"The Lord of the Rings" Book and Animated Movies for Children
Allowing Kids to Enjoy "The Lord of the Rings"
"The Lord of the Rings" is a magnificent trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkien. The mythological story can be captivating to younger children, but the movie adaptations created by Peter Jackson are far to violent for them to see.
Fortunately, there are other options that allow children to enjoy the world of Middle-earth without the graphic violence.
I highly recommend the animated film versions of "The Lord of the Rings," as well as the movie book based on one of those films. They provide the excitement and lore of the adventure at an age-appropriate level.
How My Kids Became Interested in "The Lord of the Rings"
I was shocked when I saw that Lego had introduced a collection based on "The Lord of the Rings" series written by J.R.R. Tolkien.
I'm a great fan of "The Lord of the Rings." But I was taken aback due to the violent nature of the popular movies by Peter Jackson, which are clearly not intended to be viewed by the young children to whom the Lego sets were being marketed.
As my 8-year-old and 5-year-old sons excitedly pored over the Lego catalog they received in the mail featuring this new collection, they started asking questions about "The Lord of the Rings." I struggled with my answers, knowing that it was not an option for them to see the movies.
Fortunately, I remembered that I had seen an animated version of "The Lord of the Rings" in the movie theater when I was a child. In fact, packed away in a box in the attic was the movie book that accompanied the film!
I was relieved to have a way to show my children what the movie was and very excited to be able to share the experience with them.
The Lord of the Rings Movie Book
from the 1978 animated film
I was able to find the copy of "The Lord of the Rings Movie Book" that I read when I was young. It was still in excellent condition, and my kids and I sat down, eagerly anticipating the adventure as we began to read the book together.
This is a fairly short book, written for children, and is a great introduction to the story of Middle-earth, inhabited by humans, elves, hobbits, orcs, dwarves, and many other creatures. It is a mythological adventure created by J.R.R. Tolkien, a British professor and author. The original story is actually a trilogy made of the books "The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers," and "The Return of the King."
Of course, there are many details missing from this abridged children's book, which can be upsetting to diehard fans of the original. But if it included everything, it would be just as long a book as the original -- some 1,000 or so pages!
My kids and I were riveted and spent a lot of time curled up together reading this book over the course of two or three days. (This version is 76 pages long.)
The Hobbit for Children
You may also be interested in my article about "The Hobbit" animated movie and book for children!
The Lord of the Rings Movie Book
"The Lord of the Rings Movie Book" isn't widely available, but you can find it through Amazon.
This is a fantastic way to introduce younger children to "The Lord of the Rings" in a way that is not too scary but is still very exciting.
After reading the children's book, my sons' imaginary play took on the characters of "The Lord of the Rings." They were enthralled with the story and its characters. This book is not always available on Amazon, so keep looking!
The Animated Movie
I remember being both excited and scared watching the animated version of "The Lord of the RIngs" when I was a child. The ringwaiths and their horses seemed terrifying.
Since my sons and I had already read the movie book, they knew what to expect in the movie -- though the movie was a more intense experience than the book since it featured moving characters. The movie was absolutely thrilling for my sons and me! They weren't nearly as scared of the horses as I had been so many years ago!
A Peculiar Detail
I am not familiar with the details about how this came to be, but the 1978 animated version of "The Lord of the Rings" actually ends before the end of the story! The conclusion of the animated version occurs partway through "The Two Towers," the second book of the trilogy.
The movie book, naturally, also concludes prematurely.
But You Can Still Watch the Rest of the Movie!
The 1980 animated version
Although the 1978 animated version of "The Lord of the RIngs" ends with quite a bit of the story left to be told, there is another animated film that concludes the adventure!
The second animated movie was released in 1980. For those of you familiar with the original text, this version ends with the destruction of the One Ring and does not continue the story to show the aftermath in the Shire. I remember watching this version as well when I was young, and the thrill of it has lingered with me through the years!
This version had different producers, so there is a different "feel" to it compared to the 1978 version. The characters look different as well, but this is easily explained to children as you watch it with them. The producers of the 1980 movie also created "The Hobbit" animated movie in 1977.
The version released in 1980 concentrates on the third book in the trilogy, "The Return of the King." Therefore, if you watch both the 1978 and 1980 versions, you will get pretty much the whole story!
Unfortunately, a movie book was not produced to accompany the 1980 film.
The Two Animated "The Lord of the Rings" Movies
The entire "Lord of the RIngs" trilogy is covered between these two animated films. Unlike the Peter Jackson films, these are family-friendly and appropriate for younger audiences. I would recommend them for kids ages 4 or 5 and older.
This version, released in 1980, focuses on the third book in the trilogy. Oddly, two important characters -- Legolas and Gimli -- are not a part of this movie.
Watch both the 1978 and 1980 versions in order to see the entire "The Lord of the Rings" story.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
After your child has seen the movies, he or she may be able to read the original series -- either independently or with you. While most kids are hard-pressed to read such long books without illustrations, some may be up for the challenge. Having the images in their heads from the films may help them visualize the scenes well enough for them to get through the heavy text.
These are recommended for ages 12 and older by the publisher, but I think some younger children would be able to enjoy them as well. I read them to my older son when he was 9 years old, and he loved them!
The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit
From Outrage to Joy
I am still upset that Lego and other companies choose to market inappropriately to children. "The Lord of the Rings" is an incredibly wonderful trilogy. I personally enjoyed the Peter Jackson movie adaptations, though I did find them a bit too graphic and violent for my tastes. (Yes, I am a rather sensitive individual!)
While these movies are fine for adults and older children, they are wildly inappropriate for younger audiences to view, and these are the films that inspired the Lego collection.
There are many violent, sexually explicit, and otherwise inappropriate toys and movies that are actively marketed to children. For more information about this important issue, please visit Campaign for a Commerical-free Childhood.
The animated "The Lord of the Rings" films and the movie book from the 1978 version provide an excellent opportunity to share the mythical adventure with younger audiences. There is violence in these stories, but it is not the extremely graphic style of the live-action films.
After my sons read and watched these, their imaginary play took off in the direction of "The Lord of the Rings." They played the roles of the various characters, reciting lines with gusto and enthusiasm.
Reading the book and watching the two animated movies with my sons has been a delightful experience. I hope that you and your children will enjoy it as well!
One Year Later: Reading the Original Versions! - My sons have been BIG into "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" for a year now -- and still going strong!
When my older son turned 9 years old, we started reading the "real deal" version of "The Lord of the Rings" together! This was a wonderful experience for both of us! Without having read and watched the children's versions multiple times, my son would certainly not be able to take on the original text without illustrations at this point in time. When my younger son was 6 years old, he managed to read about half of "The Two Towers" (the second book) with me before getting a bit bored and turning back to the children's version.
Because my sons have the mental images of the characters and scenes from the children's books and movies, they are able to persevere through this tremendous literary work. Interestingly, there is a long segment of the first book that is completely eliminated in the children's version. My son found this part extremely challenging. But then he became enthusiastic and more eager to continue when we (finally!) got to the part of the story that was covered in the children's version.