Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lord of the Rings Lesson Adapted Lesson Plan

    • Book One of THE LORD OF THE RINGS introduces us to Tolkien's most famous linguistic inventions, the two elvish languages. His admiration for the beauty of Finnish and Welsh influenced the creation of Quenya and SindarinQuenya was supposed to be the more ancient tongue, a sort of "Elvish Latin," used on special occasions not only by elves but also by highly civilized men, and even by scholar-hobbits like BilboSindarin was the living language of the elves. 
    • HOMEWORK: Learn how to write your name in Elvish
    • Once we review how to write both languages (link above) we will compare Sindarin and WELSH
    • Afterwards, we will read an excerpt from the Kalevala ("Land of the Heroes"), the national epic edited by Elias Lönnrot, which allows us to observe how Finnish influenced Quenya
  • Continue: Lord of the Rings Trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring

  • Although the Dark Lord, Sauron, bears the plural epithet  "Lord of the Rings," 
    • (adjective or descriptive phrase: expressing a characteristic of the person - because he "forged" the rings, and because he forged the last one, he is also known as the "Lord of the Rings" because he brought the rings into "being" and is now their CREATOR.
  • The plot of Tolkien's novel turns primarily (is mostly focused) on the last such artifact to be forged: the infinitely malevolent (adjective: showing a wish to do evil to others) and endlessly ambiguous (adjective: open to more than one interpretation or point of view; having a double meaning): ONE RING
  • In the opening chapters, Tolkien lays out this astonishing concept in sufficient detail so that we can begin immediately thinking about its thematic (adjective: relating to a them or particular subject) implications, such as: 
    • The metaphysical aspects of the ONE RING
    • Lord Acton's insight into the corrosive effects of power
    • Why Bilbo "took so little hurt" from his ownership of the Ring
    • Frodo's willingness to assume responsibility for the Ring 
  • Fantasy literature is sometimes dismissed as irrelevant to the concerns of a post-industrial society. This view does not withstand scrutiny  (noun: critical observation) In Book One of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien introduces two themes that are particular pertinent (adjective: important, relevant, or applicable) to the modern world. 
    • 1st: Power Corrupts: Lord Acton observed that "absolute power corrupts absolutely". 
      • Discussion: Does power corrupt? Can you be in a position of power over others without exercising it in a self-serving way? 
    • 2nd: Personal Responsibility:The sense of obligation we feel toward our fellow creatures. 
      • Discussion: The concept of personal responsibility occupies a place in THE LORD OF THE RINGS.Discuss examples. 
  • By the end of Book One, we learn that Sauron's Ring has many aspects. Beyond its status as a fount (noun: a source of a desirable quality or commodity; a spring or fountain: we sometimes refer to someone as a "walking encyclopedia") of absolute power, the object apparently functions as a kind of psychic amplifier. Gandalf tells Frodo that the corruption will be limited if the user is "strong-willed or well-meaning to begin with) (pg. 46). 
  • The One Ring is "addicting." Talking about Gollum's ownership of the artifact, Gandalf notes that "the thing was eating up his mind (p. 54). Gollum soon grew powerless over his craving: "He had no will left in the matter" (p. 54). Upon losing "the precious" to Bilbo, Gollum felt compelled to seek it out: "His longing for the Ring proved stronger than his fear of the Orcs, or even of the light" (p. 56). 
  • In the book, this Ring is talked about as if it were a sentient being. "A Ring of power looks after itself," Gandalf tells his hobbit friend. "It was not Gollum, Frodo, but the the Ring that decided things" (p. 54). When Frodo asks why the Ring selected Bilbo as its next owner, Ganfalf says "The Ring was trying to get back to its master" (p. 54). 
  • HOMEWORK: Go to USED BOOK STORE to look for 3 copies of the book so we can read it after we finish watching the movie

KEY TERMS FOR LORD OF THE RINGS(This is your Vocabulary List) 
  1. ForeshadowingA literary device through which an author offers hints of a major crisis to come. When Gandalf throws the Ring into Bilbo's fireplace (p. 48), Tolkien is foreshadowing the climax of the novel. Frodo's dream of the Sea foreshadows his final journey (p. 106). 
  2. Wraith (rayth) : A ghost or other supernatural manifestation. Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey argues that the author selected the term "Ringwraith" with care. "Wraith" traces to the Anglo-Saxon word for "writhe," which also gives us "wreath" - an object that is not only twisted (like the Nazgûl's souls) but also round (like the object the Nazgûl seek). 
  3. Fell: In its archaic sense: having a cruel, vicious, or deadly nature. Dreaming of a white-haired wizard, Frodo hears "the crying of fell voices" (p. 125). One of Tolkien's favorite words, "fell" occurs throughout THE LORD OF THE RINGS. 
  4. Lay: A narrative poem that is normally sung. Encamped to Weathertop, Aragorn soothes the hobbits with a lay about Beren and Luthien, the most famous lovers in the history of Middle-earth (p. 187-189). 
  5. Genius loci (jee-nee-es lo-si): A Latin term meaning "the spirit of the place." Tom Bombadil is, among other things, a genius loci of the Old Forest and its vicinity, "the Master of wood, water, and hill" (p. 122). 
  6. Barrow: A large mound of earth, usually above a tomb. The long-armed "barrow-wight" who nearly slays the three hobbits is thus a spectral being (Old English "wight") that haunts a gave. 
  7. Proverb (prah-vurb): A short saying expressing a presumed truth. Examples occur throughout THE LORD OF THe RINGS. During the debate over the best route to Crickhollow, Pippin offers his companions a proverb: "Short cuts make long delays" (p. 86). in the message the hobbits receive at the Prancing Pony, Gandalf heralds Aragorn by turning a famous proverb inside out, so that it becomes "All that is gold does not glitter" (p. 167). 
  8. Premonition (pre-me-ni-shen): A strong irrational feeling or vision regarding a future event. On the way to Crickhollow, Sam shares a premonition with Frodo: "I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness... I don't rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire" (p. 85). 
  1. THE IRREDUCIBLE RING: (Irreducible = adjective. Not able to be reduced or simplified). Which aspects of the ONE RING do you find especially compelling? Is the RING more of a psychic amplifier (enhancing behavioral weaknesses or tendencies already present int he person who wears it)? As a sentient creature (deliberately controlling the behavior of those in its vicinity)? As a psycho-physical addiction (sapping its owner's body and spirit even as it bestows longevity)? What other labels can you attach to the ring? Is it an advanced technology? A superweapon? A malign magnet? An invisibility charm with side-effects? lol 
  2. LORD ACTON'S INSIGHT: In 1887, the British historian JOHN EMERICH EDWARD DALBERG-ACTON articulated an idea that became famous: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Some critics believe that Lord Acton's insight influenced Tolkien's conception of ONE RING.  Give examples of other leaders (Monarch or otherwise) who negatively affected or impacted their kingdoms (or reign) due to having pursued power at all costs. 
  3. A RESPONSIBLE HOBBIT: Near the end of his long conversation with Gandalf, Frodo comes to a sober conclusion: "I suppose I must keep the Ring and guard it" (p. 60). A few lines later he elaborates, "I cannot keep the RING and stay here. I ought to leave for Bag End, leave the Shire, leave everything and go away" (p. 61). In agreeing to protect the RING, Frodo is evidentally not acting under coercion (noun: the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats) from Gandalf or any other authority figure. How do you account from Frodo's manifest sense of responsibility? Do most people enjoy feelings of obligation toward their fellow humans? Might Frodo's resolve to hit the road actually bespeak of the beginning of his corruption by the Ring? Yes or No, and why. 
  4. THE POWER OF PITY: A curious moment in the Tom Bombadil sequence occurs when he puts on the ONE RING and - nothing happens. How do you interpret this episode? Is Bombadil invulnerable merely because he is not human? Are there any qualities (characteristics) that might make a person temporarily immune to Sauron's RING? 
  5. THE WAY TO A WIZARD'S HEART: In one of Galdalf's most memorable speeches, he refuses Frodo's offer of the Ring: "Do not tempt me! Fo I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the RING to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength" (p. 60). Speculate on what Gandalf would be like or what Galdalf would do if he wielded this type of power? Describe this in a detailed CREATIVE ESSAY using Tolkienien-style language. 
  6. THE BURDEN OF OBLIGATION: From the very beginning, Frodo's conscientiousness causes him anguish: "I am not made for perilous questions," he says (p. 60). "I wish I had never seen the RING! Why did it come to me?" At one time or another, everyone has assumed responsibility he or she would rather have ignored. Share your thoughts on your experiences with such challenges. Have you ever taken on an obligation that ended up being a good (learning) experience for you? If yes, what and how. 
  7. THIS SIDE OF PARADISE: The Shire has an agreeable climate, a rustic charm about it, amiable inhabitants, creature comforts, apparent prosperity (and EXCELLENT FIREWORKS!) ... wouldn't that make it an ideal place to live? Would you like to spend the rest of your life in the Tolkien's Shire (utopia)? Yes or No, and Why. 


  1. THE CULTURE OF TEMPTATION: Temptation is a HUGE issue for Tolkien's characters, but mostly when they are in proximity to the ONE RING (fireworks/food/roasted marshmallows, lol). In today's consumer culture, we are bombarded by temptations. While these entreaties may seem trivial compared with the dark energie offered by the RING, we absorb these temptations around the clock. How do they influence us? Collect objects or artifacts from the culture of temptation (junk mail, magazine ads, Internet banners, product packaging, the product itself). Consider to which degree these solicitations are MORDORESQUE in their appeal, promising their audiences newfound power and effortless control over others. 

  • Using "The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy"(One book to rule them all) by Gregory Bassham and Eric Bronson, discuss lessons in Power, Choice, and Morality:
  • Plato's Challenge of Immortality - Republic - justification of the morally good life.
  • Plato's Question: would a just person be corrupted by the possibility of almost unlimited power? 
  • Even though Tom Bombadil is cut from the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring, Bombadil, who seems to have complete power and command over all the living things in the Forest, rescues the four hobbits twice. Who is Bombadil? Is he a Wizard? An elf? A mortal man? His wife, Goldberry, describes him to Frodo quite simply: "He is, as you have seen him... He is the Master of wood, water, and hill" (FR, p. 140). And Tom describes himself as " before the river and the trees." 
  • In Tolkien's tale of the ONE RING of POWER, we find the answer to the challenge to the moral life first proposed by PLATO almost 2,400 years ago. Faced with the ability to satisfy one's desires without limit and without consequences, can a person choose the path of virtue and renounce immense power? For PLATO, the answer was YES, for the moral person can realize that a life of immoral power will corrupt the heart and soul. Discuss examples from the book. 
  • The threat of technologies that we are currently forging will give us unprecedented power to heal and preserve things (regeneration of our cellular bodies, eventually avoiding bodily death). But they will also give us the power to destroy the Earth and all of its inhabitants (nuclear war, global warming). Nanotechnology, for example, has the capability to design and control the structure of an object on all length scales from the atomic to the macroscopic. Thus nanotechnology is the attempt to build devices by directly manipulating the atoms and molecules out of which they are made. This sort of molecular engineering is something that we do every ay. The ribosomes in our cells, for example, make proteins by fishing amino acid molecules out of protoplasm and knitting them together in the long chains. In principle, there's no reason why we can't make machines that function like ribosomes. Instead of knitting together amino acids to make proteins, we could become universal assemblers that could knit together any sort of atom or molecule to create any sort of structure (or being). The elves created the RINGS because they wanted to remake their world. Nanotechnology promises to give us the same power. What do you think might happen in the future? How might the world become different? (Creative Writing Essay). 
Additional Philosophical discussions can be found in "The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy" or by simply discussing certain ethical and moral complications associated with the RING as an object as well as our responsibilities to our fellow creatures. 

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