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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Nine: "The Quest Is Achieved"

Suggested Activities

"Yet Not No Hope." In a 1963 letter to a sympathetic reader, Tolkien speculated on what might have happened if Gollum's gesture of love toward Frodo had not been denounced by Sam (Letter No. 246). The author imagines that the redeemed Gollum, after stealing the Ring and briefly savoring it, "would then have sacrificed himself for Frodo's sake and have voluntarily cast himself into the fiery abyss." Ask each student to imagine this hypothetical climax, then render it in three or four paragraphs. What thoughts rush through Gollum's mind as he plummets? What would Sam make of Stinker's heroic gesture? Some students may wish to include a moment in which Frodo recalls Gandalf's long-ago assessment of Gollum: "There is little hope for him. Yet not no hope" (page 54).

Here Lies a Hero. Have each student select a deceased historical figure whom he admires: scientist, artist, athlete, explorer, statesperson. After researching the late hero, the student should next imagine that he has been selected to carve a brief tribute on the person's tombstone. Finally, the student writes the epitaph in his journal. Did this figure seek renown, or was she seemingly selected by destiny? Was she an obvious hero in the epic mold, or were her contributions not immediately recognized? Which hero from The Lord of the Rings — Aragorn, Sam, or Frodo — should deliver this person's funeral oration?

"I Can't Carry It for You, But I Can Carry You." Not the least heroic aspect of Frodo and Sam's progress toward Mount Doom is their persistence in the face of terrible privation: hunger, thirst, exhaustion, pain. Divide the class into groups. Have each team select and research a historical journey that, beyond its logistical challenges, was a physical ordeal. The possibilities include the first ascent of Mount Everest, the race to the North Pole, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and Shackleton's Antarctic adventure. Students can put their findings in the form of hypothetical Weblog entries, written either by the central figure or by an opinionated follower.

The Scouring of Saruman. When the armed hobbits surround Saruman and Wormtongue at Bag End, Frodo forbids Sam to slay the wizard. "He was great once, of a noble kind . . . He is fallen, and his cure is beyond us; but I would still spare him, in the hope that he may find it" (page 996). Although Saruman's response is characteristic — "I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy" — it's not inconceivable that he might one day mend his ways. Ask the class to suppose that Saruman walks free of the Shire and eventually sees the light. Each student then composes a letter in which the repentant wizard thanks Frodo for restoring him to the path of wisdom.

Unit Nine Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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