J. R. R. Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring



There are two parts to this assignment. Both parts are to be passed in on time as LATE PAPERS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.


Part 1: Do ONE of the following essay questions. (50%)


1. The story of the ring is older than Tolkien. It first appears in Plato's Republic as "the Ring of Gyges" (359d-360d). However, Plato borrows the story of Gyges from an older source in Herodotus' Histories (I, 8-15). Read the brief excerpts from Herodotus and Plato. Write an essay that discusses the meaning of each excerpt, and how Tolkien's story adapts these ancient tales. In each case, what image of human nature is being portrayed? Do you agree with the portrayal of human nature that is offered? Why or why not?


2. What is the significance of Gollum's having been a hobbit before acquiring the Ring? How can greed, envy, and other vices—especially when associated with an object of great beauty or value—so transform someone?


3. What qualities do Sam, Pippin, and Merry possess that make them suitable companions for Frodo on his journey? As the story progresses, how do the four change and grow?

4. We are told that "there is a seed of courage hidden . . . in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow." In what ways does this become evident of Frodo, Sam, and the other hobbits?

5. What kinds of songs are sung in The Lord of the Rings? Do the circumstances in which each is sung have particular importance? How do their own songs and songs taught to them help Frodo and his friends?


6. The Lord of the Rings is influenced by Tolkien's experiences of modern warfare in the trenches on the Western Front during World War I. The characters of the Hobbits are meant to reflect the same kind of dogged determination that the ordinary British soldiers revealed when fighting alongside Tolkien. Do some historical research and draw out more parallels between The Fellowship of the Ring and the battle experiences of the First World War.


7. Two branches of scholarly study, philology, and etymology, involve the study of words. Philology is literally "the love of words," whereas etymology is the study of the roots or origins of words. Investigate the origins of names in The Lord of the Rings. For instance, Mordor derives from the Old English morthor, which means murder; Saruman is derived from the root searu- for treachery or cunning. Research the meanings of other names and places in The Fellowship of the Ring. How are the names that Tolkien gives his characters significant to our understanding of his great three-part masterpiece?


8. How would Tolkien define good? How would he define evil? Use examples from the text to support your answer.


9. Explain the distinction Tolkien makes between knowledge and wisdom.


10. Tolkien was a devout Catholic. What elements of his novel might be traced to a Catholic worldview?


11. Discuss the significance of the fact that Frodo, the Ring-bearer, and his closest companions are Hobbits rather than Elves, Men, or some other, more powerful race.


12. What does Sauron’s Ruling Ring signify?


13. Discuss Tolkien’s depictions of the natural world in the novel. How do the various societies of Middle-earth interact with the nature that surrounds them? Is nature a benevolent or malevolent force?


14. The novel is full of songs, most of which are transcribed in full. Discuss the significance of these songs and the way in which they are presented.


15. Explain, analyze, and evaluate the symbolic significance of the Rings in the following passage:

A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later -- later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last -- sooner or later the dark power will devour him (Bk I, Ch. 2).


16. The old adage, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" is embodied in Sauron's Ring. What is Tolkien's criticism of our ability to handle great power responsibly? How convincing is this portrayal of human nature, in your opinion? Is there no one who can wield great power responsibly? Why or why not?


17. How does Gollum's discovery of the Ring parallel the Judeo-Christian account of the Fall of Man in Genesis?


18. "Pity" plays a very important role in The Rings Trilogy. Scour The Fellowship of the Rings for instances of pity and discuss their significance to the story. What does Tolkien wish to say about pity as a quality of our nature?


19. Compare and contrast Tolkien's notion of pity with that of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.


20. Do a character study of Tom Bombadil. What does Tom embody? What is especially peculiar about him? What problems does this pose for our understanding of the Ring?


21. Who are the Rangers and what sets them apart as "wanderers" in Tolkien's novel? What symbolic meaning might "wandering" have in Tolkien's book? Compare and contrast Tolkien's wandering rangers with Nietzsche's wandering philosopher.


22. Examine Tolkien's depiction of the land of Lorien in Book II, Chapter 6 of the Fellowship of the Ring. Compare and contrast Lorien with the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis. Why might Tolkien allude to Eden when describing the land of the elves? What symbolic/mythical significance might this allusion have in Tolkien's work?

Part 2: Do ONE of the following projects. (50%)


1. Having read The Fellowship of the Ring and perhaps seen the movie, take what you know of Hobbits, Dwarves, and Elves, and create your own character. Render your character artistically (through paint, drawing, sculpture, etc.), but be sure to include some written information about your character as well -- what he or she is like? What are the character's strengths and weaknesses, fears and loves, aspirations and personal quests? What does he or she look like? What would make this character unique?


2. Do a movie review of the Peter Jackson production of The Fellowship of the Ring. Be sure to detail what you thought was good about the movie, as well as what you thought was bad about it. Was the movie true to the book? Did it leave too much out? Did it add things that took away from the book's message? On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate this movie?


3. Do a review of the animated 1978 version of The Lord of the Rings (Director: Ralph Bakshi, Warner Bros). Be sure to detail what you thought was good about the movie, as well as what you thought was bad about it. Was the movie true to the book? Did it leave too much out? Did it add things that took away from the book's message? On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate this movie?


4. Examine the influence of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy in the music of Led Zeppelin. In particular, pay close attention to allusions made in the Four Symbols album and Led Zeppelin II. How does Led Zeppelin incorporate Tolkien's imagery into their music, and for what effect? How do they change the story told by Tolkien to suit their own stories in the songs?


5. Create a poster that compares and contrasts the experiences of soldiers in WWI with the accounts of war in the Fellowship of the Rings. Use your own artistic and writing abilities, as well as photographs and art from internet resources to create a poster that demonstrates how Tolkien's own experiences in the trenches might have influenced his writing.


6. Develop a board game that illustrates some of the central problems, challenges, and themes in The Fellowship of the Ring.


7. Write a poem or song in the style of the Tolkien's hobbits, dwarves, or elves. Pick a theme prevalent in Tolkien's book as your subject matter.


8. Enact a scene from the book for your classmates. You may work in a small group but group members and specific scenes for acting must be cleared in advance with your teacher. Create costumes and a basic set/props to make your scene authentic. Remember -- a play requires memorization of lines and rehearsal!