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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit One: Introducing Tolkien and His Worlds

Suggested Activities

From Text to Tongue. Much is gained when an oral narrative is transcribed: suddenly it can be shared with a larger community. But something is lost as well. This activity helps students understand how performance can enhance a story's impact. Divide the class into groups. Each team selects a written narrative — for example, a Greek myth, African folktale, or Grimm Brothers story — for oral presentation. Along with the designated teller, the team may want to appoint a percussionist, singer, or sound-effects provider. During the performance, the teller must speak from memory, though improvisation is allowed and encouraged. It's best if students have a full class period for rehearsal and present their recitations the next day.

"Why Grandma, What Great Variations You Have." It's always fascinating to compare our conventional notion of a particular myth or folktale with a less familiar version. In the earliest known telling of "Little Red Riding Hood," the protagonist is bare-headed, and the wolf eats her. This activity invites the student to become an amateur folklorist. After selecting a favorite narrative, he then uses the Internet or library resources to try to recover the primal form of the story. In reporting back to the class, the student should begin by reading the strangest variation he unearthed. At what point, if any, does the story become recognizable? Compared with its descendant, does the older version embody a different theme or teach a different lesson?

The Faerie Gazette. Invite the class to imagine that daily newspapers issue from Faerie. After picking a favorite tale, the student imagines a typical article from The Fairyland Sentinel or The Enchanted Enquirer, then writes it out in her daily journal. This piece might be a news report (TROLLS PLAN TO RAISE TOLLS), a feature story (WAYWARD SLIPPER UNITES PRINCE AND SCULLERY MAID), or an editorial (WE MUST REOPEN THE HANSEL AND GRETEL CASE). At some point in the article, the student should allude to the theme of the Faerie narrative in question.

Wizards Around the World. Every culture boasts a rich trove of oral narratives. Working in groups, students can seek out non-Western examples of this tradition: myths and folktales from Japan, China, India, the Muslim world, African communities, and Native American tribes. They can share their findings by holding a "story swap" in the classroom, reading or performing their favorite discoveries. Do any of these non-Western tales have obvious Western equivalents?

Unit One Content

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Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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