Unlike movies, books don’t have built-in age ratings; however, that doesn’t mean that all books are suitable for all ages. Take The Lord of the Rings books, for example. With over 1,100 pages and discussions of battles and deaths, it may not be suitable for younger children.
The Lord of the Rings books are definitely suitable for teens and adults. However, some younger children might appreciate them, too. It’s probably best to wait until your child is at least nine or ten to introduce them to Middle Earth, as the size of the books alone might scare them away otherwise.
This article will further explore this topic and give you some idea of what kind of material is in the books if you haven’t read them yourself. It’ll also give you some advice on introducing your children to these classics and alternatives to check out with younger children who may not be ready for them yet.
Is There Any Objectionable Material in The Lord of the Rings?
There’s very little objectionable material in The Lord of the Rings. There are battles and bloodshed, and a few notable characters die. Black magic and evil are also significant themes. However, there’s no sex, sexual innuendo, sexual violence, profanity, or serious depictions of blood and gore.
The Lord of the Rings is your typical ‘good vs. evil’ storyline, and in true fairy tale fashion, good triumphs in the end. However, evil does win its fair share of minor victories throughout these books.
Even so, in the end, everything works out as it should. That means these books could be a great way to teach your children about choosing the right path, even when it’s hard.
That’s not the only lesson your kids can get from diving into Middle Earth. Some of the essential life lessons highlighted in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings include:
- The importance of friendship and sticking together
- How to ask for help (and how to give it when needed)
- The importance of loyalty and trusting those around you
- How destructive greed can be
- That grief and loss are a natural part of life and how to deal with them
- That you can’t buy the essential things in life; peace and love are the true goals
Additionally, these books are simply magical, which kids can understand even when they can’t understand anything else.
Are The Lord of the Rings Books Easy for Kids to Understand?
It’s easy for kids to understand the plot and themes in The Lord of the Rings; however, the language might be challenging for kids under 12. If your little one is interested in reading these books, it would be best if you read the books with them to help them with any tough vocabulary.
J.R.R. Tolkien used a lot of what readers today might call “archaic” words. Additionally, he uses his own fantasy languages throughout the books for mythical races such as the elves and dwarves. Combined with his old-world English, the books can be challenging for young readers.
Additionally, there are many different characters, places, and sub-plots happening in these books. Keeping up with the sheer number of characters and locations can be formidable – even for adults.
I, myself, have read The Hobbit at least a half dozen times, and I still get confused between Ori, Dori, Oin, and Gloin! (It doesn’t help that the names are often similar and more fantastical and hard to remember than “regular” names like Jeff, Charles, and Steve.)
Regardless, readers over 12 should be able to read and enjoy Tolkien’s famous works. Furthermore, younger readers will likely understand and appreciate the books, too, as long as you’re willing to read them together and provide reminders when they forget or don’t understand things.
How to Introduce Your Child to The Lord of the Rings
My advice: Start with The Hobbit. It’s shorter (at least in relation to all three The Lord of the Rings books) and has a straightforward, easy-to-follow story.
There are fewer characters and places to remember. Plus, the story is engaging. It’s lighter and has more “fun” bits than The Lord of the Rings. Also, don’t be afraid to put the cart in front of the horse, so to speak, and let them check out the movie first.
Don’t start with the lengthy Peter Jackson flicks, though. Track down a copy of the 1977 cartoon The Hobbit, and allow them to begin with that. I can’t even explain to you how much I loved that movie as a child, and that was years before I ever picked up one of Tolkien’s books.
Let them watch that first to get them interested. Then, sit down with them and read The Hobbit together. Don’t rush through it. Go at a pace that’s easy and comfortable for your child. Let them ask all the questions they want, and re-read the bits they ask you to re-read. Use voices and make it as enjoyable as possible.
Once your kiddos see how much you love the story, they’ll quickly learn to love it, too.
After that, you can start working your way up to the harder stuff.
Fantasy Alternatives for Young Children
If you want to introduce your little ones to the world of fantasy but need to start somewhere smaller, here are a few books to consider:
For Children Aged 0-3
Here are some great fantasy books for the youngest of young readers:
- How to Catch a Unicorn by Adam Wallace
- How to Catch a Mermaid by Adam Wallace
- My Magical Worlds by Becky Cummings
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
For Children Aged 4-6
These fantasy books have fewer pictures and more words but are still suitable for your toddlers and kindergarten-aged children:
- Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
- Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- I’m a Unicorn by Mallory Loehr
- Dragon Howl by Vanessa Rouse
For Children Aged 7-10
This age group is just getting into the age where they could probably really appreciate Tolkien. You may want to start with his stand-alone book, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Here are a few other options:
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
- Encyclopedia Mythologica: Fairies and Magical Creatures Pop-Up by Matthew Reinhart
- Dragon Slayers’ Academy by Kate McMullan
For Children Aged 11-12
If you haven’t already introduced your children to Middle Earth, this is the perfect time. In fact, this is a great time for lots of books, including some of my all-time favorites like:
- The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
- The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
It’s never really too early to turn your children onto J.R.R. Tolkien. The trick is doing it in a way they can understand at that time. Whether that’s the old-school cartoon or your own bedtime story re-telling of Frodo’s trip to Mordor, they’re sure to love it – especially if they see that you do, too.