark with you and listen to the original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that's a different story...
posted by WidgetAlley at 6:36 PM on April 10, 2012 [8 favorites]

I had some students reading it one year, and it made me want to read it! They were in 3rd grade. But each kid is different. Other students were still reading Amelia Bedelia.
posted by LilBit at 6:37 PM on April 10, 2012

We had the Hobbit read to us by my fifth grade teacher. It was the last part of every day to sort of chill us out before we got on the bus. Mr. Slarskey did all the voices. He was awesome.
posted by jessamyn at 6:38 PM on April 10, 2012

I read the first book in 6th grade, and the plot was just too complicated for me. I'm not sure why - I turned out to be a fairly smart kid - but I just couldn't wrap my head around it at that point. I finally tried again in 10th grade, and loved it. I wasn't scarred, at least.
posted by citizenface at 6:39 PM on April 10, 2012

I read voraciously at age 11 and had no problem with The Hobbit and LOTR. They won't be scarred for life by Black Riders if they aren't traumatized by Death Eaters.
posted by QryHavoq at 6:47 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read the hobbit in 6th grade (11?) Started LotR around the same time but didn't have the attention span for it.
posted by griphus at 6:47 PM on April 10, 2012

My son was 4 when his dad read him The Hobbit. He was probably 3 when he started watching the animated show on a daily basis and was never scared.

He's pretty excited to read it again so he can go see the live action Hobbit with us in 2013.

I don't know if he would have understood what was being read to him if he hadn't watched the 1970's animated show a million times beforehand.
posted by Sweetmag at 6:49 PM on April 10, 2012

I read them all when I was 10 and I like to think I turned out okay.
posted by cranberry_nut at 6:52 PM on April 10, 2012

My dad started reading The Hobbit to me when I was 5 or 6, and then continued with the rest of the books. I think when we finished return of the king, we started the whole series over again. We were reading those books together for years.
posted by Teeth of the Hydra at 7:09 PM on April 10, 2012

Read it at 10, had it read to me by Dad at a much younger age, like 5, maybe younger (young enough that I struggle to remember it and absolutely had no idea about following the plot etc). Wasn't scared cause I was in bed with dad and my bro and he was reading it and it was fun and I barely understood it anyway...
posted by smoke at 7:15 PM on April 10, 2012

My dad read The Hobbit to me when I was 6, and I read the LOTR when I was 7 and 8. They weren't scary (beyond a very gripping "but good MUST WIN!"). To be honest I don't think I've ever found a book scary in the way that a movie can be scary. There's always the book-in-the-freezer trick I guess.

(Also, I still want to be a Rider of Rohan when I grow up.)
posted by ke rose ne at 7:25 PM on April 10, 2012

I was 12-13 when I first read The Hobbit and LOTR. Then I was hooked on Tolkien and read The Silmarillion (still my favorite). I re-read them all from time to time and plan on doing so for the rest of my life. :)

I never found the Ringwraiths or Balrogs too frightening in themselves. For me, what was scary was the idea that giving in to the One Ring would turn Frodo into a monstrous wraith himself -- which, I think, was the point. I agree with those above who pointed out that your child is ready for the stories when s/he shows interest.

Oh, the joy of reading/hearing them for the first time! Have fun!
posted by Boogiechild at 8:04 PM on April 10, 2012

I was 9 for both. No scarring.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:18 PM on April 10, 2012

I read The Hobbit when I was 8 or 9 and wasn't scared at all. I tried LOtR when I was about 14 and just didn't have the attention span it required.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:26 PM on April 10, 2012

I read LOTR when I was 8. So probably The Hobbit when I was 7. I remember my dad tried to read The Hobbit to me when I was 4 or 5 and I didn't seem excited enough about it for him so he decided I could wait on it for a couple of years. I don't remember finding either of them scary, but some of it might have gone a bit over my head at that age. I read LOTR aloud to my sister when she was 10 (I was 16) and I don't recall her being scarred by it. I did highly dramatic voices.

My friend and I read Bored of the Rings with her dad when we were 9 and that was definitely a reach for us. I would say we probably got under half the jokes. I'm not sure how we soldiered on through that book, to be honest. And I'm not at all certain why her dad kept letting us read it. I guess he could tell we were so baffled by most of the content that he had nothing to worry about.
posted by troublesome at 8:35 PM on April 10, 2012

My stepdad read LOTR to my younger sisters when they were 3 and 6, to start. I can't exactly say they weren't affected by this - they're big nerds, they love weird obscure fantasy stuff that I just don't even get, and the younger one is definitely a very dark-oriented person these days (I actually blame her free access to Tim Burton films, including Batman, from her toddler years onward, for this.)

My biggest issue is that they've always known the whole story. Kind of like how future kids will probably know all the secret twists of Harry Potter and that Darth Vader is Luke's dad, and how I've always known how Moriarty and Holmes go over those freaking cliffs, without really getting to do the "discovery" thing. It's sort of sad, but, you know, inevitable. I've also always known Romeo and Juliet were idiots, and some how I don't feel deprived.

Arbitrarily, I say The Hobbit at 7 to 9, and LOTR at 12-15. Give them explicit permission to skip Tom Bombadil. Not because they can't handle it, but because it's a kindness. I wouldn't bother giving a kid Silm or the rest of the mythology stuff till they actually ask for it. It's very, very obscure.

(I do recommend keeping the kids from watching "Robocop" and "Outbreak" and "Terminator" until ages well beyond the ones I saw them at - i.e., 8 and 11 and 13 - and keep them away from "Flowers in the Attic," which I read when I was 9. There's really no lower age limit for that, it's a book I wish I didn't know existed.)
posted by SMPA at 8:49 PM on April 10, 2012

I think I read it around age 11, but I know I skipped the poems and the songs.

I remember watching the Gondor-has-no-pants animation of The Hobbit in fourth grade at school.
posted by Violet Hour at 8:57 PM on April 10, 2012

Read The Hobbit for the first time in seventh grade, so about age 12-13, liked it pretty well but not blown away. Tried LOTR the following year, made it through the Fellowship narrowly, gave up halfway through The Two Towers, haven't looked back at Tolkien books much since. (Though I have seen the movies and listened to large chunks of the BBC radio drama LOTR.) Go ahead and revoke my fantasy nerd card now.

Later, I got into a disagreement with friends at my selective, high-pressure liberal arts college. They'd read LOTR at a younger age, more like 8 or 9, and were trying to argue that any middle schooler should be able to read it. I argued that, as some of the most bookish nerds at an exceptionally bookish and nerdy school, we were an unfair sample. I was an advanced reader who read everything I could get my hands on in middle school, I had a family who supported reading and being intellectual, and it was still tough going. For kids with learning disabilities, or from backgrounds where reading's not valued so much, or any number of other factors, it'd be even tougher.

I bring that up now because I suspect the demographics of metafilter are in some ways pretty similar to my college. I don't see any of the elitism here about what age a kid *should* be able to read LOTR at--thank God!--but I do see a lot of pretty young ages. The Hobbit's not a super-hard read, you could do that as a read-aloud to a pretty young kid, but LOTR is objectively pretty dense. I wouldn't worry so much about scarring as I would about appropriateness of reading level. Wait and see how strong a reader your kid turns out to be and take it from there.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:08 PM on April 10, 2012

I read LOTR in 3rd grade, because they were the largest books in the kids section in my county library, then reread it annually for a number of years (at least 6, I think?). I'm super sensitive to horror/scary stuff, and was even more so as a kid, but don't remember ever finding it frightening, other than in a must-keep-reading kind of way. I'm pretty sure I kept re-reading it because it was the only thing I'd encountered that had so much world contextualizing the story, a fair bit of which went over my head the first time... and because it was one of only a handful of books that I couldn't get through in a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. So attention span and vocabulary seem like more of a big deal than scariness factor for me.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:09 PM on April 10, 2012

I was 10 in the 5th grade. As a library assistant, I was allowed to take books home over the weekend. I believe I finished the series right after the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe...good times.
posted by nikayla_luv at 9:12 PM on April 10, 2012

6 years old.
posted by arnicae at 9:30 PM on April 10, 2012

I was honestly more scarred by the Bakshi animated version of the Hobbit than I was by reading anything from LOTR in 3rd and 4th grade. That movie still creeps me the fuck out.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:50 PM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Probably 3rd grade on the Hobbit because I was very familiar with the story when I saw the movie in fourth/ fifth grade. The animated movie scared the crap out of me but the books didn't really bother me. Similar story with Watership Down, now that I think about it.

Some moron (ie my dad) let me read Frankenstein at age 5 or 6 and that precipitated a serious meltdown when I got to the last page and realized the monster was out there somewhere. All the bad guys need to be safely dead at the end of kids books, not roaming the foggy night.
posted by fshgrl at 11:04 PM on April 10, 2012

I read The Hobbit when I was about 9 and loved it. I tried to go straight on to LOTR but struggled with it. It was not too scary, just too long-winded and dense, I couldn't get into the book to keep reading it. I gave up but then went back to it a couple of years later, maybe about 11, and enjoyed it much more then. The Hobbit is a much more kid-friendly book I think, and much better written too. Even as an adult I enjoy it more than LOTR. I agree with what other people have said, that the limiting factor will not so much be the scariness of it, but reading ability.
posted by maybeandroid at 12:56 AM on April 11, 2012

Around 11, if memory serves, for both The Hobbit and LoTR. I wasn't scared, but I did find LoTR a bit of a slog. Still finished it pretty easily, though. Silmarillion, on the other hand, I got for my sixteenth birthday and I still haven't made it past the first chapter, and I'm in my twenties now.
posted by Tamanna at 1:32 AM on April 11, 2012

I read The Lord of the Rings when I was seven. I didn't read The Hobbit until much later. I didn't get everything that was going on, but what survived was a feeling of magic and terror (in a good way), and of world-changing events in a way you don't find in many children's books. The dead marshes especially stuck with me, and the gardens of Lorien, in a sort of contrast of moods and places that I suppose Tolkien would have liked. I next found a copy when I was 12, reread it then, and loved it. The delicious edge of terror was gone, but the enjoyment remained.
posted by tavegyl at 2:09 AM on April 11, 2012

My dad read The Hobbit to my siblings and I when I was in third grade. (we loved it). I tried to read the Lord of The Rings myself in fifth grade, but never got very far - it was sort of overwhelmingly long and dense for me at that age.
posted by Kololo at 6:49 AM on April 11, 2012

I was 9 when I read 'The Hobbit'.
posted by h00py at 6:58 AM on April 11, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, Metafilter. You guys are the best. Thanks so much to everyone for the thoughtful answers.
posted by hwickline at 7:12 AM on April 11, 2012

I read my older son the Hobbit starting at age 7 (just finished it with him again-I always get soft when Thorin dies). He's now 8-I think we may tackle LOTR soon, after he finishes with The Chronicles of Prydain.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:02 AM on April 11, 2012

I read The Hobbit at 6 or 7, as did both my kids. I had reread it many times, then started The Fellowship of the Ring in 6th grade. I refused to finish it after getting to the part where Gandalf falls. What can I say? Gandalf was and is one of my all time favorite characters and my child self was outraged.

I did eventually read LOTR before the movies came back and felt quite sheepish when it came to the part where he comes back into the story.
posted by Requiax at 10:12 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Reconstructing by looking back at which parent I was living with when, I was probably 10 when Dad read The Hobbit as the bedtime story, and couldn't have been older than 12 when we did LOTR. (The Castle of Otranto, Candide, and the "Dad's good-parts version of William Goldman's good-parts version of S. Morgenstern's The Princess Bride" were in the middle there, along with others, but I don't remember what order.)
posted by Lexica at 7:34 PM on April 12, 2012

« Older Open Office Problems   |   I don't know anything about their race, history... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.