A campfire memory

My introduction to Tolkien came when my dad read The Hobbit to my sisters and I as we sat around a campfire.

Could there be a more perfect scenario? Our family was camping in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges. I was about 11, my sisters younger. Our evening’s entertainment consisted of hunkering around the fire that crackled in a dried-up creek bed, drinking hot chocolate, and listening to the story of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures there and back again…

I usually cite Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which I read a couple of years later, as sparking my lifelong love of fantasy; but there’s no denying the magic of those early Hobbit memories. Even though at that age I was more than capable of reading it myself (and I’m a little surprised I hadn’t already!), there’s something extra magical about hearing it read aloud.

As for hearing it aloud around a campfire… Well, we were listening to stories to while away the evening exactly as the people of Middle Earth (not to mention a gazillion other fantasy novels) would have done.


Today’s post is in response to the wanafriday theme of sharing a childhood memory. Do you have a memory of being read to as a child? What was your favourite story?

Here are some of the other contributions to the theme (updated progressively):

Liv Rancourt — When I was very young

Siri Paulson — Hide and Seek

Janice Heck — firefly lanterns and scary campfire stories

Kim Griffin — The wandering child in Assateague

17 thoughts on “A campfire memory

  1. Funny. I was thinking about doing a campfire post, too. I still have not settled on what I will write for this WANAfriday. I’ve got several false starts going. Gotta get with one of them and finish it.


  2. For our first vacation together, a boyfriend and I spend a week out on the Olympic Peninsula. One day we went hiking through some old-growth forest, and to distract myself from the whole “my feet hurt and I can’t breath” thing, I told him the story of TLOTR. From memory. Because I felt the need to establish my geek-girl cred, I guess.
    Anyway, right about then he decided to ask me to marry him, and when he did, I said yes.
    Because you gotta love a guy who listens to Tolkien and doesn’t run screaming.
    I love the image of you all sitting around the campfire listening to your Dad read, btw…


  3. Liv, what a fabulous story! I read The Hobbit out loud to the guy I ended up marrying…and just to bring it back to Ellen’s post, my first encounter with The Hobbit was not Tolkien’s book, but bedtime stories from my dad (inspired by pieces of the book, of course). Sensing some themes here!

    (And it’s been way too long since I’ve read either of those. I did read Children of Hurin a few years ago, and loved it to death.)


    1. Definitely some themes happening here! It seems more and more people are reading to their partners these days. 😉

      I went back and read some of the The Hobbit after I saw the first of the recent movies — the first time I’d been near it in years. It’s written in a very different style from LOTR and is quite obviously for children. I think I have Children of Hurin somewhere, but haven’t read it. Hmmm…


      1. I’ve been meaning to reread The Hobbit again before the second part of the movie comes out. It took me a while to “get into” Children of Hurin, because it’s written in a more distant, summarizing style, but if you think of it like a fairytale or mythology rather than a novel, you’ll be in the right mindset to enjoy it!


  4. What do you mean The Hobbit is for children??? That’s like saying Winnie The Pooh is for children. Those are 2 of my very favourite books.

    Speaking of reading aloud, every summer on our vacation, hubby and I read to each other. We just finished reading a romance this time – by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Nobody’s Baby But Mine. It was hilarious and touching at the same time. He even teared up near the end.

    Loved your post, Ellen. Hunkering around a fire in a dried-up creek bed. What a setting!


    1. I confess I find the narrative style of The Hobbit a bit annoying as an adult. But I’m sure you’re not alone, Suzanne, in having it as a favourite! I love hearing about couples who read aloud to each other. 🙂


  5. Such a great memory to share! I love hearing stories about parents imparting a love of books and reading and stories to their children. I’ve tried my best to do that for my two girls and can only hope they look back on their childhoods with fond memories of their dear old mom reading to them and doing all the voices.

    I finished reading The Hobbit to the (then) 12 y.o. in December last year and she loved it. And just for the record, it is really challenging to come up with different voices for all of the Hobbits, dwarves, etc. and then remember which character had which accent night after night. 😉


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