The Baby Eye of Sauron

Katherine Willoughby lives is Richmond, Virginia and teaches Junior Kindergarten at the same school where she discovered her love of reading. When she is not in the classroom, Katherine enjoys building wooden train layouts with her three-year-old son, playing board games while drinking IPAs with her husband, and taking part in pub trivia. Read Across America Day is her favorite holiday!


My husband and I are both teachers, though we teach on opposite ends of the spectrum. I teach four-year-olds in my Junior Kindergarten classroom and he teaches sophomores in his English, Communication, and Theater classes. One thing we have in common, other than that none of our students remember to write their name on assignments, is we get to revel in snow days together, along with James, our small son.

In January, we were out on a Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Paired with the weekend, this meant five days cooped up at home at a time when it actually did snow, ice, and freeze quite a bit. We were stuck inside with a toddler who spent more time suiting up to play in the snow than actually playing in it. After reading every Thomas the Tank Engine Little Golden Book published, playing Candyland, watching the entire Cars movie franchise, and having Play-Doh gouged into the rug, we decided to introduce our child to The Lord of the Rings.

We began with the film The Fellowship of the Ring and, over the course of the five days, traveled with Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship through Middle Earth and to the Crack of Doom in Mordor. My son amazingly watched every minute of it.

After we finished the movies, I pulled out a book I purchased years ago from one of the discount racks at the front of a Barnes and Noble entitled Tolkien’s World: A Guide to the People and Places of Middle Earth by Gareth Hanrahan. It is a lavishly illustrated 80-page tome about the different races, weapons, and locations in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I assumed that James and I would look at some of the pictures together or maybe read the parts about orcs, goblins, and wargs. Instead, he wanted to start at the beginning and read about all things LOTR. He can now tell you the names of Bilbo’s parents (Belladonna and Bungo), where to find Mithril (in the Mines of Moria) and laughs every time I read that Gandalf was given one of the three rings of the elves (But, Mama, Gandalf is not an elf. He is a wizard!). He even spent one Saturday morning pretending to be the “Baby Eye of Sauron.” While I tried to talk him into being a baby hobbit or dwarf instead, I was impressed that he said that, since he was the Baby Eye of Sauron, we would not need matches any more to light our candles and fireplace. He would just do it with his evil, flaming eyeball.

We have now read various parts of this book each night for the past month or so. While some children memorize The Very Hungry Caterpillar and others repeat Llama Llama Red Pajama, I find it refreshing that my son and I geek out nightly on J.R.R. Tolkien. When he is older, I plan on reading the full novels together, visiting the Eagle and Child Pub with him in Oxford, and challenging him to a game of Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit—I hope that his passion for Tolkien still burns as brightly as the Baby Eye of Sauron.

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