What’s Happening This Week
There is much more to explore in our calendar. Find other important events in literary history, authors' birthdays, and a variety of holidays, each with related lessons and resources.
Looking for age-appropriate book recommendations, author interviews, and fun activity ideas? Check out our podcasts.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on this day.
|Grades||7 – 12|
|Calendar Activity Type||Author & Text|
J.R.R. Tolkien, Oxford don and professor of linguistics and medieval literature, was born in South Africa on this day in 1892. He is best known for his creation of the elaborate mythological world of Middle Earth. A tale told originally for his children's amusement, The Hobbit was published in 1937 to great acclaim. His more substantial work for adults, The Lord of the Rings, became a literary watershed with an inestimable impact on popular culture. Tolkien died in 1973.
With the film versions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit having become so popular in recent years, there is a good opportunity to compare the differences between print and nonprint media. Start with a brainstorming session on how movies tell their stories. Students may need prompting, but eventually they will generate a list that will likely include music, characters, costumes, settings, and acting. Then, ask students to think about how books or novels tell their stories; some things on this list will overlap with the first.
Next, have students read an excerpt from a Tolkien novel. One that works well is the scene from the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring in which Gandalf convinces Bilbo to leave the ring behind. Then, view the corresponding scene in the film version. This scene can be found at roughly 0:25.00 on your VCR or DVD counter. After viewing, have students write about changes the filmmakers made and, most important, why they made these changes.
As a final step, have students return to any text that they are currently reading in class and imagine how a particular scene might be filmed. Ask students questions such as the following: What music would be used? What actors would play the roles? What costumes would they wear?
- The Tolkien Society
The goal of this site is "to encourage and further interest in the life and works" of Tolkien by providing information about "the books he wrote, his life, and books others have written about him." It is a must-stop for Tolkien fans.
- J.R.R. Tolkien Trail, 24-Hour Museum
Explore pictures of real-life locations in Scotland, paired with descriptions that Tolkien used to describe his Middle Earth, at this National Virtual Museum site from the United Kingdom.
- Tolkien's Son Denies Rift
This is an article from the BBC website about Tolkien's son's response to the film version as compared to the original. After completing the Classroom Activity, introduce this article and have students respond to Christopher Tolkien's assertion that the books are "unsuitable to transformation into visual dramatic form."
Grades 9 – 12 | Professional Library | Book
In this practical guide, John Golden makes direct links between film and literary study by addressing reading strategies (e.g., predicting, responding, questioning) and key aspects of textual analysis.