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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Three: There and Back Again

Key Terms

quest (qwest) An expedition undertaken to find or achieve something. The Hobbit tells of Thorin Oakenshield's quest to regain his people's wealth, stolen by Smaug. The word quest enters our language through quaesta, a form of the Latin verb meaning "to seek."

legend (lej-end) A story passed down for generations, conceivably rooted in an actual person or event. Examples include the legend of Robin Hood and the legend of King Arthur. Early in The Hobbit, the narrator recounts a humorous legend that supposedly explains the origins of golf.

symbolism (sim-ba-liz-em) The literary device of using concrete particulars to represent abstract ideas. When Bilbo imagines himself wearing "a sword instead of a walking-stick," Tolkien is using the walking-stick to symbolize everyday life and the sword to symbolize adventure.

allegory (al-a-gor-ey) A literary work in which each major character and event has a fixed meaning. In Edmund Spenser's epic The Faerie Queen, the ruler Gloriana represents Queen Elizabeth and the Red Cross Knight symbolizes Holiness. George Orwell's novel Animal Farm is largely an allegory of the Russian Revolution. Although allegories often take the form of quest stories, Tolkien explicitly rejected allegorical interpretations of his fiction.

animism (an-e-miz-em) The belief that every living thing is endowed with a soul and a personality. When Tolkien uses talking birds in The Hobbit, he is evoking the animistic world.

hoard (hord) A supply of something valuable, such as money or food, that is carefully guarded. In The Hobbit, the dragon Smaug keeps a hoard of stolen treasure. The word comes from the Old English hord via an Indo-European verb meaning "to cover."

bard A Celtic word for a poet. In The Hobbit, Bard is the name of the Lake-town man who slays Smaug.

Unit Three Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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