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Tolkien's Middle-earth:
Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators


Unit Two: Runes, Riddles, and a Ring of Power


Comments for Teachers

Itís important to clarify at the outset that, while The Hobbit is generally regarded as a "childrenís story," this course treats it as a valuable prelude to The Lord of the Rings and as an entrée into the larger world of heroic epic.

You might begin Unit Two by drawing the classís attention to the first page of The Hobbit, which features Tolkienís explanation of runes. The third sentence is remarkable: "English is used to represent the languages." In other words, Tolkien wants us to imagine that much of the dialogue in this story represents translations from other languages. Hobbits, dwarves, goblins, and elves all have their own distinctive tongues.

The astonishing fact, of course, is that Tolkien didnít simply posit these languages. He imagined what they might look and sound like, and in the case of the elven tongues — Quenya and Sindarin — he fashioned them in full. A brilliant philologist, Tolkien had a gift for devising syllables and syntaxes no one had ever heard before. Indeed, the authorís primary motive in creating Middle-earth was to give his invented languages a home.

Although Tolkien did not write The Hobbit with a sequel in mind, in retrospect the book seems rather like a rehearsal for The Lord of the Rings. Before the story is done, we leave the folktale realm of trolls and goblins to behold a spectacular clash of armies. Like The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is an epic fairy tale.

Beyond its emphasis on language, Unit Two highlights the fairy tale dimension of The Hobbit, beginning with the discussion of motifs and including the activity called "Finding Your Inner Troll." The next module focuses on The Hobbit as a heroic quest in the epic mold.

While studying Unit Two in class, students should be reading Chapters VIII – XIX of The Hobbit at home.


Unit Two Content

Overview
Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Handouts
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities
Bibliography

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