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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

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

Key Terms

philology (fill-oll-oh-gee) The study of languages and how they change over time. J.R.R. Tolkien was one of the greatest philologists who ever lived. Philology literally means "love of words."

runes (roons) The characters of ancient Germanic alphabets. Because they were cut into wood or scratched on stone, runes are thin and angular. Early Anglo-Saxon texts were written in runes.

epithet (ep-a-thet) A descriptive word or phrase added to a person's name. Early in The Hobbit, Bilbo acquires the epithet Burglar. The dwarf Thorin bears the epithet Oakenshield.

Indo-European A vast family of languages, spoken by about half the world's population. English belongs to the Indo-European group.

Old English The language spoken in many parts of Britain from about A.D. 450 to 1150. Old English is also known as Anglo-Saxon.

Beowulf (bay-oh-wolf) The only complete epic poem to have survived in Old English. It tells of the mighty warrior Beowulf, who protects his people by killing the water monster Grendel, then Grendel's mother, and finally a ferocious dragon. Tolkien was one of the world's greatest experts on Beowulf, and the poem strongly influenced his fiction.

Unit Two Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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