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The Hobbit Literature Unit Introduction

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is a great book to introduce the fantasy genre. The book is packed with high-interest, page turning material. There are also morals interlaced with adventure and consequences throughout.

As with many classics, there are several versions of The Hobbit on the market. I have noticed that recently some abridged versions have been appearing for younger readers. This unit, however, is based on the unabridged version although you could certainly take some of the activities and use them with the young reader versions.

The literature unit will be published in the following way:

The Hobbit: Introduction to the Unit
The Hobbit: Chapters 1-4
The Hobbit: Chapters 5-9 - COMING SOON
The Hobbit: Chapters 10-14 - COMING SOON
The Hobbit: Chapters 15-19 - COMING SOON

Each part will include suggested vocabulary, comprehension questions, activities, and miscellaneous useful links.

The Hobbit is not in the public domain yet (meaning that it is not available in the form of a free download), so you will need to purchase a copy of the book for this unit.

Book Summary

[From MonkeyNotes] Bilbo Baggins, a respectable and unadventurous hobbit, is paid a visit by Gandalf, a wizard, who offers him the chance to go on an adventure. Bilbo, in trying to get rid of the wizard, inadvertently invites him to tea the next evening. The next day, Bilbo is flustered to find that in addition to Gandalf, he seems to have invited thirteen dwarves to tea as well. As he serves the dwarves and Gandalf tea and then supper, Bilbo learns that Gandalf has advertised him to the dwarves as a burglar. The dwarves wish him to help them on their quest to the Lonely Mountain, where they hope to recover treasure from Smaug the dragon, who destroyed their ancestral home under the mountain. Though at first Bilbo quakes at the suggestion of meeting a dragon, he is challenged upon hearing the dwarves' disparaging his courage and abilities. Stung by their remarks, Bilbo throws himself into the adventure with uncharacteristic boldness and determination.

J.R.R. Tolkien Biographical Resources:

The Tolkien Society: http://www.tolkiensociety.org/tolkien/biography.html
Illustrated biography: http://home.freeuk.net/webbuk2/tolkien-biography.htm
Olney Essay: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/features/lordoftheringstrilogy/biography.shtml
The Tolkien Timeline: http://gollum.usask.ca/tolkien/
Tolkien Biography: http://www.indepthinfo.com/tolkien/biography.shtml

These are some introductory and/or pre-reading activities to prepare for the reading of The Hobbit.

1. Examine the book itself. Is it hardback or softback? Does it include illustrations inside or just on the cover? Check out the table of contents. Look at the back cover or book flap blurb that briefly describes the book's content. Based on these items, make a chart of what you think you know, what you know, and what you would like to know. Keep up with this list as you read and see if any of your chart entries change.

2. If you have a reader that also enjoys art and/or characterizations, you may wish to create a character folder. In this folder, notate all the character names that you run across and then draw a picture of this character based on descriptions included in the book. If a description is incomplete, have them note which details they are including for the character drawing from their own imagination. As they read through the book, have them keep new information that they discover about two or three of the characters and see whether this changes how they perceive the character to look, dress, etc.

3. Before reading the book, you may wish to do an author study. Find out what other books that J.R.R. Tolkien has written. Read some of his life story and while you are reading (or as a culminating activity) try and figure out what parts of his real life influenced his writing style and content.

4. J.R.R. Tolkien really enjoyed maps. You could use this as two different activities.
(a) Find a map of the world and notate the different locations that come up while reading a Tolkien biography.
(b) Tolkien drew the maps that are used as illustrations (if you book has them) for The Hobbit. Copy the maps and using a different colored pen or pencil for each character, mark their trails on the map(s) as the story progresses.

5. Nature plays a big role in all of Tolkien's books in one form or another. He mentions many species of trees and plants that actually exist. Create a Middle Earth Nature Sketchpad. Whenever you run across a tree, plant, animal, etc. in the book, draw a picture of it in your sketchpad. Differentiate those that appear in real life from those that Tolkien made up.

6. Music figures very strongly in many of Tolkien's stories. The characters do a lot of singing. In your best handwriting, you may wish to keep track of some of these songs, and decorate the edges of the page(s) with drawings of the musical instruments mentioned and/or pictures of the characters doing the singing and/or pictures of items in the story that pertain to the setting the song is being sung in.

7. Choose one or more of the mythological creatures mentioned in The Hobbit and do further research.

8. Folklore is a particular kind of fiction. Learn more about the genre of folklore and how it differs from plain fiction. Do you think that classifying The Hobbit as folklore is appropriate? Why or why not? Be specific. You may wish to re-ask this question after the book has been read. Did your answer change? If so, why?

9. For those students who are studying oration or who enjoying reading aloud, have them read into a recorder one or more of their favorite passages from the book. Critique the recording and then re-record the same passage(s) to see if they can improve the sound, cadance, annunciation, etc. Have a friend or other family member listen to the recording. Ask them if it makes them want to read The Hobbit.

10. Most of Tolkien's books are full of lesson, morals, parables, similes, etc. To "see" these, you must often look beneath the surface of the story. Make connections based on themes and character personalties with themes and personalities in the real world outside of the Tolkien universe of Middle Earth. Keep this in mind as you begin reading The Hobbit. See if you can see the difference between your average piece of fiction, and this masterpiece of literature.

11. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings triology have been called "epic fairy tales." Both the heroic epic and the fairy tale trace back to the oral tradition. Identify vestiges of the oral tradition thriving in the popular culture. The possibilities can include jokes, riddles, nursery rhymes, urban legends, family anecdotes, narrative songs, and the contemporary storytelling movement.

12. Tolkien presented his original idea of the "eucatastrophe" the sudden and felicitous turn of a protagonist's fortunes in a 1938 lecture titled "On Fairy-Stories." Identify the eucatastrophe in particular myths and folktales you are familiar with. Do these amazing "lucky breaks" follow certain patterns? Can you offer examples of eucatastrophes in the Bible, Hollywood movies, presidential elections, and professional sports? Keep track of the different "eucatastrophes" that appear in The Hobbit as you read the book.

Below I've included links to other on-line ideas to use with this unit. More specific links will be included in the chapter sections of the unit.

The Hobbit Site: http://www.mi.uib.no/~respl/tolkien/
The Hobbit: http://www.berghuis.co.nz/abiator/unit/hobbit/hindex2.html
Sparknotes for The Hobbit: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/hobbit/
Book Notes: http://www.bookrags.com/notes/hob/
Hobbit Quotes: http://www.coldal.org/hobbit.htm
Pink Monkey Book Notes: http://www.pinkmonkey.com/booknotes/monkeynotes/pmHobbit02.asp
Middle Earth Tours: http://fan.theonering.net/middleearthtours/
The NYTimes Tolkien Archives: http://www.nytimes.com/specials/advertising/movies/tolkien/index.html

On Line Lessons:


As stated above, as each unit section comes on line, I'll have more ideas that you can use. You may decide after reading each section to rearrange when you do some of the different crafts, recipes, activities, etc. That's perfectly fine. This literature unit is just to give you some ideas, not to replace your own creativity. Have fun with it ... and if you find or think up something that I missed, email me and I'll go back and add it to the unit so others can benefit from your resourcefulness. Have fun!

Suggested Resources:

Modeling the Classics Integrated Language Arts Lessons from The Hobbit


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