I was five years old when my dad started reading The Hobbit aloud to me at night, introducing me to a whole new world of imagination. A world full of goblins and dragons and magic rings and little hobbits who faced their fears and became the most courageous characters of all.
At five years old, I was afraid. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of goblins. Nothing like the brave hobbits.
So my heroic dad came to the rescue ... and made me a sword. My first weapon! A magnificent blade, two feet long ... crafted from the finest aluminum foil in the realm.
Yep. Aluminum foil. It was a mite flimsy. But I didn't mind. I named it Sting and set it beside my bed in case of danger in the night.
I slept easy after that, comforted in the belief that if danger ever threatened, I could grab my trusty sword and it would become strong in my hand, a mighty weapon capable of slaying the fiercest dragon.
Imagination is a beautiful thing, is it not?
My older sister was an avid reader. She devoured books at a rate most rampaging dragons couldn't hope to compete with. But on the rare occasions when she could be coaxed to set her book down, we played together in the back yard while she invented wonderful stories full of amazing people, places, and settings.
Together we sailed ships through terrible storms. Galloped across the hills pursued by enemies. Dug our way out of a prison camp.
But it wasn't until several years later, when I picked up some of my older sister's books, that I realized where her stories came from.
So many of the characters, places, and stories we had played over the years were drawn from the books she was reading at the time.
Imagine it for a moment. You pick a book off the shelf, flip it open, and suddenly realize that a character seems oddly familiar, almost as though you've met before. You recall a name, but can't figure out how. The story you've never read tugs at your memory.
The more books I read, the more I realized that I had already traveled a fair bit around the literary world in those games in the backyard.
I'd sailed to Treasure Island with Jim Hawkins. Traveled to Letzenstein and escaped from Julius Varenshalt along with Catherine Ayre from the Letzenstein Chronicles. Journeyed through the Wardrobe to Narnia along with the four Pevensies.
I think I can honestly say it was that first epic story I heard ... and those wonderful little games we played ... that inspired me to write novels of my own.
To create characters and worlds and events that would transport others to an imaginary place. To allow others to experience what I had experienced.
The beauty of imagination.
It's a wonderful gift.
"Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere." - Carl Sagan