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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Eight: War and Peace in Middle-earth

Content Focus: The Lord of the Rings, Book Five
Thematic Focus: An Enemy Called Despair


Although many critics have asserted that the central theme of The Lord of the Rings is the conflict between good and evil, another significant dichotomy — hope versus despair — runs through the novel. In the sieges, skirmishes, and battles that fill Book Five, the noble defenders of Middle-earth struggle not only against their external foes but also against defeatism. Unit Eight invites students to analyze the intricate mixture of optimism and fatalism that informs Tolkien's artistic vision.

Learning Goals

By the end of Unit Eight, the student should be able to:

• Discuss the interplay of hope and despair in The Lord of the Rings.

• Specify some similarities and differences between Denethor's suicidal madness and Éowyn's desire to die in battle.

• Explain why critics have said that The Lord of the Rings is an antiwar novel but not a pacifist novel.

• Contrast the self-reflective heroism of Faramir with the warrior ethos of the Iliad.

• Name several myths that include a descent to the land of the dead.

Unit Eight Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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These lesson plans were written by James Morrow and Kathryn Morrow in consultation with Amy Allison, Gregory Miller, Sarah Rito, and Jason Zanitsch.

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