Kids' Corner



Elijah Wood: not the original hobbit.

Hobbitt follows great hero tradition A quick summary of “the enchanting prelude to The Lord of the Rings:” The comfortable hobbit Bilbo Baggins smokes his pipe, relaxes in his easy chair, watches the stars. He leads a peaceful life until Gandalf, an old white wizard, comes along and changes it forever. In spite of his Tookish ancestors, Baggins is a “lazy” hobbit who doesn’t want adventures: “Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.” He is quite surprised, then, when he is called to serve as a professional burglar for a band of 13 dwarves. Later, he’s even called upon to kill Smaug, a dragon with a diabolical appearance and a mammoth appetite. The hobbit has no idea of the dangers he must face to reach his goal, no idea how to kill a dragon (let alone a dragon who has been the glorious victor of who knows how many battles). My favorite part of their adventure takes place in the Elvenking’s palace, when Bilbo is devising a plan to save the dwarves. He decides to put them all in barrels to be rafted off with the other empty barrels sent to “the Long Lake... a town of Men still throve there.” This plan gets them out of the castle without being seen. But, as Tolkien points out, “It was just at this moment that Bilbo suddenly discovered the weak point in his plan. Most likely you saw it some time ago and have been laughing at him; but I don’t suppose you would have done half as well as him yourselves in his place. Of course he was not in a barrel himself, nor was there any one to pack him in, even if there had been a chance!” In “The Hobbit,” J.R.R. Tolkien relies on the power of the mythological “hero’s journey.” Bilbo has a lot in common with Odysseus of Homer’s Odyssey (perhaps the original hero) and Luke Skywalker of the Star Wars epic, a hero whose story was told four decades after Bilbo’s. Hero stories teach us about our own potential. Heroes are called to journey and adventure for their heart’s desire (Bilbo and Odysseus both want to return home, for example), but they must fight evil and learn about themselves before they can achieve their goals. Each of the heroes I mentioned are guided by mentors or wise guides: Odysseus by Athene, Luke by Obi-Won and Bilbo by Gandalf. They each benefit from a magical talisman or sacred object: Odysseus has his magical bow and quiver of arrows and assorted amulets; Luke Skywalker wields his father’s light saber, and Bilbo has Sting, a short sword made by Elves, and the invisibility ring. In each of their stories, the hero must enter the “underworld,” a classic mythological detail. They also encounter ugly, horrible beasts on land and in water, adding chilling action and, in some cases, humor to the stories. The heroes also, I might add, eventually achieve their goals. Don’t miss out on the exciting and enchanting elements that made “The Hobbit” so memorable.

John F. Sherman, 13, Chicago


Sierra games build city, skills Sierra Impressions has two similar games, Caesar III and Zeus. Both are city-building games with a historical twist. It’s more fun to build cities in Zeus. You have to plan and develop an ancient Greek city by building housing and creating city services to accommodate your population. As you do this, you also are trying to appease the gods, make money, keep your citizens happy and defend your city from invasion. This is more fun to do in Zeus than it is in Caesar because you have a larger map and more resources. In Caesar, you are often interrupted by annoying animated mini-movies. It’s much harder to keep your city out of debt in Caesar. And when you are in debt, the Emperor has to bail you out, and he doesn’t like doing that. In Caesar, military strategy plays a bigger role than in Zeus. You get attacked much more often, and it is easier to create an army in Caesar than in Zeus. I like the attacks because I have to use my brain to arrange a defense. Although sometimes these advancing armies can be pretty devastating: Carthaginian elephants can wipe out an entire legion in seconds! I recommend both games, although Caesar is a little bit better.


Richard Day, 10, Glenview


Merlin pleases in the Potter vein ‘The Seven Songs of Merlin” is the second book in the Merlin series. This story is about  a boy named Emrys, young Merlin. For about a year, Emrys has been living in Fincayra, the land between the otherworld and Earth. (In the first book of the series, young Merlin has left his home and his mother in search of his memory.)

In this book, the Grand Council has asked Emrys to bring the flowering harp into the dark hills before the warrior goblins come out of their hiding and ruin the land. He is very unhappy and longs to see his mother again. He finally gets fed up and goes to the shore of the speaking shells. The wisest shell can teleport Emrys’ mother to Fincayra. However, once she is there, a death shadow is sent to her. If no one finds an elixir, she will suffer for a month before dying. Emrys returns to the shell to ask where the elixir can be found. The shell tells him to master the Seven Songs and then to go to the otherworld to find the elixir. If you want to find out if young Merlin masters  the Seven Songs and finds the elixir, you’ll need to read this book. I would recommend this book to anyone who liked the Harry Potter series, likes adventure and likes sitting on the edge of their seat. Every chapter is full of magic! Make sure to also read the other four books in this series. I’m positive you’ll love this book.


Ryan Lauth, 10, Naperville


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