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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Six: Treebeard's Lament


"The Savage Sound of the Electric Saw"

In this letter to the Daily Telegraph, Tolkien responds to an editorial in which his country's Forestry Commission was cryptically accused of creating "a kind of Tolkien gloom." Tolkien takes the opportunity to assail "the destruction, torture, and murder of trees perpetuated by private individuals and minor official bodies. The savage sound of the electric saw is never silent where trees are still found growing."

"The Delight of the Living Tree Itself"

These three paragraphs from the "Lothlórien" chapter offer some of Tolkien's most beautiful writing. While the author evidently regards Galadriel's realm as an earthly Paradise, there is nothing supernatural going on here, only veneration of the natural. You may want to draw students' attention to the Tolkienian way that Frodo comes to appreciate trees "neither as forester nor as carpenter" but for their own sake.

Beowulf Comes to Heorot

Lord of the Rings enthusiasts note that the Riders of Rohan are evidently based on the ancient Anglo-Saxons. This inference is both true and false. Whereas Rohirric culture revolves largely around horses (their Sindarin name means "Masters of Horses," and they call themselves Éothéod, Tolkien's Old English coinage for "Horsefolk"), the historical Anglo-Saxons were never renowned for their horsemanship. The Rohirrim are the Anglo-Saxons not of fact but of legend, myth, and poetry. When Legolas says of Meduseld, Théoden's Golden Hall, "The light of it shines far over the land," Tolkien is actually quoting line 311 of Beowulf, "Lixte se léoma ofer landa fela."

This handout offers a passage from Beowulf in which the hero and his companions approach Heorot, the hall of King Hrothgar. The class can compare these verses with the scene from Book Three in which Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli first come to Meduseld (pages 496–501).

Students may be interested to know that the title of Tolkien's novel quite possibly traces to Beowulf. When the hero grapples with Grendel's mother at the bottom of the lake, he is saved from her savage claws by the linked rings of his chain-mail armor (lines 1506-1507):

Baer tha seo brim-wylf       tha heo to botme com,
hringa thengel       to hofe sinum

Then the angry sea-wolf       swam to the bottom
carried to her den       the lord of those rings

Our modern English rendering comes from Howell D. Chickering, Jr.'s celebrated interlinear translation. The special designation accorded Beowulf — hringa thengel, "the lord of those rings" — is the kind of conventional Anglo-Saxon poetic phrase known as a kenning.

Unit Six Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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