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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit One: Introducing Tolkien and His Worlds

Comments for Teachers

There are several ways to launch Unit One and the Middle-earth course as a whole. You could begin by determining how much the class already knows about J.R.R. Tolkien and his masterpiece. It's important to clarify that The Lord of the Rings is not a true trilogy but a single, unified novel.

Another approach would be to inform the class of Tolkien's desire to fill the void created in world literature by the Norman Conquest, which suppressed English storytelling traditions. The author of The Lord of the Rings asked himself a fruitful question. What might the lost tales and poems of the English peoples — the Saxons and other tribes — have been like? Might it be possible to weave these hypothetical narratives into an ambitious work of fantasy?

Finally, you could key your opening remarks to the recent explosion of Tolkienesque tropes in the popular culture. Fantasy role-playing games, best-selling "epic fantasy" novels, movie heroes wielding light sabers against dark lords: these phenomena owe a huge debt to Middle-earth.

Unit One includes seven handouts, a small compendium of myths, folktales, ballads, and fairy stories derived from ancient traditions. We suggest that as Unit One progresses, students read at least three of these texts in class. Choose whichever narratives seem best suited to your students and your larger objectives. Additional resources for more examples are provided in the bibliography.

As they learn about the oral tradition in Unit One, students should be reading Chapters I-VII of The Hobbit at home. The in-class consideration of Tolkien's great novel for children begins with Unit Two.

Unit One Content

Comments for Teachers
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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