My dad first read it to me when I was really young, and I remember I would draw pictures in the book of what I thought was happening on that page (I still have that book, and the drawings prove that I understood the story pretty well; I did one of Treebeard, of the Rohirrim burning the Orcs on the field of battle, the Three Hunters, Isengard). I have clear mental images from that first encounter with this story, which include a vivid picture of Gandalf leaping across the hill-tops under the stars, Tom Bombadil-style. Nowhere in the book does it occur as I see it, but it remains with me as the definitive Gandalf in my mind.
Favorite Tolkien character:
Galadriel, for her power and grace, and the extraordinary story of her life, the courage she displayed in rebelling against the Valar, and her repentance at the end of the Third Age. She will always be my favourite, for those qualities. A born leader, a headstrong and determined woman, an Elf of great wisdom, an Eldar born in the light of Valinor, a Ringbearer gifted with the strength of will to deny the power of the One – she is all these things, and she is an icon of hope, for all who know her story, or even glimpse those small parts of it revealed in the Lord of the Rings.