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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Three: There and Back Again

Suggested Activities

Your Enchanted Neighborhood. This is a mapmaking activity. The student picks a familiar place (house, building, street, neighborhood), reimagines it as an enchanted realm, and prepares a map reminiscent of Thror's chart from Chapter I. What happens when we recast a cemetery as the Land of the Dead or a messy bedroom as the Vortex of Unwashed Garments? Are such transformations necessarily silly, or do they help us to see meaning in the mundane? What sort of quest might bring a hero to a post office, a municipal park, or a sewage treatment plant?

The Hero Next Door. Have each student select an acquaintance that he or she admires: doctor, minister, rabbi, teacher, grandparent, uncle. Equipped with a notepad or a recording device, the student then interviews this unofficial mentor. Does the subject see herself as a counselor in the Gandalf mold? As a pilgrim on a journey? As a seeker on a quest? What advice does the mentor have for young people? Students should write up the interviews in their daily journals.

A Dragonís Diary. A quest adventure typically requires the hero to defeat a dragon or other monster. In this activity, each student chooses a famous literary nemesis and then writes an entry in that creature's diary. The bestiary is large: Grendel, Humbaba, Polyphemus, Fafnir, Tiamat, Python, the Midgard Serpent, a dozen others. (To encourage original research, keep Smaug off limits.) While most students will want to narrate an encounter between dragon and hero, some may prefer to record a more boring day in the monsterís life.

Bilbo Goes to Hollywood. Ask the class to assume that a talented movie director has created an ideal adaptation of The Hobbit. Each student then writes a review of this nonexistent film, citing the choices the director made in successfully translating Tolkien's themes from text to screen. Conversely, the class might write negative reviews of a hypothetical failed attempt to film The Hobbit.

Epics North, East, South, and West. This activity requires you to equip the classroom with a large world map. Divide the class into teams, each of which then selects and researches a different heroic epic. Students needn't read the whole poem, but they should probe deeply enough to answer basic questions. From what culture does the epic emerge? Who is the hero? What does he seek? Each group should summarize its findings as an illustrated sidebar, posting it near the appropriate region on the map. The possibilities include: the Iliad and the Odyssey (Greece), the Aeneid (Italy), Beowulf (England), the Táin bó Cúailnge (Ireland), the Mabinogion (Wales), the Nibelungenlied (Germany), the Song of Roland (France), the Poem of My Cid (Spain), the Kalevala (Finland), Ilya Muromets (Russia), the Mahabarata (India), the Epic of Gilgamesh (Iraq), Shah-Namah (Iran), the Book of Dede Korkut (Turkey), Emperor Shaka the Great (South Africa), the Epic of Sundiata (West Africa), Lac Long Quang and Au Co (Vietnam), Popul Vuh (Central America), and Haion-Hwa-Tha (North America).

Unit Three Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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