Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Book 39 of 2013: Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien

This year during Independent Bookseller’s Week there were several special editions of favourite books created, one of which was J.R.R. Tolkien’s Roverandom. I nipped into my local Indie Bookshop and ordered my copy on the Saturday and it was ready to collect on the Monday (even Amazon would struggle to do that without charging you a small fortune for delivery). It proved to be just the motivation that I needed to get finished with the never-ending Moby Dick and I was soon able to move on to reading a beautiful illustrated version of a Tolkien book I’d never read before.

Roverandom came into being as a story for Tolkien’s sons, after one of his children lost a small toy dog on the beach while they were on holiday. Try as they might, it just couldn’t be found, so console his son, Tolkien created this story about a real dog who was enchanted by a wizard turning him into a toy. After getting left on the beach the dog went on to have adventures on the moon and under the sea before eventually being returning to his true form as a real dog.

It was originally published posthumously in 1998, and this edition includes Tolkien’s own illustrations that he drew for his children to go along with the story. This copy of the book is pocket-sized, it’s a nice neat little size and it’s also not very long so it makes for a nice quick read.

I really loved it. I’ve reached the stage now where I’ve read every one of the Tolkien books that I own and although I have favourites that I return to time after time, it’s nice to find something new that I’ve not read before. The story was lovely and in a way it reminded me of Letters From Father Christmas, I’m guessing that it’s because, like the other book, it is very personal to the Tolkien family (right down to the illustrations, drawn by Tolkien himself).

I think that it would make a perfect bedtime story because it’s not massively long and is divided into separate chapters. There’s also little plays on words and nods to things that grown ups would get but which would go over the heads of children. I think it’s nice to have books that kids and parents can enjoy on different levels.

I also found the introduction at the beginning and the notes at the end really interesting. The introduction gave the backstory and history of the story. It’s not known exactly when it was written but Tolkien’s letters, diaries and children have helped to date it to a fairly definite period of time. The notes at the end are kind of like ‘here’s some things you may have missed’ and makes reference to all sorts of things from Gilbert and Sullivan to other works by Tolkien.

I was quite pleased that I had read the earliest books from The Histories of Middle-earth because I was able to pick out some references to that, as well as a mention of events of The Silmarillion as well. There’s something nice about catching things like that. If I hadn’t known about them I wouldn’t have missed anything in the story (and it would’ve been pointed out to me at the end anyway) but it was nice to feel sort of smug that you were catching bits that other readers might have missed.

It’s also worth mentioning that the pictures are beautiful. They’re pretty simple but they help to set the story. I wish I could draw even half as well as Tolkien could. I love them because they help to show just how detailed Tolkien’s imagined worlds were. I can’t help but pick it up off the bookcase occasionally to take a look through. It’s definitely a book that I’ll read again in the future.

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