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Recorded HS
The Hobbit or There and Back Again as Gateway to J.R.R.Tolkien

In this high school course, you’ll discover The Hobbit is more than a delightful and clean-hearted children’s tale. As you read through this course, you will see the emergence of the power and beauty of Tolkien’s greatest themes that radiate through his Lord of the Rings.

Total classes: 7

Prerequisite: Ability to read the book with pleasure at about three chapters per week. Since most students will have seen the Peter Jackson films and will want to make comparisons, it is probably a good idea to see them.

Suggested grade level: 9th to 12th


Tolkien’s The Hobbit was written as a children’s story and retains much of the clarity and light-heartedness of its kind. But Bilbo Baggins’ world is slowly made richer and deeper both by the author’s use of the Catholic elements from the great medieval saga of Beowulf and the background world of Tolkien’s deepest Elvish imaginings. By the end of the novel, Tolkien’s life-long themes become clarified here, including 1) a long-fought history that shapes the needs and duties of each newly modern era; 2) the need for heroism from simple people; 3) the necessity for constant moral vigilance by those who are destined to lead; 4) the conquest of charity over greed; 5) Tolkien’s growing understanding of the role of kingly leadership in Catholic society; 6) his sense of the ever-present role of Providence in life, and 7) the sorrow and beauty created by these first six themes. The success of this novel convinced Tolkien and his wise and humane publishers, Allen and Unwin, that the modern world was ready to hear more of the complex moral and supernatural world which Tolkien once thought was of interest mostly to scholars of the ancient like himself. We will both discuss the book and welcome comments about the films.


Week 1: Biography of J.R.R.Tolkien

Week 2: Chapters 1-3: An Unexpected Party—A Short Rest

Week 3: Chapters 4-6: Over Hill and Under Hill—Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire

Week 4: Chapters 7-8: Queer Lodgings—Flies and Spiders

Week 5: Chapters 9-11: Barrels out of Bond—On the Doorstep

Week 6: Chapters 12-14: Inside Information—Fire and Water

Week 7: Chapters 15-19: The Gathering of the Clouds—The Last Stage

Materials and Homework

Course Materials: The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, any unabridged edition will do.

Homework: Each week you will read two to three chapters of the epic. That will take about 1 to 1.5 hours for most readers. There will be weekly automated-graded quizzes available for immediate feedback, as well as two exams, one in the middle and one at the end of the course.

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