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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Four: One Ring to Rule Them All

Key Terms

foreshadowing A literary device through which an author offers hints of a major crisis to come. When Gandalf throws the Ring into Bilbo's fireplace (page 48), Tolkien is foreshadowing the climax of the novel. Frodo's dream of the Sea foreshadows his final journey (page 106).

wraith (rayth) A ghost or other supernatural manifestation. Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey argues that the author selected the term "Ringwraith" with care. "Wraith" traces to the Anglo-Saxon word for "writhe," which also gives us "wreath" — a object that is not only twisted (like the Nazgûlís souls) but also round (like the object the Nazgûl seek).

fell In its archaic sense: having a cruel, vicious, or deadly nature. Dreaming of a white-haired wizard, Frodo hears "the crying of fell voices" (page 125). One of Tolkien's favorite words, "fell" occurs throughout The Lord of the Rings.

lay A narrative poem that is normally sung. Encamped on Weathertop, Aragorn soothes the hobbits with a lay about Beren and Lúthien, the most famous lovers in the history of Middle-earth (pages 187–189).

genius loci (jee-nee-es lo-si) A Latin term meaning "the spirit of the place." Tom Bombadil is, among other things, a genius loci of the Old Forest and its vicinity, "the Master of wood, water, and hill" (page 122).

barrow A large mound of earth, usually above a tomb. The long-armed "barrow-wight" who nearly slays the three hobbits is thus a spectral being (Old English "wight") that haunts a grave.

proverb (prah-vurb) A short saying expressing a presumed truth. Examples occur throughout The Lord of the Rings. During the debate over the best route to Crickhollow, Pippin offers his companions a proverb: "Short cuts make long delays" (page 86). In the message the hobbits receive at the Prancing Pony, Gandalf heralds Aragorn by turning a famous proverb inside out, so that it becomes "All that is gold does not glitter" (page 167).

premonition (pre-me-ni-shen) A strong irrational feeling or vision regarding a future event. On the way to Crickhollow, Sam shares a premonition with Frodo: "I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness . . . I don't rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire" (page 85).

Unit Four Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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