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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Three: There and Back Again

Comments for Teachers

You might begin Unit Three by drawing students' attention to Tolkien's own description of The Hobbit: "If you care for journeys there and back, out of the comfortable Western world, over the edge of the Wild, and home again, and can take an interest in a humble hero (blessed with a little wisdom and a little courage and considerable good luck), here is a record of such a journey and such a traveler. The period is the ancient time between the age of Faerie and the domination of men, when the famous forest of Mirkwood was still standing, and the mountains were full of danger."

The Hobbit presents an intriguing variation on the usual quest narrative. The object of the expedition, Smaug's treasure, is not desired by the main character, Bilbo Baggins. The seeker is instead the obsessive dwarf Thorin Oakenshield. But Bilbo is also on a kind of quest. By joining the dwarves he hopes to prove to himself that he has inherited his grandfather's courage. While we would expect to find a brave-hearted fighter like Thorin venturing into a dragon's cave, Tolkien demonstrates that "a humble hero" may also be suited to such exploits.

A handout you may find particularly useful is "The Water of Life." The Grimm Brothers have given us a primordial quest story, the sort of tale that ignited Tolkienís own desire to write about "journeys there and back."

While studying Unit Three in class, students should be reading Book One of The Lord of the Rings at home.

Unit Three Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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