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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Seven: Tolkien's Moral Universe

Content Focus: The Lord of the Rings, Book Four
Thematic Focus: The Nature of Good and Evil


No less compelling than the physical landscape of Middle-earth is the metaphysical terrain that Tolkien's characters negotiate. In Unit Seven, students examine the moral universe of The Lord of the Rings with special emphasis on the nuances the author brought to the classic dichotomy between good and evil.

Learning Goals

By the end of Unit Seven, the student should be able to:

• Appreciate Tolkien's use of the literary device called "doubling."

• Discuss how the author develops Elrond’s premise — "nothing is evil in the beginning" — in Books Three and Four.

• Make a case that Tolkien rejected "Manichaean dualism."

• Indicate the differences between an ethics based on rules and an ethics based on virtue.

• Say what is meant by a "false virtue."

Unit Seven Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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These lesson plans were written by James Morrow and Kathryn Morrow in consultation with Amy Allison, Gregory Miller, Sarah Rito, and Jason Zanitsch.

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