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By James Prenatt
My father had a knack for storytelling. Or at least, I remember it this way. Perhaps because so many of my favorite stories today were formed by his favorite stories. Some of my earliest memories are of him explaining works like The Hobbit to me. When I was a child there was only a much lesser-known animated film of the book, and he explained the story to me as we watched together. One thing among many I am truly grateful for was that my father was still alive to see one of his favorite fantasy series, The Lord of the Rings come to life onscreen.
As I revisit my love of fantasy I am reminded of how he would tell me the story of Beowulf, reciting it to me long before I read it, and before I would see any animated or live action incarnation of the iconic epic. This oral way of passing down a story reflected the origins of the story itself, which wouldn’t be written down until hundreds of years later by Christian monks.
Thinking about this I can’t help but be filled with nostalgia, a feeling of wanting to grasp something from the past, perhaps some feeling of a time I will never go back to, a time when I could spend hours escaping into these stories, spending time not in reading them or even watching them onscreen, but walking around in my own imagination as I tried to come up with stories of my own.
When it comes to my love of storytelling and my passion for fantasy (perhaps above most other genres) the question of where it came from is a little like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg, a useless argument but one worth reflecting upon. There is no doubt in my mind that my father had a lot to do with it and even if he didn’t, I would like to believe that he would’ve encouraged it. If I had the chance to do things over I would take the time to really talk to him, get to know the lore of these fantasy and sci-fi worlds such as those of Tolkien, Isamov, and Robert Jordan. I would actually read more instead of watching adaptations, that way I could have a better conversation with him instead of just listening like most kids do.
At the core of stories like The Hobbit are the themes of bravery, of small people making big decisions, and changing the course of their history despite the odds. Such a story resonates today, now that I am a father with a family of my own and my life is filled with responsibilities that may not include fighting dragons but certainly aren’t easy. Most often the protagonists are young and naïve and must learn to give up a life of comfort in order to save the world or save a kingdom from evil. I think my father enjoyed sharing them with us because he got the same feeling of nostalgia that I get now. He got to be a kid again.
When Harry Potter came out he read the books alongside me and my sister, offering his own insights to us about what would happen in subsequent books and chapters and one of the first movies he took our family to was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He was likely filled with anxiety at the task of managing all his children in a crowd like that one, but I think he was generally happy to see the story come to life.
My wife will often ask which of the kids will geek out with me, who will be excited to read the same stories I read when I was their age, that is if they take any interest at all. While I’m excited at the prospect of telling my children about The Force and The Ring of Power, I’m hoping that they’ll like my stories as well. I’ve said before, I want them to think of me as a writer, not as whatever my current day job is. I think this will happen as long as they understand and stay invested in what I’m working on and what I’ve already accomplished. Will I have bound copies of my books on our shelves? Will others know about my writing and mention it to them? Will they even like my stories and if so, how old do will they be to read them?
It’s all quite egotistical, but I suppose what I really want is for them to view my stories the same way as I viewed the stories of my father, though they weren’t usually his own. I want to open up their imaginations. I want them to know that it’s okay to spend a little time daydreaming. I want them to know that my work is something I’m passionate about. I want them to find their own stories and to always be brave little hobbits.
James Prenatt lives in Baltimore, MD with his beloved wife and stepson, who tells lovely stories about bunnies and crabs. He writes fiction and poetry along with contributing to blogs such as Everything for Dads and Parent.co. He likes punk rock, good movies, and bad coffee.
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