Just as they did in the weeks prior to his eleventy-first birthday, "the history and character of Mr. Bilbo Baggins" have again become a topic of conversation among those who pay attention to the world of Hobbits. But as September 22nd, the date of Bilbo's birthday and that of his nephew, Frodo, approaches, the talk is primarily focused on the first of three movies chronicling J.R.R. Tolkien's enchanting trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.
As part of its Special Readings Project, the Denver Public Library Children's Library will host a birthday party this Saturday for Bilbo and Frodo -- complete with cake and giveaways, though not fireworks -- in advance of a ten-week reading of The Fellowship of the Ring, book one of the trilogy. The hour-long readings begin October 10 and continue through December 12, the week before the first of the Lord movies is scheduled to open.
"My goal with this is for the readings to serve as an introduction so that both children and adults will read the books for themselves," says children's librarian Heath Rezabek, who abridged the entire book himself so it would fit into ten hours. "Some of these people may never have heard fiction read aloud." Rezabek says it's important for people -- especially children -- to form their own images of the characters and places before they see them on the big screen. "I'm hoping people will want to use their imaginations to see this in their own heads, because movie images are pervasive."
This is the second time Rezabek has organized a reading series. Last year, he read The Hobbit, which is the prelude to The Lord of the Rings, over eight weeks, to 25 to 35 people per session. "The whole thing was considered to be pretty ambitious, but it was successful," he says.
"We do regular readings here at the Children's Library, but I've always had an interest and a skill, I think, in reading longer works, and The Hobbit was my first chance to put that to the test," Rezabek continues, adding that he'll be doing different voices for different characters. "I chose The Hobbit last year not because of the movie, but because it appeals to all ages; it's a bridge work between children's books and fantasy; it's something that would appeal to older kids; it has brand-name recognition, so to speak; and because it seemed like an autumn story. I wanted to do these in the autumn and winter when there isn't as much else to do, and drinking hot chocolate and curling up and reading would be a compelling option."
The Fellowship of the Ring was first published in 1954 and has been read by an estimated 100 million people. The brilliant three-part epic takes up the classic struggle between good and evil by setting it in the magical world of Middle-earth, populated by wizards and goblins, elves and dragons, dwarves and, of course, Hobbits, including Bilbo and Frodo.
The birthday celebration for the two Hobbits at the Children's Library, which is located within the Denver Public Library's main branch, will begin at noon Saturday with birthday cake and end with a sample of one of the upcoming readings.
"I'll be doing 'Flight to the Ford,' which is Frodo's arrival at Rivendell," Rezabek says. "It has a good mix. It has comical aspects and intense action toward the end that will be fun to read and fun to listen to."
When the reading series begins in October, the library will offer hot chocolate and a place for children and their parents to sit on the floor in order to encourage a cozy, "sleep-over atmosphere." For some of us, that beats a movie any day.
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