As my family and I were coming down the Moffat Tunnel trail, three preschool-age kids were rushing ahead of their parents at a moderately steep part of the hike. One of the little kids, who looked to be about four, was chugging along as fast as his little legs would carry him up the hill. With wide eyes, he excitedly told his friends, "We're almost through the place of woe!"
I started to giggle at the unlikeliness of a four-year-old knowing about "the place of woe." The adults who were bringing up the rear smiled knowingly.
Just what is this place of woe, and where did such a youngster come across it? At first I thought it was some Tolkien reference, and that maybe he and his buddies were pretending to be Sam and Frodo running away from Orcs. That seemed unlikely. I didn't read the trilogy until a few of my fifth-grade classmates told me it was better than the Nancy Drew mystery novels I was wasting my time on. They were right, though this is the first time I'm publicly admitting it.
Talking about the Place of Whoa! was definitely more age-appropriate. But why would anyone be excited about coming to the end of the Place of Whoa!? In the context of hiking, the Place of Whoa! is a gorgeous visit, made all the more gorgeous because it took some effort to get to it. Witnessing a huge thunderstorm through the safety of the picture windows in our living room is another Place of Whoa! Or waves crashing to shore after a storm is also Whoa!-worthy.
I googled "place of woe" and got nothing related to LOTR. There was the Fissure of Woe, a GuildWars Wikia, a game he might have played. Though probably not. There was also this link about play structures, but I doubt even this brainy little guy would have found this site very interesting.
So he probably just made it up, putting snippets of words together in the original way kids do. It reminds me of the book our son Geoff published in kindergarten. The subject was what he wanted to be when he grew up. This was his dinosaur phase. He lived and breathed everything dino-related. So did he want to be a doctor or a teacher or a writer or a bricklayer? Nope, he wanted to be a dinosaur, and not just any dinosaur, but the most bad-ass of all dinos, Albertosaurus.