Happy Tolkien Reading Day! (2021 Edition)

Happy Tolkien Reading Day, everyone!

Each year, the holiday looks a little different for me. One year (before kids), I read The Hobbit in one day. It satisfied my soul, though my eyes certainly complained the next day. Last year, it was a beacon in a dark season. It reminded me that, like Easter, darkness can’t hold back the coming dawn.

This year, my focus is cultivating a love of Tolkien into my children so that they become third generation Tolkien fans. Between Lord of the Rings Little People, the Unexpected Party from The Hobbit film, and Middle-earth-inspired food, we’ve already had an adventurous day and there’s more to come after naptime.

Obviously, I want them to like the same fandoms that my husband and I do. (I converted him not long after we got married.) But more than that, I want them to understand some of the most important things that I’ve learned from the lore of Middle-earth. Heroism. Sacrifice. Courage. Friendship. Contentment. The beauty of becoming immersed in a magical world that is unlike our own yet shares truth that they can hold onto.

As I enjoy these last few minutes of quiet before naptime ends and the Chelsea buns are ready to be rolled out, I reflect on how grateful I am for inspiring stories, like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. They have shaped my life, and I hope that they shape my girls’ lives for the better too.

My kids’ new favorite Little People…

Are you celebrating Tolkien Reading Day? What are your favorite ways to celebrate?

The Silmarillion Recap: The Journey’s End

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, Gondor became the kingdom that we all know from The Lord of the Rings. This week, we finally  have the conclusion of our journey through The Silmarillion.

“Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” part 9

The current state of Middle-earth is a far cry from what the Valar originally intended. The peaceful world that they hoped for filled with the Firstborn and Secondborn of Ilúvatar (Elves and Men) has descended into chaos. And as this part of the story of Middle-earth concludes, there are a few final events to discuss that lead up to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

First, Elrond makes his home of Rivendell (called Imladris by the Elves) a refuge, filled with the books, songs, and lore that those familiar with the other books know well. Among those who take sanctuary in the Last Homely House (as it’s known in The Hobbit) are the Heirs of Isildur. After all, they are basically his great-nephews (with many generations in between). They also keep the Shards of Narsil (the sword that cut the Ring from Sauron’s finger) there as well. Even though Elrond doesn’t know the future exactly, he does feel that something great will become of Isildur’s descendants and the broken sword one day.

The main reason that Rivendell so well-preserved is because he still has one of the Three Rings that had been given to the Elves. Galadriel still has one as well, which maintains the beauty of Lothlórien. That third Ring, though? Well, its location isn’t revealed at the moment, but it is given in The Lord of the Rings.

Even though Sauron went missing for a while after his last defeat, he hasn’t been defeated. Instead, he sets up shop in Dol Guldor, an old fortress situated in the forest once known as Greenwood the Great. Thranduil (Legolas’ dad) has his kingdom there and has enjoyed peace for a long time, but once Sauron arrives, he focuses on keeping the evil forces that followed Sauron at bay. His beautiful forest loses the name Greenwood and eventually becomes Mirkwood. (And this is the state of things during The Hobbit.)

And now for the final piece of the puzzle: the Wizards. It’s been a long time since the Valar have directly intervened on behalf of the inhabitants of Middle-earth. However, they do so now by sending servants, known as the Istari or Wizards (by men). They are sent as a direct response to Sauron’s growing threat and to inspire Elves and Men alike. Even though only three of the five make appearances in the books, Gandalf and Saruman are key players in the books in which they appear.

Before the events of The Hobbit, Gandalf is the first to suspect that Sauron is trying to make a stronghold in Greenwood (aka Mirkwood). When he investigates Dol Guldor, Sauron flees. However, it’s not long before he shows up again… and brings us to the events of The Hobbit and later The Lord of the Rings.

And that’s it. The rest of this book is actually summary of The Lord of the Rings and the backstory for what Gandalf was doing whenever he left the Company in The Hobbit (which was included in the Peter Jackson films).

Now where does that leave us on Wednesdays? That’s to be determined. I have some ideas, but if you have any suggestions, let me know! :)

An Intro to the Hero’s Journey

Since I’ve been teaching the same middle school English classes for five years, I like to find ways to mix it up and keep it fresh every once in a while. This year, I decided to do it by introducing the concept of the hero’s journey, also known as the monomyth.

My 8th graders are just starting The Hobbit and writing their short stories. (The timing is very intentional. :) ) Teaching about the hero’s journey seemed a perfect way to compliment both. After all, the hero’s journey is everywhere around us, both in reality and the stories we tell.

To help explain the concept, I found a great TedTalk that explains the different parts of the cycle and how it’s applied to a variety of well-known stories.

When I first started the lesson on the hero’s journey, my students stared at me quite blankly. However, once they saw the video, they lit up and suddenly realized just how many stories are, indeed, telling the same story, regardless of genre or setting.

That’s one of the amazing things about stories, though. It doesn’t matter how many times we tell the same basic stories. Each retelling is unique yet still resonates with us in the same ways.