Where in the World are Tolkien Fans?

“He gave out that he was interested in history and geography (at which there was much wagging of heads, although neither of these words were much used in the Bree dialect…and that he and his friends wanted to collect information about hobbits living outside the Shire, especially in the eastern lands.” 

A starting point for locating our readers

A starting point for locating our readers

As my class returned from spring break vacation this week, we resumed our reading with chapter 9, At the Sign of the Prancing Pony, whereupon the hobbits enter Bree.  While my students were eager to talk of their travels during their holiday, they were also eager to follow the hobbits’ travels.  We looked through the appendices to find Tolkien’s maps of Middle-Earth and located Bree’s proximity to The Shire.  Most students were surprised at what little distance the hobbits have traveled on the map compared to how long it seems they’ve been on their journey.  Some students looked ahead at some of the other maps for later parts of the journey and were able to empathize with Frodo as the distance to Mordor seems impossible to reach and to read.  I keep reassuring my students that Frodo will make it and so will we.

The theme of today’s lesson was geography, inspired by you, the readers of our blog.  During my brief respite from school, I took some time to review the stats on our blog, which show the great diversity of our readership and are a true testimony to the universal appeal of Tolkien.  For our first day back, I thought my students would appreciate an interdisciplinary learning experience incorporating both map-reading and language-based skills.  I thought this brief diversion would stimulate their interest in reading, which may have waned after a week off of school, and allow them to see the impact they are having on the diverse body of Tolkien fans around the world.

Using a box of push-pins and some twine, we decided to track the concentration of our readers on our classroom world atlas.  We discovered our greatest number of readers are in the United States, so my students inserted the first pin there and then pulled the string north to Canada.  Using this lesson as a teachable moment, I tried to provide my students with a few facts about each country, such as the languages spoken there or noted geographic features of each area.  Our third-highest concentration of readers was in New Zealand.  My students were extremely excited to have to measure out more string to trace a south-eastern path across the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, Indian Ocean, and Australia to finally reach New Zealand.  They were initially surprised at the number of readers we have there, until I shared with them that all of the Peter Jackson adaptations were filmed there and that as a result, New Zealand has become the honorary ‘home of Middle-Earth’.

Proud to be from India

Proud to be from India

A South Korean shout-out to our readers there!

A South Korean shout-out to our readers there!

My students were elated when they discovered they had followers from their own countries.  I allowed the students who had cultural connections to the countries we were identifying to have the honor of inserting the pin into their homeland.  Although our lesson today spent more time on the map than in the text, it allowed my students to see that what they’re doing is significant and having a positive influence on others.  Thank you for providing my students with that lesson and for sharing the blog with fellow Tolkien fans.  We will continue to showcase you in our classroom and view our atlas as a work-in-progress.  Teaching Tolkien welcomes everyone!

We love our Tolkien fans!

We love our Tolkien fans!

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5 Comments on “Where in the World are Tolkien Fans?”

  1. Troelsfo
    April 4, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    I cannot quite see on the map if you have marked Denmark, but we are here! I live about 15 miles from Lejre, where lies the hall where Beowulf according to the poem killed Grendel — Tolkien was very familiar with the poem and its inspiration can be seen in many places in both ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

    I have been meaning to ask how the perception of the book is different for non-native speakers from native speakers?

    My own English lessons started in fifth grade, but I didn’t feel ready to take on “The Lord of the Rings” in English until many years later when I was at university (studying physics, but that’s a wholly different story), at which point I was quite familiar with the story from the Danish translation. I am deeply impressed by you students, taking on the book as non-native speakers without even the advantage of knowing the story beforehand.

    • hmrodgers
      April 4, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

      So you’re one of our Denmark readers! Yes, we did mark it on the map and when we did, I told them how I had been to Copenhagen as a child and took a picture next to the famous ‘Little Mermaid’ statue. In answer to your question, I think what makes the book particularly challenging for non-native English speakers is the vocabulary. Lord of the Rings would be challenging for most 5th/6th graders who are not avid, independent readers, but many of my students read below grade-level, so it is even more of a challenge. I only pursued this with them because they requested the book. There have been many studies done on motivation being a key factor in reading success and I truly believe a child can read anything they want if they are determined to do so. Thank you so much for supporting them and I hope you will continue to enjoy our blog.

  2. denizb33
    April 5, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    So much fun! Hmm, I could count as both from Turkey and Canada!

  3. Troelsfo
    April 7, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Trying to drum up even more readers – you will notice the mention of this blog featuring at the top of the list of “Commentary” (now I hope it works as long as the “http://” part is omitted …):

    parmarkenta.blogspot.com/2013/04/tolkien-transactions-xxxv.html#05_Comments

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