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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Six: Treebeard's Lament

Suggested Activities

What Moves a Mountain? Treebeard is among the most memorable examples of personification in twentieth-century literature. To give students firsthand experience with this technique, have them try empathizing with aspects of nature we donít normally regard as sentient. After thinking his way into the "mind" of this "creature" — boulder, hill, mountain, sunflower, river, breeze, rain shower — each student should write a three-way dialogue among Pippin, Merry, and the personified entity. The challenge is to avoid blatant anthropomorphism, so that the river becomes truly riverish and the wind convincingly windy.

In the Footsteps of Saruman. Wherever your school is located, it probably isn't far from a scene that would have aroused Tolkien's indignation: a polluted stream, sprawling mall, metastasizing highway. Have each student visit such a site, capturing salient details through a series of photographs or vivid sentences. In reporting back to the class, the student should speculate about the sources of the problem. Tolkien's heroes have Saruman, Sauron, and the orcs to blame for the desolation they witness. Whom might we hold responsible for our contemporary wastelands?

Banking the Fires of Orthanc. Chances are good that your community is dealing with some form of pollution or technological hazard, and quite possibly several. Have the class collect newspaper articles, including letters to the editor, that address threats to the local environment. Post the clippings in one corner of the classroom. Does the emerging collage suggest that existing regulations are adequate to the threat, or will some sort of community activism be required to bank the fires of Orthanc? In the students' opinion, does progress become most problematic when it destroys animal habitat or when it jeopardizes human health?

The Fangorn Channel. Trees are much in the news these days: the threat to the Amazon rainforest, conflicts between conservationists and the timber industry, various incompatible responses to the problem of forest fires. In this activity the class collectively prepares a simulated TV news broadcast in which every story is written by trees for trees. While most of the bulletins should deal with serious environmental matters, some students may wish to submit arborocentric weather reports, sports results, and movie reviews. If time permits and the technology is available, the class might record their program on video.

Unit Six Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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