Hope flourishes when father and son share total dedication to nerdy pursuits

By Jason Offutt

The boy took me by surprise, which is how kids like it. Keeping parents off guard is a way of life for them.
“Hey Dad,” the Boy said. “For Halloween next year I want to be a Ringwraith.”
A Ringwraith? A Ringwraith? It’s January and my second-grader has already figured out he wants to be one of the dark, evil entities in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy for Halloween. I couldn’t have been more proud.
It’s my fault the Boy’s like that; I’m a nerd. I think it’s rubbed off.
I grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s works (the Nerd Bible), and wanted to share some of that with my children. A few months ago, I decided reading them “The Hobbit” as a bedtime story would be a good idea. Pure genius on my part.
I’d take a book I’ve read dozens of times (and unlike the “Pinkalicious” series, I wouldn’t mind reading again), go through it bit by bit over about a week, and introduce my children to adventure, wizards, swordplay, a dragon, a magic ring, and gruesome death.
They’ll enjoy it, I’ll enjoy it, and it will open them to a new world, one with bloodthirsty orcs. All this in plenty of time to convince their mother I should take the Boy to see the first of three “The Hobbit” movies in the theater.
“The Hobbit” (a slim 280-page book) is a prequel trilogy to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, much like “Star Wars” Episodes One through Three were an afterthought “we can make more money off this” prequel trilogy to the original three “Star Wars” movies. You know the original movies, the ones that were actually good.
I didn’t realize how close that analogy would be.
As I sat in the theater watching director Peter Jackson’s hatchet job on one of my favorite childhood books, I realized I was seeing “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” all over again. The Boy hardly blinked. He was hooked.
“What was your favorite part of the movie?” I asked on our way out of the theater.
He smiled. “All of it.”
“Of course he liked it,” my wife said after we got home. “It’s his movie.”
Oh, no, she’s right. This is now his movie. Much like the original “Star Wars” trilogy is my “Star Wars,” another generation grew up thinking Episodes One through Three is “Star Wars” (which it’s so not). The excellent “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy is now my set of movies. The awful “The Hobbit” is his.
My stomach hurt a little.
But he isn’t too far gone to the dark side of Hobbiton. When our daughter came home from school telling us her teacher yelled, my wife turned to the Boy.
“Has your teacher ever yelled at you?” she asked.
He nodded.
“Yeah,” he said. “Just this one time when I wasn’t paying attention. I was thinking about ‘Star Wars’.”
There is hope. A New Hope.

Jason Offutt’s column has been in continuous publication since 1998 appearing in newspapers and magazines across the United States. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheJasonOffutt.

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