This afternoon I finished my 10th book in the Back to the Classics Challenge in the category of the children’s classic. And I didn’t read this book alone. Every single word of the book was read out loud by me to several of my grandchildren. Coordinating that wasn’t as easy as you would think. But today we finished the last 10-15 pages of Roverandom, by J. R. R. Tolkien.
I found the book at our local library sale 10 years ago and paid a grand total of fifty cents for it. I have found so many gems at library sales but it’s also a little sad to me. This book was not a donated book, given from someone’s private collection as so many can be. No, this book was a discard from the library itself; thrown out, unread, not checked out enough, no longer thought to be worthy of valuable space on the library shelves. Isn’t that sad?
Although I have read a number of Tolkien’s books I had never heard of Roverandom until I saw it at that library sale, not surprising since it was first published in 1998.
The story was originally told in 1925, submitted for publication in 1937, and finally published in 1998, twenty-five years after Tolkein’s death. It’s the story of Rover, a little dog who after an encounter with a wizard finds himself changed into a miniature toy dog.
When the old man stooped down and picked up the ball – he was thinking of turning it into an orange, or even a bone or a piece of meat for Rover – Rover growled, and said:
‘Put it down!’ Without ever a ‘please’.
Of course the wizard, being a wizard, understood perectly, and he answered back again:
‘Be quiet, silly!’ Without ever a ‘please’.
Then he put the ball in his pocket, just to tease the dog, and turned away. I am sorry to say that Rover immediately bit his trousers, and tore out quite a piece. Perhaps he also tore out a piece of the wizard. Anyway the old man suddenly turned round very angry and shouted:
‘Idiot! Go and be a toy!’
And thus begins Rover’s adventures!
His name is changed from Rover to Roverandom in the course of the story. Little Roverandom has many, many adventures both on the moon and under the sea. He makes friends with the moon-dog as well as the mer-dog and finally finds his way back to the little boy who loves him.
Tolkien was inspired to tell the story after his son Michael lost his toy dog on the beach, (as the little boy in the story does), while the family was on holiday. Michael was so heartbroken by the loss of his little toy dog that Tolkien told the story to his son as a way of “explaining” to him what had happened to his precious toy.
The story was fun from the very first page! In the back of the book there are sixteen pages of notes which are very helpful. The notes help with fleshing out some of the more obscure references, facts that many readers of the 1920’s and 1930’s would be familiar with but probably not so much for late twentieth and twenty-first century readers.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did my grandchildren. This one shouldn’t be read alone if you can help it. Find a child, snuggle together with a blanket and hot cocoa and enjoy a good read.