This past weekend, I had the phenomenal pleasure of reuniting some of my dwarves for a trip to the movies to view The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. My students had been looking forward to this almost as soon as they had viewed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last December. Peter Jackson’s tantalizing teasers and trailers that have been airing for the last few months have driven my students to distraction and they have talked of little else for weeks.
My dream had been for all 13 of my dwarves to return for this reunion, but much as Lord of the Rings‘ fellowship was broken by uncontrollable and unfortunate circumstances; so was ours. Oin suddenly returned to Pakistan over the summer, so obviously the journey would have been a little difficult for him to make. We also lost Ori to a summer relocation, although in this case, it was only 15 miles away. Transportation was an issue for Dwalin, Kili, and Thorin. Although I wish I could provide transportation for all of my students, liability and logistics make it prohibitive. Bifur is an amateur junior golfer and had to forego the fun to compete in a golf tournament in Florida.
Most teachers do not choose to take their students on extracurricular trips outside of school hours, but as I have stated before on Teaching Tolkien, my ELL (English Language Learner) students are often denied such opportunities for educational enrichment due to socioeconomic challenges or language and cultural barriers that leave them afraid to leave their homes. Being involved in their community, both locally and globally, is something I highly encourage in all of my pupils. It fosters a sense of solidarity and allows them to feel invested and involved in their new culture and country, while still retaining their diversity and sharing it with others.
I had no idea that weddings and funerals would also affect the future of our field trip. No matter how much advance planning you put into something, there will always be unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. I had purchased all of the tickets well in advance (13 to be exact, which was rather coincidental), and had made carpooling arrangements for all attending students. The day before we were supposed to go, Balin received word there was a death in the family and she might have to attend a funeral instead. While we were all disappointed she wouldn’t be able to attend, we understood and were thinking first and foremost of her family. Unfortunately, Gloin was also dependent on Balin for transportation so we scrambled last-minute to find her alternative transportation. Once we got it settled, I went to bed that night, dreaming peacefully of dragons and dwarves and hoping a fun time would be had by all in the morning.
That morning brought surprises of its own. Balin called me last minute and said she would be able to attend after all because the funeral was going to be delayed by a few days, however, no sooner had I hung up with her than I received a phone call from Gloin‘s older sister. Gloin had forgotten that her cousin was getting married that day and she had to attend the wedding. I could hear Gloin pleading in the background with her sister to let her go to the movies instead. I assured her that even though she’d rather spend her Saturday with Smaug, she needed to fulfill her family duties first.
Heading to the theater, I was anxious at what other surprises might await me, but I was only pleasantly surprised. None of the tickets went to waste, and family and friends joined us, including younger siblings experiencing their first taste of Tolkien. Fili‘s little brother, also one of my ELL students, tagged along, too. Every day this week, he has come to my classroom at the end of the day to discuss the movie and ask me questions about Tolkien’s books and our blog. He has already acquired a copy of The Hobbit, which he assures me he can read over our upcoming winter vacation, and even though he is young; I believe he will.
I couldn’t have asked for better behavior from my young dwarves, whose maturity was noticeable as some of them are now sophisticated seventh-graders in middle school. We all loved the film, continued to talk about it all this week, and are more determined than ever to meet up next December for The Hobbit: There and Back Again.
Even those not in attendance had Tolkien on the brain. Ori was so bummed over not being able to join us, that he created this digital photo collage for our readers of his favorite moments from our fellowship’s journey.
Ori has inspired me with his continued dedication to Tolkien. Although he no longer attends my school, he continues to correspond with me and to follow our blog. He let me know this week that he has found a fellow Tolkien fan at his new school that he eats lunch with every day, as they discuss Tolkien and our blog. I am amazed every day at the passion of my students to not only read, but to share their knowledge and love of reading with others. And to think, it all started with a hobbit!