Perhaps one of the most profound results of the joint adventure my students and I shared in Middle-Earth was the way that Tolkien began to influence how we saw the world. After spending six months engrossed in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, my students lived and breathed all things Tolkien. They not only read every word of both books, but allowed Tolkien’s touch to influence their thoughts, words, and actions.
My students began to think of themselves as actual dwarves and felt they were embarking on their own quest, which on a much different scale, they were. Each afternoon they entered my language classroom armed with the tools they needed to be successful readers, but I was naive to think that their preparedness would stay contained within the classroom. The bonds we shared through books bonded us as our own fellowship and allowed us to develop skills in teamwork that strengthened our teacher/student working relationship.
Tolkien is a master craftsman at immersing the reader in his fantasy world and my students and I were no exception to his artistry. An engaging story is one that captures your attention and hooks you into the story. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are beyond engaging. The lovable characters, idyllic settings, and driving action of the plots allow you to believe that such a world could exist and even though you know it doesn’t, you dare to hope that you could find some shred of it existing in our world.
After attending Mythcon 44, the annual convention of the Mythopoeic Society (www.mythsoc.org), last month, it struck me that children are certainly not the only ones susceptible to the infectious sway of Middle-Earth. The enthusiastic fantasy fans I found there were dedicated devotees of Tolkien and shared the same passion as my young students. Even though these “mythies”, as they refer to themselves, range in age from college students to seasoned veterans, they are just as passionate about their love of fantasy literature as they were the day they discovered Tolkien for the first time.
One of my favorite features of Teaching Tolkien has been the comments shared with us by our readers regarding how my students’ story reminded them of when they first journeyed into Middle-Earth. I must admit that one of my hopes for the project was that our readers would be inspired to reminisce about their first time with Tolkien while my students were concurrently experiencing the same effect. Our posts achieved just that and taught my students that they had the power to inspire and touch others’ lives in the same way that Tolkien was influencing them.
The momentum we have gained on Teaching Tolkien has supported my initial instincts that people really do want to believe that no matter what happens in society or how much older generations think that posterity will never be as wise as they were; there are amazing things to be learned from the young. It is this self-evident truth which convinces me that our classroom experience should move beyond the internet and to the pages of our own book to share our story with even more readers and allow them to see how powerful Tolkien’s touch can truly be.