Beyond IQ

 Writing Bravery in The Hobbit

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Instructor:
 Maria Johnson
3-12 students
Suggested Age Ranges: 13-18
Meets: Mondays, 10:00am, 8 sessions, starting January 27th.

Course Description:

J. R. R. Tolkien plays the role of a loquacious narrator throughout The Hobbit. He is in continual dialog with us, the reader, telling of Biblo’s epic adventure. Together, we will read chapters of The Hobbit, focusing on the topic of Bilbo’s bravery through the eyes of Tolkein, the narrator.

This class is recommended for learners aged 11-15. We meet either twice a week for 4 weeks or once a week for 8 weeks, depending on the term, reading select chapters closely. After each class, learners will have the opportunity to complete their assigned reading and a writing challenge. Between class meetings, learners will need access to a word processor and The Hobbit so they can read more of the story


Overarching Questions:

       How and when was Bilbo brave and courageous in The Hobbit?

       What role does Tolkien play in shaping Bilbo’s transformation for the reader?

       What makes Bilbo change and become more courageous?

       Why does Tolkien value and spend so much time on going out of your comfort zone?

       What can we learn from Bilbo’s transformation as portrayed by Tolkien?

Course Schedule:

       1. Chapter 1 (23 pages)

       Tolkein sets up the whole story in this chapter. We learn about Bilbo’s character and ancestry, Gandalf, and the situation with the dwarves. The sharpest contrasts between Bilbo’s existing comfortable life and his soon to be adventurous one are clearly visible in this chapter.

       Questions for discussion:

       How did adventure land on Bilbo’s doorstep?

       Why did Gandalf choose Bilbo?

       What is the significance of the Tookish blood within Bilbo?

       How do we see the two sides of Bilbo struggling as matters of the forthcoming adventure are being discussed?

       What outside influences, such as music and provocation, play a part in changing Bilbo’s mind about the adventure?

       What role does “comfort” play in the Hobbit life?

       What is Tolkien, the narrator, adding to this account? What is he communicating to the reader? How does this compare to a children’s story, such as Alice in Wonderland?

       What changes in Bilbo’s character do you see even in this first chapter?

       2. Chapter 5 (20 pages)

       This chapter falls closely to the middle of the book. Clearly, Bilbo already is a new person. This chapter narrates the exchange between Bilbo and Gollum.

       Questions for discussion:

       Having lost his home comforts, what new ways does Bilbo find to comfort and strengthen himself?

       In what ways can we compare Bilbo and Gollum? Is Gollum similar to Bilbo? How does Bilbo compare himself to Gollum?

       What role do the riddles play in this scene?

       How do stress and fear influence Bilbo’s actions and words?

       Tolkien introduces the magical ring in this chapter, how does he do so? Does it feel natural or orchestrated? What role does “luck” play in this scene?

       Bilbo shows many moments of bravery. What would have happened had he not? How did he do so? When did he do so?

       3. Chapter 12 (18 pages)

       At last, Bilbo confronts the dragon himself. His greatest act of bravery! Bilbo’s transformation of character shines brightest here in the moments before and after the confrontation.

       Questions for discussion:

       In chapters 1, 5, and now 12 we see darkness holds significance. Why is this?

       Bilbo continues to struggle with his Tookish and comfortable Hobbit natures. Where is this seen within the chapter? Why is he still struggling?

       Tolkien wrote, “He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone.” Why does he consider it so? What happened or didn’t happen in that tunnel? What did Bilbo overcome? How did he show bravery?

       How did Bilbo earn the respect of the dwarves and even become “the real leader in their adventure?”

       What makes Bilbo a good burglar?

       How does Tolkien show (not tell) that Bilbo is scared? What makes Bilbo overcome these fears?

       How might you overcome homesickness?

       4. Chapter 19 (7 pages)

       Now the story concludes. Bilbo gets to come home, albeit as a very different little Hobbit.

       Questions for consideration:

       Looking closely at the songs sung in the last chapter, what are they singing about? How does this reflect the attitudes held by the adventurers? What does it mean to come home?

       Bilbo’s desire for comfort has been a constant friend of ours. Now finally at home again, where does comfort come in? Is Bilbo glad? What does he immediately reinstate into his routine?

       Handkerchiefs, or the lack of them, play a supporting role throughout the entire book. What could be said for this? What is Tolkien communicating to us?

       Gandalf said, “Something is the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were.” Tolkien relates that Bilbo’s neighbors now think him queer. How has Bilbo changed? Is it for the better?

       Would you go on an adventure?

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Final Assignment:

We will have one assignment due at the end of term. Students may choose from the following

  • Story

       Write an adventure story with a heavily involved narrator.

       Mimic Tolkien’s style of writing, where we know everything that is going on, everything everyone is thinking, and the significance of everything. Use an omniscient view of the story.

       Minimum -  1,000 words

  • Object

       Draw or 3D sculpt a scene where a hero is overcoming his fear and exhibiting bravery.

       Explain your art and how your hero was brave.

       Explanation minimum - 500 words.

  • Report

       Write a report about how people can overcome their fears.

       Reference scenes from the book where Bilbo was brave and how he overcame his fears.

       Minimum - 1,000 words.

 

Required Texts:

The Hobbit - Link

Participation:

Our class is structured as a discussion. Questions fuel our class. Therefore, participation on the part of the student is very important. I want to hear the student’s thoughts and opinions. That said, I do not need the “perfect” answer. You cannot edit a blank page, nor can you strengthen a silent response. I hope the student will feel comfortable to share without worrying about their grade or my opinion of them. If the student does not feel comfortable speaking in class, there will be a document open where they can write. This document will be open in between classes if the student wants to reflect and contribute later. I count participation because I want the student’s voices to make up our discussions.

Resources:

For the lecture itself, we will use Zoom. Class communication, discussion, and homework will be done through Google Drive.

Plagiarism:

Students should always do their own work. Cheating and copying are not allowed.

Accommodations:

Students’ age, experience, and limitations will be taken into consideration and potentially accommodated for. Let me know if assistance is needed.

The instructor reserves the right to change this syllabus at any time. Students and parents will be informed of these changes by email and/or in class. 


Register for Writing Bravery in The Hobbit here!


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