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  2003 by Amelia Harper. All rights reserved

Literary Lessons from the Lord of the Rings


Try celebrating the different cultures of Middle earth with special days or weeks. Here are some ideas, but feel free to add your own!


    One day could be Elf day and the students could choose different Elvish projects such as composing poems or songs, making an Elvish costume, making  a bow or doing an archery demonstration, baking lembas (some recipe suggestions are available on the Internet and will be posted later), or doing something creative with a plant.  Of course, true Elvish magic is beyond the mortal scope, but you get the idea.  :) You could research some of the history of the Elves-- like stories of the heroic Glorfindel or the rebellious and complicated Galadriel). Advanced students may want to dip into The Silmarillion for this. Also, Christopher Tolkien's THE PEOPLES OF MIDDLE-EARTH has some interesting information about Elves and the other cultures.


Another day could celebrate the Hobbit culture. Serve (ginger) ale and mushrooms (perhaps on pizza?) Dress in Hobbit garb. Recite some hobbit poems (More are found in The Tolkien Reader). Bring in flowering plants that a student has grown. Have a gift exchange of mathoms (as Bilbo did, getting rid of unwanted items.) Have a riddle contest. Have a fireworks display. You get the idea. Students may come up with even more ideas as they immerse themselves in the culture.

You could use this also to discuss the simple farming techniques of the Hobbits--perhaps by discussing the Almish culture, where no machines are employed. Or discuss their love of pipeweed. Could this possibly explain why they were so short and are now scarcely to be found????


 Another day could be Dwarf Day. Perhaps you could make something with (fake) gems. Make an ax. Compose dwarf poems (note that they are different in style and subject. The poetry unit has a little more on this). Dwarves were great with rock and stone and created wonderful cities and buildings. Perhaps this might provide some other ideas for enterprising students. Some students may have metal-working material that they could demonstrate, or they may try to make a replica of chain mail.

There is some interesting information in the appendix about the history of the Dwarves. The Dwarves were, on the whole, a rather materialistic society. They shared their love of jewels with the dragons, who were their mortal foes. Many of Tolkien's stories connect the dwarves and the dragons (such as The Hobbit). Maybe this could lead into a discussion about our gold rush fever in America or about materialism in general. (The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep and awoke the Balrog, remember.) Tolkien has an interesting poem called "The Hoard" in The Tolkien Reader. It is about the lust for gold and how it affects men, dwarves, and dragons. This may be good to include.


One day could be about the Men and warfare. You focus on the knightly customs and the code of chivalry. (This would be especially effective after the Arthurian unit study) Explore the swords and other weapon of medieval times.  Students-- especially boys at this age-- eat this stuff up! Discuss sword naming-- Have then think of names for their own IMAGINARY swords.

You could also discuss the various attitudes toward war in the book. THAT would be a great and relevant discussion. Assign kids to read different attitudes from the book (that you assign): the Ents, the Men of Rohan, Eowyn, the Warden in the house of healing, Theoden (before and after), Faramir, Boromir, Aragon, Merry and Pippin, Frodo, the Elves.... the book is full of these discussions. Read some of Tolkien's comments about the atom bomb (from his Letters) and discuss how the Battle of Somme influenced the Dead Marshes. Discuss the role that Tolkien and his sons played in WWI and WWII. How is modern warfare different than that in the book? (the blasting fires were an early and evil introduction). Then let the students share how they feel about war. When is it right and necessary?


  You could also do similar projects when you get to the Epic, Beowulf, and Arthurian Romance Unit studies. You could have students do hands on projects representing these different projects, or later, have them do a project to represent their favorite culture among the three.


Birthday Bash

 Celebrate Frodo and Bilbo's Birthday (September 22) with A Long-Expected Party of your own. Serve Hobbit fare-- baked goods, ginger ale, mushrooms (perhaps on pizza). Have a gift exchange. Remember that Hobbits gave AWAY stuff on their birthday, so why not have students bring mathoms (useless junk that they own and wish to get rid of) and draw names, much like with White Elephant gifts. If it is safe, you may could even have fireworks! A great way to start the school year and generate excitement for the program.

The Gondorian New Year

Keep in mind the date of March 25th for a possible party. Hopefully, the kids will have read the Mount Doom chapter by then. If so, celebrate the Gondorian New Year on that date. King Ellesar (Aragorn) established that date in honor of the day that Frodo threw the Ring into the Fire and destroyed Sauron's realm. Don't give this information away too early though! But this is a great time to throw a party. Some stores have LOTR cake kits and can make you a cake for the occasion. I did this and had Happy New Year's Day written on it, to the confusion of the store clerks!

Middle-Earth Celebration-- End of the Year Party

 Let them dress up as their favorite character from The Lord of the Rings and be prepared to explain their choice. Serve Middle-earth foods from the various cultures. There are some great recipes on the Internet. In a pinch, Twinkies can substitute for lembas. The real thing is getting harder and harder to find... You may want to have them memorize a poem that represents the culture that they choose. Or even compose a new one!



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