Stories are often their most vibrant when told aloud. Generally children first encounter stories read to them from picturebooks. The traditional fairy tales were passed down orally through older family members and traveling minstrels. Some stories just beg to be read-aloud.
For book group this week we read and discussed J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Though the true origins of the story aren’t known for certain, according to Christopher Tolkien’s account in the book’s preface, what is known is that Tolkien told it out loud to his children. And when you read it, you can hear that – the repetition of phrases throughout the book, the dialogue between characters – The Hobbit almost begs to be read aloud.
When I first came across Tolkien’s novel I was eleven. I was homeschooled at the time, and part of the curriculum included ‘read-alouds,’ for the parent/teacher and child to share. Some of my most favorite memories were created this way. We read Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
and Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy’s Seven Daughters and Seven Sons. I have never tried to reread any of these books, and maybe that is for the best, because there is something about the way I received them, my mother’s voice carrying the stories to me, that makes them so beloved.
My mother also read The Hobbit aloud to me as part of the same program, and I adored it. I loved the adventure, the created world, and the home-body of a hobbit himself. I picked it back up at the beginning of August, fully prepared to revisit a beloved text as preparation for book group. And I couldn’t get through the first chapter without falling asleep. Then I found myself having to will myself to even pick the book back up. So I switched and listened to it on audio tape, but the damage was already done. I had already been disenchanted.
Maybe that’s just it though. Some stories are meant to be told aloud.