Didattica, Inglese

Inglese LS – A lezione con J.R.R. Tolkien

La seguente unità di lavoro propone un’analisi di un brano tratto dal romanzo di J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, pubblicato nel 1937 e divenuto dapprima un classico della letteratura per l’infanzia, successivamente un caposaldo della letteratura contemporanea, a partire da quel processo di “riscoperta tolkieniana” iniziato agli albori del nuovo millennio con l’uscita nelle sale cinematografiche delle due trilogie dirette da Peter Jackson.

Trattandosi di una Work Unit che prende la mosse da un’opera di letteratura, il livello degli studenti ai quali è rivolta non può che andare dall’Intermediate in su (almeno dal livello B1 del QCER).

Buon lavoro!

***

CONTEXT

Who is J.R.R. Tolkien?

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892, to Arthur Tolkien and Mabel Suffield Tolkien. After Arthur died from complications of rheumatic fever, Mabel settled with four-year-old Tolkien and his younger brother, Hilary, in the country hamlet of Sarehole, in Birmingham, England.
Mabel died in 1904, and the Tolkien brothers were sent to live with a relative and in boarding homes, with a Catholic priest assuming guardianship in Birmingham. Tolkien went on to get his first-class degree at Exeter College, specializing in Anglo-Saxon and Germanic languages and classic literature.

World War I
Tolkien enlisted as a lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers and served in World War I, making sure to continue writing as well. He fought in the Battle of the Somme, in which there were severe casualties, and was eventually released from duty due to illness. In the midst of his military service, he married Edith Bratt in 1916.
Continuing his linguistic studies, Tolkien joined the faculty of the University of Leeds in 1920 and a few years later became a professor at Oxford University. While there he started a writing group called The Inklings, which counted among its members C.S. Lewis and Owen Barfield. It was also at Oxford, while grading a paper, that he spontaneously wrote a short line about “a hobbit.”

Books: ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’
The award-winning fantasy novel The Hobbit — about the small, furry-footed Bilbo Baggins and his adventures — was published in 1937, and was regarded as a children’s book, though Tolkien would state the book wasn’t originally intended for children. He also created more than 100 drawings to support the narrative.
Over the years, while working on scholarly publications, Tolkien developed the work that would come to be regarded as his masterpiece — The Lord of the Rings series, partially inspired by ancient European myths, with its own sets of maps, lore and languages.
Tolkien released part one of the series, The Fellowship of the Ring in 1954; The Two Towers and The Return of the King followed in 1955, finishing up the trilogy. The books gave readers a rich literary trove populated by elves, goblins, talking trees and all manner of fantastic creatures, including characters like the wizard Gandalf and the dwarf Gimli.
While Rings had its share of critics, many reviewers and waves upon waves of general readers took to Tolkien’s world, causing the books to become global bestsellers, with fans forming Tolkien clubs and learning his fictional languages.

Tolkien retired from professorial duties in 1959, going on to publish an essay and poetry collection, Tree and Leaf, and the fantasy tale Smith of Wootton Major. His wife Edith died in 1971, and Tolkien died on September 2, 1973, at the age of 81.
(from biography.com)

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READING

A passage from “The Hobbit”

(what happened before: While Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves are facing the dangerous menace of the goblins, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins falls into the darkness and meets with a weird dark creature. His name is Gollum and he challenges Bilbo to a series of riddles, which is won by the hobbit eventually. Bilbo tricks Gollum with the unexpected help of a magic ring that makes him invisible. In this way, the hobbit manages to escape…)

Gollum had brought Bilbo to the way out after all, but Bilbo could not get in! There was Gollum sitting humped up right in the opening, and his eyes gleamed cold in his head, as he swayed it from side to side between his knees.
Bilbo crept away from the wall more quietly than a mouse; but Gollum stiffened at once, and sniffed, and his eyes went green. He hissed softly but menacingly. He could not see the hobbit, but now he was on the alert, and he had other senses that the darkness had sharpened: hearing and smell. He seemed to be crouched right down with his flat hands splayed on the floor, and his head thrust out, nose almost to the stone. Though he was only a black shadow in the gleam of his own eyes, Bilbo could see or feel that he was tense as a bowstring, gathered for a spring.
Bilbo almost stopped breathing, and went stiff himself. He was desperate. He must get away, out of this horrible darkness, while he had any strength left. He must fight. He must stab the foul thing, put its eyes out, kill it. It meant to kill him.
No, not a fair fight. He was invisible now. Gollum had no sword. Gollum had not actually threatened to kill him, or tried to yet. And he was miserable, alone, lost.
A sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo’s heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering.
All these thoughts passed in a flash of a second. He trembled. And then quite suddenly in another flash, as if lifted by a new strength and resolve, he leaped.
No great leap for a man, but a leap in the dark. Straight over Gollum’s head he jumped, seven feet forward and three in the air; indeed, had he known it, he only just missed cracking his skull on the low arch of the passage.
Gollum threw himself backwards, and grabbed as the hobbit flew over him, but too late: his hands snapped on thin air, and Bilbo, falling fair on his sturdy feet, sped off down the new tunnel. He did not turn to see what Gollum was doing. There was a hissing and cursing almost at his heels at first, then it stopped. All at once there came a blood-curdling shriek, filled with hatred and despair. Gollum was defeated. He dared go no further. He had lost: lost his prey, and lost, too, the only thing he had ever cared for, his precious. The cry brought Bilbo’s heart to his mouth, but still he held on. Now faint as an echo, but menacing, the voice came behind:
‘Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it for ever!’

(J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, Harper Collins, London, 2006, pp.101-102)

QUESTIONS

True or false?

  1. Despite the darkness, Gollum could see Bilbo while he was escaping.    
  2. Eventually Bilbo managed to escape by hitting Gollum with his sword. 
  3. Bilbo runs away jumping over Gollum.                                                       
  4. Bilbo spares Gollum’s life because he felt pity.                                          
  5. After Bilbo’s leap, Gollum immediately starts to chase him.                    

Answer the questions.

With Bilbo gone, Gollum loses something very valuable. What is it? And why does he call it “precious”?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

What stops Bilbo Baggins from killing Gollum?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….………………

VOCABULARY

The passage you’ve read is full of expressions related to fear and darkness. Underline all the nouns and adjectives expressing these ideas

Translate the following words.

GLEAM                     _________________
THREATEN               _________________
GLIMPSE                   _________________
TREMBLE                  _________________
LEAP                          _________________
HATRED                    _________________
DESPAIR                   _________________
PREY                          _________________
DARE                         _________________
MENACING             _________________

GRAMMAR

Fill the gaps with the right form of the infinite (with or without to, –ing form)

  1. The protagonist dared __________ (go) even further than that. He went all the way through…
  2. He went from _________ (cry) to __________ (laugh) pretty fast.
  3. In this passage, the characters wanted _______________ (hurt) each other.
  4. But, eventually, the main character let his enemy ________ (escape).
  5. After his escape, the hobbit immediately stopped _______ (run).

BEYOND THE TEXT

Not only is J.R.R. Tolkien famous for his works on Middle-Earth, but also worked as a philologist and a brilliant researcher in universities. Find all the important contribution he made as a professor and make a list of all his academic essays.

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