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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Four: One Ring to Rule Them All

Suggested Activities

The Culture of Temptation. Temptation becomes a huge issue for Tolkien's characters only when they are in proximity to the One Ring. In todayís consumer culture, by contrast, we are bombarded by temptations. Such entreaties may seem trivial compared with the dark bargain offered by the Ring, but we absorb them around the clock. Have students collect and share artifacts from the culture of temptation: junk mail, magazine ads, Internet banners, product packages. Through class discussions and journal writing, students should consider to degree to which these solicitations are Mordoresque in their appeal, promising their audiences newfound power and effortless control over others.

"Because It's My Birthday." In recounting the history of the One Ring, Gandalf places particular emphasis on Sméagol's lethal confrontation with Déagol. Working in groups of three, students should elaborate on this episode through drama improvisations, with one student playing Sméagol, another Déagol, another the Ring itself. By what arguments might Déagol convince Sméagol to let him retain the Ring? Assuming Déagol's moral makeup is different from Sméagolís, what shape might the former's corruption assume? How might the Ring make Déagol an ally in its quest to be reunited with Sauron?

Bombadil and the Contractor. In this daily journal activity, each student imagines that a building contractor has laid claim to the Old Forest. Tom Bombadil's house is the only impediment to clearing away the trees and replacing them with a shopping mall. The student should write out a conversation in which the contractor tries persuading Tom and Goldberry to abandon their domain. Tom's aim would be not only to confound the contractor — "Hey now! Merry dol!" — but to call into question the whole idea of "owning" a tract of wilderness.

Professor Tolkien Receives a Rejection. Not surprisingly, several years elapsed before The Lord of the Rings found a large readership: no book quite like it had ever appeared before. Ask the class to suppose that Tolkien's actual publishers never existed, and so he had to shop the manuscript around. Each student should imagine that he is an editor at an American publishing house circa 1950. The manuscript of Tolkien's novel has recently crossed his desk, and after perusing Book One he is utterly baffled. In writing the rejection letter, the editor should explain that the reading public simply isn't ready for Rings of Power, Black Riders, or furry-footed hobbits. Some students may prefer to portray sympathetic editors, in which case they should draft acceptance letters indicating why this strange book might, just might, earn back its production costs.

Unit Four Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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